Cloud Computing Patterns: What you need to know

Who of you hasn’t bought a computer before? In this age and time, I would say no one. During your buying journey for a new computer, I’m sure you’ve stumbled upon some of the technologies that are used inside it, such as CPU, RAM, Disks and Network. You install a software operating system on top of the hardware you get and you start doing whatever you want with it. Servers are not much different than buying a computer for your own house, except that the components used inside a server are designed to serve a large number of people accessing the data inside those servers.

What does all of this have to do with “Cloud Computing Patterns”? I’m sure you’re wondering by now. My answer would be: if you’re able to tell the limits of a computer or a server, you could grasp the idea behind Cloud Computing Patterns easily. Let me explain.

Cloud Computing Patterns

I have been in the IT business for so long that I can always see over/under utilized servers, companies pour money into buying server hardware only to end up using a fraction of what the hardware can do. I’ve seen my share of the exact opposite scenario too where companies try to stay on a tight budget by buying the bare minimum of hardware requirements to run all the company apps on. Some will argue that Virtualization would be a solution to all of the above, I’ll leave this discussion for another post entirely.

Enter Cloud Computing Patterns to the rescue, a concept that allows you to utilize and use hardware components on the cloud depending on your app needs. A concept much known by the term “Elastic Cloud“. The term came from the idea that if you deploy an application on the cloud, you can configure it to increase or decrease the amount of CPU, RAM, Disks and Network that its using based on current load and other factors you may choose to use.

If you’re wondering why you should know all about this and why you should care, perhaps reading my “Cloud Computing? Anyone?” introductory post to Cloud Computing would be a good idea now.

Alright, lets jump into talking about the five most cloud computing patterns out there, shall we?

  • Static Pattern: If you’re using physical computer or just the default installation of a server on the cloud, you’re using the Static Pattern, you’re not getting the “Elasticity” of the cloud. The resources you have will not scale up or down based on your needs, and you’ll end up paying the same amount for the resources allocated regardless if you’re using them or not. Not our preferred pattern but its faster to deploy in terms of time.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Static Pattern

  • Predictable Bursting Pattern: With this kind of pattern, the resources you’re utilizing are scaled up/down on regular bases and on known times. This is suitable for scenarios where the hardware resources being used are no longer needed and can be scaled down to cut cost, such as the end of a working day where employees are no longer working. The opposite also applies where your apps are in need for more hardware resources to run smoothly, such as the beginning of a working day.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Predictable Bursting

  • Unpredictable Bursting Pattern: Unlike the predictable bursting pattern, we don’t know when a spike of demand will appear to our app, and we don’t have any reading to when or how our app will be utilized. The unpredictable bursting pattern will help in this case by allowing hardware resources to scale up/down based on the app need without user intervention. This is very ideal for scenarios such as a social media site or a news websites where users will be accessing the site at random times based on real time events.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Unpredictable Bursting

  • Growing-Fast Pattern: with this type of cloud patterns, we start small and start scaling up gradually as demand starts to increase. The hardware resources will be added automatically as long as there is demand on the app. This is very useful for startups and companies who are just developing and evaluating new ideas, they start by paying the bare minimum and scale up as demand grows.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Growing-Fast

  • Once in a lifetime Pattern: In this type, the hardware resources are utilized for only one time and then discarded. This scenario is very useful for apps that are used during special events like an online event or the new year celebration. Once the event is done the hardware resources can be safely deleted since they’re no longer in use.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Once in a lifetime

 
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The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been thrown around by tech people for a while, talked by many, understood by few,

What is IoT?

IoT is a term that is coined to describe a concept, not an actual technology mind you. It’s a the ability to let different “Things” talk to each other and exchange information using the “Internet” and make automated actions and decisions based on the information they exchange. The information is gathered by using different kind of sensors and gadgets. The “things” in here can be… well, anything, really.

The internet of Things IoT

Imagine a world where your car, home, washing machine, office, fridge, chairs, coffee maker, keys and everything in your life is connected somehow to the internet. All these things have built-in sensors that monitors different kind of things, such as location, temperature, time, humidity, noise, capacity and many other things. All of them are working all the time to collect and exchange information using the Internet.

The value that comes from this is for example, when you wake up, the coffee maker knows that, and it automatically turns itself on. At the same time, your computer wakes up and starts downloading emails from the internet, it notices that you have an appointment somewhere and it checks if your car is in a good condition to go to that appointment. Your car knows that your appointment is at a distance X away and it calculates if the gas is enough to make the trip. However, it knows that it might not make it using what it has and it tells your mobile to pull up a list of nearby gas stations along with the appointment notification that you received on your computer. Now you get dressed and you’re ready to go out, but you can’t find your keys, so you pull up your Smartphone and ask it to locate the keys using GPS. At the same time, the fridge senses that your milk has gone sour and it displays a message on the fridge door that you shouldn’t drink the milk. Also, the fridge automatically notifies your favorite shopping location to send fresh milk along with a list of things you need for your cooking party tonight.

Everything is connected, everything is talking to each other, the possibilities are endless.

How does it work?

Black magic? Nope, it’s all made of current technology, someone just figured out how to connect the dots together and viola, the IoT is reality. What made this all possible is actually a combination of current technologies that has been around for a while.

