Rapid growth and the Cloud – thoughts from Google Cloud Next ’18

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By Paul Scott

Growth – Rapid Growth.

These are words we like to hear, both for Datacom and our customers – and these words ran strongly through last month’s GoogleNext conference.  Google is committed to its partners, and it makes us here at Datacom all the more proud to be working with Google Cloud, and even more excited about getting our customers connected.

Google Cloud Next ‘18 was three busy days packed full of talks, boot camps and information that we’re now happy to share with you.

The Google Cloud platform is growing at an exponential rate, and we’re looking forward to what’s coming over the next year.

“We’re re-engineering how we do business, and that goes hand in hand with the journey to the cloud.” Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene said. “Tech now encompasses all business and all society, and IT has gone from being a cost centre to a key driver for the business.”

For those new to it, Google Cloud is a service that helps companies empower employees, serve customers and build what’s next for business. And it does all this with a level of security that is defining the tech industry.

As we learned at the conference, Google is more secure by design. We were thrilled to hear about the Google Service Platform, which combines Kubernetes and Istio. With this, Google simplifies security and management of microservices. And that Kubernetes engine? It’s going to soon available on-premise and accessible from the cloud.

This means that whatever your data and containers, you’ll be able to manage it all in one place. The Datacom Software team is committed to making it easy to modernise your applications and bring them to the cloud. With Google Cloud it’s never been easier, it lets you design your applications with a mix of on-premise and cloud-based microservices.

Google’s cloud offering is open source and multi-cloud. So it’s are not about locking you into one solitary option but working to provide the best service, so you can run a better, smarter business.

Given what businesses are already doing with Google, take a moment to think about the marketing side of your business joined with the power of Google Cloud. The combined data story gives you a singular, superior view of your customer. In the coming year, Datacom will be focusing on that potential with Google, and we’ll make sure to deliver these new services to you.

Google is also bringing its world-renowned search capacity to the Cloud for your enterprise or business. You’ll be able to search for whatever it is you need to find within your business, be it files or anything else on the premise.

Google is also leading the way on AI. There’s Contact Centre AI, which allows enterprises to use AI to augment and improve contact centres without the need for deep AI expertise. Powerful, deployable contact centres are on the horizon, and since it’s part of Google Cloud, it will connect with the rest of your data and business (and also carry that cutting-edge security).

With BigQuery ML and Edge TPU for IOT, Google is also making machine learning and AI more democratic. The work Google is doing will mean that every device or sensor will have the ability to run machine learning or AI without having to go back into the cloud.

You also won’t need to move your data out of your data warehouse for analysts to access information and make predictions. They’ll be able to strategically look forward without any prior knowledge about machine learning. What’s more, with a few lines of code, developers can use Google’s AI building blocks (such as Cloud Vision API) to take your business to the next level.

Machine learning changes everything we know about computers. It takes everything we can currently do, but makes it better.

Our advice after attending Google Cloud Next?  Machine learning needs to be infused into every one of your business processes. Think of yourself now as a Machine Learning- or AI-first business. AI-first businesses are efficient, scalable and agile. It’s the next wave of business and is surpassing mobile- or social- first business models.

Our biggest takeaway? That the journey to the cloud has only just begun.

A multi-cloud strategy is now critical for every business.

Use the best-in-breed options for whatever it is you need to grow and don’t just go with one cloud provider.

Integrating a multi-service approach to better run your business and help your developers will make your business more efficient. And it’s that priority around efficiency that will help you move into being a stronger machine learning-first business.

And the more we learn, the more excited we are about the opportunities Google Cloud presents to Datacom and our customers. We can’t wait to help you access what is next!

For more detailed day-to-day rundown of what we learned, watch Paul’s daily vlogs here.

Hybrid Risk Management with AWS Systems Manager

This post was written by Chris Coombs – Cloud Architect at Datacom, and Samual Brown, Senior Technical Account Manager at AWS. Datacom is an AWS Premier Partner providing migration, transformation and managed services across Australia and New Zealand.

