Beyond the Cloud

In the second of our series of posts on cloud technology, Xpertex founder and CTO, Joel Sweeney, shares his views.

First things first, there is no ‘cloud’ (singular). There are probably thousands, if not millions of them.

The term cloud’ is now embedded in common parlance and no longer the preserve of IT professionals. From schoolchildren discussing ‘cloud’ on the bus as the place they store their school work and photographs, to business people discussing (with varying levels of understanding) their organisations’ ‘cloud migration’ projects, it seems that the cloud is everywhere, which I guess is the point.

The term ‘cloud’ is well-documented but there are two very simple soundbites that I think sum it up perfectly; “the cloud is simply someone else’s computer”, or (my favourite) “every cloud has a tin lining”.

Both statements reflect that fact that the cloud is not ‘magic’, but simply provides the fundamental platform for data processing (application, compute and storage) at scale. This scale applies to both economies and computational power; at face value the cloud is cheap and provides access to seemingly infinite processing power that is consumed and paid for on demand.

Large corporations tend to use the market leaders in cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud platform to host their business services and applications. The attraction for businesses is that they can typically expect to reduce both capital and operational expenditure, as they no longer need to invest in their own on-premise computer hardware (servers) and will therefore need fewer skilled IT resources within the organisation. Additional benefits are that cloud platforms are kept up to date (software bugs and security updated are applied regularly) and are highly resilient to failure, so this added complexity and operational effort are completely devolved to the cloud provider.

Other popular uses for cloud technology include Software as a Service (SaaS) which is basically a set of implementations of a particular application or services, e.g. data backup (Veeam), Customer Relationship Management (CRM, Salesforce) and data storage (DropBox).

So having set the scene, where next?

What lies beyond?

As cloud technology has become more prevalent and matured beyond the more traditional Social Media, Business Application and compute/storage use-cases, there has been a steady increase in new and ever more innovative ways to leverage the benefits that the cloud brings.

Within the Xpertex Network and Infrastructure Security (NIS) business unit, our technology partners have used the cloud platforms to deliver the functionality of their products as a distributed service, instead of the more traditional on premise appliance approach.

Examples of this include Libra ESVA enterprise email security or iboss security components, both of which have full functionality in their cloud instances. In both cases, the move to the cloud has actually improved security for customers, as they prevent any suspicious emails or malware (respectively) from entering the customer environment in a more consistent and holistic manner. This aides data use and improves risk management.

In some cases vendors have gone even further and created “Cloud Laboratories” to use a distributed platform to deliver entirely new features or capabilities.

  • Sonicwall use Cloud technology to improve Cyber Security: Sonicwall Capture Cloud (uses functionality within their widely-deployed firewall devices that allows them to act as security “sensors”. If these devices detect any new, suspicious traffic (also known as zero-day) they perform some internal analysis and then report that centrally to the Cloud-hosted Capture Labs repository for the benefit of all. A good example of using the cloud to gather what is essentially crowd-sourced information of potential threats.
  • Juniper Networks use cloud technology to reduce the risk of managing and implementing complex network changes and upgrades: Juniper Networks’ VLabs currently available as BETA – which means that it is undergoing final testing. This simple idea provides real benefit to network designers and engineers, as it allows them to (re)design and build virtual network systems in the cloud, without the risks of affecting live, operational networks. A secondary benefit is educational as the vLabs can be used to improve knowledge of features and functions that may not be used on the corporate networks that they manage and maintain.

These examples bring to life how a cloud approach can yield benefits at scale. At Xpertex we pride ourselves on understanding the technology landscape and fitting the right solution to the requirements. We are more than happy to discuss how these, and our other partner products can be utilised in your organisation.

Links

Libra ESVA https://www.libraesva.com

iboss https://www.iboss.com

Sonicwall https://www.sonicwall.com/en-us/lp/capture-cloud-platform

Juniper https://jlabs.juniper.net/vlabs/