Amazon Finds a Home in the UK

January 10, 2020

Just a quick item about Amazon Web Service contract size. “Home Office Reinforces Commitment to AWS with £100m Cloud Hosting Deal” makes clear that a UK government entity has not been won over my Microsoft Azure. The write up reports this information:

“The award of the public cloud hosting services contract to Amazon is a continuation of services already provided to the Home Office,” a departmental spokesperson told Computer Weekly. “The contract award provides significant savings for the department of a four-year term.” The Home Office is renowned for being a heavy user of cloud technologies, and is – according to the government’s own Digital Marketplace IT spending league table – by far the biggest buyer of off-premise services and technologies via the G-Cloud procurement framework.

The contract is significant because it suggests that other Five Eyes’ participants will be exposed to the AWS approach.

For Amazon staff working on the contract, there may be some meetings at Clarendon Terrance. London taxi drivers know where that is. No digital map needed.

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2020

Google: We Can Be Avis, National Car Rental or an Off Airport Outfit Too

December 18, 2019

Quite a goal. Google wants to beat Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud. Err, isn’t Google a cloud centric outfit, or at least since it morphed from the cutesy Backrub into the behemoth it is today? What if Google doesn’t think it is a cloud business? Hmm.

Image result for avis rent a car

The answer, of course, is Googley. Google has waffled a bit. The phones, the home helpers, and the mouse pads. But the company operates “out there”, from data centers in regular buildings to wonky containers which can be towed to a location where power is cheap and skills are hard to come by.

A series of stories is zipping around about Google’s new desire to become the big dog in cloud computing. Just like the PR program featuring Jeff Dean, the Google is starting to realize that it may have more in common with the low rent business of scalping tickets than with high technology outfits changing the way business does business.

That’s an interesting thought because it runs counter to the received wisdom that Google is the font of technology. Like the fountains in Rome, lots of work is needed to keep the fountains spouting water. Tourists don’t see Rome’s plumbing, and for good reasons.

The goal of knocking off Amazon and / or Microsoft (love that lawyer conjunction, don’t you?) will be achieved by 2023. That works out to 24 months. Microsoft’s NT project turned into a death march, and I think this goal is likely to follow the same trajectory.

First, Amazon and Microsoft are not standing still. Good old Microsoft is working overtime to make Azure stable and semi-coherent. How many search engines does one desktop software company need? How many analytics solutions? How many servers? These are questions Microsoft engineers are rushing to answer. The airplane is aloft, and making adjustments to an engine when the plane in in flight can be difficult when it has to operate in a hybrid mode and the ground stations can be crashed by a software update. Cool?

Plus, Amazon is moving along a different trajectory. The company is engaged in a multi front war, and it is less and less a cloud company. That bookstore in Nashville and the undoing of FedEx make clear that not even a mid tier state like Tennessee is exempt from the Bezos bulldozer.

Second, Google has not been particularly adept at sticking with projects over time. Examples range from the social media attempts, to the Alon Halevy semantic tools, and to some as simple as messaging services. The culture of incompleteness is a hurdle. Managers can fiddle with incentives and tweak the hiring processes. But the company is a bit like a flotilla of sailboats generally heading toward port when a bad storm presents itself. Everyone knows where to go, but there may be some delays. Delays when trying to knock off Amazon and Microsoft may not be desirable.

Third, there are lots of other companies which want to be the Avis and National to the Uber business. Oracle, down but not out. IBM, a bit of a clueless geriatric but still capable of surprises like its sales success in India, and dozens upon dozens of other companies.

Net net: The write up “Google Brass Set 2023 as Deadline to Beat Amazon, Microsoft in Cloud” is useful, but it contains one telling statement:

Google shifted headcount growth to its cloud platform sales and engineering teams.

What’s going to be the Google equivalent of Windows 10 updates which don’t work, arrive late, and kill some data? If it is ad systems, Amazon is going to get the best location in the airport to serve rental car customers.

Stephen E Arnold, December 18, 2019

WWAD: What Will Amazon Do?

