Three Big AWS re:Invent Announcements from 2017

Three Big AWS re:Invent Announcements from 2017

AWS re:Invent announcements were in full swing at the conference last week. In addition to all the sessions, workshops, pub crawl, DJ-spinning and all sorts of educational experiences and entertainment options, the technology announcements are really what drive the buzzl. While it’s impossible to cover them all, we picked three big announcements from this year’s AWS re:Invent that will certainly be game-changers:  

New EC2 Instance Types

M5 EC2 instances are the next generation of general purpose EC2 instances. As a general purpose instance, its good for the use of running web & app servers, hosting enterprise applications, supporting online games and building cache fleets.

What sets M5 instances apart is that they were made for high-demand workloads, provide a 14% better price performance than M4 instances per core, and designed based on Custom Intel® Xeon® Platinum 8175M series processors running at 2.5 GHz. The new instances comes with a full package of resources allocations, complete with optimized compute, memory, and storage.

H1 EC2 Instances are the latest in storage optimized instances, designed with lots of space for high performance big data workloads. These instances are powered by “Broadwell” – 2.3 GHz Intel®Xeon® E5 2686 v4 processors, offering more memory compared to D2 instances. H1 instances provide low cost storage, high disk throughput, and high sequential disk I/O access to large data sets. They’re designed for data scientists running big data applications like Elastic MapReduce, big workload clusters, data processing applications like Apache Kafka, distributed filing systems, and networking filing systems.

Public Preview of EC2 Bare Metal Instances

AWS customers now have the ability to run workloads on bare metal servers. Peter DeSantis, VP of Global Infrastructure at AWS, calls it the “best of both worlds” because customers can run an operating system directly on the hardware, yet still reap the benefits of using the cloud by paying as they go instead of up-front. The public preview of bare metal instances are ideal in scenarios where workloads needs access to certain hardware features, and workloads with restrictions due to licensing can still benefit from the AWS cloud offerings. The public preview of the i3.metal instance is only the first of an entire series dedicated to bare metal instances, with more in line to roll out over the next few months.

Spot Instance Hibernation

Among several changes announced to AWS spot instances was a notable new feature – hibernation for spot instances. Instead of terminating a spot instance when it is interrupted, it will now hibernate instead, saving all of your data into an EBS volume. The instance will reboot as soon as spare capacity is available for the given instance type. Hibernation is useful because you won’t be charged for using the instance while it’s in hibernation, storage is charged at standard EBS storage rates, and you can still terminate your instances in hibernation by cancelling your bid at any time.

Conclusion

AWS re:Invent announcements are always exciting. As the largest and most successful public cloud provider to date, Amazon keeps us on our toes and continues giving us so much to look forward to. In the ongoing war between the big three cloud providers, these innovations will certainly drive the competition to innovate and provide even better options for enterprises to choose from. As always, we’ll continue to cover new announcements, product launches, and more as AWS continues to innovate and increase their offerings at a frenetic pace.

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 – Part Two: IBM vs Oracle

Cloud Service Provider Comparison – Part Two: IBM vs Oracle

For the second part of our cloud service provider comparison, we’ll continue our discussion of “secondary” cloud providers with two longtime tech industry giants: IBM vs Oracle.

We always talk about the “big three” cloud providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). We’ve covered Azure vs AWS, Google vs AWS, and most recently, the rise of Alibaba as the next biggest cloud provider. But what about the rest? IBM and Oracle have solidified themselves in the technology world, but will their offerings bring them success in the public cloud? And if so, does one of them have a better chance?

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

The reality that Alibaba knocked IBM out of fourth place in the ongoing saga of the cloud wars is a bit unsettling, but remember that the enterprise cloud is still just beginning. After all, the term “cloud computing” was only coined just a few years ago, in 2006. As we look forward, IBM and Amazon just released their own television ad campaigns, and the differences in their messaging are an indication of how each provider plans to move forward.

As enterprises continue their shift to the cloud, TV ads tell us a lot about a provider’s purpose, overall message, and target audience. In the IBM ad, “The Cloud for Enterprise, Yours,” the cloud is presented not as a cloud at all, but as an entity “built for your business, designed for your data, and secure to the core.” This messaging opens an otherwise confusing, sometimes difficult to understand service for business leaders, to something tangible, something that makes sense, something that was built for their enterprise. That type of message goes a long way with people who don’t know the first thing about cloud computing.

