Posts Tagged 'Cloud Computing'

What’s new in the world of Big Data and Cloud

Three things you need to know from the week of September 7 – 13, 2014

Apache Cassandra –

 Cassandra continues to gather momentum as a preferred noSQL database, both in terms of commercial backing and performance. Apache Cassandra v2.1, was announced at September 11 at the Cassandra Summit.

The most important change is a significant improvement in performance (up to x2). Fortunately the API is remaining stable.  The noSQL environment continues to be a battleground between different products optimized for, and targeted at, different applications ranging from document stores to tables or key-value pairs.

HP’s Purchase of Eucalyptus –

By contrast the Cloud market is starting to stabilize into a few offerings.  HP’s announcement that it had purchased Eucalyptus was greeted with surprise as HP is a major contributor to its competitor OpenStack.

HP clearly is trying to differentiate itself from the other systems suppliers, such as Cisco, Dell and IBM, by having its own AWS-compatible approach. Eucalyptus has already developed such a platform. HP management must have decided that it would be less costly to purchase the company to obtain a working AWS compatible platform that it would be to create one from scratch.

Maybe a merger is in the cards?

Big Success with Big Data –

 More than 90 percent of executives at organizations that are actively leveraging analytics in their production environments are satisfied with the results, according to a poll of more than 4,300 technology and business published by Accenture plc published last week.

Executives report big data delivering business outcomes for a wide spectrum of strategic corporate goals — from new revenue generation and new market development to enhancing the customer experience and improving enterprise-wide performance. Organizations regard big data as extremely important and central to their digital strategy. The landmark report concludes that only a negligible fraction of enterprises are not realizing what they consider adequate returns on their data investments.

Cloud Skills in Demand

According to a recent analysis by CyberCoders cloud computing talents will be the second most sought after IT skill in 2013. Interestingly the analysis specifically calls out AWS and Azure. That these two are included is not a surprise to those of us that have followed the evolution of cloud computing over the past few years. Conspicuously absent from the list, however, is Google but let’s not go there right now.

In the early days it seemed that Amazon and Microsoft took fundamentally different approaches to where they would operate in the cloud marketplace.  Amazon was primarily an IaaS play whereas Microsoft Azure was a PaaS. Today the distinction has blurred. Amazon has many offerings which are certainly more than just infrastructure and Microsoft now offers true virtual machines (including Linux!) as part of Azure. Obviously competitive pressures and market realities have caused this convergence.

It is my belief that Amazon is still the market leader in public cloud computing. Don’t count Microsoft out, though. Azure has many good technical merits and the new Web Sites service (which allows you to host up to 10 simple ASP.Net web applications for free) is totally awesome. I am also pretty happy with the SQL Reporting service as I previously have said.

When an IT skill is in demand there is a good possibility that someone will develop a certification program around it so that individuals claiming competence can be validated in some sense. This is now the case with Amazon AWS. Amazon has introduced a certification program for those who would like to demonstrate competence in AWS. The first certification they are offering is called “AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Level“. Microsoft also seems to be adjusting their certification programs for the new reality of the cloud.  Even Learning Tree offers a Cloud Computing Certification Program!

Obtaining the Amazon AWS credential involves completing a comprehensive exam demonstrating in-depth knowledge of AWS services as well as general IT knowledge. Learning Tree course: Cloud Computing with Amazon Web Services is a good introduction to AWS and will definitely help you on your way towards success on the AWS exam. On the other hand Learning Tree course: Cloud Computing Technologies: A Comprehensive Hands-On Introduction will give you exposure to a broad spectrum of cloud offerings including Microsoft Azure. Both of these courses offer hands-on experience in what the data shows is one of the hottest technology areas for 2013.

Hope to see you soon at a Learning Tree Education Center or online via AnyWare!

Kevin Kell

Data Analytics in the Cloud – Microsoft Azure SQL Reporting

First, let me say I have been looking forward to using this service for some time. As a long time user of SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) I was eager to use this technology in some of my cloud computing projects. I was disappointed a few months ago, however, when I started down the path but then discovered that the minimum cost I could achieve would be in the order of around $600 per month. I could not in good conscience recommend that to my client. At the current cost of $0.16 per hour I think it is still a little expensive but may be preferable to building an on-premises solution. In this post I will take a quick look at using Azure SQL Reporting as a cloud-based business intelligence tool.

