Demystifying Microsoft SharePoint in the Cloud
It seems you can’t turn around without learning about a new “cloud” service these days. While I think it is very exciting to more of these “commodity based” compute services showing up – it is also breeding a lot of misinformation. I don’t think that this is necessarily meant to mislead – but in the lack of any textbook definition – everyone creates their own. To simplify the concept and definition of “SharePoint in the Cloud”, we can define “cloud” to mean that SharePoint is running on a server which isn’t located in your own datacenter.
This still leaves a lot of room for ambiguity so let’s talk about all the different options that exist for running SharePoint outside of your own datacenter. We can define this space as into the four categories that follow:
1. Multi-Tenant SharePoint
This is the traditional “Shared Infrastructure, Shared Farm” that we think of when a company sells SharePoint for $10, $25, or $50 per drink. In this version of SharePoint in the Cloud, you find a collection of servers and networking that is used to create a single SharePoint farm. In this farm you find all of the hosting companies customers each having their own Site Collection. The benefits here include:
- Cost: Since all customers share the same infrastructure, the cost is spread among them
- Because the infrastructure is shared and the hosting company is interested in stability – no custom code is usually allowed to be deployed. This gets a little better with sandboxed solutions in SharePoint 2010 – but it still isn’t a great story.
- Limited Solutions: The use-case for SharePoint also becomes more limited as it’s harder to some of the more “high powered” SharePoint functions like Business Intelligence and Enterprise search.
2. Shared Infrastructure, Dedicated VM’s
In this tier of service the best way to draw the connection to traditional hosting is “Virtual Private Server”. Here you have a shared Storage layer, shared hypervisor layer, and shared networking. Depending on the maturity of the hosting company – you can even get multiple load-balanced SharePoint Web Front End server.
The primary benefit here is the cost of a VM is always less than the cost of a physical server. It also is much easier to spin these devices up and down as needed. The downside is that if your “neighbor” on the hypervisor is using a lot of the hypervisor’s resources, then the performance of your server may suffer. You also are usually constrained to the amount of resources available to you.
3. Private Infrastructure, Dedicated VM’s
This is “private cloud” at its best. In this scenario you are responsible for the cost of the storage, hypervisors, and networking layers which increases your monthly bill as you are responsible for those fees even before you create your first virtual machine. The benefits include:
- Dedicated compute and storage resources
- Knowing who your “neighbor” is on the hypervisor
- Flexibility to add an remove VM’s as required
- Better use of the underlying hypervisors as you are able to configure exactly the resources you need for the servers you require.
4. Dedicated (Managed) Hosting
You can think of this as traditional “managed hosting” in which all compute, storage, and networking devices are yours and yours alone to configure and consume. The benefit is that you can have exactly the resources your solution requires to be successful. The largest downside is the cost that comes with this flexibility. Often times a solution like this includes not only managed hosting but private cloud in some hybrid configuration.
How does all of this apply to SharePoint? These are the ways SharePoint can run “in the cloud.” But the reason you need to be aware of them all is SharePoint is, above all else, sticky. That means once an organization starts using SharePoint in some fashion, they will likely never leave it. To build on that – a company usually starts in one of the smaller tiers and as their consumption of SharePoint increases – they evolve through the different tiers of service.
Jeff DeVerter is the lead SharePoint Architect for Rackspace Hosting. Click here to learn more about Rackspace Partner Program. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of Talkin’ Cloud’s annual platinum sponsorship.