How AWS EFS and Microsoft Azure Files are the cloud’s game changers

Cloud service providers are the new jewelry traders in the business world. With the demand for cloud services expected to reach $52 billion in 2019, the growth of cloud services providers can only be expected to escalate.

Cloud service providers, after all, provide exceptional business opportunities for small businesses. Cloud platforms such as  Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s Azure allow businesses the leverage of increased data accessibility, storage, and flexibility to achieve substantial cost efficiencies and competitive advantages.

With AWS achieving nearly 17% operating profit margin in its first quarter, it is evident that cloud-based web applications are the new oil for businesses. With the growing importance of developments such as ‘Big Data’ on the rise, it is only a matter of time until the majority of organizations demand greater functionalities and storage capacities to process and store large data sets.

Hosted cloud-based file systems are a new development in cloud services. AWS’ soon-to-be launched ‘Elastic File Transfer’(EFS) file storage service is expected to be a game changer. Microsoft’s Azure’s preview launch of its Azure File Service last year is also another.

These cloud-based file storage service systems are designed to meet the growing needs for Big Data applications and other needs.

Importance & benefits of cloud-based file systems

There are many reasons as to why cloud-based file systems are beneficial for businesses.

Cost-effective file sharing systems

A notable advantage contributing to the explosive rise in demand for cloud computing services in general, is the cost advantage. With cloud-based file sharing systems, this is still a major benefit for companies. The EFS system of AWS allows companies to configure its files with great speed at no setup cost or fees. Companies only pay for storage that is utilized and which grows and shrinks according to the files added or removed.

This is equally important for Big Data applications that involve managing data sets in petabytes and exabytes. Companies that have to store raw data of such significant size can easily store and share data using cloud-based file systems.

Companies can work without file servers or VPNs

Another added advantage of using cloud for data sharing and storage is the fact that companies can work without using their VPNs or file servers. In addition to the benefit of workers being able to access data remotely, this eliminates the costly setup and maintenance costs for keeping their company file servers operational. This also makes it easier to expand their operations to multiple cities or even countries as all file sharing and storage can now be done online via the cloud; on-premises file servers no longer need to be set up and maintained.

Better security than traditional options

Cloud-based file sharing systems can provide better security as only those with authorization can gain access to a company’s files and data. AWS’ EFS for instance, allows businesses to configure authorization access controls via the Amazon VPC (Virtual Private Cloud). Through this, a host of access permission can be written and executed and confidential files and data can be protected according to the highest security standards.

Security at the administration level is provided via the AWS IAM (Identity and Access Management) module and also at the file and directory level, ensuring better data security and protection against malicious software.

EFS vs. Azure File Service

The Azure File Service launched last year is already capable of leveraging scalable data to companies along with durability and efficiency. Although the EFS is expected to be released this summer, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds to Amazon’s offering and how the escalating competitions shapes the cloud services landscape.

AWS’ Epic Disclosure of Its Financials – What Does It Mean to SMBs?

Amazon’s first disclosure of its financial results for the first quarter of 2015 of its cloud services division – Amazon’s Web-Services (AWS) – revealed an astonishing achievement that has left many investors astounded. The online giant’s booming operating profit margin of approximately 17% shows the overwhelming success that its cloud computing services have to offer to corporations of all sizes.

This monumental growth of AWS is driven primarily by technologically-inclined small-to-medium businesses (SMB) flocking towards cloud computing services.

“A $5 billion business [that is] still growing fast — in fact, it’s accelerating. We manage by two seemingly contradictory traits: impatience to deliver faster, and a willingness to think long term “

— Jeff Bezos, CEO of

AWS’ success coincides with the exponential growth of the cloud computing market as evidenced by IDC’s research statistics which estimates an astounding $52 billion cloud infrastructure spending to be reached in year 2019. Take a look at this infographics of the rise of cloud computing.

Companies are beginning to realize the large-scale benefits of adopting cloud computing technology that can put them on par with larger corporations. Enterprises, whether SMBs or MNEs, are dedicating a significant portion of their IT budgets on cloud services spending, IDC’s findings reveal.

The question is, what can SMB’s take from this growth and what potential does it offer to them?

How cloud computing can benefit SMBs?

