Cloud Computing 101, the Holidays, DevOps Automation and Moscow Mules – How’s that for a mix!?

Cloud Computing 101, the Holidays, DevOps Automation and Moscow Mules – How’s that for a mix!?

I’m back to thinking about Cloud Computing 101, DevOps automation, and the other topics that keep my mind whirring at night – a sure sign that the 2017 holiday season is now officially over. I kicked mine off with an Ugly Sweater Party and wrapped it up with the College BCS games. In between, we had my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary (congrats to them), work-related holiday functions, Christmas with family and friends, New Years Eve with friends, and even chucked in some work and skiing. My liver needs a break but I love those Moscow Mules! Oh, and I have a Fitbit now to tell me how much I sit on my arse all day and peck away at this damn laptop – thanks kids, love you :).

What does this have to do with the cloud, cost control, DevOps and ParkMyCloud? At the different functions and events I went to, people who know me and what we do here at ParkMyCloud asked how business was going. In short, it’s great! In case you didn’t notice, the public cloud is growing, and fast. According to this recent article in Forbes, IaaS is growing 36% year on year – giddy up! Enterprises all over the world use ParkMyCloud to automate cloud cost control as part of their DevOps process. In fact we have customers in 20+ countries now. And people from companies like Sysco Foods rave about the ease of use and cost savings provided by the platform.

Now, when I talked to folks who don’t know what we do or what the cloud is, it’s a whole different discussion. For example, here’s a conversation I had at a party with Lindsey – a fictitious name to protect the innocent (or perhaps it’s USA superstar skier Lindsey Vonn… you will never know.) I like to call this conversation and ones like it “Cloud 101.”

Lindsey: “Hey Jay, how’s it going?”

Jay: “Awesome, great to see you Lindsey. Staying fit I see. How’s the family?” (of course I am holding my Mule in my copper mug – love it!)

Blah blah blah – now to the good stuff.

Lindsey: “So what do you do now?”

Jay: “Do you know what the cloud is?”

Lindsey: “You mean like iTunes?”

Jay: “Sort of. You know all those giant buildings you see when driving around here in Ashburn (VA)? Those buildings are full of servers that run the apps that you use in everyday life. Do you use the Starbucks app?”

Lindsey: “Yes – I’m addicted to Peppermint Mochas.”

Jay: “I am an Iced Venti Skim Chai Tea person myself. So the servers in those data centers are what power the cloud, Starbucks develops apps in the cloud, servers cost money when they’re running, just like the lights in your house. And like the lights in your house, those development servers don’t need to run all the time – only when people are actually using them. So we help companies like Starbucks turn them off when they are not being used. In short, we help companies save money in the cloud.”

Side note to Starbucks — maybe if you used ParkMyCloud to save on your cloud costs with Microsoft and AWS you could stop raising the price of my Iced Venti Skim Chai Tea Latte… just a thought.

It’s thanks to all our customers and partners that I’m able to have this Cloud Computing 101 conversation and include ParkMyCloud in it – with a special thanks to the “Big 3” cloud service providers – AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Without them, we would not exist as there would not be a cloud to optimize. Kind of like me without my parents, so glad they came together.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2018, we will have lots to write about here at ParkMyCloud — multi-cloud is trending up, automated cloud cost control is trending up, and DevOps will make this all more efficient. And ParkMyCloud will introduce SmartParking, SmartSizing, support for AliCloud and more. It’s all about action and automation baby. Game of Thrones better be back in 2018, too.

3 Things We Learned at AWS re:Invent 2017 (An Insider’s Look from Jay)

3 Things We Learned at AWS re:Invent 2017 (An Insider’s Look from Jay)

The ParkMyCloud team has returned energized and excited from our annual trek to Las Vegas and our third AWS re:Invent conference. It’s an eclectic group of roughly 42K people, but we gleaned a ton of information by asking questions and listening to the enterprise cloud do’ers at our booth. These are the people actually moving, deploying and managing cloud services at the enterprises we consume goods and services from. They are also often the one’s that start the ‘cloud first’ initiatives we hear so much about — after all, they led the public cloud revolution to AWS 10+ years ago.

