Jan 1, 2022
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The Cloud != Somebody Else’s Computer

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Well not entirely.   It kind of is but at the same time it is so much more.

Recently I had a discussion with my wife’s Dad.  While he is over 70, he is still a rather technologically capable individual and perpetually curious.  I mentioned that I was now working with a company that focuses on cloud security.   He gave me a puzzled and bemused look and echoed the words “the cloud” back to me and said something along the lines of “that’s just somebody else’s big computer”.
In the tech industry we’ve be working with “The Cloud” for over 15 years.  Long enough that the term “cloud“ is used in the media and even by people outside of the technology bubble.   It has graduated into a more common vernacular.  It’s common enough that many don’t really know what “the cloud” is really.  It’s these moments of realisation that a technology and its terminology have gone mainstream that have been the genesis of these blogs and podcast episodes in the past.  I’ve not done one in a while and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
It’s fair to say that Amazon invented what we now call the cloud.  They were first to market with it but even they will admit (or Andy Jassy the founding CEO for AWS has admitted) “I don’t think any of us had the audacity to predict it would grow as big or as fast as it has.”.  
It’s fair to say that Amazon invented what we now call the cloud.
Before the 2000s, the idea, and certainly the term of, “Something (eg. Infrastructure) as a Service” or its four letter acronym “<X>aaS” didn’t exist yet.
Between 2000 and 2003, Amazon was really just trying to solve a problem they had created for themselves.  They were trying to streamline their own e-commerce system which was impaired by low margins and in doing so created Amazon Web Services or AWS.  This offspring of Amazon had goal of creating internal reusable common infrastructure services like storage to stop teams from reinventing the wheel every time they started a new project.  This is a common pain point for many expanding technology organisations born on the web.  
It took three years of solving their own problems to realise this problem was common and that perhaps the internal AWS should be an externally offered AWS.
In 2006 AWS launched S3 (simple storage service) to offer a highly scalable, reliable, and low-latency data storage infrastructure with very low costs.  A.k.a. a hard drive in the sky!  Later that same year it launched Elastic Compute Cloud or now known to most as EC2.  Something so common to cloud now that many users don’t know what EC2 actually stands for.   (https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2006/08/24/announcing-amazon-elastic-compute-cloud-amazon-ec2—beta/). A computer in the sky was born!  Computer and storage. What else could you possibly need?  You could even various sizes like Large and Extra Large.  It was McDonalds for compute.
At that point the cloud was actually somebody else’s computer.  It was Jeff Bezos’ computer and his big hard drive.  From there is where it gets complicated and confusing because understanding how far it has grown beyond that is mind boggling.  Beyond that to the extreme of those first services translating to what is now a military grade and defended series of data centres spanning 26 geographic regions around the world, creating 84 different “Availability Zones” with many more regions in the works.   Probably better to think of it as a few million computers scattered all over the globe to provide you with a ubiquitous computer which always gives you a resilient and highly performant result regardless of your geographic location.
A parallel which might feel familiar is the cell or mobile infrastructure.   You travel on a train with your phone and you can maintain a call (mostly) as your phone is switching between geographies and cell towers without any disruption.   In a similar way you can access an online service like banking or Amazon is a great example of an e-commerce platform that spawned its own cloud, and it just works regardless of where you are.  
Those two services from back in 2006 have expanded over 200 and feature everything from machine learning and artificial intelligence to quantum computing.
every time a cloud provider launches a new service, it is probably a self serving act of kindness
There is a conference called AWS re:Invent which is a giant showboating affair where AWS announces its shiny new service offerings and everybody claps.  Some of the innovations they announce each year are genuinely amazing.  The seem, on the surface, like a product of lateral thinking.  Some are, but for the most part, every time a cloud provider launches a new service, it is probably a self serving act of kindness.  Just like the inception of the cloud concept itself as a series of useful internal services to solve their own problem, this pattern hasn’t stopped. The new shiny machine learning service will likely be something they needed to make their own cloud infrastructure better or more efficient.  They are still solving their own problem. As the proverb goes, necessity is the mother of invention.  It just so happens that necessity at AWS invokes a whole new level of innovation that we also get to benefit from.
I’m using AWS as the poster child for this subject but in all fairness there are many cloud providers.  The big three also include Microsoft and Google.  Microsoft has their Azure cloud with a similar data centre reach and taking the bronze medal in the race is Google’s GCP (Google Cloud Platform).   Each cloud platform has specific selling points like catering to the die hard Microsoft eco-system fans or ease of use and pricing.   They all offer services with a similar scale and capability.
The cloud has also been described as the operating system for the internet
The cloud has also been described as the operating system for the internet.   That is probably a more accurate definition than “somebody else’s computer”.  Providing the capability to create and accelerate any application you might want to build is similar to what your laptop does.  It provides compute, storage, a friendly interface and services to allow you to build your own application.   In the case of the cloud, you can run your application on anything from a virtual MacBook to a globally scaled 2000 CPU core super computer with terrabytes of RAM complete with security and resiliency and only pay for only what, when and how you use it; if that’s what you need.
The cloud is a solution for what used to be millions of private acts of reinventing the wheel executed at scale. It is moving a breakneck speed and while it is, to a large extent, providing something incredible, it is not without fault. Just this year the AWS cloud had a few outages that killed services for major customers like Spotify! In spite of providing services to ensure their customers have 99.999% uptime, they themselves occasionally discover a moment of weakness in their own infrastructure that monitors those services in the form of a broken single point of failure.
The cloud is now synonymous with innovation. I can forgive the odd outage in consideration its monumental offering developed without precedent and leading from the bleeding edge. It’s exciting to see where we’ll be in a few years time and how new services and cloud offerings with feed into innovations we haven’t even thought about. It is a good time for tech.
The post The Cloud != Somebody Else’s Computer appeared first on Codifyre.
*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Codifyre authored by Stephen Giguere. Read the original post at: https://codifyre.com/cloud/the-cloud-somebody-elses-computer/

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