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What is Cloud Computing Part 6 – Scale on Demand Architecture

We continue our discussion of Cloud Computing by taking a look at one of its more universally accepted benefits—scale on demand architecture. Much of the conversation about this aspect of cloud computing focuses on the advantages for application development and hosted applications (if this seems like a theme, that’s because it is). The following article offers a great contrast between application development in a cloud environment and building a traditional on-premises environment for developers to use.


The True Cost of Cloud Computing – a Comparison of Two Development Teams


As the article points out, the ability to size the cloud environment dynamically based on increased or decreased demand (sometimes referred to as auto-scaling) is a huge win in terms of capital and operational cost.

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What is Cloud Computing? Part 5 – Cloud Challenges

In the first 4 parts of this series, we defined the Cloud and discussed some of its many advantages. Which brings up an interesting question—“Are there any potential pitfalls of migrating your business to a Cloud Computing environment?” We’ll explore that issue in this post.

One issue that has to be addressed when planning a Cloud migration is the connection to the Internet. Most businesses only have a single Internet circuit. If the Internet circuit goes out, most employees can still do a limited amount of work on their personal computers (PCs). As long as the Internet outage doesn’t last too long, it isn’t a debilitating problem (some would argue that due to the proliferation of cloud-based applications like email and Google Docs, this statement is debatable).

But in a Cloud Computing environment based on desktop virtualization, an Internet outage means that employees do not have access to their desktops until Internet service is restored. Obviously, that is not a good situation. So how can this risk be mitigated?

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What is Cloud Computing? Part 4 – “The Cloud”

I suppose if we are going to talk about Cloud Computing, then we need to define the term “Cloud”. The following animation provides a simple and somewhat amusing explanation of the Cloud.

However, after watching this video, you might get the impression that the Cloud is simply a good place to store your data. While this is true, it is only one component of the Cloud.

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Disaster Recovery

Can your business survive a natural disaster?

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), almost 40 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors after a disaster.

The biggest problem when a natural disaster hits is the absence of a disaster recovery plan. If you are interested in what goes in to developing a disaster recovery plan, check out this FEMA site (your tax dollars at work).

If you read closely, the only suggestion for IT preparedness is that, “recovery strategies for information technology should be developed so technology can be restored in time to meet the needs of the business. Manual workarounds should be part of the IT plan so business can continue while computer systems are being restored.”

Wow! That really helps! What are you supposed to do if all of your servers and workstations are destroyed? What if all of your backups are gone too? Where do you source new servers and how do you reload all of your applications and personal data on every personal computer?

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What is Cloud Computing? Part 3 – Desktop Virtualization

If you perform an internet search for Desktop Virtualization, you might find an article similar to one of the following:

Windows Virtual Desktop, Techopedia Desktop Virtualization Definition, or What is Desktop Virtualization?

Okay, these go from pretty simple to pretty confusing! Rather than repeat the same trite definition you can get elsewhere, I’m going to introduce a new (and hopefully simpler) concept. Desktop Virtualization makes your personal computer (PC) irrelevant by storing your Desktop in the cloud.

Whoa! Wait a minute. That is a short sentence but packs two BIG “punches”.

 First, what exactly is a “Desktop”? Well, when the majority of users log into their PCs, they are typically presented with a screen which contains icons for frequently used applications and frequently accessed folders and files. This is the “starting point” for each user session and is referred to as the “Desktop” by operating system (OS) vendors. The concept of a desktop can be extended to include things like local email files, a My Documents folder (for Windows users), available printers, and mapped network drives. So far, so good?

Also implied is that your Desktop would somehow be stored in the cloud rather than on your local PC. I have taken some liberties with the use of the term “cloud”. Cloud can mean a lot of different things. It could be:

  • A locally attached appliance on server that stores “desktops” on your Intranet; or
  • A physical server hosted by a service provider that is used to create a “virtual desktop environment” for each user; or
  • A group of “virtual” servers offered as a service by a “Cloud Provider” and used for the same purpose.

At Red One NS, we generally mean Amazon Web Services (AWS) when we refer to the “Cloud”.

No matter how the virtual desktop environment is created, once it is deployed, users are no longer tied to a specific device from which to access their Desktop; all that is needed is a network connection to the location where the desktop environment is stored. As a result, personal computers, with their myriad challenges (difficult to secure, hard to manage, and high rebuild/replacement cost), are no longer needed! Instead, an OS agnostic device, with limited memory, storage and CPU resources, can be used to access the virtual desktop environment. Even more exciting, the virtual desktop environment can be accessed from more than one device and in more than one location.