The contention that first needs to be put forward is that AWS owes its $1.57 billion sales revenue growth for the first quarter of 2015 to young and emerging technology corporations which, upon adopting cloud services, have grown immensely. This only seeks to show the prodigious advantages that cloud services have to offer for SMBs.

Here are some of the ways cloud computing can help drive SMB growth:

Substantial cost reductions

Cloud adoption can bring cost savings by significant proportions for SMBs. Building data centers and local servers can be extremely expensive, which can increase further if a corporation wishes to expand to other locations and countries. Costs related to power and energy are also an issue, as price fluctuations in the energy market can adversely impact costs and profitability.

However, with cloud computing, it eliminates the need to build local servers and all data can easily be stored and accessed in large quantities online.

Greater competitive advantage

Cloud adoption eliminates scale advantages which often distinguish large, multinational corporations from SMBs due to their considerable resources and physical assets. However, that reality is in the past as larger corporations have become just as vulnerable to closures as small companies. Case in point: US Steel and Kodak, giants in their respective fields, faced inescapable problems that led to their downfall.

In the era of cloud computing, it leads to a level playing field which allows SMBs to directly compete with MNBs. This is because large-scale data storage and access has become the bedrock of a fast and efficient enterprise. Companies which have not restructured their operations according to it will inevitably be left behind in the competition.

A Harvard Business Review global survey of more than a thousand business leaders on cloud adoption benefits has important findings. The survey finds that more than 60% of respondents favored cloud as an efficient way of allowing faster communication between multiple stakeholders. One CIO says:

“It solves a lot of the technical problems and lets you focus on the higher-level issues. We’ll be able to look downstream to retail or even post-sale repair data and all the way back upstream to second- and third-tier suppliers in real time.”

Higher flexibility and accessibility

Cloud computing allows greater accessibility features that SMEs rarely have otherwise. With shared information infrastructures, firms can be more flexible with regard to consuming data and obtaining it from anywhere, provided they have access to the internet. Also its Pay-As-You-Go model means that SMEs only use data when required.

SMBs can benefit immensely from having greater flexibility and accessibility to data that can allow them to process information in real-time. Through sharing of information infrastructures, it can simplify business processes and make operations far more seamless and smooth.

In a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, more than 75% of respondents intend to use private cloud to create a more scalable and flexible IT infrastructure.

Why? Review this extensive list of advantages of cloud computing for SMBs.

What challenges does cloud adoption pose for SMBs?

The benefits of cloud computing are not without a catch. There are a few considerations that SMBs need to consider before jumping on the bandwagon for a hasty cloud adoption.

SMBs need to first bear in mind the escalating threat of cloud security hacks which can compromise their data security and integrity. They therefore need to opt for a proactive approach and invest in security systems that can promise them a secure cloud network.

Secondly, SMBs need to be aware of the different cloud service providers. AWS’ successful financial performance is bound to spawn a host of other service providers in an effort to obtain the slice of the market share. SMBS need to carefully consider the implications of their service provider exiting the market and the monopolistic market conditions that could have an adverse impact on their business performance.

What’s This Docker All About?  

Back in 1998, a small company called VMware was the first to successfully virtualize the x86 infrastructure, and in 2004 it became a part of EMC. Today, virtualization is as commonplace as The Phoenix Project books on the bookshelves of IT workers. Many organizations and service providers rely on virtualized environment to run their workloads, and VMware’s technology saved their customers’ huge sums of money they would to otherwise use to buy additional hardware. In the last 16 years, technology has come a long way, bringing with it new requirements to deploy applications quickly, across any device, platform, or cloud infrastructure.

Enter Docker. Founded in 2013 as a side project at dotCloud, Docker allows developers to “containerize” their applications, and run processes in isolation. That means that the app no longer needs to rely on an operating system or disk &etc. Docker still runs on a Linux kernel, however, everything else is completely isolated and independent of the operating system. Docker now works across many public cloud providers like AWS, Azure, Rackspace and others.

What does this all mean to all of us? Well, for one thing, it will make applications even more portable, developers and DevOps engineers will be able to quickly and easily move applications from public to private clouds, from on-premise to someone’s laptop. Second, it will be easier to engineer fast application deployment. Thirdly, it will allow even more resource optimization, taking the next step of VMware started 16 years ago.

