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Cloud computing

What is cloud architecture?

Cloud architecture is how individual technologies are integrated to create clouds—IT environments that abstract, pool, and share scalable resources across a network. Cloud architecture is how all the components and capabilities necessary to build a cloud are connected in order to deliver an online platform on which applications can run.

Clouds are considered Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS), since a cloud provider supplies users with both the platform and the underlying IT infrastructure. Architecting a cloud platform requires more than just abstracting a computer’s capabilities from its hardware components, which is how providers create and offer cloud infrastructure to users. It also requires additional levels of development to incorporate containerization, orchestration, application programming interfaces (APIs), routing, security, management, and automation software. User experience design (UX) is also important in order to create a navigable online experience.

Think about it like this: Cloud infrastructure is building materials, while cloud architecture is a blueprint. Those materials are nothing more than wood, concrete, brick, stone, metal, and plaster. But a blueprint can turn those materials into a house.

What does a cloud architecture look like?

While there are variations of cloud architecture based on what you’re trying to do, most clouds require hardware, middleware, management, and automation software. Most clouds also use virtualization to abstract the hardware resources into centrally managed data lakes, while some clouds—known as bare-metal clouds—connect clients directly to hardware.

Here’s a practical example: OpenStack® is a popular open source cloud project that combines a number of other open source projects to build and manage clouds using virtualized resources. Red Hat stabilizes the open source project and releases it as Red Hat® OpenStack Platform. The product's twelfth version (released at the end of 2017) creates the following cloud services, and each service has its own cloud architecture.

OpenStack dashboard cloud architecture


Browser-based graphic user interface (GUI) that helps users manage cloud services.

OpenStack cloud architecture orchestration


Template-based orchestration engine that automaticaly creates resource stacks.

OpenStack cloud architecture identity


Centralized service for authentication and authorization of OpenStack services and for managing users, projects, and roles.

OpenStack cloud architecture networking


Connects interfaces of OpenStack services.

OpenStack cloud architecture block storage

Block storage

Manages persistent block storage for virtual machines (VMs).

OpenStack cloud architecture compute


Manage and provision VMs running on hypervisor nodes.

OpenStack cloud architecture images


Registry service that stores resources such as VM images and volume snapshots.

OpenStack cloud architecture object

Object storage

Helps store and retrieve files and arbitrary data.

OpenStack cloud architecture telemetry


Measures resources.

How do I find or become a cloud architect?

If you want to find or become one of the most qualified open source cloud architects, consider a Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA). Becoming an RHCA requires Red Hat Certified System Administrator and Red Hat Certified Engineer certifications, and almost half of the nearly 20 exams that qualify towards an RHCA cover cloud topics.

Public, private, hybrid, and multicloud architectures

  • Public cloud architecture: A cloud environment created from resources not owned by the end user that can be redistributed to other tenants.

  • Private cloud architecture: Loosely defined as a cloud environment solely dedicated to the end user, usually within the user’s firewall and sometimes on premise.

  • Hybrid cloud architecture: Multiple cloud environments with some degree of workload portability, orchestration, and management among them.

  • Multicloud architecture: An IT system that includes more than 1 cloud—public or private—that may or may not be networked together.

Why Red Hat?

Because when you build your cloud architecture with Red Hat products, you get interoperability across any environment: public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud, and multicloud, as well as bare-metal and virtual environments. Connect our open source products using open application programming interfaces and open standards to build a cloud architecture that fosters open organization practices like agile integration, DevOps, and CI/CD.