December 4, 2019

Silicon Angle published “Commentary: Andy Jassy Aims to Reinvent Amazon Web Services for the Cloud’s Next Generation.” The story carries the subtitle “In an exclusive one-on-one conversation, Amazon’s cloud chief reveals how he views the future of the cloud, the competition, market shifts, customer demands and controversies.”

Several statements in the write up warranted an orange highlight:

  • It’s time to embrace the next cloud wave or get crushed by it.
  • The cloud has completely “flipped the business and startup model on its head.”
  • “Enterprises realize that if they want to be successful, sustainable companies over time, they can’t just make small, incremental changes,” he said.
  • The “vast majority” of organizations pursuing a multicloud strategy tend to pick a predominant provider and then, if they feel like they want another one, either because there’s a group that really is passionate about them or they want to know they can use a second cloud provider in case they fall out of sorts with the initial cloud provider, they will. Jassy went on to say that for customers implementing multiple clouds the workloads are split between a primary and secondary cloud more like 70/30 or 80/20 or 90/10, not 50/50.
  • “Companies are going to want to eliminate network hops and find a way to have the compute and the storage much more local to the 5G network edge.”
  • Next year roughly 82% of all new workloads will run Linux.

Net net: Crushing is part of the game plan. The interview is a component of the AWS re:Invent PR push. Prime stuff, not Grade A, but okay for consumption by Amazon shoppers.

Stephen E Arnold, December 4, 2019

Secure Data? Maybe after a Data Loss?

November 27, 2019

Amid discussions of data breaches, one huge source of risk is often overlooked. Information Management warns us about “Unstructured Data: The Hidden Threat in Digital Business.” Writer Bernadette Nixon believes too many companies look at only their structured data when they plan security—sources like databases, spreadsheets, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. However, the prevalence of unstructured data in business is growing, and procedures for securing it are not keeping up. Nixon writes:

“Unstructured data has become an integral part of how organizations conduct digital business. It’s often what enables an easier, faster customer experience. For example, would you rather fill out generic forms detailing your car’s damage or instantly share an image with an insurance agent? For convenience, we are all likely to opt to share unstructured data with an organization and businesses will continue to incorporate it into processes for exactly that reason. To that end, it’s no surprise that Gartner predicts that, by 2022, 80 percent of all global data will be unstructured. With the growth of unstructured data comes the unfortunate truth that it is much more difficult to control and secure than structured data. If an employee is taking information in the form of unstructured data and inputting it elsewhere, they might store the original document or picture on a local file share or leave it in an email as an attachment. Within one organization, the process for handling documents could vary across employees and teams and it’s entirely likely that management has no idea this is taking place.”

In order for organizations to plug this security gap, Nixon has some suggestions. Make it a priority for the IT department to secure unstructured data right away, before an issue comes up. Determine just what unstructured data is on hand and where it is stored, keeping in mind this might differ from one department to another. Finally, delineate clear, standardized procedures for handling and storing this data from the time it enters the system to the time it is destroyed. Ideally, as much of this workflow would be automated, saving time, removing responsibility from individual workers, and ensuring the process is followed correctly.

Cynthia Murrell, November 27, 2019

HPE: Missed? Hybrid What?

November 27, 2019

I read “HPE Misses Q4 Revenue Targets, Sees Decline in Hybrid IT Group.”

I noted this statement:

the company continues to see declining revenue in several business lines.

But there is a bright spot, according to an objective money expert type:

Analyst Patrick Moorhead noted that HPE’s growth in strategic areas like Aruba Services and Apollo is indicative of a positive long term revenue strategy. “For HPE, I believe the future is all about its differentiation and execution in the hybrid cloud and ‘everything as a service’ about which I am optimistic,” said Moorhead.

The future? More cost cuts? Nope. The HPE future is Kubernetes.

Some observations:

  • Misses, declines, yada yada. One point: progress is slow
  • Excitement.Excitement HPE?
  • Outlook? Sure, predict the future of HPE. No problem. Just guess.

Net net: A troublesome report from management making management decisions which appear to cause shares of HPE to drop. Yikes.

Stephen E Arnold, November 27, 2019

Cloudy Question? There Is Gravity?

