Cloud Computing and Cloud Infrastructure Myths

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Most common cloud computing questions

The most common question we hear about cloud computing is What is the cloud?. There are a lot of terms, vendor specific definitions and confusion about cloud infrastructure so we’ll first define cloud computing before moving on.

Solid Logic’s cloud computing definition: Instantly scalable, programmatically-controllable compute, storage, and networking resources. 

This definition is also commonly referred to as Infrastructure-As-A-Service (IaaS). Infrastructure-as-a-Service abstracts the physical aspects of IT Infrastructure and provides a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) to control all aspects of the infrastructure. It is very powerful and allows you to basically manage a data center from a development environment or software application.

Many of the people we speak to have never used Amazon Web Services (AWS)Rackspace Cloud or another IaaS cloud provider, for different reasons. We’ve used IaaS for everything from High-Performance Computing to Video Hosting to low-cost development/test or non-production infrastructure. Our experience serves as a guide on which workloads fit well within an IaaS structure and which ones do not. It also allows us to prescribe  a customized, phased approach to cloud integration that minimizes cost and business risk in different ways.

The next comment that normally comes up when speaking to people about cloud infrastructure is: “The cloud sounds great, I hear it saves a lot of money but its just too risky/insecure/complex for us.” 

Organizations that have not yet embraced IaaS or “the cloud”  in their business generally do so for similar reasons. Most of the reasons center around perceptions that may be outdated or untrue – it depends on their scenario.

In our experience, their reasons generally fall into one of the categories below:

  • Cloud Performance (CPU, Disk, Network, Bandwidth, etc.) – I heard cloud servers are slow. The disks are slow and unpredictable. 
  • Budgeting/cost modeling – How do I know or estimate what my costs will be?
  • Cloud Security – It can’t be secure. Its called ‘Public Cloud’. Can other people access my files or servers?
  • Cloud Reliability – Netflix went down so it’s not reliable. What do I do if it goes down?
  • Cloud Compliance – No way, can’t do it – I’m subject to ABC, DEF or XYZ compliance requirements
  • Cloud Audit requirements – No way, the auditors will never buy-in to this.
  • Employee training – How do I find people to manage this?
  • Steep learning curve – How do I get started? Its seems really complex.

Cloud misperceptions abound

As the saying goes, perception is reality, and there are also a lot of misconceptions that increase fear of the technology and prevent people from moving suitable workloads to the cloud.

Popular news sources perpetuate the myths about cloud computing. It seems that every time Amazon Web Services (AWS) (who is by far the largest cloud provider) has any sort of hiccup or downtime, reporters jump on the bandwagon that cloud infrastructure is useless and breaks too often. Here is a link to a Google news search for this: https://www.google.com/news?ncl=dvYSd5T83PVQigMPa1-2GMz-snaDM&q=aws+down&lr=English&hl=en

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How we’re addressing these concerns

We’re going to address each of these concerns by sharing much of what we’ve learned along the way. We hope to shed some light on what seems to be an increasingly complicated market with more and more terminology and complex jargon used every day.

  1. We’re working on a comprehensive cloud computing benchmarking report. The report will make an apples-to-apples comparison between cloud instance sizes and existing in-house infrastructure. It will use common benchmarking tests that anyone can replicate in their environment. It will allow organizations to make informed business decisions on whether or not they could benefit from integrating “the cloud” into their IT infrastructure and software development approach. Sign up here for a copy of the cloud computing benchmark report.
  2. We’re going to present some cost models and budgets for common scenarios. We’ll integrate both tangible and non-tangible costs and benefits that we’ve searched for but haven’t seen included anywhere else. Contact us for a cost model for a specific use case.
In all we’ll address each of the bullet points above in detail. Stay tuned…

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Hadoop – Latency = Google Dremel = Apache Drill???

Hadoop is one of the current IT buzzwords of the day and for good reason – it allows an organization to get meaning and actionable analysis out of “big data” that was previously unusable because it was too big (size constraints). This technology certainly solves a lot of problems but………

What happens if your problem doesn’t easily fit into the the Hadoop framework ?

Most of the work that we do in the financial sector falls into this category. It just doesn’t make sense to re-write existing code to fit into the Hadoop paradigm. Example case study here and blog post here.

As in any business, new ideas lose their ‘edge’ as they sit on the shelf or due to delays in the idea execution stage – primarily because of opportunity costs and increased chances of a competitor creating a product around the idea. The faster a concept can be brought to market, the larger the advantage to be had by the creator. This is especially true in the financial trading tech sector where advancements are measured in minutes/hours/days vs. weeks to months. Because of this, we’re always looking for new and creative ways to solve data and “big data” problems quicker.

Enter Apache Drill

One of the more interesting articles we came across recently focused on a new Apache project that aims to reduce the time to get answers out of a large data set. The project is named Apache Drill and here is a quick overview slide deck.

The Apache Drill project aims to create a tool similar to Google’s Dremel to facilitate faster queries across large datasets. Here is another take on the announcement from Wired. We’re excited about this because of the direct way this will impact our work and specifically the workloads that require real-time or near real-time answers.

Apache Drill Video Overview

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Email Productivity – 2 Great Tools to Save Your Time & Sanity

Note: This is the first blog article in an on-going series that will focus on how we effectively use technology to improve our efficiency and get more done in the same time.

