21 Apr 7 Things About The Cloud That You Need To Know
Hostworks Chief Technology Officer Greg Koen provides the answers to some of those cloud questions you were afraid to ask.
1 – Why is it called “The” cloud when there are many cloud players in the market?
The Cloud is a concept, man. We’ve finally arrived at a metaphor that works well enough for nerds and for civilians alike to converse and sort of understand one another. Why is the cloud so appealing? It’s technically interesting because most clouds are very rich software ecosystems with plenty of cool things to play with and nerds love that. When done well a cloud migration can allow a business to become more agile to pursue good ideas faster and be more valuable to its customers or audience, if that happens then everyone wins. If the consumption model (how you buy and use cloud resources) is suitable for your business you might even save money! Value and price are rarely the same thing but this isn’t an economics blog so I’ll keep moving.
Many of the big players (Amazon, Azure, Google, IBM, Oracle and others) offer basic compute, storage and networking at roughly the same price with roughly the same attributes as each other but each has unique differences, that’s a tale for another time. You might choose one cloud above another because that make it easier to move to the cloud. Maybe it makes you more comfortable or bolder to embrace the cloud if there’s an easy way to move existing workloads. If you have a large MicroSoft footprint you might have an easier life to consider Azure. If you have a lot of Oracle technology then maybe that’s the obvious cloud for you to consider. Maybe your business is a software business and your developers have already targetted the APIs that AWS offer, you can’t throw away intellectual property too readily and rewrite your product, it makes sense to stay where you are. If you have key business systems running on something other x86 then you need to think about a blend of approaches especially if you don’t have the luxury of porting your apps and data.
‘The Cloud’ is not a completely new concept. Hostworks manages private and public clouds for its customers and has done so for many years. Our new Flex+ offering allows you have the best of all worlds. If you want a pure public cloud experience we can help get you there. If you need a private cloud we also have options for you. Maybe you need a bit of column A and a bit of column B and what you need is a hybrid cloud? If you have a mix of technology and vendors in your business right now then maybe a hybrid cloud strategy is the logical model to think about.
2 – ’The Cloud’ is just someone else’s computers, right, so what’s the big deal?
Cue PR fury and nerd rage: yes, the cloud is someone else’s computers, storage and network running in a datacentre that the cloud operator has to worry about instead of you!
The ‘big deal’ is how you use or consume cloud resources: sophisticated software layers keeps you away from the nuts and bolts and you get time based charging. You don’t have to commit to owning slabs of equipment for years at a time, just use what you want for as long as you need it* – simple** The means to spin up new servers, new storage and other cloud based services happens via a GUI or a web portal. However, if you are technically sophisticated you can write code which will do this work for you, also known as infrastructure as code and is not for the faint hearted.
* – as long as you remember to turn the instance off!
** – simple to say but not always simple to achieve
3 – Infrastructure as code, eh … do I need to become a coder?
No, it is NOT necessary to become a coder or for your business to hire a room full of programmers to start using the cloud effectively. If your technical landscape is small to medium and changes relatively slowly then devoting time and energy to writing code to build servers is possibly a poor return on your time. Exactly where the tipping point lies is not so easy to call out – if you are building environments on a regular basis and the environments are similar AND you’re beginning to think that automation would be a good idea then you’re getting very close! If you are reading up on configuration management tools like SaltStack or Puppet or Chef then you are getting very warm indeed.
Flex+ builds technology stacks by way of patterns*** from a reusable library that Hostworks has already created. We can craft a pattern for you or with you but if you prefer and have suitably skilled people we can open up the pattern making tool to you. There is no hard and fast rule with Flex+ – if you’d like Hostworks to create patterns to suit your requirement then that’s clearly possible. If you’d prefer the means to create them yourself then that is possible via our portal. If you’d like to use your existing Puppet or Chef knowledge and experience we can also accommodate you.
You are free to be as code literate as YOU want or need to be.
*** – patterns/blueprints/templates – choose your favourite term
4 – So what else changes when I move to the cloud?
A few things change when you give yourself to the cloud, importantly some don’t. Going to the cloud means you no longer have to worry about physical equipment and that’s good but many of your traditional concerns don’t vanish! Let’s talk about one key concern: security
Cloud security is a big topic and you aren’t going to get a useful answer if you simply ask ‘is the cloud secure’? It really isn’t a yes/no situation – is it secure enough for the framework and standards you have to comply with and be audited against? Clouds are neither fundamentally secure or fundamentally insecure and many of the concerns you may have had with traditional environments remain when you become cloudy. How do you keep an environment secure against new threats, how do you handle potential security incidents, how do I pass a security audit and so on. The glib answer is eternal vigilance, the longer answer is that the same diligence and attention has to paid to servers in the cloud as for traditional environments.
Security is an ongoing activity that starts with good design practice and continues through tight operational practices. If you need a helping hand to understand what the cloud security challenges look like and what responses might be appropriate give us a call and we’ll take you through the thought process. It sounds daunting but our experience is there to be used.
5 – The cloud resources i want to use aren’t located in my town/country/region. I’m not in control!!!
The cloud is global but not in a sinister nuclear winter kind of way, the big cloud providers have presences on most continents mostly for availability reasons. Understand the problem you’re trying to solve and think about your data for a moment – do you have obligations that the data MUST be in state or in country? Where is your audience, where are your customers and will their experience be poorer due to distance between them and the data they’re using?
Hostworks can deploy workloads into public clouds anywhere in the world through Flex+. We can also monitor and manage those workloads around the clock – it doesn’t matter where your resources are coming from, local or remote, we can wrangle them for you.
6 – Make sure you think through a ‘cloud first’ strategy – don’t mistake it for a ‘cloud always’ strategy
Being in the cloud (probably) isn’t the destination and like all technologies it is an enabler when used correctly. Getting to the cloud should be the means to achieve your business’ strategic aims. Be a critical thinker – will a change make my business better or enable me to serve my audience or customers better than I do now? Hybrid might be an answer – some public, some private.
Hostworks’ designers and architects can help you get to the bottom of which cloud or clouds might suit your plans for world domination, inner peace or customer satisfaction. It is just plain dishonest to say that any single cloud is always the answer to ALL of your problems. There could be many excellent reasons to move to the cloud for you and your business but have you considered your existing solution architecture? Maybe you need to rewrite or rework your apps to be cloud ready – that’s unlikely to be quick, cheap or risk free. Let Hostworks help.
7 – What do you mean there’s more things no one told me about!
There’s always more to know:
There are ’things’ as a Service – XaaS – where ‘X’ marks too many spots – infrastructure, software, platforms, databases, specific applications, backup, storage and more all delivered as a service.
Change how you treat servers – pets vs cattle – cut your losses, tear it down and build a fresh server. Let’s talk about configuration management
Architectural changes – autoscaling and clustering – some assembly required.
Billing is linked to usage – I didn’t have an entrée – this bill is wrong!
Smart cloud usage leads to real agility – fail fast, get better soon(er)
What’s the API economy and why does it matter? All this talk of RESTful APIs is not making me feel relaxed at all.
Hostworks Chief Technology Officer Greg Koen has over three-decades of industry experience. From high transaction banking systems to critical broadcast solutions.