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Leaping to the clouds

Possibilities and risks

Leaping to the clouds:
Possibilities and risks

The adoption of cloud computing has quickly become a key factor for technology in businesses today. In the first part of our “Leaping to the Clouds” series, we outlined the benefits of cloud platforms, and the battle between AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.

Selecting a single cloud vendor over others will come down to the business’s requirements and technology strategy. In some scenarios, organisations might leverage multiple providers within different parts of their operations, or for different use cases – called a multi-cloud approach.

Different cloud platforms support different features in different regions. This has an impact on the performance and technical architecture of solutions. Evaluating the supported services and future roadmap for each platform in your specific region can guide which platform is best for you.

1. Regional data centre support

Data regulations and latency of solutions are key considerations when choosing a cloud platform based on the regions that they provide. The closer data centres are to your users, the faster your solution’s response times will be. Furthermore, there may be requirements to house data within your country or region. Here are the top considerations when picking a cloud platform based on their region availability.

1.1. Network performance
Network latency is an expression of how much time it takes for a packet of data to get from one computer to another. If a data centre is physically further away, it’s likely that the data has to travel a further distance over cables and transmitters to arrive at the users’ device. The network performance is the most critical factor for highly performant solutions when deciding on a regional data centre.

1.2. Data compliance
Data compliance is a significantly important factor to consider when determining the right data centre. Local and international businesses need to guarantee that any software deployed in the cloud abide by the laws and regulations in accordance to the location of the company’s headquarters, foreign subsidiaries, employees, users and vendors. Despite the primary location of the data, any backup locations must ensure that these laws and regulations are followed.

1.3. Service availability
Not all services provided by each cloud platform are available in all regions. This can impact the design of new solutions, and the greater architecture of the technology ecosystem within a business. Services can be leveraged from different data centres, however, the network performance and data compliance impact needs to be understood.

1.4. Data centre costs
If latency is not a significant concern for solutions, applications and data can be deployed in a region with a lower cost. Prices for services in different regions can be comparable but it can also vary by up to 20%.

AWS and Azure both have local data centres in South Africa, with essential and their most popular services available. Google Cloud has yet to deploy data centres in Africa.

2. Overview of services offered per platform

Most software solutions require fundamental computing for running systems and applications, data storage capabilities, authentication and authorisation functionality, and system monitoring. All cloud platforms offer comparable services to fulfil these needs. In addition, each cloud platform offers more native services and features that allow for rapid development by leveraging their productised services for faster development of applications, data processing, machine learning, and more.

2.1.  Computing
Computing is the heart of software solutions. Computing differs based on the hardware used, efficiency of the operating system, and architecture of the solution. There three primary computing options with cloud platforms.

  • Virtual Machines (VM): VMs emulates real computers that can execute programs and applications without having direct contact with any actual hardware.
  • Containers: Like virtual machines, containers provide an environment for microservices to be deployed, managed, and scaled independently — but in a more streamlined way.
  • Serverless: Despite its terminology, serverless doesn’t necessarily mean that are no servers involved. Serverless allow for atomic functions to be executed as they are needed. All container or infrastructure provisioning is handled by the cloud platform but you’re usually tied to the platform as porting functions is not trivial.

2.2.  App hosting
Most interactions with software services happen over the internet or a private network. The primary language of communication is the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Applications need to be deployed to a hosting management solution that exposes the right end-points to the right users to be accessed via HTTP. All cloud providers offer networking and application hosting solutions for almost all programming frameworks.

2.3.  Storage
If computing is the heart of a software solution, data is the blood that it pumps. Data comes in all shapes and sizes, but there are of data storage requirements. AWS and Azure provide extensive options for data storage services. Google Cloud offers a simplified combined service.

  • File storage: This includes images, PDFs, zip files, and more. This is also known as Known as Binary Large Objects (BLOB) storage.
  • Transactional data storage: This includes traditional relational databases where data is organised into tables and related based on unique identifiers. And the data is used for transactions in the operation of applications and systems.
  • Performance stores: This is typically data that is cached for frequent access and is aimed at improving performance.
  • Analytics and reporting: Data used for extracting analytics insights and system reporting is stored separately and shouldn’t interfere with operational data.

2.4.  Auth and security
Reliable auth and security mechanisms are critical for most software solutions. This includes providing mechanisms for verifying identity, granting correct access, and securing software solutions from attacks. All cloud platforms provide enterprise-level identity services and out-of-the-box mechanisms to secure solutions.