At Datacom our Cloud Ops team now use AWS (Amazon Web Services) Systems Manager as the default task runner and desired state configuration tool for all new managed services customers. Our on-premise solution had served us well for many years, but required multiple platforms, each with its own licensing costs and scaling challenges. The previous solution also had a significant operational impact, requiring frequent updates to maintain vendor support and complex infrastructure for high availability. With AWS Systems Manager, we don’t need to worry about licensing or the underlying infrastructure, it just works.

Our transition to AWS Systems Manager was born out of a desire to focus more on the customer and less on the tooling. Once we migrated to AWS Systems Manager however, we have found that it provides even more value thanks to its extensibility and ease of use.

Whilst AWS Systems Manager has many uses, this blog post focuses on our hybrid implementation and the risk dashboard we built on top of AWS Systems Manager.

Activating AWS Systems Manager

When setting up the AWS Systems Manager agent on AWS EC2, you would usually create an instance profile to allow the agent to run. An often overlooked feature of AWS Systems Manager is that it will also run outside of AWS; however, as your on-premises hypervisor doesn’t understand IAM (Identity and Access Management), AWS provides another mechanism for configuring AWS Systems Manager – activation codes.

With activation codes, you can install the AWS Systems Manager agent prior to a cloud migration or as part of a multi-cloud strategy. What’s more is that you can also use the AWS System Manager activation codes in AWS itself, providing a standard setup for your entire fleet, whether it’s on AWS, on-premises or within other public cloud platforms.

Naming Instances

If we add an instance to AWS Systems Manager using activation codes, it appears in the management console with a funny looking ID, something like mi-1234. Don’t be fooled by the bit after the m (i-1234), that isn’t the AWS instance ID! So how do we map AWS Systems Manager IDs to AWS instance IDs (or some other on-premises ID)? Simple, we give it a name!

screenshot 1Managed Instances tab of the AWS Systems Manager console

We don’t give the instance a name during registration though, we actually have to specify the name during activation code creation. As such, we have to generate the codes in real time. We do this using an API backed by Lambda which we run as part of the instance UserData (or similar bootstrap script on non-AWS resources).

screenshot 2 code adjustedIt might seem odd not to use the native IAM integration with AWS Systems Manager in AWS, but this method doesn’t require development teams to mess around with IAM, and treating all instances in the same way ensures that we have a single workflow for all instances, regardless of their location.

Stating the Risk

AWS Systems Manager provides a lot of power to operations teams for running scheduled and ad hoc commands against entire hybrid workloads at once, which is a time saver for Ops. Where AWS Systems Manager really excels is in its flexibility, for example we also use it to report on compliance and security risk in near real time, which provides huge customer value.

screenshot 3Datacom risk dashboard

With AWS Systems Manager we can run State Manager (a scheduled command of sorts) in either of two modes. First we run in a report only mode. This allows us to gather patching, anti-virus and compliance information from the entire fleet without breaking anything. We can then discuss this data (using our risk dashboard) with the business, who may accept some risks (e.g. a legacy application, which the vendor won’t let you patch) but may mandate others (e.g. AV). With this information we can then move some or all workloads into enforcement mode, and it’s as simple as switching the AWS Systems Manager tag from report to enforce!

This is great for migrations. We can run the agent on-premises, analyse the results and remediate any gaps (e.g. missing AV) using the Run Command prior to relocation, reducing both the risk of rollback and the duration of the migration window. It also has the benefit of providing real time insight into born in the cloud workloads, which disappear at night or scale massively during the day. What’s really powerful is that the business can see what the risk profile looks like at any point in time, they can set alerts and take action with their development teams as things change.

What’s Next?

The extensibility of AWS Systems Manager is one of its greatest features. With AWS Systems Manager you can build a solution using cutting edge AWS technology and run it anywhere, from AWS to traditional tin. What Datacom build next is up to you. The idea for our risk dashboard came from customer feedback, and we’d love to hear what challenges you’re facing and how we can help.