November 14, 2019

Reverse course now, bosun! After all that hype, organizations are rethinking the wisdom of remote storage. InsideBigData reports, “Companies Are Bringing Data Back from the Cloud. Now They Need a Place to Put It.” They call it “cloud data repatriation.” According to tech research firm IDC, last year 80 percent of organizations they surveyed repatriated workloads, and many expect to pull half their cloud apps to private or on-premises storage in the next two years. After racing to the cloud for several years, why the sudden U-turn? Because public clouds are not all they were puffed up to be. Guest writer and storage expert Shridar Subramanian explains:

“As well as being costly to store in the cloud, it often proves both slow and costly to download data sets from the cloud when they’re needed on-prem. The cloud also has a history of being too slow and costly for the transmission of edge data, such as unstructured data produced by the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This unstructured data is growing at hyper speed. Indeed, IDC predicts that the total of the world’s data will increase from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 zettabytes by 2025 and that 80 percent of that data will be unstructured. Those are head-spinning numbers and companies, understandably, are struggling to keep up. … All this unstructured data presents large storage and security challenges. At first, when cloud storage rose to prominence, organizations thought the answer was to move the vast majority of their data—both structured and unstructured—to the cloud. However, these same organizations soon figured out that the cloud is not only more expensive than they thought, it is also hard to access in a timely fashion when they need specific data, due to the cloud’s inherent latency.”

Rather than abandon the cloud altogether, though, organizations are going with a hybrid approach—keeping some data and apps in the cloud and some locally. And, yes, that means figuring out where to put it all. Subramanian lists some points to consider before making the move. Storage solutions should be secure, of course, and highly scalable to keep up as data grows. This means they should have the capacity to add as many drives as needed at any moment, without downtime. Ideally, they would also include analytics to help decide which information should remain close at hand and which would be better kept in the cloud.

Cynthia Murrell, November 14, 2019

How to Create Solutions in Software: The Cloud and More

November 8, 2019

DarkCyber is working on a white paper. This white paper is about Amazon AWS and its products/services for LE and intel professionals. Don’t worry, the white paper will be free to those affiliated with an enforcement organization.

In that white paper, DarkCyber’s team includes a diagram with layers. One of the reviewers of the paper told a team member:

Layers. What’s AWS? A birthday cake?

We talked about our diagram and the notion of layers. One person talked about “Layers in Software: From Data to Value.” The article included this diagram, which is different from the illustration in the DarkCyber white paper, but it conveys the same message. Here’s the Jessitron image:


The main idea is explained this way:

Feature teams need to do everything, from the old perspective. But that’s too hard for one team — so we make it easier.

This is where Developer Experience (DevEx) teams come in. (a.k.a. Developer Productivity, Platform and Tools, or inaccurately DevOps Teams.) These undergird the feature teams, making their work smoother. Self-service infrastructure, smooth setup of visibility and control for production software. Tools and expertise to help developers learn and do everything necessary to fulfill each team’s purpose. Internal services are supported by external services. Managed services like Kubernetes, databases, queueing, observability, logging: we have outsourced the deep expertise of operating these components. Meanwhile, internal service teams like DevEx have enough understanding of the details, plus enough company-specific context, to mediate between what the outside world provides and what feature teams need. This makes development smoother, and therefore faster and safer. We once layered by serving data to software. Now we layer by serving value to people.

This is a useful explanation. It applies to Amazon’s approach to the LE and intel sector. There is a twist in the Amazon digital river of products and services. That’s to be expected.

What is that twist?

The white paper will be out one the reviewers complete their inputs.

Stephen E Arnold, November 8, 2019

Microsoft Displays Its Amazon AWS Neutralizer

November 5, 2019

I read about Microsoft’s victory over the evil neighbor Amazon. What was Microsoft’s trump card, its AWS neutralizer, its technology innovation?

The answer may have appeared in “Microsoft Unveils Azure Arc, Aiming to Fend Off Google and Amazon with New Hybrid Cloud Tech.” Here’s the once closely-held diagram.