We can start from the Azure portal. Select the SQL REPORTING tab. A wizard walks you through the process of creating a Reporting Services service. Once the wizard completes you will have provisioned a Reporting Server on Azure. We can then go ahead and create reports and publish them to this server in exactly the same way we would publish to any SSRS server.

To create reports I usually use the Business Intelligence Template for Visual Studio 2012 (aka BIDS). I have also used Report Builder 3.0 but I find that I am more comfortable in Visual Studio and it offers more flexibility. For my report data source I created a database on Azure SQL DATABASE. In this way my whole solution is in the cloud. When you are finished creating the report to your specification all you then have to do is just deploy it to your Azure SQL Reporting service using the Web Service URL shown on the dashboard.

The only issue I found here is that when you create the data source in BIDS you need to specify that the connection type is Microsoft SQL Azure. If you don’t do this you will get an error when you deploy the report.

Figure 1. Data Source Properties

Once it is deployed you can view the report in a browser:

Figure 2. Report hosted on Azure SQL Reporting service

So, all in all, the process is pretty straightforward and painless. In this way you can easily deploy SSRS reports without the administrative requirement of having to install and configure a Report Server on-premises. I think that it is likely, however, that there may be some incompatibilities that I haven’t discovered yet. I will continue to look for these in the days to come.

Kevin Kell

Ch … Ch … Changes in the Cloud!


You take a few months break from teaching cloud computing and when you come back to it things are not the same. Most notably, there are several significant new features in Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Let’s first take a look at Azure.

The Management Portal has completely changed. It now has a clean new look that gives clear access to all of the Azure services. Notice all the additional services that are now available beyond the basic cloud services, database, storage and service bus.

Figure 1. Azure Management Portal

It is nice to see that Microsoft have addressed the needs of people who want to just host a simple web site on Azure. This was not very cost effective using cloud services but now up to 10 web sites per region can be deployed for free using the Azure web sites service. There is also a smaller sized SQL database available for $5 per month which may be adequate for such applications.

For me the other exciting development is Business Analytics as a service. A key component of this is SQL Reporting. The SQL Reporting service looks to essentially be SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) in the cloud. At $0.16 per hour per deployed report server instance it is still a little expensive (imho) but is significantly reduced from the astronomical $.88 per hour it was previously. Business Analytics also includes an implementation of Hadoop which is going to very accessible and familiar for .NET developers.

The Amazon Web Services Management Console has also had a facelift.

Figure 2 AWS Management Console

Several services have been added including Redshift for data warehousing and OpsWorks for application management. Glacier, which is now several months old, offers a very cost effective solution for archiving. Just last week Amazon announced the ability to now copy Machine Images (AMI) from one region to another. This is a great enhancement and is something I have been wanting for a while. Certainly this opens up many options for high availability and disaster recovery solutions that span regions and not just availability zones.

Constant change is the nature of cloud computing. That definitely makes keeping up on the technologies a challenge. I look forward to getting back to teaching it now for a while. I am currently on the schedule to teach our Introduction to Cloud Computing course in April and June and our Amazon Web Services course in April and May. Why not consider joining us for one of those sessions?

Kevin Kell

Cloud Computing in Canada

As I return from my vacation and prepare for my upcoming class in Ottawa I have been thinking about the current state of affairs regarding cloud computing in Canada. I love cloud computing and I love Canada. It is only natural that these two things should find their way into a blog post!

Firstly, none of the major cloud providers have yet seen fit to physically host a data center in the Great White North. Why that is I don’t know. Perhaps it is just too gosh danged cold.  Secondly, some organizations in Canada have a concern that their data not be hosted in the U.S. So where does that leave us? Certainly some organizations in Canada could use a public cloud service like Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure. Alternatively they could choose to host their own private cloud.

None of this has anything to do with technology, of course. Legal and regulatory compliance will be the bane of cloud computing. Given enough time, I believe, regulatory requirements will expand to fill the all the space available.

Does that mean, neighbors to the North, that you should turn your back on cloud computing? Absolutely not!

There is a technology there and there is a there, there. Stay focused on the technology. Cloud computing does offer returns that are heretofore unforeseen in IT. On-demand provisioning, self-service access, pay-as-you-go service are but some of the benefits.