On the other hand, Amazon’s ad targets a different audience entirely: “the builders” – developers, programmers, and architects who already have a full understanding and reliance on AWS for their building needs. In contrast to IBM, whose ad is all about how their cloud is helping businesses through the power of data and innovation, blockchain, and more, Amazon went straight for the technical experts who know exactly what they’re doing, no explanation necessary. The ad was also perfectly timed for the arrival of AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas this past week (ParkMyCloud was there as a sponsor!), gearing up their technical followers for the big event.

IBM positioned itself as a cloud provider for business leaders as the shift to the cloud only gets bigger. Amazon positioned itself as a haven for technical experts, the people writing code and continuously managing applications and other processes. It will take some time before we see the results of how this messaging plays out, but it certainly says something about who each provider wants to impress. And while pretty much everyone agrees that Amazon is currently leading the cloud, the numbers don’t lie – let’s not forget that IBM outperformed them in overall cloud revenue.

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

If things weren’t looking good for Oracle before, they may have just taken a turn for the worst. This past week AWS re:Invent, we witnessed CEO Andy Jassy make quite a dig at Oracle during his keynote speech. There was a cartoon involved, featuring Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and the message was clear: AWS is taking business away from Oracle.

Oracle’s success largely comes from its database business, which is still their biggest revenue producer as many companies use their databases to run critical parts of their operations. AWS decided to take them head on with a database on their own, directly targeting their enterprise customers. After AWS launched Aurora, in competition with Oracle’s SQL database, they efficiently started peeling away longtime Oracle customers. Oracle’s response? Build their own cloud, competing directly with the biggest and most successful cloud provider thus far, AWS.

But in spite of their current position, we can’t rule out Oracle just yet. For customers who still rely on Oracle’s database or other software, the cloud is a welcome offering and probably an easier option. And in an attempt to make things harder for AWS, Oracle made some changes to its licensing, and doubled the cost of using its database on AWS in hopes that customers who already use Oracle’s database will find their cloud a cheaper, more appealing option. However, this also backfired to some degree as customers using AWS cloud in conjunction with Oracle’s database did not appreciate the spike in price. Ultimately, the decision could prove itself to be more beneficial to AWS customers, prompting them to switch their database instead of their cloud provider.

And this brings us back to re:Invent, where Andy Jassy announced a new, serverless database service – Aurora Serverless. Again, this new offering is in direct competition with Oracle’s database, and once it goes live, only time will tell if Oracle can take the heat.

IBM vs Oracle: The Takeaway

IBM vs Oracle – does either of them stand a chance against the bigger, more well known cloud providers? So far, it’s looking pretty good for IBM. They have their sights set on huge success with the introduction of Watson, the AI supercomputer that generated a lot of buzz when it won Jeopardy. They’ve also taken a new approach with their TV ad campaign, setting themselves apart from Amazon with an entirely different audience, wooing business leaders as the best choice in terms of business and innovation strategy. And of course, they’ve taken the lead in cloud computing revenue, which is nothing to scoff at.

On the other hand, Oracle is struggling to find its place, and Amazon is calling them out. With the announcement of Aurora Serverless, we’ll be looking to see how this new offering impacts Oracle as it takes a direct hit to it’s flagship product – their database business. If Oracle wants to keep up and hold it’s own against other cloud providers, they might be wise to take a note from IBM and innovate with a new approach entirely.

In the ongoing battle for the ultimate cloud provider, Amazon’s lead is certainly not a guarantee. Not only are Google and Azure coming in strong, but Alibaba is well on its way, and other secondary providers like IBM and Oracle are working on innovations and improvements to secure their place in the ranks.

In the end, we always find it helpful to come back to one of our favorite Andy Jassy quotes regarding the cloud battle:

“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.”

As we continue making comparisons between cloud providers, keeping up to date with ongoing advancements and innovations behind their offerings, we welcome you to participate! Please share any thoughts or feedback in the comment section, we’d love to hear your take!