Like most AWS-hostile diagrams, it includes three features which customers like the Pentagon and other entities desire:

  1. The ability to integrate multiple clouds, on premises computers, and edge computers into one homogeneous system. (Latency? Don’t bring that up, please.)
  2. The Azure stack in one’s own computer center where it can be managed by an Azure-certified staff with the assistance of Azure-certified Microsoft partners. (Headcount implications. Don’t bring that up, please.)
  3. An Azure administrative system which provides a bird’s-eye view of the client’s Azure-centric system. (Permissions and access controls. Don’t bring that up, please.)

Microsoft has rolled out a comprehensive vision. The challenge is that Amazon and Google have similar visions.

Microsoft may want to check out Amazon’s security and access control technology. But that’s a minor point for a company which struggles to update Windows 10 without disabling user’s computers.

Great diagram though. Someone once observed, “The map is not the territory.” And then there is the increasingly relevant Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges who wrote:

Nothing is built on stone; All is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone.

Borjes was a surrealist who could see societal trends despite his blindness.

Stephen E Arnold, November 4, 2019

Severless Framework: Good or Bad?

October 21, 2019

For any readers who have wondered whether the Serverless Framework is a good option for them, blogger Einar Egilsson provides a case study in his post, “Serverless: 15% Slower and 8x More Expensive.” Egilsson explains exactly what he tried and why Serverless was less than helpful, for his purposes at anyway. He describes his original setup, how he approached the shift (using this tutorial), how he tested the performance, and, last but not least, the pricing involved. See the write-up for all those details. The post concludes:

“I’m sure there are cases where API Gateway and Lambda are better than Elastic Beanstalk. I guess our use case is just not one of them. Maybe if you’re using API Keys, rate limiting and other stuff API Gateway provides then it makes sense to pay 3.50$ for a million requests. For us it would have been better if we could just put a normal load balancer in front of Lambda. As far as I know that’s not possible, API Gateway is necessary for http access to Lambda. But even if we were just paying for Lambda, at 10$ a day we would be paying 300$ a month instead of 164$. We have a lot of requests, but each request does very little, it’s basically one database call per request. Maybe heavier requests that use more compute time would be better served with Lambda, where you pay per 100ms of compute time. Below is a report for one request, you can see we’re using 3.50ms of compute time and being billed for 100ms, which seems like a big waste. Finally, I’m not trying to bash API Gateway, Lambda or serverless in general here, just showing that for some workloads they are a lot more expensive than boring old EC2 and Elastic Beanstalk. So that’s what we’re sticking with.”

Since the original was posted, Egilsson has amended it. Apparently, he learned a lot from the comments about what he could have done better—like using an Application Load Balancer instead of the API Gateway and upgrading to a newer instance type, for example. The software is still not right for his site, he notes, but at least he can admit, with good humor, where he went wrong.

Cynthia Murrell, October 21, 2019

Cloudy Enough Already

October 18, 2019

Cloud services have quickly become the norm, but businesses stand to lose money if they implement them without a good plan. IT ProPortal reports, “Business Are Wasting Millions on Unused Cloud Services.” Writer Sead Fadilpaši? cites a recent report from the European Insight Intelligent Technology Index that polled 1,000 European businesses. He writes:

“The report states that more than $36 million are being spent on cloud services a year. Out of that number, almost a third (30 per cent – $10.9m) gets spent on services that end up not being utilised.

When managing how they spend their money on cloud-based services, the respondents have identified three main challenges, which include determining best-fit workloads for public, private and hybrid clouds, planning and allocating budget for cloud consumption, and a lack of visibility of used services at the cst centre, workload and application level.

“‘Cloud continues to be a mission-critical enabler for agile and digital business, but it needs the right approach,’ commented Wolfgang Ebermann, President, Insight EMEA. ‘A robust operating model, that provides oversight and continual optimisation of cloud environments, is critical. Under-utilised technology has been a problem for decades, so it’s not surprising to see the problem spread to the cloud. However, by putting the right controls in place, organisations can optimise cloud consumption and ensure they only pay for services they are using.’”

The report also indicates businesses will continue to invest in new technologies, largely to put the best tech in the hands of their talented employees. That makes sense—but to avoid wasting money, companies must take the time to implement these tools efficiently.

Cynthia Murrell, October 18, 2019

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