Understanding the Infrastructure of Data Centers and Cloud Servers

Ferrum Health’s recent partnership with Oracle Cloud Marketplace showcased a huge step towards cloud deployment, combining advanced AI radiology vendors with robust public cloud infrastructure. But what does this really mean? The term cloud is overutilized almost everywhere in today’s vernacular, but the intricacies are not well known to the general public. As we navigate this collaboration, a closer examination of the foundational building blocks—data centers, private clouds, public clouds, and hybrid clouds—reveals both the depth and breadth of potential of this partnership.

Data Centers: The Core of IT Operations

At the core of IT operations lie data centers, which serve as the centralized space for the infrastructure required to store and utilize the data. These centers, varying in size from a back office closet to multiple warehouses, serve as the backbone for communication, information storage, and computing functions. Physical data centers face constraints such as limited space, high power consumption, heat management, hardware dependency, physical and logical security, and more. These challenges have spurred the shift towards virtualization and cloud solutions, providing greater flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness in meeting modern data management demands.

Virtual or software-defined data centers allow for the abstraction of processing power and memory from the underlying physical hardware, creating an environment built on virtual machines. This virtualization enables administrators to establish a more efficient and resource-conscious infrastructure that demands less physical space and power compared to traditional data centers, by pooling unused resources together for greater utilization. Cloud services, which will be discussed in the next post, play a pivotal role in offering virtual data centers as a service by assuming the responsibility of managing and delivering core operational functions, networking, and storage for arbitrary client organizations. This relies on the dynamic allocation of virtual networks, storage, and servers among different entities, adapting to changing storage needs and workload processing.

Private Clouds: Affordable and Adaptable

A private cloud represents a specialized model of cloud computing designed for exclusive use by a single organization. It is hosted either at the organization’s own physical data center or at a third-party colocation facility where compute resources are wholly dedicated to that organization. In either case, a private cloud  results in enhanced security and control over resources compared to public clouds where those are shared. Private clouds require a higher level of IT expertise and intentional design, from the organization, but offer benefits such as specific customizability, predictable performance, long-term savings, and regulatory compliance.

Different private cloud types cater to various levels of operational management, from Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to Platform as a Service (PaaS). Managed private clouds can offload these management responsibilities to third-party hosting partners. For example, VMware Cloud Foundation offers a comprehensive platform for hosted private cloud solutions, enabling seamless migration, and providing deep visibility and monitoring capabilities.

While organization-specific design and requirements can lead to private clouds being more secure than public clouds, with their limited access and controlled network segments, organizations must proactively maintain strong modern security measures, which requires an experienced team that is familiar with the needs of that specific organization. Moreover, the ground-up design specifically suited for the organization’s needs allow for efficiency, adaptability, and predictable ongoing costs.

Public Clouds: Scalable, Flexible, Functional

A public cloud is a third-party-managed IT model offering on-demand compute services that are shared between multiple organizations, accessible over the Internet. It involves the use of virtual machines in data center groups, making it suitable for less-sensitive applications and data that is accessed infrequently or unpredictably.

Businesses turn to the public cloud for temporary scaling during unpredictable usage spikes without expanding physical infrastructure, especially for storage, backup, and applications with varying usage demands. An example of this is when an online retailer needs to scale up for seasonal sales, such as Black Friday, without keeping those extra compute resources unused for the remainder of the year. Cost savings for those types of businesses arise from reduced upfront equipment purchase and maintenance costs, while paying a premium for elastic, on-demand, resource allocation, avoiding those underutilized expenses. However, the subscription model may incur larger long-term costs than a private cloud where internal teams are built up around cloud cost-controls. Considerations for adoption include its ease for small or new businesses, while large enterprises increasingly incorporate it into multi-faceted IT plans. Careful planning is crucial for long-term contracts and cost management.

Security concerns stem from shared servers being exploited, emphasizing the need for encryption, along with misconfiguration of public cloud services where private resources are commonly made publicly visible, even if temporarily. Challenges arise in multi-cloud interoperability and compatibility for hybrid cloud setups, which Ferrum Health addresses with its built-in architecture for deploying the AI vendors.

Hybrid Clouds: Best of Both Worlds

Hybrid Cloud is a dynamic cloud computing model that strategically combines at least one private and one public cloud to offer organizations a versatile blend of computing services, where the public cloud is used for any overflow processing that is required above the predictable baseline. This innovative approach enables the seamless migration of workloads between environments, promoting flexibility in managing application workloads across private and public clouds based on evolving business needs. Hybrid cloud solutions have gained popularity as they provide a unified operating model for infrastructure and operations, supporting modern application strategies and facilitating an organization’s digital transformation efforts.

The functionality of hybrid clouds involves leveraging virtualization, network function virtualization (NFV), or Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and establishing connectivity to ensure smooth data and workload movement between platforms. The numerous benefits of adopting a hybrid cloud approach include rapid workload migration without the need for extensive refactoring, support for application modernization through the deployment of microservices and container-based applications, enhanced scalability by tapping into the agility of public cloud resources, and consistent enforcement of security and compliance mandates across environments.

Moreover, hybrid cloud solutions contribute to reducing the workload on IT teams by offering self-service capabilities to developers and application owners, fostering flexibility in deployment options, simplifying overall operations through a unified operating model, and supporting various types of workloads, including both virtual machines and containerized workloads. The architecture of a hybrid cloud involves the natural integration of public and private cloud resources, allowing for the seamless movement of workloads based on the dynamic demands of the organization. Additionally, the existence of various hybrid cloud platforms, whether customer-managed, vendor-managed, partner-managed, or cloud provider-managed, provides organizations with diverse options to align with their specific business requirements.

 

As Ferrum Health seamlessly integrates into Oracle Cloud Marketplace, the symbiotic relationship between advanced AI applications and a robust cloud infrastructure heralds a future where healthcare systems thrive on efficiency, scalability, and security.

Brendan Ryu

Brendan Ryu

Brendan is a fourth year medical student applying to radiology residency. He aspires to accelerate MedTech innovation and to build a career integrating innovation into clinical practice.

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