What is the Cloud?

Listener Question Alert! Alexis’s husband asks the question, “What is the cloud?” which led Data Dave and Alexis down a path of security, vulnerability, and scalability. Listen to the episode to see why the cloud could be a good move for you. And better yet, how D3Clarity can help you conduct a smooth transition to the cloud.

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Published:

October 24, 2023

Duration:

00:18:40

Transcript

Alexis
Welcome to Talk Tech with Data Dave. I’m Alexis, and I am a super non-technical person who works at D3Clarity with my friend, Data Dave. We’re here to talk to you about all things technical and more importantly all things data. 

Data Dave
Good morning, Alexis, this is Dave Wilkinson Data Dave as you know me, I’m the CTO and founder of D3Clarity, and we’re here to answer whatever questions we get about data and anything else. 

Alexis
That’s awesome. Let’s get started.  

So, our question today comes from, actually, my husband. He works for a company that has an on-prem server. And about once or twice a month, I hear him say the server was down all day. “Today we couldn’t do anything.” And I keep telling him that he needs to get on the cloud, and then he’s like, “well, tell me more about the cloud.” And I never have the answer. So, I’m going to ask you, Dave. What is the cloud that we hear so much about? 

Data Dave
Very broad question. What is the cloud in computing terms, not in weather terms, I presume? So let’s talk about the cloud from that angle.  

There is no real magic in the cloud. The cloud is really a collection of assets, a collection of infrastructure. Realistically, what it comes down to is racks upon racks of computing equipment that is sold on an on-demand or a shared basis. So, you purchased from one of the big cloud providers, who are some of the largest organizations on the planet, by the way, compute power so you don’t have to buy your own, right? 

If you go to Amazon, Amazon Web Services, which is their cloud, they have data centers. Very large data centers all over the world that they lease portions of to you so that you can perform your tasks. So instead of buying a physical computer, you simply buy access to a computer so you can go to as an individual. yYu can go to the Amazon Cloud or the Microsoft Cloud, Azure, or the IBM cloud or your cloud and request access/purchase access to a computer, and you get a Windows or Linux or whatever front end. You log on to it, and that is a computer that is running somewhere else.  

Now, that’s the basic structure where you purchase essentially on demand. So, you purchase by the minute or by the hour or by the year or whatever, and you get access to a computer of various sizes. You know you’ve got your web browser, it means you can do things like take your very very small laptop or even your phone and get access to a very very powerful computer for a period of time. And then you purchase the services that go on it. It’s essentially compute power for rent. 

Alexis
Compute power for rent. So, is that cheaper than buying it? 

Data Dave
It is often more convenient, and sometimes it is cheaper because you can rent it by the minute. You don’t have to own it. You can also scale it up and down so you can do fancy things. Like, most of the day, I need to do my email for an hour a day. I need to do something much more heavyweight; I need to run some big analytics on the spreadsheet. So, I boost up for that hour a day. The power that I need, and I just rent it for that hour. 

Alexis
Right. Because if I was purchasing it, I would have to have the bulk amount of speed, like the highest amount of speed all the time, right? It would be no scaling ability. 

Data Dave
Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Think about it like renting a truck, right? You don’t have to buy a moving truck. Every so often, you have to move house, so you rent a truck. And you put all your stuff in it to do it. If the truck wasn’t available to rent and you had to buy it, you’d have to buy that truck and it would sit in your driveway all year. Right? Doing essentially nothing. You’d have your little car for every day and your big truck for occasionally. You move house or occasionally you’ll buy some mulch or whatever it is. Right? So you have this truck that you don’t use very often, but you paid the price for it. You paid the taxes, you keep it on the road, everything else. So, it is way more convenient to go to U-Haul and rent the truck when you need it for the period that you need it for. Right?  

Alexis 

That makes total sense. 

Data Dave
So, you can go buy the power that you need for a brief period. We do all our analytics, right, so we do, you know this, we’ve all got our personal laptops. Right? But I’ve also got access for what I do for our clients. I’ve got access to our own cloud environments where if I want to do some data analytics or some data mining or so on for a client or something, then I will go and rent in an environment the compute power that they need for that period. And just for that period, and then I can keep it isolated.  

