Change to the Cloud

It is tempting to just tell people to move their business onto the Cloud. But Brevity is the embodiment of untruth. Sure, move your business onto the Cloud, you’ll be better off; but the point is that you’ll be better off for making changes, and that you’ll quickly be out of date if you don’t. Some general advice consultants may charge you a fee for telling you to move to the Cloud; the questions and services you should demand of them concerns how to move and what needs to change. You’re not just storing it all in a different place, you’re moving up to the next business standard.

There are consultants who get paid whether their advice is right or wrong, or at least don’t suffer much if their client makes a mistake. This is different to a group that has invested in the cloud technology and is accountable for the decisions. There is a lot to be said for signing on with the vendors who built the software and continue to manage it. These groups want the customer and they want their system to work. It would make sense for them to optimize their software and structures to accommodate their clients, or to advise their clients how to alter their operation so as to best use the latest systems. An independent source will not have this communication channel between supplier and user, neglecting a potential means of keeping operations at their best. An independent advisor might be good for advising which vendor best suits their needs, but a little net searching should yield the same information. Impartiality is needed for finding the most suitable vendor, but as this is a new area the impartiality is already there; we shouldn’t have too many preconceived notions if we remember how new this all is. But we should bear in mind that these decisions for cloud operations can make or break a company in record time, and changing plans after the initial decision may be difficult.

Moving to the Cloud is a turning point for a company. Think of it as upgrading and not just changing location.

Cloud Myths

Backups aren’t necessary? Of course backups are necessary. Ignore at your own peril. Sometimes the service will do this automatically; it would make sense if the backup were at a different location so both copies were never lost together. For my money, I backup everything somewhere else, just to be certain.

Scalability is taken care of? Not always; but it seems better on Cloud. You need only pay for the space you use, and unlike buying your own storage space you need not worry too much about underestimating the space you need. But applications on Cloud may not have unlimited data capacity, or only interface with other application up to a certain point. As with other situations in the past you may need to change to a different database system if you expand past a certain point. It should be easy to scale up shear computing and storage power, but applications upon the platform may have their own limits; the same limits they had on any other storage mediums.

Everything is fast? Like time on the net, you are there with a lot of other users. The net is slow on some days, fine on others. Nobody is keeping up posted on why it fluctuates, but the amount of traffic has to be a factor. Lots of people use Cloud, so we’re sharing space with a lot of others. Not difficult to see how this slows things down.

Cloud means Public Cloud? Not really. Public clouds are bigger, and receive more media coverage, but there are more private Clouds that work for just one company. Hybrid Clouds also exist. Companies have multiple options.

Cloud has a uniform approach to everybody? Not really. Different companies use it in different ways, set up their system differently …etc. On the positive this mean you can set things up in a way that best suits you and your company, you’re not forced into some generic system. On the downside, somebody has to figure out what that best system is; you are forced to specialize, but can take advantage of it.

Cloud is pay-per-use? Well it can be, or it can have a monthly subscription, or fixed annual cost. If you have a long –lived, stable application that only requires occasional accessing, then a yearly fixed cost may well be a better bet. This is an advantage here if you can estimate in advance which option is best for you.

Multiple Clouds are better? Well, if you want things to be neatly integrated then one Cloud server might be best. Transferring information between systems is an issue. But is you have some logical division between two parts of a company, and think there is a security advantage or less chance of data loss in an accident, then there might be an advantage here.

Cloud Means Lower cost? Probably, but that’s not the only reason to adopt it. It certainly seems more economical if you only pay for the space you are using, and don’t have to estimate your future data expansion in advance. But companies see using Cloud systems as a step ahead. Even if it did cost more, which it probably won’t, using Cloud is expanding a business. Sure, you can buy data storage as a one off cost, and that seems cheaper than rental; but the devaluation of storage mediums is considerable. Look how rapidly USB drives come down in price and go up in storage space! Cloud is pay as you need it. Any storage medium that you own devalues, whether it is used or not.

BIG Data

Big Data is any amount of data so large that it is hard to process; too much information to handle. Yet what happens if you want a seemingly simple fact of trend, and have to look through a whole country’s census date to find it?
Big Data needs develop with the Cloud storage needs. More storage means there is more data collected and stored, but then in turn we need more storage space for the programs to analyse the initial data.

A few points:

“Data is best optimized when you know how it all fits together”.