New in ParkMyCloud: AWS Utilization Metric Tracking

New in ParkMyCloud: AWS Utilization Metric Tracking

We are happy to share the latest release in ParkMyCloud: you can now see resource utilization data for your AWS EC2 instances! This data is viewable through customizable heatmaps.

This update gives you information about how your resources are being used – and it also provides the necessary information that will allow ParkMyCloud to make optimal parking and rightsizing recommendations when this feature is released next month. This is part of our ongoing efforts to do what we do best – save you money, automatically.

Utilization metrics that ParkMyCloud will now report on include:

  • Average CPU utilization
  • Peak CPU utilization
  • Total instance store read operations
  • Total instance store write operations
  • Average network data in
  • Average network data out
  • Average network packets in
  • Average network packets out

Here is an example of an instance utilization heatmap, which allows you to see when your instances are used most often:

In a few weeks, we will release the ability for ParkMyCloud to recommend parking schedules for your instances based on these metrics. In order to take advantage of this, you will need to have several weeks’ worth of CloudWatch data already logged, so that we can recommend based on your typical usage. Start your ParkMyCloud trial today to start tracking your usage patterns so you can get usage-based parking recommendations.

If you are an existing customer, you will need to update your AWS policies to enable ParkMyCloud to access your AWS CloudWatch data. Detailed instructions can be found in our support portal.

Feedback? Anything else you’d like to see ParkMyCloud do? Let us know!

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.

How to Optimize Costs When Using Blue-Green Deployments

How to Optimize Costs When Using Blue-Green Deployments

Blue-green deployments are a great way to minimize downtime and risk — however, users should remember to keep cost in mind as well when optimizing deployments.

Why You Should Use Blue-Green Deployments

One approach to continuous deployment of applications that has really taken off in popularity recently is the use of blue-green deployments.

The main idea behind this system is to have two full production deployments in existence that are running the last two versions of code, with only the latest version actively in use.  For instance, if the current version of your software is running in your “blue” environment, your next deployment would take place in the “green” environment. When you’re ready to flip the switch, you start pointing users at green instead of blue.

This deployment method has a couple of great benefits. First, it helps with minimizing downtime when cutting over to newly-deployed code. Instead of upgrading your current system and having to make users wait until the upgrade is complete, the cutover downtime is minimized. Second, along the same lines, you have a fresh deployment each time instead of upgrading an existing system repeatedly. Third, you have a system that has been already working for you that you can roll back to if necessary.

How to Optimize Costs With Two Production Deployments

Of course, running two production environments means that you are paying twice the cost for your infrastructure. ParkMyCloud users have asked how they can optimize costs while using the blue-green deployment strategy.  We use AWS internally for our blue-green deployments, so we’ll discuss some options in terms of AWS terminology, but you can use other clouds like Azure and Google as well.

One approach is to use AWS Auto-Scaling Groups as your deployment mechanism. With ASGs, you decide how many instances you want as a minimum, a maximum, and a desired amount for your environment. When setting up ASGs in ParkMyCloud, you can have two different settings for min/max/desired for when the ASG is “on” and “off”.  This way, you can have an ASG for blue and one for green, then use ParkMyCloud to set the min/max/desired as needed, so each of these environments is only running when necessary, and not wasting money.

Another option is to use Logical Groups in ParkMyCloud. This allows you to group together instances into one entity, so you could have a database and a web server start and stop together.  If you go this route, you can put all of your blue instances together in a group, then start the whole group up when you are ready to switch over. When going between blue and green, you can just update the logical group to have the newest instances as you deploy. Again, this allows you to park the inactive environment, saving its cost.

If your continuous deployment is fully automated, a third option is to utilize the ParkMyCloud API to change schedules and toggle servers as deployments are completed. Typically, you’ll want your current active deployment on an “always on” schedule, so ParkMyCloud will turn things on even if someone tries to turn them off, and the standby deployment on an “always off” schedule so you are saving money.

This idea of using ParkMyCloud with blue-green deployments is one way to start implementing Continuous Cost Control in your pipeline. This way, you can save money while delivering software quickly and automatically. Try it out with ParkMyCloud today and get the most out of your cloud!