Author Archives: Kaamil

Oozing Investment For Amazon

Oozing Investment For Amazon

Results and Background

Although the results of the second quarter have not been too amazing for Amazon, Chief Financial Officer Thomas J. Szkutak has different plans for Amazon. Even after not putting up a very impressive performance, investment in cloud computing technology by the company will not stop. In fact, they have plans to further spruce up the investments in one of their major domains – cloud computing.

According to unofficial reports, Amazon has plans to spend capex funds to the tune of $850 million on its cloud technology division. This is considered to be a considerable jump from its previous spending of around $650 million on cloud infrastructure. However, it might be difficult for the company to give an exact break down of how much of that investment goes into providing software-as-a-service to its clients as opposed to its retail technology business (running Amazon.com).

Why this sprucing?

One might well argue that since first-quarter results have not been too good, why in the world would Amazon try to further extend its investment here instead of technology. According to financial experts, a company in such a situation should ideally be cutting its spending rather than increasing it. However, it seems that Amazon has quite different plans in mind. With industry giants such as Google, Rackspace, HP, etc. racking up their spending on cloud technology, it is an alarm bell for Amazon not to be left behind in the race. Although recent quarterly results have not been as good as previously for Amazon, they still demonstrate the company’s leadership in its domain. They also demonstrate Amazon’s ability to provide superior software-as-a-service to its consumers on a continuous basis, without compromising on quality.

Other companies mentioned above in this article have deep pockets and are presenting Amazon with tough competition. Therefore, Amazon needs not only to be cautious in its approach, but also aggressive in its spending. Thus, it needs not only to demonstrate increased consumer trust, but also its willingness to adopt long-term objectives. These objectives must also be achievable in every sense.

Although onlookers believe that this is one of the lowest-margin businesses in the entire industry, and thus companies like Amazon should not be spending so high on infrastructure, there are also counter views existing in the market. With increasing dependence of consumers on cloud infrastructure, and with the majority of the big companies moving their IT to cloud platforms, companies such as Amazon have amazing opportunities for growth lying in front of them. What they really need to have at the current point in time is a long-term vision of growth. In line with the same vision, it seems quite a logical decision for Amazon to increase its investment, even after receiving unspectacular results in one particular quarter. After all, it will be the staying horse that finally wins the race, and Amazon has enough potential to be exactly that.

By Kaamil Nakhasi

I Am Competing As Well: Amazon

I am competing as well: Amazon

Well, how many of us could have imagined that one of the pioneers of cloud computing – Amazon, would have started feeling the heat of competition so early in the domain. However the fact is that Amazon has recently re-worked its marketing and pricing strategies and has started pushing aggressively on consumer sensitive price points. With the advent of numerous cloud computing providers like Google etc., it is important for the organization to stay competitive in the fast and dynamic environment of cloud computing.

Services from giants like Microsoft Azure, or Rackspace cloud computing platforms, have forced Amazon to get fierce about the pricing.

What exactly is on the card?

Amazon has always believed in bringing the benefit to consumers that commit to it for long time reservation. Therefore in the current marketing policy, it is quite evident that huge discounts and offers are being given to consumers who are willing to stick to Amazon for a longer duration. This way Amazon wants to retain the consumer base it taps. It also helps in not going for impressing the same client again and again. Therefore if for instance you choose to block a three year reservation, you would end up getting huge discounts from Amazon for your little effort.

Who is benefiting?

It is wrong to think of the target group that Amazon is focussing on. In fact, it is not focusing on any real target group. The customer base in its segment is simply being offered awesome discounts by way of coupons, price reductions, saving options, EMI option, and also quarterly balancing. For companies that come out with monthly budgets, it has those monthly pricing plans. Then there are companies that are usually large and have stuck up budgets. These are usually in the time frame of a quarter to a full year. For such companies, Amazon has decided to provide yearly balancing plans. This means that if your company is tied up with a yearly budget, you are hedged against the spikes and troughs in your usage for one full year. The balancing will be done at the end of the year. Similar there are plans available for quarterly payments as well.

Another important area or target group that Amazon is focusing on is start-ups. Various start-ups from developed as well as developing nations have chosen Amazon cloud services due to the flexible and affordable price points and options that they provide. Amazon wants to further cash in on this phenomena by providing further pricing benefits to these consumers.

Amazon is picking its sweet spots quite aggressively. One might think for an instant that a company of Amazon’s stature in this domain doesn’t need to do much for maintaining the product leadership in this category. However it is here where Amazon has out beaten its rivals by thinking out of the box, and also very aggressively. Since everyone is into a commodity service, therefore by getting aggressive on pricing Amazon has given signals that it is not sitting idle and complacent at all.