Short Version: This post shows how we use several tools, The Email Game & SaneBox, that easily integrate with Gmail or Google Apps for Business to increase your email productivity in a fun way.

Email productivity has been a popular concept recently for a lot of good reasons – . Email has been a huge benefit to corporations and individuals for 10 years now. Its certainly convenient to use and the ‘friction’ of communicating has been reduced but, I would argue this has lead to many abuses (or overuse) of email as well. In speaking to our clients we commonly hear complaints like these:

  • “I get way too much email – 100 or more per day”
  • “I cant get anything done because I keep getting interrupted”
  • “It takes six messages to schedule a meeting”
  • “Each message multiplies like rabbits – sending one generates two to three more!”
  • “I feel like I’m chained to my smartphone”

We’ve been in this same situation and figured out some great ways to attack the problem. Here they are:

  • Use Google Apps for Business. We’ll explain why we use this in a future post, but Google Apps is a GREAT tool to consolidate your email and administrative management while saving your business time and money. It’s like Gmail for business and has a huge number of apps that integrate with it to make it infinitely more useful.
  • Use a tool like “The Email Game” or SaneBox
  • Batch email processing and don’t look at it other times during the day

Recently I started using The Email Game after learning about it on a web interview with Tim Ferriss, author of the acclaimed “4 Hour Workweek”. The game integrates gamification and email management best practices and goes something like this…

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I’ve used it for a few weeks now and I’m hooked. I’m constantly trying to beat my best score and get points by, ironically enough, checking email less often and dealing with email at a designated point in the day or scheduling a time to handle it. I have a lot more time to focus on more valuable things as a result. Its definitely improved my productivity and reduced my stress level as well. If you use Gmail or Google Apps try this one out and see if you can beat my score below – if you can, add your score in the comments below.

 Eric's EmailGame Score

Another great solution to the email time killer is SaneBox. SaneBox hooks into pretty much any common email system and places all incoming message into a folder for you to review and act upon at a user defined frequency. So far the system, according to their statistics, has save 2.4 MILLION minutes for their users – this is no small feat. The system is very smart about how it categorizes the emails and ‘learns’ from your individual patterns. I think the system is awesome but seem to be a bit more hooked on The Email Game because I get points and am very competitive, even if I’m not competing against anyone else.

Because of these, I’m probably saving about 1-2 hours per day, which works out to an extra 25-30 days a year to work on other things or take a break and go skiing or something else I enjoy.

These are just a few of the methods we use to work smarter, and get more done in the same time. We’ve got a lot more to cover but this should give you an intro of things to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 in the series where I’ll dive into how we use the tools at a deeper level.

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Who is Solid Logic Technology Inc. (SLTI)?

As you may have noticed, our website has been updated over the past few days.  We thought this would be a good time to answer some questions. This post should give you a good idea of who we are and where we are headed.

We’re a Birmingham, Michigan based mobile application development start-up founded by two entrepreneurs – Eric Detterman and Ron Redmer – that love technology and have spent their entire careers around it.  We have developed web software, mobile apps, trading systems (stock, commodities, and currencies), photography systems, call center software, technology for the defense industry and many other things.  We have personally been involved in pretty much everything related to the IT industry -  software development (coding in most major programming languages and even some obscure ones), software development management (in-house, outsourced, offshore, etc.), hardware virtualization, ‘cloud computing’, advanced technologies, etc. Click here to view our management team bios.

Solid Logic Technology Inc. uses software and technology as a means to an end – it allows us to accomplish some goal for ourselves or our clients.  We build software to do cool things with mobile phones, cloud-based web servers and other cutting edge technology.  We try to align ourselves with the leaders in the IT industry – Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc. We focus on bringing thought leadership and value to each client project.  We have managed internal data centers before but don’t anymore – everything we do runs securely in the cloud so we don’t have to think about it very much. This frees us up to focus on creating software.

What is SLTI going to blog about?

We’re going to blog about quite a few different topics. We’re going to use the blog as a way to communicate things we’ve learned throughout our careers and some of the cool things we come across day to day.  We’re going to have some posts specific to the work we do and some complex software and technology items for the geeks and we’ll also have a lot of things for everyone else too.

Business and Non-Technical Ideas

    • ‘Lean’ start-up concepts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_Startup)
    • Outsourcing and ‘Virtual Assistants’– Business, Personal, Lifestyle
    • How to improve the workplace with technology and process improvements
    • How to work the same amount of time and get more done
    • IT Industry trends, reviews and commentary
    • Smart-Phone and Mobile Tablet Industry trends, reviews and commentary
    • Common software development errors
    • What works and what doesn’t work in software development projects
    • How to explain highly technical items to people who don’t care about or don’t understand the technical aspects
    • How to eliminate information overload (i.e. 200+ emails daily!)
    • Software and business risk reduction
    • IT software & service provider selection process
    • Our community involvement

Technical Ideas

    • New Technology – programming languages, techniques, development environments, virtualization
    • Cloud computing
    • iOS, iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry app development concepts
    • Mobile app and web integration
    • Open Source and proprietary software analysis
    • Software and tool reviews

So far these are our ideas. If you have any other ideas or suggestions – feel free to drop it in a comment or contact us. Since we’re still making changes and improvements to the site, please subscribe to the blog so we can keep you up to date with our progress.