I’m not going to write about all the announcements AWS made at re:Invent2017 related to all the cool kid, popular buzz words like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Quantum Computing, Serverless Architecture, etc. However, if you do want to read about those please check out this nice recap from Ron Miller of TechCrunch.

Containers are so passé, they did not even make the cool kid list in 2017… but Microservices Architecture did. Huh, wonder if that’s a new phrase for containers?

For ParkMyCloud it’s a great event. We love talking to everyone there – they’re all cloud focused, they are either using AWS exclusively (born in the cloud), or AWS plus another public cloud, or AWS plus private cloud, and in some cases even AWS plus another public cloud and private cloud, thus they are truly ‘multi-hybrid cloud’. We had a ton of great conversations with cloud users who are either prospects, customers, technology partners, MSPs or swag hunters who want learn how to automate their cloud cost control – our nirvana.

There were a ton of Sessions, Workshops and Chalk Talks, and long lines to get into the good ones. It’s up to you to define the good ones and reserve your spot ahead of time.

Of course, it’s not all work and no play. This year for re:Play we had DJ Snake – giddy up! And while you walked your miles through the various casinos there were DJ’s scattered about spinning tunes for you – I describe re:Invent to my friends as an IT event where “millennials meet technology” — definitely not your father’s tech trade show. Having been to many of these IT tech trade shows around the world for 20+ years now, and outside of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, re:Invent is hands down the coolest.

Not only because of the DJ’s and re:Play but because there is a real buzz there, people are part of the new world of IT, and the migration of enterprise services to the world’s #1 cloud provider. And of course the Pub Crawl and Tatonka chicken wing eating contest.

AWS is now so big that the Venetian/Palazzo can’t hold everyone anymore, so they have spread over to the MGM, Mirage, and Aria. AWS refers to this collection of locations as it’s ‘campus’ – interesting, the rest of us refer to it simply as Las Vegas :-).

BTW – bring your sneakers. It’s 1.5 miles or a 22 minute power walk, including a few bridges, from the MGM to the Venetian assuming no stops for a cold beverage. Speaking of which, the Starbucks line is crazy.

Oh, and the swag, holy mother of pearl, people literally walk by the booth with large tote bags stuffed full of swag – if you like swag, hit up the expo hall for your fill of tee shirts, hoodies, koozies, spinners, bottle openers, pens, flash lights, memory sticks, chargers, stickers, hats, socks, glasses, mints, Toblerone chocolate, and lots more!

Well, I probably need to tie this blog / rant back to the headline, so in that vein, here are the top three things we learned at this year’s AWS re:Invent:

  1. Cost control in 2018 will be about aggregating metrics and taking automated actions based on Machine Learning
  2. AWS talks a lot about advanced cloud services and PaaS, but a majority of the customers we talk to still use and spend most of their dollars on EC2, RDS and S3
  3. DevOps / CloudOps folks are in charge of implementing cost control actions and pick the tools they want to use to optimize cloud spend

See you next year – pre-book your Uber/Lyft or bring a scooter!

Cloud Service Provider Comparison – Who Will be the Next Big Provider? Part One: Alibaba

Cloud Service Provider Comparison – Who Will be the Next Big Provider? Part One: Alibaba

When making a cloud service provider comparison, you would probably think of the “big three” providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Thus far, AWS has led the cloud market, but the other two are gaining market share, driving us to make comparisons between Azure vs AWS and Google vs AWS. But that’s not the whole story.

In recent years, a few other “secondary” cloud providers have made their way into the market, offering more options to choose from. Are they worth looking at, and could one of them become the next big provider?

Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS, says: “There won’t be just one successful player. There won’t be 30 because scale really matters here in regards to cost structure, as well as the breadth of services, but there are going to be multiple successful players, and who those are I think is still to be written. But I would expect several of the older guard players to have businesses here as they have large installed enterprise customer bases and a large sales force and things of that sort.”