By Kaamil Nakhasi

Consumer Cloud: Problem In The Business Model

Consumer Cloud: Problem In The Business Model

Consumer Cloud: Problem in the Business Model

Today, consumers behaviour is quite different from what it used to be a few years ago, especially when the concern at hand is technology, and that too cloud technology. Having been dependent on cloud technology for more than a few years in line, consumers have opted to be at the mercy of their providers more than ever before.

Consumers are therefore more bent on accepting their human resource and security practices more blindly than they used to do a few years ago. The problem has been largely attributed to the increased dependence on cloud as a service or software as a service as we commonly know it. There are a couple of important facts about this phenomena which are important to know and are marked in this article.

Why give up the entire control?

Why should you be giving up entire control of your cloud computing accounts? Recent hacks into really secured systems suggest that it is not impossible to breach into very tightly secured iAccounts of big service providers as well. Cloud providers like Amazon, Google, Apple etc. have all been victims of these security breaches in the past.

The problem at hand is that consumers have practically left the entire control of their accounts in the hands of the cloud service provider. So whenever there is a breach, you end up losing control not only over your account, but possible all the devices connected to your cloud including laptops, PDAs, mobile phones etc. This implies that it is not just your software, you practically end up losing control even on your hardware devices that these days very commonly run on cloud.

Confessions from various cloud providers make us believe that there are numerous attempts per day to hack into the consumer accounts. Though the services providers are smart enough to bypass such attacks, the possibility of these cannot be completely negated. There are times when the hacker with the play of some numbers is able to convince the customer relationship management team of the provider that it is his account. The problem thus is not in how securely built the technology systems are. The problem actually is what loopholes exist in the existing business model and HR practices of the service provider that you are utilising the services of.

What Next?

Though loopholes will continue to exist, it doesn’t really mean that you quit on using the cloud technology as a whole. What you’ve got to do at this moment is keeping full trust over your providers, and utilising the cloud services to the best possible extent. It also pays in not getting frustrated and irritated when you are asked several questions while you call up the CRM team, as this what is being tried to keep your account safe and secure. Should that be a hack call, imagine how much loss it could have caused to you and your business. Cloud service providers are trying hard to put everything at point. However it is perhaps important to modify the existing business model and HR practices to foray into making an end to such breaches.

By Kaamil Nakhasi

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Agility In The Cloud: Big Data And The Cloud

Agility In The Cloud: Big Data And The Cloud

Recent years have seen a lot of development in the cloud computing sphere. Big data is believed by many to be here to stay, and a lot of real investment is touted to happen in this particular area. Such a trend is quite exciting, as new, better and more powerful infrastructure will be needed to support all this. So,  a lot of further development is on the way to accommodate these computing perimeters.

Does agility matter?

Your company might have been in the business for many years, or it may be a newcomer to the field – JIT (Just in Time) deployment of services is very important for both types of organizations. This is also critical to the success of any of the types of company described above. While small business owners may sometimes think that there is a cost control through traditional IT, they really need to consider the agility that the cloud brings to their businesses. Cloud computing, when moved and executed properly, can help companies tap market opportunities to the best possible effect, due to the extended flexibility and agility it has to offer. The recent acquisition of Cloud dot com by Citrix clearly proves that there has been an increase in interest in cloud computing technology. It is also touted in the networking space that many emerging SDN players are bound to be acquisition targets for major companies keeping an eye on the developments in the sphere.

The most important standards in Cloud

There are a lot of important standards that need to be provisioned into the cloud computing sphere, one of which is using a standardAPI. With services like Cloud Stack and Open Stack, a lot of progress is being made in this regard. However, there is still work left to be done regarding the way abstraction of various layers is defined, especially in the security and networking layers. The work being done with Open Stack is quite commendable, and it could serve as a guiding platform for SDN to become aligned with this vision of abstraction in network and security.

Big data – the buzz

Big data is not new. It has existed for ages and can be attributed even to the initial years of computing. However, one might do well to consider why is there an increased buzz around this now. The answer is quite simple: Significant advances that have been brought about by x86 hardware have actually helped in bringing computing power to the masses. However, with new technologies such as vPlane, etc., cloud computing has extended this power. Now, users have extended perimeters, while still being able to control costs effectively. Cloud computing platforms have achieved performance standards that were previously only possible by using ASICs built specifically for that purpose.

The Verdict

There is no clear-cut verdict in this domain. While cloud computing has become a boon to network infrastructures, it has also been a support to the ever-expanding needs of infrastructure, and also put a check on the costs. The agility it brings does has not yet seen a the time when end-to-end cloud computing operating systems are a common phenomenon, and fewer articles stressing its importance will be written – perhaps like this one!