That said there are at least some noteworthy Canadian cloud computing providers:

Still, ultimately, the choice of a public cloud provider comes down to trust (but certainly not blind trust!). Canadian, American or other, the choice is yours. Who do you trust?

For me, myself, personally (and professionally), I think I can trust Amazon. Why? Do I think they will rip me off? No. Do I think they will lose my data? No. Do I think they will somehow do a worse job of protecting my data than others (or I) can do? No, I do not.

So, I encourage you to embrace the Public Cloud where it is appropriate for your organization. Regardless of where you are in the world I believe that you can utilize public cloud offerings (even those hosted in the U.S.) to your benefit.

Kevin Kell

Code Not Clicks

“Clicks not Code.”

That is one of the latest marketing slogans from Now, I have nothing against In fact I think it is a great platform. But what, if I may ask, is so bad about code? And why are clicks better?

First off, I am a programmer. Secondly, I program mostly in C#. Full disclosure, acknowledging the last set of negative comments I got. Yeah, I know I should program in Java or Python or Ruby or Kotlin or something else because it is obviously way cooler … but I don’t. I program in C#. Stop reading now if that causes you some religious reaction.

I think that code, no matter what language you program in, is the best way to express your intention. Code gives you the flexibility to say exactly what you mean and what you want to have happen. Yes, there is a learning curve. But after you climb that curve you are way better off.

With “clicks” you supposedly get increased productivity. I am not sure that is true in the long run. Those of us that have actually tried to develop an application using a platform abstraction like Force (or even SugarCRM, for that matter – which I think is a great product) are often disappointed with the result. Initial productivity gains are often negated by the need to go back in and create (using code) what it was you really wanted in the first place.

Clicks have limited flexibility. With code you have great flexibility. That is the tradeoff. Productivity vs. Flexibility. For me it is all about control. As an application developer I want to have control over what my application does. For me actually coding the application achieves that goal.

The cloud offers many options for developers. Platform as a Service, for example, is all about giving developers a place to deploy custom applications. Those applications may be created in the traditional manner by writing code or may, in some cases, be created by using a point and click interface. While vendors may tout the productivity benefits of the latter I would encourage all developers to look beyond the marketing hype. Actually writing program code (in the language of your choice) is, in many cases, the best way to create an application.

Happy coding,

Kevin Kell

Top 11 Reasons I Prefer Office 365 Over Google Apps

Warning: This post is subjective and highly opinionated!

I will admit to having a Microsoft bias as that is the technology I tend to use most often. That said I think all of the following are valid. I welcome comments and discussion.

11. Office 365 works seamlessly with the Office 2010 software installed on my desktop. Google Apps has no desktop version.

10. There are more subscription options available for Office 365 than Google Apps. I can choose the right subscription for my staff ranging from high-powered knowledge workers and development teams right through to clerical workers.

9. As a systems administrator I believe I have more control over Office 365 than I do with Google Apps.

8. Office 365 Exchange Online has a robust set of features for archiving, compliance, discovery and policy management.

7. If I already have Active Directory on premises I can configure Office 365 for single sign on.

6. Office 365 gives me the ability to synchronize my on premises Active Directory objects to the cloud. This allows me to continue to maintain user and group profiles exactly as I currently do.

5. Office 365 subscriptions can include SharePoint Online. SharePoint Online gives me and my team a common workspace to share documents and to otherwise collaborate.

4. Office 365 subscriptions can include Lync Online. Lync Online’s Integrated Presence feature allows me to see which of my contacts are online right from within my Office applications. With one click I can send email, IM or start a voice/video session with a document’s author from right within that document.

3. There are clearly defined migration paths from my current on-premises email solution to Office 365 and Exchange Online. I can choose to migrate some or all of my users all at once or over time.

2. Office 365 gives me the ability to continue to transparently co-exist with my on-premises solution indefinitely. I can continue to have some users on premises and some users in the cloud for as long as I want.

And last, but not least:

1. I already know Microsoft Office products. The transition to Office 365 is easy and I am comfortable with the interface.

To learn more about Office 365 and how it can be used in your organization consider attending Learning Tree’s new course entitled Deploying Microsoft Office 365.

Kevin Kell

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