So for our next cloud service provider comparison, we are going to do an overview of what could arguably be the next biggest provider in the public cloud market (after all, we need to add a 4th cloud provider to the ParkMyCloud arsenal).:

Alibaba

Alibaba is a cloud provider not widely known about in the U.S., but it’s taking China by storm and giving Amazon a run for its money in Asia. It’s hard to imagine a cloud provider (or e-commerce giant) more successful than what we have seen with Amazon, let alone a provider that isn’t part of the big three, but Alibaba has their sights set on surpassing AWS to dominate the world wide cloud computing market.

Take a look at some recent headlines:

Guess Who’s King of Cloud Revenue Growth? It’s Not Amazon or Microsoft

Alibaba Just Had Its Amazon AWS Moment

Alibaba Declares War on Amazon’s Surging Cloud Computing Business

What we know so far about Alibaba:

  • In 2016: Cloud revenue was $675 million, surpassing Google Cloud’s $500 million. First quarter revenue was $359 million and in the second quarter rose to $447 million.
  • Alibaba was dubbed the highest ranking cloud provider in terms of revenue growth, with sales increasing 126.5 percent from 2015 ($298 million) to 2016
  • Gartner research places Alibaba’s cloud in fourth place among cloud providers, ahead of IBM and Oracle

Alibaba Cloud was introduced to cloud computing just three years after Amazon launched AWS. Since then, Alibaba has grown at a faster pace than Amazon, largely due to their domination of the Chinese market, and is now the 5th largest cloud provider in the world.

Alibaba’s growth is attributed in part to the booming Chinese economy, as the Chinese government continues digitizing, bringing its agencies online and into the cloud. In addition, as the principal e-commerce system in China, Alibaba holds the status as the “Amazon of Asia.” Simon Hu, senior vice president of Alibaba Group and president of Alibaba Cloud, claims that Alibaba will surpass AWS as the top provider by 2019.

Our Take

For the time being, Amazon is still dominating the U.S. cloud market, exceeding $400 billion in comparison to Alibaba’s $250 billion. Still, Alibaba Cloud is growing at incredible speed, with triple digit year-over-year growth over the last several quarters. As the dominant cloud provider in China, Alibaba is positioned to continue growing, and is still in its early stages of growth in the cloud computing market. Only time will reveal what Alibaba Cloud will do, but in the meantime, we’ll definitely be keeping a lookout. After all, we have customers in 20 countries around the world, not just in the U.S.  

Next Up: IBM & Oracle

Apart from the big three cloud providers, Alibaba is clearly making a name for itself with a fourth place ranking in the world of cloud computing. While this cloud provider is clearly gaining traction, a few more have made their introduction in recent years. Here’s a snapshot of the next 2 providers in our cloud service provider comparison:

IBM

  • At the end of June 2017, IBM made waves when it outperformed Amazon in total cloud computing revenue at $15.1 billion to $14.5 billion over a year-long period
  • However, Amazon is still way ahead when it comes to the IaaS market
    • For 2016, Amazon had the highest IaaS revenue, followed by Microsoft, Alibaba, and Google, respectively. IBM did not make the top 5.
    • Alibaba had the highest IaaS growth rate, followed by Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, respectively.
  • IBM was the fourth biggest cloud provider – before Alibaba took over
  • In Q1 of 2017, Synergy rankings showed that IBM has 4 percent of the public cloud market share, just behind Alibaba’s 5 percent
    • AWS had 44 percent, Azure – 11 percent, and Google Cloud – 6 percent

Oracle

  • Oracle’s cloud business is still ramping up, particularly in terms of IaaS
  • In fiscal Q1 of 2018, growth was at 51 percent, down from a 60 percent average in the last four quarters
    • Q4 for fiscal 2017 was at 58 percent
  • Since last quarter, shares have gone down by 10 percent

When making a cloud service provider comparison, don’t limit yourself to the “big three” of AWS, Azure, and GCP. They might dominate the market now, but as other providers grow, innovate, and increase their following in the cloud wars – we’ll continue to track and compare as earnings are reported.

Complex Cloud Pricing Models Mean You Need Automated Cost Control

Cloud pricing models can be complex. In fact, it’s often difficult for public cloud users to decipher a) what they’re spending, b) whether they need to be spending that much, and c) how to save on their cloud costs. The good news is that this doesn’t need to be an ongoing battle. Once you get a handle on what you’re spending, you can automate the cost control process to ensure that you only spend what you need to.

