What’s new for cloud computing platforms?

The only constant in the world of computing is change. True to form, all the major cloud providers constantly release new features, to keep abreast of ever-evolving technology and thereby unlock new possibilities for the user. Here are the recent developments related to the major cloud computing platforms.Google Cloud

Google Cloud Platform

The Google Cloud Platform, backed by Google’s infrastructure, ranks amongst the most robust and popular of all cloud platforms in the market. There are always a slew of new features and functionality related to this ever evolving offering, with each new addition increasing the product’s value.

New Dashboard

In February 2015, Google Cloud Platform received a new status dashboard that makes troubleshooting very easy. The service offers an RSS feed of what exactly has gone wrong when things do not work as expected, which happens more often than not in the still nascent cloud ecosystem. The feed also provides users with real time status updates for Google Cloud Platform services, thereby augmenting Google Cloud Monitoring that monitor the service’s health. The new dashboard incorporates a column of indicators, and disruptions manifest as a red bar which persist until resolved. It is possible to drill down the indicators for detailed information and history.
This new feature is path-breaking in more ways than one:
1. It keeps the user informed. Even the smallest service disruptions cause inconveniences, and not knowing what it is all about is even more frustrating. The new updates keep users in the loop, allowing them to schedule accordingly and also take the right workarounds.
2. The visibility offered by the new dashboard would allow businesses to exert greater control over their applications hosted in the cloud, thereby removing at least partially a big bane of the cloud resulting in losing control over the application. Transparency regarding the outrage allow both the service provider and the end user to see what they can do about it and also prevent similar occurrences in future.
3. This new feature is also a big step towards the potential automation of steps to be taken when specific eventuality occurs. With today’s businesses becoming more complex and competition fiercer than ever before, even little downtime can have a big adverse impact on the business.

Google Cloud Logging

Log data contains a treasure trove of information in the form of user requests, information on systems, administrative actions and more, but very few of such data is actually accessible, and analysis of such generated data is even more challenging.
Google Cloud Logging, now launched in a beta version, not just unlocks all such data, but also allows the user to collect, export and manage all Google Compute Engine and Google App Engine logs in one place. It integrates with Google Cloud Monitoring to offer powerful tools for managing operations and increasing business insights.

The insights offered by this new feature go a long way in unlocking actionable big data in real-time, which businesses may put to good use. These insights help businesses improve security and compliance, debug system issues, gather insights to make operations more robust, and also gain business insights. It also helps to achieve data for long periods, to meet compliance and backup requirements.

Microsoft Azure

Azure is not far behind in introducing new features that makes this cloud platform even better. Over the last few months, there have been a large number of announcements of new Azure infrastructure features.

Two recent roll-outs: Docker Machine and Docker Swam stand out.

Microsoft has put Docker, the container-based open platform that makes it easy to develop, ship and run distributed applications, to good use. It released a full Docker-based Ubuntu image for Azure in January, beefed up Hyper-V with Docker support, and has now followed it up with Docker Machine and Docker Swarm on Azure.

Docker Machine offers a single portable command that works uniformly across many different infrastructures. This automates the creation of Docker VM hosts on any compatible OS and across various infrastructure options. It also becomes possible to manage and configure hosts from a single remote client, doing away with the need to connect to each host separately, and thereby greatly simplifiying basic monitoring and management tasks.

Docker Swarm makes use of native Docker clustering and scheduling capabilities to enable developers to deploy container-based applications and workloads, across any infrastructure, scale, or production environments.

Apart from Docker Machine and Docker Swarm, Azure has also rolled out some other improvements in recent times:

1. Azure offers Docker Compose, which uses a declarative YAML file to simplify the modeling of Docker multi-container solutions. This generates a consistent deployment, and makes the application more agile, across infrastructure.

2. Monitoring the state of Batch workloads become more powerful with the addition of four new Azure Batch service and PowerShell Cmdlets: Get-AzureBatchPool, Get-AzureBatchWorkItem, Get-AzureBatchJob, and Get-AzureBatchTask.

3. It now becomes possible to leverage the power of Azure PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) in Azure without configuring any extra ports on the VM machine. As with any other VM Extension, it can be added to the VM anytime during its lifecycle. This is made possible through a new Cmdlet that retrieve DSC configuration status from the Azure Virtual Machine.

4. Azure IoT Suite is positioning itself as a cloud platform for the Internet of Things. Azure IoT Suite leverages the cloud platform’s existing capabilities for provisioning and billing and is pairing it with finished applications to target common IoT scenarios such as asset management, remote monitoring and predictive maintenance. Azure Stream Analytics, a part of the IoT suite is poised for release as a standalone product, and the entire suite will be in preview soon.

Amazon Web Service

Amazon Web Service is not far behind either when it comes to new features that make the platform more powerful and robust.

One feature that makes the cloud so powerful and resilient is load balancing. A load balancer performs the role of a reverse proxy, to distribute network or application traffic across multiple servers, thereby allowing for concurrent users and increasing the capacity and reliability of applications. Amazon Web Service offers Elastic Load Balancing, which distributes incoming application traffic across multiple Amazon EC2 instances in the cloud, automatically. This makes the entire process seamless and enables greater levels of fault tolerance, and also increases security.

New Checks on Elastic Load Balancer

The current Amazon Web Service 9.4 series has added four new checks on the Elastic Load Balancer. These new checks focus on fault tolerance and security.

1. ELB Listener Security: Checks for load balancers that do not use the recommended security configuration or up-to-date security policies. Elastic Load Balancers improve security by providing predefined security policies with ciphers and protocols, and this new check makes this functionality more robust.
2. Elastic Security group: Checks for load balancers configured with missing or deleted security group, which may cause the load balancer to work different than expected. If the security group is missing, this check adds a new security group and ensures that access is restricted only to the approved ports and protocols.
3. Cross-Zone Load Balancing: Cross-Zone Load Balancing checks changes the way Elastic Load Balancers routes incoming requests, to make it easier to deploy and manage applications that run across more than one Availability Zone.
4. Connection Draining: The connection draining feature halts transmission of new requests to instances that are deregistering but keeps the connection open to serve active requests. This check ensures that this feature is enabled.

Support for PostgreSQL to RDS

Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, or Oracle relational database in the cloud.

Another significant addition to Amazon Web Server is support for the new PostgreSQL version 9.4.1 to Amazon RDS. This allows storing data in jsonb – a compact and decomposed binary format. This facilitates the indexing of data and also makes data processing considerably faster. It enables developers to create applications that make use of data that consists of a combination of static fields that are well known and dynamic values derived from external applications or devices, which may not be fully known or understood in advance.

Cloud platforms have no option but to keep on adding new features, to stay relevant in today’s age of high velocity tech changes. A review of the latest changes effected by the three leading platforms – Google Cloud Services, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services indicate that they are up to the task, and continue to offer great value to their customers.

Author : Nayab Naseer Date : 27 Mar 2015