Are we living in an app-driven world? Absolutely. And Docker, valued at around $400m, is living proof.

AWS re: Invents Itself Again: New and Improved Products and Services at November Conference

AWS is the undisputed leader in the Cloud Computing world, and their managed Web Services are the benchmark for providers and customers alike. In light of that, the November 11-14 AWS re:Invent 2014 Conference in Las Vegas was a Mecca for all things Cloud.  AWS has rolled out numerous offerings in 2014, including Zocalo and the Fire Phone. Given the host of new products introduced at the conference, it’s obvious that the parade of innovation continues into 2015.

Here are some the new offerings grouped by functionality.

Security and Encryption

Reblaze is an all-in-one private virtual cloud-based security product, implemented with a simple DNS change.

Porticor Virtual Private Data (VPD) platform is a versatile cloud encryption and key management solution. Available as a virtual appliance, and includes a secure, cloud-based API for integration and automation. Pricing starts at $599/month.

Cavirin enhances security by continuously applying OOB policies to your environment. Also generates Compliances Scorecards.

Backup, Storage and Replication

CloudBerry Backup compresses and encrypts data using customer keys before transference to the cloud, and works with all major cloud storage providers.

DRUVA Phoenix eliminates tape and off-site storage, and reduces the costs of managing server backup, archiving, retention and recovery. A 3 year plan starts at $0.60/GB/Month.

Zadara Multi-Zone HA enables a fully disaster tolerant system by distributing application servers across different AWS Availability Zones, and avoid facility-level failure and application. Prices start as low as $0.49/hour to enable the Multi-Zone HA replication feature.

Zerto Virtual Replication for Amazon Web Services (AWS) extends hypervisor-based replication to the public cloud. Will be available Q1 2015 and priced at $745 per protected VM.

Cloudant, the IBM NoSQL database, now replicates JSON data to dashDB. Monthly metered pricing is based on data storage ($1.00 per GB) and the types / frequency of RESTful API calls.

Data Analytics

Xplenty provides integration, processing and preparation of data for analytics without writing code. Three tier pricing starts at $99/Month.

ExtraHop Wire Data Analytics for FireEye Threat Analytics Platform (TAP) provides the events and metrics needed to detect advanced persistent threats, including DNS activity, HTTP payload data, Session tracking, and reconnaissance activity as attackers probe networks.

Logentries Unlimited Log Management & On-demand Analytics allows you to log data from any source or format into a centralized location, and analyze in real-time. Pricing starts at $359/month.

Segment is a hub that collects, translates and routes customer data to more than one hundred analytics and marketing apps with the flip of a switch. It recently announced support for automatic data transformation and loading into Amazon Redshift. Self-service plans range from $0-$350 a month.

Apprenda newest version (5.5) is now available in the AWS Marketplace. Apprenda allows you  to run a powerful private PaaS on public IaaS. The 16 GB image is free.

Administrative Tools allows you to map and visualize all AWS cloud resources and interdependencies, and quickly see unused or rogue resources.

RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere now has a self service portal for access to existing vSphere templates and resources, expanded tenancy options, and support for storage policies, and support for vSAN datastores.

VNS3:ms is a single dashboard to manage and monitor your VNS3 networks and VPN connections. $50 per manager monitored per month.

Directory-as-a-Service connects AWS servers to an on premise AD or LDAP directory. Works with Windows, Macintosh and Linux. First 10 users are free, additional users are $10/month.

Testing Platforms

BlazeMeter Version 3.0 Unlimited Testing Platform has redesigned User Interface, a mobile dashboard for iPhone and Android, Selenium testing, Multi-Cloud support, comprehensive REST API, and Multi-Instance tests.

Skytap Dev/Test Environments on AWS utilizes three new AWS support capabilities: dynamic IPSEC VPN, Secure Remote Desktop Client, and third-party URL sharing. Price ranges from $30-$60 per month per VM.

VDI (Visual Desktop Interface)

ViewSonic SC-Z55 Discrete Zero Client utilizes VDI (Visual Desktop Interface) technology to support advanced 2D/3D applications for high-end workstations.