By the way, I recently talked about this on The Cloudcast podcast – if you prefer to listen, check out the episode.

All Cloud Pricing Models Require Cost Management

automate cloud cost savingsThe major cloud service providers – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform – offer several pricing models for compute services – by usage, Reserved, and Spot pricing.

The basic model is by usage – typically this has been per-hour, although AWS and Google both recently announced per-second billing (more on this next week.) This requires careful cost management, so users can determine whether they’re paying for resources that are running when they’re not actually needed. This could be paying for non-production instances on nights and weekends when no one is using them, or paying for oversized instances that are not optimally utilized.

Then there are Reserved Instances, which allow you to pre-pay partially or entirely. The billing calculation is done on the back end, so it still requires management effort to ensure that the instances you are running are actually eligible for the Reserved Instances you’ve paid for.

As to whether these are actually a good choice for you, see the following blog post: Are AWS Reserved Instances Better Than On-Demand? It’s about AWS Reserved Instances, although similar principles apply to Azure Reserved Instances.

Spot instances allow you to bid on and use spare compute capacity for a cheap price, but their inherent risk means that you have to build fault-tolerant applications in order to take advantage of this cost-saving option.

However You’re Paying, You Need to Automate

The bottom line is that while visibility into the costs incurred by your cloud pricing model is an important first step, in order to actually reduce and optimize your cloud spend, you need to be able to take automated actions to reduce infrastructure costs.

To this end, our customers told us that they would like the ability to park instances based on utilization data. So, we’re currently developing this capability, which will be released in early December. Following that, we will add the ability for ParkMyCloud to give you right sizing recommendations – so not only will you be able to automatically park your idle instances, you’ll also be able to automatically size instances to correctly fit your workloads so you’re not overpaying.

Though cloud pricing can be complicated, with governance and automated savings measures in place, you can put cost worries to the back of your mind and focus on your primary objectives.

3 Things Companies Using Cloud Computing Should Make Sure Their Employees Do

These days, there’s a huge range of companies using cloud computing, especially public cloud. While your infrastructure size and range of services used may vary, there are a few things every organization should keep in mind. Here are the top 3 we recommend for anyone in your organization who touches your cloud infrastructure.

Keep it Secure

OK, so this one is obvious, but it bears repeating every time. Keep your cloud access secure.

For one, make sure your cloud provider keys don’t end up on GitHub… it’s happened too many times.

(there are a few open source tools out there that can help search your GitHub for this very problem, check out AWSLabs’s git-secrets).

Organizations should also enforce user governance and use Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) to ensure that only the people who need access to specific resources can access them.

Keep Costs in Check

There’s an inherent problem created when you make computing a pay-as-you-go utility, as public cloud has done: it’s easy to waste money.

First of all, the default for computing resources is that they’re “always on” unless you specifically turn them off. That means you’re always paying for it.

Additionally, over-provisioning is prevalent – 55% of all public cloud resources are not correctly sized for their resources. The last is perhaps the most brutal: 15% of spend is on resources which are no longer used. It’s like discovering that you’re still paying for that gym membership you signed up for last year, despite the fact that you haven’t set foot inside. Completely wasted money.

In order to keep costs in check, companies using cloud computing need to ensure they have cost controls in place to eliminate and prevent cloud waste – which, by the way, is the problem we set out to solve when we created ParkMyCloud.

Keep Learning

Third, companies should ensure that their IT and development teams continue their professional development on cloud computing topics, whether by taking training courses or attending local Meetup groups to network with and learn from peers. We have a soft spot in our hearts for our local AWS DC Meetup, which we help organize, but there are great meetups in cities across the world on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and more.

Best yet, go to the source itself. Microsoft Azure has a huge events calendar, though AWS re:Invent is probably the biggest. It’s an enormous gathering for learning, training, and announcements of new products and services (and it’s pretty fun, too).

We’re a sponsor of AWS re:Invent 2017 – let us know if you’re going and would like to book time for a conversation or demo of ParkMyCloud while you’re there, or just stop by booth #1402!