What is a cloud server?
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What is a cloud server?

A cloud server is a powerful physical or virtual infrastructure, hosted remotely by a cloud service provider, that delivers applications, processes information or provides data storage.

Some cloud servers are created by using virtualization software that divides a single physical (bare metal) server into multiple virtual servers. Cloud service providers use an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model to make virtual or bare metal servers avalable to customers.

Key features of cloud servers
  • Computing infrastructure that can be physical (bare metal), virtual or a mix of the two depending on use case

  • Has all the capabilities of an on-premises server

  • Enables users to process intensive workloads and store large volumes of information

  • Automated services are accessed on demand through an API

  • Gives users the choice of monthly or as-you-go payment

  • Users can opt for a shared hosting plan that scales depending on needs
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Why cloud servers?


Cost effectiveness

With cloud servers, organizations only pay for what they need and reduce the expense that comes with maintaining server hardware.


Users can scale computing and storage resources to meet changing needs. This is helpful for organizations with fluctuating needs.


An organization’s cloud servers are networked to ensure uninterrupted communication and fast deployment. A “single pane” enables complete control.

Learn about cloud servers from IBM
  • Virtual servers versus physical serversPhysical (bare metal) servers are best for data-intensive workloads. Virtual servers are better for highly variable workloads.

  • Virtualization: Cloud servers can be physical or virtual. Virtualization software options include VMware, Parallels and Hyper-V. (See the video below for more on virtualization.)

  • Customization: Physical servers have numerous customization options, such as more processing power, extra RAM and backup power.

  • Security: Security options for cloud servers include firewalls, anti-virus software, monitoring and host intrusion protection.
Choosing a cloud server: an IBM perspective

Cost versus technology versus provider

I've observed or been a part of buying decisions for a few thousand server customers, from small-business owners getting a website online for the first time to established platforms with tens of millions of visits every day. While each of those purchasers had different requirements and priorities for a cloud server, a few key deciding factors were consistent across those decisions:

How much will it cost? What configuration/technology is best? Which provider is most trustworthy?

Every website administrator has had to answer those three questions. While they seem straightforward, they end up overlapping, and the buying decision starts to get a little more complicated:

The natural assumption is that everyone chooses a cloud server that falls in the “sweet spot” where the three circles overlap, but server decisions are not made in a vacuum. Completely valid hosting decisions can target every spot on that graph.

Let's break down the chart into a few distinct zones to look at why a user would choose a server in each area:

  • Zone 1: Budget takes priority over everything else.

  • Zone 2: IT administrators at huge enterprises that have on-premises servers or loyal customers who do not wish to change providers.

  • Zone 3: Buyers who need the fastest, most powerful, most scalable infrastructure on the market.

  • Zone 4: Customers who are loyal to a provider as long as that loyalty doesn't take them out of their budget.

  • Zone 5: Users who love having the latest technology and value being able to manage it through one provider.

  • Zone 6: Will choose the cloud environment that provides the best performance for their budget, regardless of the provider.

  • Zone 7: Buyers who value all three of their priorities equally and can choose an environment that meets all of their needs.

Numerous transitioning happens between an initial buying decision and a follow-up decision.

Regardless of how you make an initial buying decision, when it's time for the next cloud server, there is a new factor to take into account: you'll probably want to grow in the same place.

Moving between providers can be a pain, managing environments between several providers is more difficult and if servers have to work together, they're generally doing so across the public Internet, so you're not getting the best performance.

If you had to choose a zone that best describes your buying decision, which one would it be?

Kevin Hazard
IBM Cloud Platform—Infrastructure Marketing Leader
Twitter: @khazard (link resides outside ibm.com)

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Resources What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing transforms IT infrastructure into a utility, letting you ‘‘plug in'' to computing resources and applications over the internet, without installing and maintaining them on-premises.

What is a virtual machine?

A virtual machine is a virtual representation, or emulation, of a physical computer. Virtualization makes it possible to create multiple virtual machines on a single physical computer.

What is IaaS?

IaaS is a cloud computing service that delivers fundamental compute, network and storage resources on-demand, over the internet, on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Take the next step

IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions supports a wide variety of VMware products and services in its cloud environment. Migrate all of your VMware workloads from on-premises infrastructure to IBM Cloud, or mix and match, creating a hybrid cloud environment you can manage from a single place.

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