IoT Layers

  1. Data Collection (Sensors): it all starts with collecting data, sensors of all kinds and sizes are actively working around the clock to sense and measure things that we want to monitor and keep track of. The sensors are monitoring changes around us and are sending these changes to a central location (usually a data center in the cloud) for further processing.
  2. Data Filtering and Authorization (Gateways): if the working sensors are generating a large amount of data that is hard to send to the cloud all at once, then a “Gateway” (which can be called a small processing computer) can be installed to act as a bridge between the sensors and the data center. There are many uses for the gateways, to name a few:
    • Filtering all the generated data from the sensors and only sending what is important to the data center.
    • Translating the data generated by the sensors to machine language that computers can understand and work with.
    • Securing the data before sending it to the data center and insure that there is no unauthorized access to the sensors.
    • Taking actions on specific generated data, or control the functionality of the sensors by giving them specific commands.
  3. Data Presentation (Application): this is where end users get to look at the full picture of the IoT. The application ties all the layers together by providing the interface that helps us look at and understand the data collected by the sensors, and see what kind of actions were performed after the collection and analysis has been completed. The application allows us to interact with the things that we’re monitoring remotely as well.
  4. Data Processing and Analyzing (Cloud): the centerpiece of the IoT is the cloud, where all the data that is generated by the sensors and filtered by the gateway are sent to their final destination to a data center in the cloud. The data center saves the data and sorts and compiles it into human readable format. The data center also acts as a central control unit for all the gateways and sensors, it monitors their status, updates their software and reports any problems to end users.

Why haven’t you heard about it before?

Because it’s fairly new, although the technology of sensors have been invented and used for many years, it wasn’t like what we have today. There are some factors that helped shape the future of IoT into what we have now, some of these factors are:

  • Smaller, powerful, and affordable hardware: all those sensors and gateways used to cost a lot back in the day, but not anymore. The advancement of science allowed us to create sensors and computers that are very small in size which can fit into spaces and locations that were inaccessible to us before. The manufacturing costs of those devices has been dramatically reduced over the years.
  • Global & cheap mobility: there are many communication technologies available for the IoT devices. GPS, GPRS, 3G. 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC or simply the Internet. All of these are different examples for communication methods that can be used to allow the IoT world to talk, but the real force here is the rapid cost reduction to be connected online. What used to cost hundreds or thousands before can be simply bought for the price of nearly free. This allowed the IoT devices to be always available, always connected.
  • Availability of supporting tools: manufacturers are having a furious race among themselves to excel in what they provide to the market, and in order for them to provide a unique experience to customers, they’re now producing a massive amount of information and support to the products they sell (insert name of different types of sensors, gateways or communication devices here). Gone are the days when you get a device that you need to work with, but only to be hit with the reality of not knowing how to even start it.
  • The cloud force: there is no better place to handle the amount of information that is generated by the IoT devices than the cloud. Perhaps this is a good time for you to take a look at my previous post where I explain the benefits of the cloud in detail.
  • Mass market awareness: the good thing about IoT is that we don’t have to wait to start getting the benefits of implementing it. What we always thought to be impossible to accomplish before is now limited by our imagination. We’re seeing what it can do, and we are demanding for even more. Who knows? Perhaps those episodes of Star Trek are not to far to be real.

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

I have been working a lot with Microsoft Azure Cloud Computing Platform and Office 365 for Business, Microsoft has worked very well in providing the IT masses with the a robust enterprise-grade platform to run your cloud services on. I believe that everyone and everything should be heading the cloud, and if you or your business are starting to consider the move, then it is important that you understand the available types of cloud computing, and how you can benefit from using each one of them, this does not only apply to Microsoft Azure, but to all other cloud computing providers out there.

There are three different types for cloud computing, those are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS)

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

Infrastructure as a Service: the most advanced type of the cloud, you get a total control of your environment, but unlike a local data-center where you have to manage everything your self, the IaaS takes off the burden of buying and running your own Networking hardware (such as switches and routers), Storage devices (such as NAS, SAN and backup solutions), Servers (insert any brand like Dell, HP and type like Blade and server technology like clusters, RAID controllers, UPSs) and Virtualization, which is considered the heart of cloud computing, your building blocks in this type are virtual servers with your own OS hosted on them, virtual storage and networks devices. This type makes sense if you are an IT Professional and would like to extend, move or build a new data-center infrastructure and have a control on the type of Virtual Machines that you would use to run your application and services on, without investing on the hardware side of the data-center. An example for this module would be Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

Platform as a Service: in addition to the layers mentioned in the IaaS module, PaaS takes of the burden of configuring and running the Operating System VMs (such as Linux or Windows “duh!”), the Middleware (HAL, device drivers and virtualization processes) and Runtime (library, framework, or platform that an application code runs on such as .Net, C and C++), what you’re left with is a place where you can develop your own software and applications and make them run on the cloud using PaaS services, the provider will take care of running the infrastructure where your application is hosted while giving you a limited control of that environment using a self-service portal. This module makes sense if you’re a Software Developer and just want to focus on lunching your application or services to the masses without worrying too much about the technology running your application, making you focus your time and efforts on improving and optimizing the application and saving you time on the operational cost of the infrastructure, an example for this module would be Azure Web Apps.

Software as a Service: the most used type of all modules and by far the biggest market available. With this module, the cloud providers will take care of all the computing layers in a IaaS and a PaaS deployment, and will also include the Data and Application layers, which is web application that you use on your computer using a web browser without the need to install any software on your computer to make the application run, the providers will take care of all the application life cycle such as updating, backing up, securing, upgrading to new version and if needed, restore your data in case of disasters, what you’re left with is access to online applications that are secure and available to you from any where at any time. This module makes sense if you like to run a business and have the lowest possible operations time and investment on software and hardware, a great example for this layer would be Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business.