Cloud Management

2nd Watch Cloud Factory automates migration of enterprise workloads to the public clouds with an automated workflow that includes extraction, batching, conversion, importing, configuring, launching, and testing. Pricing starts at $2,000 per server.

Virtual FXT Edge Filer from Avere Systems provides the ability to deploy and scale while using both on-premises and cloud-based storage resources, such as Amazon EC2. $4,620 per month.

CTP Labs for Amazon Web Services (AWS) transforms legacy software products and systems into multitenant, auto-scaling cloud services. $150,000 for 1 month Rapid Minimum Viable Product (RMVP) starter engagement; $450,000 for 3 month RMVP engagement. (Duration and price range varies depending on application complexity.)

vNOC Cloud Management Platform for Cloudnexa now has a User Interface to manage existing resources, audit and troubleshoot change management issues, and view AWS account snapshot summary reports. A free limited version is available.

2014 Cloud Trends Every CFO Needs to Know: A Webinar

Cloud computing is a growing part of business today, with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) seeing tremendous growth. At a recent webinar presented by SmartBooks CEO Calvin Wilder and’s Kirill Bensonoff titled, 2014 Cloud Trends Every CFO Needs to Know, Chief Financial Officers across the country learned essential facts about cloud computing today.

Cloud Marketplace Valuation

As of 2014, IaaS is the leader in growth in the marketplace, having jumped 45 percent between 2012 and 2013. Both IaaS and SaaS are multi-billion-dollar businesses, with SaaS having been used by 63 percent of companies in 2013. By 2016, SaaS is expected to be a $30 billion business., Google, and Microsoft are leaders in SaaS, with all three cloud services being used by many businesses today. As 2014 begins, however, there are a few emerging cloud players, including Desktop as a Service (DaaS), which experts predict will become a serious player in the industry this year. Other emerging cloud players include file-sharing service Egnyte, virtual datacenter DinCloud, Java PaaS company CloudBees, and sign-on service OneLogin. For the financial sector, a debate is ongoing as to whether SaaS is better than Terminal Server. NetSuite and QuickBooks are both popular SaaS services, leaving each business to determine which service works best for them.

Pricing Trends

Amazon Web Services, a leader in IaaS, is driving price changes throughout the industry. From 2006 to 2014, AWS has cut its prices more than 30 times, with 2013 bringing an 80 percent price drop in some instances. To remain competitive, Microsoft Azure and Google both cut pricing–a move that benefits the consumer market tremendously.

So how can your business take advantage of these price drops? One way is to realize it isn’t all about the price. Businesses must look at which company offers the best Service Level Agreement (SLA), what the SLA covers, and whether or not the SLA has “teeth.” Minimal downtime should be a top priority for businesses, with businesses looking at the history of any service to determine which service will be the most dependable.

Cloud Management: Ladder into the Cloud

So, you decided to move your company’s IT into the cloud. Congratulations. You’ve made a choice that can give you more economical service, safer backup and far better remote access than keeping everything on your local server.

But you may still be feeling a little nervous about cloud management. How do you keep sensitive information safe in the cloud? Will your backup and compliance systems work the way they should? If you use both public and private clouds, how will you get your systems to communicate properly without making a lot of extra work for your staff? How do you avoid outages?

Fortunately, there’s a whole branch of cloud computing devoted to handling these questions. Cloud management companies, including RightScale, Ylastic and Amazon’s AWS Management Console, promise to give you control over everything you keep on a remote server through a single, simple interface.

For the most part, these companies, along with other cloud management competitors like enStratus and Kaavo, allow users to bring together systems from a variety of public and private cloud providers. Each firm has its own set of providers that it can be integrated with. If you use a popular cloud provider like Amazon’s EC2 or Rackspace on the public side, or Eucalyptus’s private platform, you’re probably all set no matter which company you go with. If you’re using something slightly less common, or if you want more flexibility to switch to a different sort of cloud, you’ll want to make sure your cloud management vendor can deliver that.

As with most technology solutions, you’ll also want to take a good inventory of your needs before you go shopping for a cloud management solution. Is ease of use at the top of your mind? Have complicated industry compliance issues to consider? Anticipate major expansion in your use of the cloud over the next couple of years? These are questions you’ll want to write down and perhaps discuss with your IT management company as you take your first steps into the cloud.