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Brand self-made

One approach is to build and operate the IT infrastructure completely yourself. This includes the purchase and regular upgrade of servers as well as the construction and operation of a network infrastructure with routers, switches et cetera.

If this basic infrastructure is available, you can partition the network into domains with front-end and back-end servers. On the front-end servers, software is installed which realizes the presentation and application layer of the media hosting service, for example web and application servers. Software is installed on the backend servers that supports storage of media content, such as databases such as MySQL or Oracle. For this purpose, other mechanisms such as server clustering, redundancy via RAID and regular backups must be set up in order to offer a trouble-free and high-performance service.

As a rule, such an infrastructure can only be extended with delay, since lead times must be planned for the procurement of new servers. In addition, incremental scalability of the infrastructure (server to server) is uneconomical, as delivery and administration costs are more significant in this case. Scaling down the infrastructure is even more unfavorable, as used servers can only be resold at a large discount and high administrative costs, if that’s even possible.

Cloud-Hosting mit Amazon

An alternative to the “self-made” approach is to outsource the frontend servers to Amazon EC2 instances, thus operating the frontend “in the cloud”. The EC2 instances are Xen-based virtual machines, which must also be provided with additional software (again web server or application server). Server clustering can be achieved via software-based management functions, similar to the “own-build brand” variant.

The backend of this architecture can be realized with a combination of databases, Amazon S3 and Amazon CloudFront. The database software is installed on Amazon EC2 instances and is used to store metadata. This includes, for example, text and numbers describing the media content. In addition, the metadata contains references to the media content stored as binary data in Amazon S3. Amazon CloudFront can additionally be used as a Content Distribution Network (CDN), provided that it operates worldwide or at least Europe-wide and expects access from various countries.

Such an architecture allows incremental scalability because one can source the underlying base services (EC2 and S3) on-demand. The S3 memory is automatically backed up multiple redundantly and can therefore be considered stable. However, the EC2 instances are volatile, so they could be destroyed by a disruption, for example. EC2 instances should therefore be protected by additional mechanisms, such as backups in Amazon’s Elastic Block Storage. However, this adds additional design, implementation and administration costs.

Traditional web hosting

This alternative is similar to the previous one because the systems are installed on the infrastructure of an external service provider. However, a web host does not offer its services with the typical cloud hosting characteristics of provisioning, scalability, and payment model. With traditional web hosting, you can not build an architecture that increments incrementally for the example of media hosting. In addition, offers such as Amazon S3 and CloudFront for storage and distribution of media content are missing.

Mix of traditional and cloud

An extension of the cloud hosting option could be to build an IT architecture that connects its own infrastructure (or web hosting) with cloud hosting infrastructure. However, integrating heterogeneous IT infrastructures can be costly, as adapters may have to be developed or purchased, and software components must be configured and managed multiple times for different infrastructure environments.

Traditional web hosting and “self-made brand” are recommended if the use of infrastructure is relatively stable and well predictable. In cases where incremental scalability is required, for example, because the success of a business model is uncertain and there is little risk capital available, cloud hosting is recommended.

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