Enterprise Virtualization Clouds vs. Elastic Infrastructure Clouds

The Open Cloud

Enterprise Virtualization Clouds vs. Elastic Infrastructure Clouds

By Randy Bias, CTO, Cloudscaling  |  October 16, 2012

This article originally appeared in Cloud Computing Magazine Q4 2012

Enterprises pursuing cloud computing migration strategies have endured a seemingly endless stream of promises, predictions and obfuscation over the past five years. Finally, a measure of clarity has emerged, one that presents two distinct and differing paths for enterprises making cloud infrastructure choices.

One path is that of the enterprise virtualization cloud. The other is the elastic infrastructure cloud.

An enterprise virtualization cloud (EVC) is a cloud built on infrastructure that supports legacy enterprise applications like those built on SAP and Oracle (News - Alert). An EVC can be thought of as virtualization 2.0. It offers increased automation and server consolidation, and it focuses on the requirements of existing applications rather than the requirements of new, greenfield applications. EVCs are typically built as “gold-plated” clouds: expensive and redundant hardware and expensive enterprise software. The canonical example is the VCE VBlock.

An elastic infrastructure cloud (EIC), by comparison, is one that is exemplified by web-scale internet giants such as Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine and the captive infrastructures built and operated by companies like Facebook (News - Alert).

Both cloud infrastructure types are useful and can deliver value. However, these two types of cloud infrastructure are very different creatures. Enterprise buyers need to know how to recognize each type, and they need to understand which cloud infrastructure is best suited to solving their particular problems.

Enterprise Virtualization Clouds

The value of an EVC architecture lies in its native ability to support applications that enterprises have been using to run their businesses for two decades.

EVC’s are comfortable for most enterprises to deploy. They’re run on the same hardware that enterprises already have in their datacenters. The software licensing models are familiar. In other words, the transition to EVC is evolutionary, not revolutionary. EVCs are also expensive. In fact, they can be 3-8 times more expensive than EICs.

Enterprises that are looking for server consolidation and a measure of automation but chiefly need to support legacy applications likely will prefer an EVC.

Elastic Infrastructure Clouds

EICs, by contrast, are intended to support new applications that do not require the proprietary hardware and software systems that one finds in EVCs. Examples include web applications that need to scale out quickly as user demand increases and applications that are sufficiently simple that they do not demand the complexity of EVC.

EICs are dramatically less expensive to build and operate than EVCs because they can be built with open source software and brand-name-free hardware. The systems are highly automated, so operational costs are minimized. The popularity of EICs is seen in the rapid rise of open source cloud operating system communities like OpenStack.

There’s another, major difference: The scale-out capabilities of an EIC allow applications to manage their own resiliency and provision new resources when hardware fails. In an EVC, by contrast, resiliency is managed in the infrastructure itself. The difference is a critical one, because with EICs, you eliminate the expense and lock-in that come with high-end hardware.

EICs are new technology, compared to EVCs. Enterprises building an EIC are faced with many more choices – technologies, vendors, build vs. buy, support – than are those building EVCs. Also, the ability to shift the hosting of applications from your own EIC to a public cloud as needs dictate (hybrid cloud) requires careful planning.

A Comparison: EVC vs. EIC



Ideal for...

Keep in mind...


- VMware

- Savvis

- Terremark

- Legacy apps built on platforms like Oracle and SAP (News - Alert)

- Enterprises who want an evolutionary approach to cloud

- Low risk and incremental savings

- Expensive

- Aging technology

- Can run legacy apps with little or no adaptation




- OpenStack

- Eucalyptus

- CloudStack

- Easily ported apps and new apps

- Enterprises that want a revolutionary approach to cloud

- Business agility; new apps for new opportunities; faster time to market

- Technology choices

- Build vs. buy decision

- Hybrid cloud decision

- Can run legacy apps only with rearchitecting


Choosing the right cloud infrastructure for your enterprise begins with an understanding of the differences between the two options available. Enterprises that must support heavy legacy workloads likely need an EVC, while those that need to support new applications and those easily ported will probably find the agility benefits of EIC compelling. Most organizations will discover that they need both – an EVC for legacy applications, and an EIC to deploy new applications in support of new business opportunities.

Randy Bias is co-founder and chief technology officer of Cloudscaling.

Edited by Brooke Neuman