I can say this is this client’s data. In this environment, I’m gonna do this with it. I need this much power to do it in a week. I’m gonna have it for only a week, and then I’m donna delete it again. I’m just gonna throw it all away. I don’t have to buy servers. I don’t have to install them. I don’t have to plug them in. I don’t have to do anything else. I can put it all in the cloud on one of these machines that is in Amazon’s data center or Microsoft’s Data Center or Google Data Center. 

Alexis
Well, that leads perfectly to the next part of my question, and it’s the question that always comes up. 

The company that he works for deals with a ton of proprietary information. And so they’re spread out across the United States. So, the server that they’re running, you know, they’re securing on their own. But if you open it up to the cloud, is that is it even a secure option? 

Data Dave
So absolutely, the cloud can be very, very secure. It can also be very insecure so if you think about it right. So the cloud has the capability to be very secure. Microsoft runs their business on essentially their cloud. Amazon runs theirs on essentially their cloud the way a lot of these came up was people running large businesses on these large computer data centers and realized they could sell the compute power and sell the structures that they reside in, to people to run their businesses.  

So, when you purchase, you purchase environments or private areas in their cloud that has equipment or services provisioned into it, and you can prevent anybody else. You can lock that down.  

And these the providers, like Amazon, for example, have data centers all over the US and all over the world. And when you purchase from them, you purchase just this infrastructure, these assets that are in your private area. So, you build up this little environment which is like a server room, but it is virtual, and it’s living in Amazon’s data center.  

Well, this is Amazon. They’ll put way more money into securing their data.  

Alexis
That’s true. 

Data Dave
They’ve got armed guards walking around and badge access and limited people and everything else. And if you read the sort of HIPAA requirements for data, it goes down to what kind of room it’s gotta be in. What is the power supply for the room? How secure is it that it’s not gonna go down? How secure it is it from a physical point of view. If somebody breaks into the compound that, it’s in, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a lot of specifications. 

Well, Amazon has done all that for you. You don’t have to worry about whether it’s in a locked room or anything else. And then they also wrap it in layer upon layer of virtual security, right? Firewalls, security groups, security structures. You have to tunnel into it. You’ve got secure tunnels going into it, VPN’s going into it, et cetera.  

So it can be extremely secure and is built to be extremely secure. And we now put a lot of proprietary data, healthcare information, PCI-type information, private credit information and health information on the cloud because the cloud can actually secure it, probably better than I could, certainly in my office, but in my local shared provider. Right?  

So you, do have layers of cloud where you can do Colocation and full cloud, but the construct is you get the private area on somebody else’s server farm in somebody else’s data center, and you can access it in the way that you want to. And we spend a lot of time setting up these for some multinationals and setting up secure environments for multinationals to host both credit information and health information. 

Alexis
When it comes to security on the cloud, I’m going to recap quickly. There’s a way to do it. Probably from a physical perspective, the cloud is more secure than an on-prem server, but from a digital perspective, there’s a way to do it securely, and then there’s a way to not do it securely. And then there’s answers to do it securely that are readily available and there are people who are available to help you with that, namely, D3Clarity.  

Data Dave
Absolutely. So, we can absolutely do that. And if you think about this way. You’ve got a server, and it’s a physical server, somewhere, but it’s virtually somewhere away from you, right? So, we can connect over the Internet. We connect over whatever we can tunnel into it. You can make private connections into it, but if you think about it, you’ve got a server, you’ve put it in a VirtualBox. Right? You can leave the lid open on that box, and you can leave it on your driveway. Right? And everybody could see it, right? That would be an insecure setup. 

Or you can take that box and put it in your private world. You can put it behind another box. You can put another box on top of it, close all the lids and put a chain around it and lock the chain. And only you have the key, and then you can get into it. So, you can set it up securely. You can set it up very securely. 

They also have services readily available for things like how to connect to this machine to the Internet. I want it to be a web server, so it does need a public open address that people can hit, but this is how you build one of those so your data is secure, but your website is open. So, they’ve got best practices for everything in between and connections to things like the domain name services, so you can find it with a human-readable name, public IP addresses, private IP addresses, different what we call subnets.  

When we put computers in different logical places on the network so that you can’t access areas of your set of infrastructure, set of services and so they’ve got a lot of services you can also, you know, not only can it be computing. You can also do things like now you could offer things like databases that aren’t associated with a physical piece of equipment. You can just buy an area in a database so you can buy a certain amount of storage that you access in this way, and it’s not. It’s just the database in the cloud. You don’t know what piece of equipment is it running on and you don’t need to. They then guarantee the uptime so they can say we will guarantee 99.9% uptime on this database. And all you get is, essentially, the coordinates of that database. “How do I connect to that database in a secure manner?” And they do the rest. It’s very, very convenient. 

