by Doug

24/07/2019

Uncategorised

What is “The Cloud” anyway?

Summary

My last few posts have been quite heavy on “Google Cloud Platform” product usage.  I appreciate these are of a more technical bent, and as I humbly boldly claim to be able to speak to engineers and humans, I’m going to shift gears in this post to explain what, how, and why ConversionWorks uses Google Cloud Platform products in the context of “Cloud for Marketing” (C4M).

What is “The Cloud”

If you’re running a business that has an online presence, you may already be using some form of “cloud”.  I’ve been in this industry for over 20 years now, starting as an engineer building an intranet. In ’96 we had a couple of actual servers in an air conditioned room that ran the software (Windows NT 4, SQL Server, CGI, ASP, PERL, Cold Fusion. Ah, those were the days).  This infrastructure required armies of skilled operations staff to maintain, upgrade, reboot (more often than I liked) and care for the kit.

You can imagine how on prem(ise) infrastructure can be expensive to run.  So, ask yourself, is your business in infrastructure or is it in selling (something)?  If the latter, why expend such effort on the former?  You can literally hear your margin gurgling down the drain. An old but gold heuristic goes something like “Do what you do best, and out-source the rest”.  This is quite apt for infrastructure.

You don’t want to own “tin”.  You can rent infrastructure, processing power and storage and not care one bit about the maintenance, security, load balancing, scaling, and up time.  Subscribe, install, enjoy running your business and being a success while folks who ARE skilled infrastructure rocket surgeons care for the infrastructure that powers your business.

C4M

Regarding our work for clients, ConversionWorks doesn’t own any infrastructure.  All the computing power and storage we use is:

  • Off prem
  • Virtualised
  • Distributed
  • Flexible
  • Scalable
  • Secure
  • Cost effective

We use Google’s cloud infrastructure (GCP) for all our data and biddable media operations.  We know and trust this ecosystem as it’s the same infrastructure than runs Google’s core services.  You don’t hear about Google going down or slow that often…

When it comes to processing large volumes of data, fast, for not a lot of cost, reliably, and securely, the obvious choice is to rent some GCP resource.  The range of products available on GCP is vast:

That’s way more than we need. The capabilities go way beyond what ConversionWorks does but that’s okay – we use what we need to deliver for our clients:

  • BigQuery
  • Cloud Functions
  • Data Store
  • Data Prep
  • Data Flow
  • Cloud Run
  • App Engine
  • Compute
  • Storage
  • Scheduler
  • Pub/Sub
  • Logging
  • Machine Learning
    • Text
    • Vision
    • Video
    • Speech

So What?

Okay, that’s quite a list of products, but what’s the big deal?  Why use these and where is the value? Glossing over an ocean of detail, in essence, we collect and process large volumes of data. We write software (R, Python) to perform the processing. We need cost effective storage and computing power to do this securely and reliably for our clients as fast as possible.  Running our own infrastructure would render this near impossible.

Back in ’96, renting vastly powerful computing power at this scale so easily wasn’t even a dream. Only paying for what we use, and servicing demand without really lifting a finger is a revolution.

C4M is truly a game changer in terms of being able to do what we do with relatively little complexity and cost.  The Cloud is a good thing.

 

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