It is useful to strip down the data to what is relevant to your needs, but there is no neat dividing line; everything interconnects. If it too simplified, you may leave out something useful, or that might be needed in the future, or that could lead you onto a new, overlooked market ; If it isn’t simplified enough you risk losing sight of the data, or taking so long to analysis it that the opportunities have already passed you by.

There is always the chance that the information you want falls in between the questions. We have all had the experience of survey forms that don’t give us the option that best reflects our opinion. Bear this in mind if you have any influence in how the data is collected. Asking the wrong questions will skew the data.

Companies need to collect all possible data, using tags, using data management platforms, and use a tool to sort, correlate and analysis it. It helps if the final representation is something that can be visualized.
Older methods of analysis used a representative sample of the data find patterns; hopefully this showed the pattern for the whole system, not just the sample at that particular time. Big Data aims to use every bit of relevant information, not just a token or (hopefully) typical sample. Problems can occur when two or three patterns exist at once; Big data aims to find the set of products or services that work for the different individuals in the market place, and avoid one answer that averages out to something that is not right for anybody.

The Analysis of Big Data reflects the immediate past, which is close to the present if the analysis programs are fast enough. How this relates to the future is never certain. We might follow trends with the data we have, but not pick up on some factor that abruptly changes everything. In fact, we need to know that if we act on the data patterns that we have, and make a change, then we might be the factor that changes everything! Similarly, analysing the past patterns may not give insight into how a new, future product will perform, though it may be helpful in showing how the product is adopted over time. New products and ideas mean new categories and questions for data collection; quite possibly questions that have not been previously asked. Combining analysis with computer simulations may alleviate some of the myopic tendencies here.


FASTER Under-sea Data Cable

Google, in partnership with several large Asia-based telephone companies, has announced a plan to run a new undersea cable, called FASTER, between Japan and the US west coast. This cable will have the fastest trans-pacific data capacity ever, at 60 terabytes per second. With construction beginning immediately the cable has been designed with 6-fiber-pair cable and optical transmission technologies.

This is hardly the first trans-ocean cable. There are already about 200 fiber optic cables run through the ocean, carrying an estimated 51 billion gigabytes per month; a data amount expected to increase to 132 billion gigabytes in the next few years. A substantial part of that data is on the UNITY and SJC cables, which handle 3.3 Tb/s and 28 Tb/s respectively; and which are also invested in by Google. Showing how fast the data needs are growing the 28 Tb/s SJC was only opened last year, on July 2013. Already the FASTER cable, which aims to be operational in 2016, has nearly triple the earlier cables capacity.

The system is designed to handle the increasingly intense data demands for broadband, mobile phone and business needs across the pacific. It is of particular benefit to Google which can connect its data centres in the U.S. and Asia. Years ago such cables were solely for the use of (land line) telephone connections. The fact that internet companies require them too means there are more companies investing in the facilities; but also that the facilities require much greater data capacity.

The future estimate of triple capacity in three years may be taking more into account than recent increases. The FASTER cable of today (actually 2016) is almost 20 times the capacity of UNITY cable’s 3.3Tb/s from a mere 4 years ago. Presumably data needs will continue to increase, but not indefinitely or always as rapidly as recent years.

Amazon Trust Advisor

Cloud Security with Amazon

amazon cloud

Amazon has been supplying the trusted advisor program for a while, which gives advice on the best way for a customer to use the company’s IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) cloud services. It inspects the Amazon environment and reports opportunities to improve system performance, reliability and way to save money. More importantly, it gives security advice.

As of the 1st of August Amazon has added four free checks for its trusted Advisor customers.

Service limit checks: This prevents a resource from being over or underused. Overused mean overcapacity, and preventing the overcapacity of a resource increases fault tolerance and availability. Under capacity means potential that the user might otherwise have remained unaware of.

Unrestricted checks: Checks which warns users of anything on the Amazon cloud system that could be changed without proper credentials, thus defending against hacking, data loss or denial of service.

IAM (Identity and Access Management) Use check: Which warns customers if only basic account-level credentials are securing Amazon Web Services resources.

Multi-Factor Authentication root check: which makes sure that customers are using more than just a password to identify themselves. A device authentication, such as a mobile phone Id, is also expected.

When logging onto the Amazon Web Services Management console a customer has the option of seeing these alerts. Higher level services are available for a fee.