Private v/s Public: Are we ready for mission critical apps on the cloud? (Part 2 of 2)

Private v/s Public: Are we ready for mission critical apps on the cloud? (Part 2 of 2)

What are the advantages of a public cloud?

Why are prudent tech providers moving to a cloud native architecture?

How important is a cloud-agnostic architecture?

In the previous blog post Private v/s Public: Are we ready for mission critical apps on the cloud? (Part 1 of 2) I had explained the rational behind cloud computing as a go-to strategy, as well as certain limitations of a private cloud for certain kinds of applications. Here we consider the key solution for this problem. As always, the strategy advocates for every company to focus on its own core strengths and leave the peripheral activities to the respective experts. Let me explain how:

Public cloud: Where everything can afford to be flexible  

When the fluctuations in expected capacity of the system is far too large for the IT provider's infrastructure to manage on its own, it is logical that the capacity management is outsourced to a specialist, so that the former is able to focus on its core business (the software product, in this case). The only catch is that the cloud provider has to have sufficiently large infrastructure for this. This is where public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure come into the picture.

A public cloud is typically hosted on a globally distributed set of servers, from which the IT provider (such as IBS) leases space according to requirements of its customer. The specialist cloud provider has sufficient server resources to offer a great deal of scalability on demand, which works out to be economically advantageous for all parties in the transaction. The concept of peak load is eliminated, which means the IT provider is able to focus on the robustness and reliability of the software assets alone, without worrying about the delivery mechanisms. Another key advantage is the very short Infrastructure Refresh Cycles. This is the technology era. Chip makers like Intel are now coming out with new and enhanced chipsets every quarter. The cloud vendor can afford to refresh their environments at very short cycles as low as 3-6 months, thus passing on the advantage to us. The new hardware will help enhance the product throughput at less cost, increasing the overall ROI.

A lot of technology leaders seem to think that a public cloud is unsafe for sensitive operations like banking and finance, which by extension would mean any industry involving commerce on the web, such as retail. This is partially based on a misunderstanding that a public cloud is an unguarded network without any competent authority responsible for its security – on the contrary, the public cloud provider typically has a much higher level of security (both physical and virtual) than private clouds, and the sheer size of the cloud makes it less likely that malicious agents are able to locate the specific data they desire to access. In short, you are able to leave it "to the experts", assuming you have chosen the right provider. You can engineer the Cloud Network the way you need with maximum compliance based on your regulatory needs. The control is with you, while the cloud vendor ensures that the infrastructure and services provided are all compliant to the latest security norms.  

Eye openers at the AWS Cloud Warrior event 

iTravel, which we envision to be the future of travel commerce in the digital world, is a prime example of a mission critical app which will be deployed on the public cloud. It naturally follows that the system is immensely scalable both horizontally and vertically. The software is designed with a polyglot architecture, which means the platform is an extremely complex integration of several smaller systems, all based on fully open source frameworks. As a result, not only is iTravel cloud native, but it is also cloud agnostic, which means it cannot be locked in by the proprietary platform services of any particular cloud provider in the market today – rather, it can be shifted seamlessly from one public cloud to another without restriction, in tune with specific service agreements (or any commercial predisposition) which the customers may wish to adhere to.

The entire IBS Software product line has been offered to customers in SaaS mode for quite some time now. This is made possible through custom data centres across the globe, and gives our customers tremendous advantages in terms of scalability, reliability and availability which is well aligned to their needs. However, the vision of a digital travel solution, which covers a much broader service spectrum, places greater demands on virtually all aspects including geographical accessibility, security, governance, regulatory compliance and monitoring. Hence, our the goal was to design an architecture framework which aligned with these requirements, being fully failure-agnostic, secure, reliable, fully abstracted and automated with a flexible technology infrastructure platform.

By working closely with the AWS team, we were able to protect the system from all infrastructure level and component level fluctuations and at the same time increase the overall throughput with effective utilization of the entire infra-topology, resulting in great reduction of cost. Having secured PCI certification, the security concerns around commerce on the public cloud deployment is already solved in the case of iTravel. But is the entire system without any challenges? It would be premature to conclude so. Extensive monitoring is required to track any system failures from their point of origin to identify potential cracks and pre-empt any domino effects. But these aren't massive concerns in a real world scenario for a customer; they can easily be addressed with the right kind of application maintenance protocols. Also, the fact that cloud computing experts at the AWS Cloud Warrior event chose to single out our architecture as praiseworthy innovation on multiple counts, adds tremendous credibility. 


Conclusion: Not a tough choice to make 

Customers who are currently attempting to choose between software products to run their business systems have part of the decision made for them. License-based models and locally hosted deployments are obsolete; they have been phased out in the travel industry except in the case of some legacy systems which are still in existence in pockets. The future is architected on the cloud, and it is important to fully grasp what advantages lie in different models. At stake is not just the reliability of your service, but also the goodwill and reputation of your brand!


Anil Abraham is the Enterprise Architect for iTravel, a comprehensive digital travel management platform from IBS, which is getting ready for the market. He is an expert in cloud computing architecture and plays a key role in enabling SaaS based delivery models for the IBS product line.  

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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

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