2.5.  Monitoring and analytics
Building and deploying solutions are great, but the magic happens when it’s used in production. All cloud platforms provide tooling for application and system monitoring to allow scaling for load, identifying errors, and examining how solutions are used.

2.6.  Purpose-specific services
Machine learning, AI, IoT and other hot technology advances have prompted cloud providers to create supporting read-to-use services. All cloud platforms have a machine learning, cognitive services, and IoT offering, with AWS experimenting in the AR / VR space.

  • Machine learning
  • Cognitive services
  • Internet of Things (IoT): Refer to our latest publication, “Demystifying IoT” to learn more.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
 AWSAzureGoogle Cloud Platform
RegionsGlobal InfrastructureRegionsRegions and Zones
PricingCloud Services PricingPricingPricing
Basic ComputeEC2Virtual MachinesCompute Engine
Containers OrchestrationECS
EKS
AKS
Container Instances
Kubernetes Engine
ServerlessLambdaFunctions

Cloud Functions

Cloud Run

App HostingElastic BeanstalkApp Service
Service Fabric
Cloud Services
App Engine
Batch ProcessingBatchBatchData Flow
Object StorageS3Azure StorageCloud Storage
Block StorageEBSAzure StoragePersistent Disk
File StorageEFSFile StorageFilestore
Hybrid StorageStorage GatewayStorSimpleN/A
Offline Data TransferSnowball
Snowball Edge
Snowmobile
Azure Data BoxTransfer Appliance
Relational/SQL DatabaseRDS
Aurora
SQL Database
Database for MySQL
Database for PostgreSQL
Cloud SQL
Cloud Spanner
NoSQL DatabaseDynamoDBCosmos DB
Table Storage
Cloud Bigtable
Cloud Datastore
In-Memory DatabaseElasticacheRedis Cache 
Archive/BackupGlacierBackupN/A
Disaster RecoveryN/ASite RecoveryN/A
Machine LearningSageMaker
AML
Apache MXNet on AWS
TensorFlow on AWS
Machine LearningCloud Machine Learning Engine
Cognitive ServicesComprehend
Lex
Polly
Rekognition
Translate
Transcribe
Cognitive ServicesCloud Natural Language
Cloud Speech API
Cloud Translation API
Cloud Video Intelligence
IoTIoT CoreIoT Hub
IoT Edge
Cloud IoT Core
NetworkingDirect ConnectVirtual NetworkCloud Interconnect
Network Service Tiers
Traffic Routing

Elastic Load Balancing

Amazon Route 53

AWS Global Accelerator

Azure Front Door

Traffic Manager

Application Gateway

Azure Load Balancer

Cloud Load Balancing
Content DeliveryCloudFront

CDN

Azure Front Door

Cloud CDN
Big Data AnalyticsAthena
EMR
Kinesis
HDInsight
Stream Analytics
Data Lake Analytics
Analysis Services
Cloud Dataflow
Cloud Dataproc
Authentication and Access ManagementIAM
Directory Service
Organizations
Single Sign-On
Active Directory
Multi-Factor Authentication
Cloud IAM
Cloud IAP
SecurityGuardDuty
Macie
Shield
WAF
Security CenterCloud DLP
Cloud Security Scanner
Application Lifecycle ManagementCodeStar
CodePipeline
Visual Studio Team Services
Visual Studio App Center
Cloud Build
Cloud MonitoringCloudWatch
CloudTrail
Monitor
Log Analytics
Stackdriver
Cloud ManagementSystems Manager
Management Console
Portal
Policy
Cost Management
Stackdriver
AR & VRSumerianN/AN/A
Virtual Private CloudVPCAzure Private LinkVirtual Private Cloud
TrainingTraining and CertificationTrainingTraining Programs
SupportSupportSupportSupport
3rd Party Software and ServicesMarketplaceMarketplaceCloud Launcher
Partner Directory

Choosing a cloud provider is not a trivial process. It’s dependent on a number of factors including your long-term business vision and requirements, the use cases for your systems and applications, the skills and maturity of your technology teams, and data regulations. Creating a technology roadmap taking all business, people, and technical considerations into account will crystalise the way forward and guide decision making.  

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An introduction to cloud platforms

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Cloud features and costs

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