Alexis
That sounds pretty similar to what my husband’s situation is, and I always say that the reason he needs to get on the cloud, their company needs to get on the cloud, is because the server goes down so often. And with a company like AWS -which is like a huge sponsor of the NFL so everybody that he works with, like at least knows what a AWS is-  with something like AWS, it’s so much less likely to go down.  Like you said, 99% of time, but also, and I know I’m not getting this right so I want you to help me here,  there’s a lot of duplication of efforts, right, and that’s how they guarantee the uptime. 

Data Dave
Yes, so there’s different ways of guaranteeing that time. First of all, they offer a commercial SLA for the uptime right? Now you can crash it yourself, and they don’t take responsibility for that, clearly. But they do take commercial responsibility. So, they will provide backups; they will provide restarts. They will give you the ability to just get a new server. Right?  

If the server goes down, you just get another one. Right, because you don’t have to buy it. They just provision another one, and if the hardware has failed, they just take it out of service, and you cycle onto a new piece of hardware, a new area, and they can also do backups. The local backups or what they call different availability zones so you can be secure around… okay, they have physically separated availability zones in each region. So, that you’ve got separated by a certain distance, so if an earthquake hits or a tornado or something, then they’re separated by distance. You can also build it where they’ve got different data centers in different regions around the world.  

So, between London, Dublin, Viginia, Ohio, different regions around the world and most of the cloud providers provide this kind of capability. So, you can build it to be very, very reliant and very locally accessible, or you can start small and just build it like it was in your closet, and you just open it up and slowly evolve into being a very secure and structured. 

Alexis
When you’re talking about migrating services one at a time from the on-prem server to the cloud, there has to be a period of time when the people are using both the end users using both. Does that create any sort of, I don’t know, pickups or problems that are easily foreseen that we can plan for. 

Data Dave
Yes, so it can do either, right? So yes, we can plan for them. Yes, it can create them and whether we do them one at a time or whether do more once is the choice of the client. So, if there are two services, I’m going to call them services. There are two services that are tightly coupled and talk to each other. Then we probably do those ones at the same time.  

If there is a group of people that use one service exclusively, they live in a customer service app then why wouldn’t we do that one move? All those people up there using the cloud service and then they’re off the on-premise service.  

So, there’s ways that we design it to make sure that this migration period is as short and as unintrusive as possible. So, you’re not making people, you know, use data is in two places. They use this app over here and that app over there; we try and tie that, try and make that as seamless as possible. And we try and look at how people are accessing these applications or these services and how can we design it so that it’s a seamless. As soon as possible during this migration period and then ultimately like I say, shut off the on-premise one. 

Alexis
And that’s the that’s the bonus of having an expert team helping you when it comes to something like this. Because our team and other teams like ours have seen this happen many times, and we can help because we’ve seen some of these issues… is that what I’m hearing you say? 

Data Dave
Ohh, absolutely yeah. No, absolutely. I mean we’ve seen just talking to people casually, we’ve seen things like people have left their whole data warehouse open to the entire Internet. So you know, design it to be secure, work with it to be secure, and design the migration to be convenient for you, and then work through that.  

The devil is always in the details, right? There’s a lot of moving parts, in the cloud. It can be simple, but it’s like, you know, driving a race car. It’s as easy to drive as driving your Prius or driving another car, right? It’s pretty much exactly the same as driving any other car, but it will also do damage. It will enable you to shoot yourself in the foot. It will enable you to drive too fast around the corner and spin out. It doesn’t put the brakes on for you. So one of the things is to hire a chauffeur to drive that car for you, and then we will design the security infrastructure. We will design the scalability infrastructure. We’ll design the access infrastructure, et cetera, and then a migration project that will move you into there in a nice comfortable, comfortable manner, and you get to go out to dinner in a nice limousine rather than having to drive a race car. 

Alexis
I love that. Thank you, Dave, for giving me that crash tutorial in the cloud. I feel like I walked away with a lot of good information that I’m going to share with my husband and then force him to listen to this podcast. 

Data Dave
Excellent, excellent. I hope you asked another question. 

Alexis
Thanks everyone for listening. We hope you have a wonderful day.  

 

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