Cloud services have completely changed the game for systems administrators. One of the most fundamental changes deals with infrastructure. The immense benefits associated with infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and related IT management practices have brought us to a whole new level of scalability and flexibility.
As a former systems administrator and IT infrastructure instructor, it seems natural that the components of IaaS appeal to me. I suspect that’s why the CompTIA Cloud+ coverage of managing compute resources is some of my favorite content.
I recently introduced a series of articles covering my favorite topics from the new CompTIA Cloud+.
In this series I am covering three different Cloud+ topics:
- Managing compute resources
- Understanding migration types and phases
- Managing the layers of cloud security, from physical to data
This is part 1 of the series.
First, we’ll do a quick overview of virtual machine deployments and then continue with container deployment. Next, we’ll examine some of the key topics around cloud-based network administration. Then, we’ll discuss resource scaling before wrapping up with a quick look at deploying new services and web apps.
Virtual Machine and Container Deployments
Clearly, the importance of virtualization cannot be overstated when it comes to cloud computing. Virtualized servers, network devices and network segments make up a critical part of today’s cloud services. Containerization is a logical extension of virtualization, allowing for the use of microservices and application portability. These two topics are at the heart of cloud computing. Let’s examine them in more detail.
Virtual Machine (VM) Deployments
In a public cloud setting, the VM must be associated with the organization’s cloud subscription and assigned to a particular resource group. These resource groups allow for resource management control.
Once you’ve decided where to deploy the VM, you can continue with the other deployment steps as follows:
- Select an Operating System: The next part of the deployment is operating system selection (Linux, Windows or macOS). Plenty of Linux distributions are supported, though most admins will choose a distribution like Ubuntu server or Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server 2016 are also available, as are Windows 10 desktop versions.
- Select an Instance Size: VM deployment involves selecting an instance size—vCPU, RAM and possibly vGPU specifications—and then storage disk settings. Assuming that a virtual network has been deployed (more on that later), then the VM is added to the appropriate subnet.
- Define Resource Management Settings: Finally, resource management settings are defined. These settings include details such as enabling update management and configuring automatic shutdown parameters. Cloud administrators can define tags to identify business units that consume resources.
I can’t help but recall the days when organizations I worked for had to guess the appropriate hardware specifications to support an anticipated, and often unknown, workload. Careful selection of motherboards, RAM, RAID controllers, network interface cards, etc., consumed time and budgets. With IaaS, adjustments are made to the hardware specifications in moments.
Virtualized servers are not always the answer. Instead, containers may provide better support for microservices and web applications. These containers are portable, easy to spin up and include many clustering options for scalability and reliability. Cloud services, such as Microsoft Azure, offer both Linux and Windows-based containers and allow for a great deal of flexibility.
CompTIA Cloud+ would be incomplete without giving some attention to container management. It’s a practical and timely topic – and one that I particularly enjoy.
Cloud-based Network Management
Once virtual machines became prevalent, virtual networking wasn’t far behind. If administrators could virtualize web or database servers, then why not managed switches or routers? Network components can benefit from virtualization in all the same ways as virtual servers.
Network segmentation is a critical part of security. Segmentation allows administrators to isolate network traffic as well as organize resources. Virtual networks include subnets, security groups, routing and firewall rules that govern network communications within and between segments.
Peering allows cross-communication between virtual networks. Peering separate networks together to manage traffic is a key topic in the CompTIA Cloud+ objectives. It is even possible to combine physical, on-premises networks with virtual, cloud-based networks, permitting greater integration of cloud resources into the day-to-day network infrastructure.
For me, virtual networks go hand-in-hand with virtual machines, and so it seems only natural that this would be one of my favorite areas.
No discussion of cloud computing is complete without acknowledging the ease with which resources can be scaled up or down to meet service requirements. This scaling includes a change-to-cost management that must also be highlighted.
Long ago, I worked for an organization that maintained a powerful web server that sat unused for 11 months out of the year. One month a year, during a registration process, the server was utterly overwhelmed with requests.
It was an unfortunate deployment: An idle server that was quite expensive and yet when it was needed, it still didn’t have enough resources. Such a scenario would be easy to address these days with cloud services, and probably for less overall cost. Furthermore, the cost is distributed across an operating expense (OpEx) budget rather than a periodic (and painful) capital expense (CapEx).
Another significant change with cloud services is shifting IT expenses from CapEx to OpEx. This was something I didn’t fully realize until I authored the Official CompTIA Cloud Essentials+ Study Guide, which delves into the business side of cloud services.
Deploying New Services or Apps
Finally, I appreciate how well CompTIA Cloud+ acknowledges the management of services, applications, web apps and other customer-facing deployments.
Let’s consider some of the configuration options:
- SQL databases
- NoSQL database
- VM-based services
- Container-based web apps and microservices
- Linux or Windows-based OS support
- Serverless deployments
These deployments may be available to your public customer base or internal employees (or a mix). External customers can find your organization, query for goods and services and place orders or service requests. Employees can get immediate access to the information they need to make timely decisions. These examples are especially relevant if services are deployed in content delivery network (CDN) configurations that place the content near the consumer.
Essential, But Not Glamorous
The above list probably does not surprise anyone. It reads like an advertisement for the benefits of cloud services. Regardless, it contains some of my favorite compute topics from the new CompTIA Cloud+.
Stay tuned for part 2 in my series. The next article will delve deeper into cloud migration types and options. We’ll also take a look at cloud migration phases. This is one of my favorite CompTIA Cloud+ subjects because cloud migrations continue to be critical projects for IT organizations worldwide.
Ready to get started with CompTIA Cloud+? Download the exam objectives to see what’s covered on the exam or sign up for a free trial of CompTIA CertMaster Learn and Labs for Cloud+.