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Community Blog Optimizing Servers for Services by Separating Roles

Optimizing Servers for Services by Separating Roles

Alibaba Cloud provides a variety of O&M tools and techniques that make it easy for IT service providers to provision large amounts of resources while minimizing costs.

How to Find the Right Balance in the Cloud

The computing needs of the typical company vary greatly, but the requirement for servers is always expanding. There's the public-facing web server and the internal intranet, as well as LDAP or Active Directly, email, DHCP, DNS, MySQL or SQL Server, domain controllers, the CRM, file and print servers, license key management, the accounts system, Windows update servers, telephony and more.

Choosing Alibaba Cloud for your servers, rather than running your own hardware in-house, brings advantages and cost savings, especially in the areas of O&M (operations and maintenance). The Cloud Monitor feature, available free of charge, lets operations staff keep track of key performance metrics and set threshold alarms, which helps ensure 100 percent availability and also assists future capacity planning. If performance is suffering due to the shortage of a particular resource, you'll be quickly notified.

O&M staff can upgrade server RAM or disk storage with just a few clicks in the web-based control panel. You can even save on costs by downgrading servers if certain features are no longer required, or if Cloud Monitor indicates that some of the storage or CPU capacity is never being used.

Among the research you'll want to consider when moving to cloud-based servers, one particular question needs to be answered as early as possible in the process. Is it best to run lots of servers, each performing just one function? Or should you consolidate all your services onto just one (or a few) much larger servers?

Multi-Role Servers vs. Single-Purpose Servers

Powerful multi-role servers have their advantages. There's only one machine to back up, patch, secure, scan for malware, and pay for. Conversely, if that one machine needs to be restarted or develops a problem, every business function it provides is unavailable. And because the server performs so many functions, tracking down the cause of a problem will likely take longer than if it was a single-purpose machine. Equally, if a hacker compromises a do-everything server, the intruder will have access to vastly more information than would be the case if that server performed just a single task.

If a server is performing 30 different business functions, do you have someone with the necessary skills in all of those areas to maintain it? On the other hand, single-purpose servers, being smaller, can also be backed up, cloned or restored more quickly, to aid in disaster recovery planning.

Sometimes there's room for compromise. Put the public-facing web server and its content database on the same server because there's little to be gained by ensuring that one of them can be available without the other.

Regulatory and compliance issues may also dictate your server layout. If you're storing customers' credit card details and other personal data, you probably won't be permitted to use the same server for other unrelated purposes.

Running everything on separate servers gives you a greater degree of granularity and control. It helps to avoid software version dependency conflicts, for example, or the need for different sets of firewall rules. And if one particular server is running slowly, you can increase its specification (perhaps by adding more RAM) in the knowledge that all of the new memory will be used for the benefit of the application that was causing the issue. Which will please the person who holds the budget for that service.

Managing Your Infrastructure on the Cloud

Whichever option you ultimately decide to pursue, you can rest assured that Alibaba Cloud has a full selection of cloud server specifications available, any of which can be launched with just a few clicks. At one end of the scale is the entry-level Nano instance with one CPU and 0.5GB of RAM, capable of running a low-power business application such as some digital signage. At the other end of the scale is a server instance with 56 CPUs and 224GB of RAM, quite capable of running literally dozens of key business functions. There are many others in between, too. They're all available from the Create Instance page of your Alibaba Cloud management console.

To find out more, check out the whitepaper entitled Managing Your Virtual IT infrastructure on the Cloud. You'll find lots of useful information on topics such as creating new cloud servers, backup and recovery, storage, monitoring, and how to use modern tools such as Terraform and Packer to automate your IaaS infrastructure.

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