By Kaamil Nakhasi

Caring About The Client End Point In A Cloud

Caring About The Client End Point In A Cloud

Caring About The Client End Point In A Cloud

CloudTweaks Comic #100 - David Fletcher

In a cloud infrastructure, should one care about the client end point?  One of the key enabling factors for the enterprise mobility of an organization is the cloud-technology-based model. However, most of the real access is from practical devices such as smartphones, desktop PCs, etc. However, since the applications are stored and delivered through the cloud, these end-point devices largely become insignificant.

However, if you’re really serious about securing the cloud, then there is an increased need to secure mobile devices as well. These can be termed as access points to the real cloud. Also, from an end-user perspective, the actual difference between a mobile device and the cloud is almost lost. These are actually conflicting messages that are basically a result of productivity colliding with security. This can also be seen as a security against performance conflict. In real terms, we know which wins that conflict more than often than not. However, the problem is that many people try to deal with this conflict with an either/or approach, which is perhaps harmful. Based on the end point, people try to answer this question with an allow/deny approach, while ignoring the other end of the funnel – the application or resource in question.

Just like the two sides of a coin, the client and the resource go together, hand-in-hand. The answer to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy should be based not on the question of whether or not Z is able to access the network, but on the question, whether Z is allowed access to this resource. These are perhaps important decisions to make for business owners getting into these kinds of conflicts. SaaS can be taken as a good example in this context, where data is always stored in the database or actually on the server, rather than by the client program itself. Therefore, we must not disallow access from mobile devices such as the iPad, etc., over any such network. However, there are many who do not like leaving the office premises with their confidential data on a mobile device, especially when there is a high risk involved and they are not able to compensate data loss in the event of a theft.

The real point is that this BYOD policy is not quite so simple – there are complex elements associated with it. There are people who prefer mobility and would like to carry their mobile devices with them. Here, there is a to security if the cloud actually sits on those devices. However, in practice the cloud server infrastructure is quite separate and the end user devices do not generally compromise the security requirements of the end client. The question as to whether or not the client end is important is an important one for cloud service providers to consider. Though the client and the resource go hand-in-hand, this important decision should be made in order to manage other issues related to using the cloud for your organization.

By Kaamil Nakhasi

Security And Management In The Cloud

Security And Management In The Cloud

Though there are various challenges involved in maintaining a cloud service, one of the major challenges that organizations face is security management. The advent of global computing represents cloud computing in totality. This has transcended boundaries, not just nationally, but also internationally.

This same globalization is another challenge that has emerged for cloud technology, because traditional security models do not apply in the cloud infrastructure. Let us take, for example, firewall infrastructure. The very invention of firewalls in traditional systems was meant to provide “blocking-security” for single hardware devices. However, with cloud computing models, the very definition of this is thrown out of the window. The cloud itself is outside these defined perimeters, and there need to be device-separated regimes for cloud security management. Traditional IT regimes work less on this kind of infrastructure and are not quite practical. Since we are making massive changes in the infrastructure, changes are also needed in security management.

Why is it difficult to maintain security on the cloud?

Security is made difficult by the fact that the infrastructure is not owned by the party itself – it is somebody else who owns the entire infrastructure. Hence, it is difficult to get changes in security implemented as you try to scale the rest of your IT infrastructure. If these two growths are not in complete synchronization with each other, there are bound to be holes in the coverage and gaps that are difficult to seal down.

Automating firewall management clouds

This is not just a possibility; it is essential. There is a high degree of elasticity associated with cloud infrastructure – be it public, private or hybrid. As a result, security is essential and must be deployed on the basic cloud server. If you are taking a third-party cloud, you must insist on a security check at the cloud server level. Time-based controls, which close ports such as RDP, etc. and open only when there is a demand, are a good option. This ensures that your servers are always secured, and since you have the security server on your own side, the policies can be easily coupled with your infrastructure.

Should one take a hybrid approach to security solutions?

There are various reasons why the hybrid approach is perhaps not a good one. Most traditional security methods do not exist for the cloud. Also, the entire process of securing your cloud infrastructure is quite different from securing traditional IT infrastructure. Many server admin ports such as SSH, etc., are left open in traditional infrastructure. This is because the server sits behind the corporate infrastructure, and there is abundant security and less risk.

However, this is not possible with the cloud, as everything is so elastic that there are no fixed perimeters. In this case, therefore, admin ports cannot be left open as they were in the traditional case. There needs to be a custom solution for this which is different for every different cloud. The need of the hour, however, is to realize the importance of these custom security management systems to the cloud.

By Kaamil Nakhasi

Video May Be Big Data’s Secret Weapon

Video May Be Big Data’s Secret Weapon

Big data is all the rage.

