Cloud computing and virtualization are often used interchangeably with both technologies developed to let organizations make optimum use of their resources while keeping costs down. However, the truth is that despite striking similarities between the two technologies, they differ considerably when it comes to application performance, security, costs, and scalability features. In general, virtualization is one of the fundamental technologies employed in cloud computing but it is not cloud computing.

Conceptual Difference Between Cloud Computing and Virtualization

Virtualization lets you extract maximum performance out of your hardware by letting multiple servers run on the same hardware. Implementing multiple servers on the same machine not only reduces the hardware and power costs but also takes care of the spacing requirements for your organization. By virtually partitioning multiple servers on the same machine, the technology lets each client work with a dedicated virtual instance deployed for their personal use. According to a study by Gartner in 2010, virtualization is fast becoming a mainstream application being used by different enterprises. According to the study, 48% of installed applications will be using the concept of virtualization by 2012.

Although cloud computing is inclusive of the virtualization concept, it can run without implementing virtualization as well. Cloud computing lets enterprises run and access their applications in the clouds, the advantage being that these applications are transferred on virtual servers that are independent of physical hardware. Cloud computing improves the flexibility and scalability quotient of your organization and since the technology is pay per use, you only pay for the services you use. Cloud computing reduces the need for maintenance of hardware and software for any organization, since it is the responsibility of the cloud provider to take care of these aspects.

There are different pros and cons of virtualization and cloud computing technology; depending on the size and nature of your organization you can choose the technology that best suits your needs.

Pros and Cons of Virtualization and Cloud Computing

Here are the pros and cons of using virtualization and cloud computing technologies. Understanding these differences would help you make an informed choice regarding, which technology suits your needs the best.

Costs: There has always been a debate regarding which technology is more costly, virtualization or cloud computing. While virtualization definitely saves organizations money both in the long and short term, it requires start up costs for installation of hardware and software on which a virtualized infrastructure can be set up. Cloud computing, on the other hand, costs less during the start up phase, since the hardware and software requirements are met by the cloud provider. However, as you start to use more resources, the costs of cloud computing goes on increasing. In general cloud computing costs more than virtualization for mid and large size organizations.
Data security: In virtualization, you control the hardware, virtual environment, access permissions, backup, etc., which enables enhanced security for your organization’s data. In cloud computing these services are handled by the provider, which can be a cause for concern for the security of valuable information associated with your organization.
Access: Cloud computing allows you to access your applications from anywhere using the Internet. However, since the cloud provider might be using the same server for different organizations, server traffic becomes a concern. This can lead to accessibility problems and down time, which may lead to decreased efficiency.

While flexibility and scalability drive cloud computing technology, despite costing more than virtualization, data security and costs associated with virtualization make it a profitable decision, especially for small and mid sized organizations. Depending on your requirements and infrastructure, you can choose the technology appropriate for your business by evaluating these aspects.