The Cloud Report is a monthly blog post aimed to keep IT administrators and developers up to date on the world of cloud computing. We focus on the latest news and releases from cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and GCE. We’ll also be talking about other popular technologies and tools, such as containers, load balancers and more.
Here is what’s going on in the world of cloud computing and cloud management today.
Highlights on current release notes from each cloud platform.
AWS - friend or foe to third party cloud services? The line has been getting blurry these days. Amazon has released AWS CodeStar, a cloud service designed to make it easier to develop and deploy applications on AWS by streamlining the setup of development environments.
A common example would be a template for a web application on EC2(in any language from Rails to Django), but you can also deploy Alexa Skills, microservices on Lambda(Node.js), and static websites with S3. But the story doesn’t stop there - CodeStar plugs into your code repository (it can be any repo service, but CodeCommit is the default), and lets you automate every single part of your development cycle with all of the other code services Amazon has been working. CodeStar fills that gap between creating a new project and installing your runtime environment on the instances you’re going to be working on.
Amazon Redshift Spectrum: Amazon Redshift Spectrum lets you run Amazon Redshift queries directly against data in Amazon S3. Redshift is a data analysis service which lets you run SQL queries across the data you plug in. Spectrum lets you run those queries on your S3 buckets. Because Redshift automatically scales query compute capacity based on the data being retrieved, queries run fast, regardless of dataset size.
Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) now has Server-Side Encryption. Now, companies using SQS can be ensured that their data is protecting on the client side and the server side.
Amazon Lex is now generally available. This is a conversational user interface and SDK for developers that processes natural language. This is the other side to AWS Polly which is a speech to text service powered by the same deep learning language processing that Alexa uses.
Amazon Rekognition has a new feature, Image Moderation, which lets you preview whether or not the images you plug in are explicit or not. The primary benefit here is that if you are a company concerned about the content your viewers can see (whether it’s for underage users for a tool like Facebook or Club Penguin), or you want to reduce the time that admins spend flagging content on a website like Reddit, this can help the cause. Pour one out for the Amazon Mechanical Turk workers that were manually searching through explicit pictures to get this feature ready.
AWS Database Migration Service - Amazon’s Database Migration service is great for taking databases that you already have existing data in (whether it’s an old mySQL server or Postgres and so on), and cloning it into a Amazon managed database. The old database is the source and the new database inside AWS is the target. This way you can continue to use existing data and get native access to Amazon services to analyze data or enforce better security. For this new release, now you can have Amazon DynamoDB as a target database and MongoDB as a source database.
Amazon DynamoDB via Amazon VPC - You can access your DynamoDB tables from Amazon VPC endpoints, enabling you to have all network traffic between your application and DynamoDB exposed to the public internet or within the AWS cloud. You can also set up IAM policies to allow DynamoDB access through specific VPC endpoints and only from specific applications.
Cloud Partner Portal - Makes it easy to deploy VM offerings to the Azure Marketplace. If you offer a IaaS product or a pre-configured VM for a database or boilerplate code for a web application, getting that to the Marketplace is much more easier.
Microsoft Cognitive Services is now generally available for Face API, Computer Vision API and Content Moderator. Not one to left behind by Amazon and Google’s drives into machine learning and image processing, Microsoft has released it’s APIs for general use. The Face API detects human faces (whether in groups or individuals), and their emotions. Computer Vision takes it a step further and can detect and define nearly everything in an image. With some and an endpoint for an image, it’ll respond back via JSON what’s in the image, and assign a confidence rating.
Azure Container Registry may be old news at this point, but still worth mentioning. If you use containers, especially in conjunction with Azure Container Services, now you can host your container images inside Azure. Personally, common sense would dictate just to keep it inside Docker Hub or what you already use, but if your entire stack is based in Azure it’s worth a look.
Azure Monitoring - It’s a built in telemetry/monitoring tool that essentially does what Datadog and other analytics tools can do, but just inside Azure. The use cases that this helps with are that it’s a completely integrated system, so it can coordinate with Azure Log Analytics for diagnostics, it ties in with SMS messaging and notifications and emails and so on. You can also use the Azure Monitoring API to take the data that it gathers and port it to other services (like Datadog).
Cloud Spanner is now generally available. Spanner was announced during Next ‘17, and is a horizontally scalable relational database. Doesn’t matter where your databases are, they can easily scale up as if they were right next to each other in the same datacenter.
North Virginia Region - Google expands one data center further by opening up it’s North Virginia region (us-east-4). Google now has infrastructure running inside Oregon, Iowa and South Carolina, and now North Virginia.
Machine Types with 64 vCPUs - Now you can deploy CE machines with up to 64 vCPUs. If your head is hurting, so is mine. These are very powerful machines, and the use case for this level of power seems to be focused on massive levels of visual processing.
Cloud Natural Language API beta - Natural language processing to extract meaning from text. If you think about content in terms of context, i.e. reading through a bunch of data and getting the relevant information, this is an absolute game changer. This comes on the heels of Salesforce’s news that they built a product that focuses on getting the relevant details from client emails. In other words, you can use these tools to help up your game in competitive growth.
A Few Good Reads
On Ransomware: WannaCry, the worst security scandal to rock the world since last week’s Google Docs hack, reinforces the need for companies to completely automate their updates and live on rolling infrastructure updates. A Windows XP vulnerability taking down enterprises is scary, but not exactly surprising.
On Analytics: Analytics usually falls into the same bucket as big data - something everyone should be doing, but the results we get from it don’t always direct the way our enterprises are moving. QVC’s Data Analytics Response Technology flipped the concept on its head and focusing on reading-and-reacting - taking the data you get and making rapid changes to products, promotions, and pricing.
On Conversational AI: If you’ve used the first few iterations of chatbots, whether inside Slack or Facebook Messenger, you’ve realize one thing : they’re really awkward, and can only go so far. I should know, I created a simple one myself. When we program the responses that a bot can give, we’re inherently limiting it from the start. Facebook is pushing the boundaries and focusing on bots that use AI to make conversations with robots feel, well, more human. https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/15/15640886/facebook-parlai-chatbot-research-ai-chatbot
And that’s it for this edition of Cloud Report - hope you enjoyed it. Don’t bother sifting through release notes, product updates and bug logs - that’s our job.
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