When someone utters those two words, images of pages upon pages of statistics come to mind. It also conjures up ideas of this data coming together to form a more consolidated and organized sheet that can help your business understand how consumers behave.

Data collection and analysis companies are exhausting possible sources of data and new ways of intelligently analyzing data to attract more clients. However, it seems that there are data sources that are being ignored, despite their popularity.

The Inherent Flaw of Video

As of now, video is largely being overlooked, because it hasn’t figured much in how current data collection works. For one, data collection tools work on text files or other file forms that may be broken down into 1’s and 0’s. To this day, video content has yet to be broken down by any program to understand its content.

The Flaw is Our Loss

However, this is not to say that there is nothing in the video that is essential for us to collect and understand. Rebecca Jacoby, CIO and SVP of Cisco, has been one of the first to point out how critical it is for us to think about what we are missing out on when it comes to video.

There are 35 hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube. That’s 2,100 hours of video uploaded every hour. These are all user-generated.

In these videos, you will see the brands of clothes people are wearing, the language they are using, their nationality, their gender, the nature of their relationships, brands of furniture, their hair color, the streets they are walking in, the expressions they use, their desires, dreams, dislikes, and many other things.

This information is all important, and probably the rawest form of data.

Exhausted in Other Fields

Images don’t lie.

This is a principle that has been used in other industries such as sports and entertainment.

Contrary to popular belief, big data is not a new concept. It is has been used by many in the way we use it today to understand phenomena and market behavior.

For example, professional sports teams hire video analysts to see patterns of how players move, how coaches design plays, and how certain developments change the tempo of the game.

This is the same objective that businesses also have. Unfortunately, there is not yet an application that will take the role of video analysts. There are no applications that are intelligent enough to understand the market based on video.

To this day, despite the supposed sophistication of data collection tools, we haven’t unlocked the secret of how to read videos.

The Spontaneity of Video

It is the raw information contained in user-created video content that might hold the power. Remember that many of the videos on YouTube were made by people holding a $50 video camera. They don’t have stylists to dress them up or a dialogue director to tell them how to speak. This is raw emotion with raw information.

This is the purest data we can collect. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet figured out how to do it.

By Kaamil Nakhasi

The Data World: AWS Reaches 1 Trillion

The Data World: AWS Reaches 1 Trillion

According to recently released statistics, Amazon Web Services’ S3 Services (Simple Storage Service) is now home to more than a trillion (12 zeros) objects, courtesy of its cloud computing clients. The newly released figures once again prove the tremendous growth of cloud computing.

Simple Storage Service is Amazon Web Services’ online storage service. It was launched in the US in March 2006, and was followed by a European launch in November 2007. As its name implies, S3 is a cloud storage service provider offering above average uptime, low latency, and scalability, while retaining simplicity and keeping costs reasonable.

The details behind S3’s makeup are not available to the public, however, S3 is being used as a host and storage facility by a number of very popular online services – some of whom are also widely known as cloud storage providers – such as Dropbox and Tumblr. Zmanda and Ubuntu One also offer online backup and sync services using S3 as the backend storage and transfer facility. Minecraft also hosts its game updates and player skins on Amazon’s S3 servers. Formspring and Posterous use the service to host database files and images.

Just How Big is a Trillion Anyway?

S3’s milestone figures are undoubtedly a massive success in the industry. Amazon’s Jeff Barr emphasized just how big a trillion is in his recent blog posts announcing the new peak. For example, the current S3 numbers are basically akin to 142 objects for every person on the planet, or 3.3 objects for every star in the Milky Way.

Counting one object every second, it would take a person 31,710 years to finish counting all the objects stored in Amazon’s servers. Another good example of just how big a trillion is can be gleaned from TED founder Richard Saul Wurman’s recent statement regarding the national debt. He said that in order to reach a 1 trillion dollar debt, the country would have to lose $1 million daily for a period of 2,730 years.

What Can We Expect in the Future?

Amazon S3’s success is amazing enough, but what’s more amazing is that we have barely even scratched the surface. More and more big-data services use S3 for their clouds, and we can only expect the numbers to increase exponentially over the next few years.

Regarding Amazon S3’s rate of growth, you should take into consideration a recent report which mentioned that it was already hosting 566 billion objects by October last year, only for the numbers to balloon to 762 billion in January this year, followed by 905 billion last April. According to Barr, the recent numbers show that their rate of growth is roughly 3.5 billion objects daily, or 40,000 new objects every second.

It’s safe to say that it won’t be long until we hit the quadrillion mark.

By Kaamil Nakhasi

CloudTweaks Comics
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