Is that a big deal?

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What is Cloud Computing? Part 2

The following USA Today article takes a shot at defining Cloud computing:

This article primarily focuses on applications in the cloud. The author notes that in 2018 Oracle purchased Netsuite for a rather hefty sum of $9.3 billion.  NetSuite is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software package that runs in the Cloud. I’d rather not comment on what ERP software does because that is a pretty broad subject and that isn’t my bailiwick. Suffice it to say that Oracle bought Netsuite because it is a “cloud-based” application, which means that you connect to the Internet and run the program in a web-browser-like interface.  The article seems to imply that Oracle made the acquisition as part of their strategy to bolster their Cloud computing portfolio. I certainly wouldn’t argue the point.

But then the article tries to “define” cloud computing for the “uninitiated” reader. And this is where things get a little “wonky”. The author states,

“…cloud computing is the ability to do tasks over the Internet as opposed to having all the hardware and software on the machine that you or your colleagues are working on.”

Huh? Does this mean that you only need some of the hardware and software on the machine that you and your colleagues are working on? If so, which parts are required locally? If not, then how do you access the Cloud?

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What is Cloud Computing? Part 1

What is cloud computing? If you perform an Internet search, you will get a multitude of results, many from large companies like Microsoft, IBM and Amazon. Those companies offer tutorials and whitepapers that generally associate cloud computing with concepts like data storage, application hosting and server virtualization. With respect to applications and servers, the suggestion is that the cloud can be used for all of a user’s “compute” needs. These descriptions are entirely appropriate and, for large companies with specific needs, the cloud offers all of these capabilities and more. But what about small and medium sized businesses (SMBs)—companies with 10 to 500 employees? What does cloud computing offer those organizations? Over the next several months, I will create a series of posts in which I will explore this question and, hopefully, clarify the true power of cloud computing for SMBs. I will cover topics like data backup, fault tolerance, high-availability and disaster recovery—all of which become ubiquitously available when a cloud computing solution incorporating Desktop Virtualization is deployed.

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What happened to EBS Snapshot Scheduler?

Anyone who uses AWS knows the value of EBS snapshots.  Not only are snapshots the backbone for any solid backup strategy but can also assist with instance migrations and replication.  While manual snapshots are useful for testing changes or for AMI builds, a backup strategy depends on snapshot automation and retention policies.  When I first began working with AWS, automating snapshots was done through the EBS Snapshot Scheduler.  For AWS architects and system admins, this tool was invaluable.  An AWS provided CloudFormation template provided all required resources for the scheduler to run.  The CloudFormation template launched a single stack and prompted the user for a tag name, default snapshot time, whether to enable autosnapshot deletion and, if so, what the retention period should be.  Once your config was set, you simply tagged your resources with the custom tag you entered in the stack and your backups were on cruise control (of course any Admin “worth their salt” still performed period checks and snapshot verifications).

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AWS: Using Openswan for site-to-site VPN

You’ve decided to join the growing group of smart, bold businesses trailblazers by moving your network operations to the “Cloud”. And, of course, you’ve done your homework and decided that AWS is the only way to go. Good for you! Now comes the big question—“How do I connect my on premise workstations to my AWS VPC (Virtual Private Cloud—click here if you need a quick VPC refresher). You can certainly get it done by using AWS’ managed VPN service. This service consists of creating a Virtual Private Gateway in your AWS VPC to establish a site-to-site connection with your on premise VPN firewall (don’t you just LOVE the smell of VPNs in the morning!!). While this is a solid solution, the rate of $0.05/VPN per hour (ouch!) can get a bit costly if you have more than one VPN tunnel running (think multiple remote offices, like a large real estate brokerage). A cheaper alternative is to use a “software VPN” like Openswan that runs on a Linux-based EC2 instance. Although the cost of an m4.large instance on a 3-year Reserved Instance convertible term is basically the same as the AWS managed firewall, you can manage several tunnels on a single Openswan instance, which results in a significant cost savings if you have multiple tunnels. If this sounds like something right up your alley (or, if you are the more adventurous type), we’ve put together a short “How to” that should have your Openswan VPN tunnels up and running in short order.

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AWS Certifications

If you are interested in getting an AWS certification, you can find a great training course at https://acloud.guru

There are 3 tracks of AWS certification to choose from:

1. Certified Cloud Practitioner
2. Certified Solutions Architect–associate and professional
3. Certified DevOps–Developer Associate, SysOps Admin Associate, and DevOps Professional

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