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Ask the Expert: Cloud Technology (AWS)

Last month, we launched the very first Head in the Cloud meetup – an initiative to provide expert insight and thought-provoking discussions on the rapid and constantly growing World of Cloud.

Off the back of this, we caught up with speaker Jez Daniels, Certified AWS Cloud Systems Architect at Sparkol about his topic of discussion: “it’s not scalable” and other Serverless Myths.

Here, our chat as part of our “Ask the Expert” series.

ADLIB: Could you share your take and perspective on “what is Cloud Technology?”

Jez: Cloud technology is the provision of shared computing resources via the Internet. Resources such as virtual servers, storage & networking, are available on demand. The economies of scale which exist in sharing resources, results in vastly reduced costs to the user, making it a cost-effective option for all types of enterprises.

ADLIB: Can you give some pointers on “How” it works and how readers can benefit from learning about cloud tech?

Jez: Certainly. Cloud tech has been a massive game-changer, bringing the enterprise computing capabilities to smaller organisations at a vastly reduced cost. Its infrastructure allows users to store applications and data on remote servers and consists of the frontend and the backend. The frontend enables users to access applications and data via the Internet, using a web browser or other software.

The backend consists of a multitude of servers and computers and is where the applications and data are securely stored. Multiple copies of the stored data & applications are usually made by the service provider to reduce the risk of security threats and losses. This is how the main providers can claim a 99.999999999% durability for the data you store in their systems.

Providers of cloud computing are continually innovating and making new services available to all users, not just the top-paying customers. For anyone wishing to understand more about Cloud Technology, I would recommend researching the AWS Value Proposition and maybe even studying the entry-level Cloud Practitioner Certification.

ADLIB: The focus of your talk was based on why Cloud “is not scalable”. Can you share your key insights behind this statement?

Jez: My talk was specifically about some of the misconceptions around serverless computing, which is just one aspect of Cloud. The reason I opted to talk about this is that over the last few years I have come into contact with many experienced, or highly qualified, software engineers who cite some of these myths as reasons not to use serverless computing, claiming it cannot be considered a serious architectural design pattern.

The most common myth cited is the perceived lack of scalability of serverless architectures, yet seamless scalability is probably its biggest strength.

I guess it’s human nature to stick with what we know. But, as technologists, we are fully aware that there is always something new on the horizon and should try not to dismiss new ideas or new ways of working, without gathering more information – or even trying it out first. I have introduced serverless architecture at two companies I have worked for, although initially sceptical, both have embraced it and neither has turned back.

ADLIB: And finally, what are the 3 main benefits of Cloud Tech to benefit businesses and organisations?

Jez:

Flexibility. Traditionally, the Head of IT or the CTO would have to determine the capacity that s/he needs for the servers peak demand. S/he would have to order this number of physical servers, increasing capital expenditure, and house this number of physical servers in a data centre somewhere. Yet, most of these servers will be redundant most of the time, adding to the operational expenditure. But what if s/he has got it wrong and either over-provisioned or under-provisioned?

Cloud computing allows us to easily automate the provisioning and terminating of servers inline with operational demands. Remember: the pricing model means you only pay for what you use, so no large capital expenditure costs.

Agility. One can quickly and easily experiment. For example, a year ago I was curious about AWS’s virtual call centre service (AWS Connect). So I used it to build a virtual call centre for a non-existent organisation. This was fully functional, receiving external calls on a UK 0330 number, routing them internally and recording calls, after about two hours. I played with this for a couple of days.

Cost. The total cost of ownership and pricing models for Cloud computing make it accessible for all sizes of organisations – and also for individuals. Ordering physical server and then renting space for them in a data centre is almost a thing of the past. Creating or terminating virtual servers in the cloud takes just seconds, and you only pay for the time they are running. That’s if you actually want to pay for, and manage, a server. Many applications can run in a de-coupled serverless architecture, reducing the cost even further.

In the case of my virtual call centre, I actually forgot to shut it down. A month later I received the bill from AWS – $7. Where else can you get a fully functional, operational & scalable call centre for that price? I shut down my call centre with a few clicks and the cost stopped straightaway.

Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, Jez!