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The History of Cloud VPS

The cloud. Over the past decade you would have have struggled to miss the cloud being pushed in the advertising for many IT companies. If you’ve seen a lot of these advertisements you’d be forgiven if you are a bit confused by what the exact definition of the cloud is. This is partly due to the fact that it’s being used to refer to various different things by a number of people. As time has moved on though it is being used mostly as a way of referring to computing resources provided by a third party away from your local network.

The Cloud: Non-Local Resources

So with that terminology in mind, one would be forgiven for thinking that when selling virtual private servers the term cloud VPS is somewhat redundant. By the logic of cloud meaning a non-local computing resource, and the VPS being a server in a remote data center, then all third party virtual private servers must be by definition cloud. Unfortunately and confusingly, the traditional use of the term cloud when it comes to virtual servers is slightly different, and refers to a specific type of product.

As you are likely aware, the process of virtualization is that of sharing the resources of a hardware host computer among a number of virtual guest computers. These guests share the RAM, CPU and storage resources of the host computer. Virtualization on modern computers started in earnest in the early 2000s following the launch of VMware at the turn of the century, and Xen a few years later. The benefit this brings is that a dedicated server can be effectively broken down into chunks that allows multiple users to make use of its resources. This reduced the individual cost of running a server, great for those who need small or low power servers without spending money on a full dedicated server.

What Is Cloud VPS?

One problem with hardware is that it, like many electronic devices, can break. When it does, it takes time to diagnose the fault, find replacement parts, and then replace the part. In the late 2000s a number of companies looked to take virtualization to the next logical step. With the VPS running as a virtual machine guest on a host computer by clustering a group of hypervisor hosts together, the guest could be run on any of the hosts in the cluster. This is where cloud VPS begins.

In general terms, cloud VPS refers to a virtual private server that is running on a cluster of redundant hardware servers. The cluster of hardware host servers itself is “the cloud” upon which the VPS runs.  

This brings a number of benefits to using a virtual private server:

  1. The VPS itself is fully abstracted away from the hardware that runs it, meaning that a piece of the underlying hardware host can fail and the VPS can be started up on another hardware host while the failed  one is being repaired.  
  2. Additionally the VPS can be moved between hardware hosts, meaning that hosts can be upgraded in terms of hardware and software without the guest virtual machines having to be taken offline. This means that in addition to the cost of a cloud VPS being cheaper than a dedicated server for low power usage, it also brings great benefits in terms of redundancy and availability for the server.

As this model of cloud computing proved popular, a number of companies moved to using it as a method for building their own redundant infrastructure for their software platforms. Companies started building“private” clouds, which was used to reference the fact that the cloud was built for, administered by and used by them, as opposed to public cloud where a hosting company would build and administer the infrastructure but it would be used by public customers purchasing and running their VPSs on the platform.

Here we come full circle. Many of the cloud services that we now often associate with meaning “someone else’s computer”, will have started with their systems using cloud VPS infrastructure or something similar, and many still do, from which they’ll have taken the cloud term for use with their products.

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