IaaS Is Just Someone Else’s Server

By: on January 24, 2018 in AWS, Azure, GCP, Private Cloud, Public Cloud, Virtualization

Is anyone else bothered by the word “serverless” when it comes to computing – especially in the cloud? The workload you are running, website you are surfing, or bauble you are buying is being served up somewhere on a backend. That backend is comprised of servers even if they are not in your own data center. There’s no magic compute dust at work.

Having said that, infrastructure as a service, or IaaS, is largely based on you accessing servers you configure and control on a backend. If you’re using Azure, AWS, GCP, or any of the other cloud platforms, it’s a virtual machine (VM) running on a hypervisor. So if your company is running ESXi, Hyper-V, Xen, or another hypervisor on premises and you have been running VMs, what you would be using in the cloud is the same … just more abstracted from you.

The problem as we saw with on premises virtualization is sizing. When you want to start doing IaaS-y things in the cloud, you actually need to know the capacity to rightsize. Why? If you don’t, you will either overspend (costing you money), or undersize and have poor performance, which means you’ll need to spend more money to fix the problem. When you own the servers and the platform on premises, it is usually easier to correct this problem. This is not always true. Virtualization was not a panacea. Over the years, both Max and I as part of working with customers have seen virtualized SQL Server environments that were not rightsized, and it caused quite a bit of agita.

The whole premise of virtualization and IaaS in the cloud (I’ll touch on other cloud-y things in a minute) is that you can give things the resources they want. When we went through the waves of consolidation in the mid-2000s which opened the door to virtualization later, a lot more care was put into those consolidations. Early virtualization efforts were often done via physical to virtual (P2V) conversions whereby if you had a server that had P processors and M amount of memory, that’s what the VM was assigned. That’s not rightsizing; that’s lift and shift. You may have been able to sunset the physical hardware, but that’s about it.

To properly rightsize an environment, you need to baseline and benchmark your servers and applications to accurately know what resources they are using. That also allows you to understand how it is growing to plan for the future and have the capacity for that, too. Without that information, you might as well lick your finger, stick it in the air, and try to see which way the wind is blowing because you certainly won’t know what to get as you transition to the public cloud providers. Using Azure, AWS, or GCP is a much more viable option for many folks, but when you’re picking your server, as stated above, if you don’t know what size IaaS VM or storage to select, you will be met with a lot of problems like many of the early SQL Server virtualization attempts went down in many companies. We help out customers all the time with capacity management; it’s very important for long term health of your deployments.

The one thing that the cloud providers do which we often see that many on premises customers do not do is quality of service, or QoS. QoS is a very important concept. In a nutshell, QoS means you’re guaranteed something. For example, if cloud provider X says you’ll get 10,000 IOPS with said storage, you’ll get 10,000 IOPS. On premises virtualization has the same concepts, and if you’re seeing spike-y performance with your VMs, it’s definitely one place to look.

If you’re using Amazon’s RDS or Azure SQL Database, that’s not IaaS; some may call it software as a service (SaaS), but more accurately, it’s database as a service (DBaaS). Amazon and Microsoft are giving you a database that is based in the cloud. You do not manage the instance, nor do you worry about things like performance. Those immortal words “it just works” applies here. Microsoft will soon offer managed instances of SQL Server in Azure so you can have a whole instance that is yours, but without any of the things that come along with IaaS.

For all of these, you still need to measure performance, and if you’re just starting on your journey to the public cloud, you really need to know your numbers prior to making the leap or you might wind up like Icarus and get your wings clipped the hard way. Don’t be that person. One of the things we do for our customers is to help them transition to their next generation platforms and architectures, be it new versions of SQL Server or Windows, Linux, on premises (physical or virtual), hybrid solutions of on premises and the cloud, or going whole hog up into Azure, AWS, or GCP. If you want some help figuring all of this out, including things like baselining and benchmarking to designing the whole thing or anything inbetween, contact us today and we will ensure your transition to the future keeps you soaring high, not falling to the ground.

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