Welcome back to the Meet Our Team Q&A series. My name is Daniela Williams, Project Manager at ISE, and I’ll be asking ISE team members questions to help give insight into what makes us tick.
Today I'm interviewing Samuel Thurston (or Sam), Software Engineer, and Cloud Services expert. Read on to learn more about what's new with cloud technologies and why Sam enjoys working in this space.
Q. How long have you worked at ISE and what did you do prior?
Sam: I have worked at ISE for one year - almost to the day. I ran my own web development and hosting firm for almost 10 years prior to that, building websites and server solutions for everything from small businesses to major media companies. Before that, I worked in data collection and analysis for market research.
Q. What got you excited about cloud technologies?
Sam: The cloud is really about agility. So this means two things: One is that we can try things out in ways that were unimaginable before. It can take weeks or months and cost millions of dollars to plan, purchase, and deploy a hardware Hadoop system, but now I can have one up and running in 15 minutes, and only pay for it while it’s doing the work I need it to do, thanks to the cloud. The other thing is that we have intelligent systems, where I don’t need to tell an application to add servers when traffic spikes, it can be “smart” enough to do this on its own without human intervention. These are really big leaps forward in how we think about applications, because the hardware is now defined by the code, rather than the other way around. The combination makes it much easier to do really cool things!
Q. What should companies consider before moving to cloud?
Sam: I think for most companies the question is no longer “if,” but “when” and “how.” The biggest consideration is cost, and I think unless you have a mountain of capital already and can accurately plan for a number of years, the cloud can offer a safe hedge against big infrastructure investments. But for most companies there will be some mix of traditional IT and cloud software and infrastructure that optimizes costs.
Q. What challenges do companies face with cloud technologies?
Sam: For some people, trust is a big factor. There are always questions about if the cloud is secure or reliable. But really, in a material way, there’s no security difference between a server in your server room or a cloud server. So the big challenge is figuring out how to translate the practices that are already working for you into the cloud environment.
Q. How do you think cloud technologies will transform business practices?
Sam: I went to a startup’s launch event a few weeks back. One of their people told me, “We don’t have any IT infrastructure and we never will.” Cloud apps and Software as a Service (SaaS) have really arrived, and they’re already changing the way teams collaborate. It was so expensive for a small business to run their own Exchange server, get Office licenses for all the users and so on. Now there are a few good options: Office 365, Google Docs, Dropbox, etc, for document collaboration systems that cover everything you need for modern business, and they only cost a few bucks a month. They work wherever you are on whatever device. It’s hardly even worth renting office space for a lot of businesses now, because working and communicating online using cloud services is so easy.
Q. What are some trends you see with cloud technologies?
Sam: It’s growing so fast. We’re going to see Microsoft Azure start to catch up with Amazon Web Services on the infrastructure side. This is going to be some fierce competition and the consumer will benefit. The new paradigm on the software side is microservices: code that doesn’t run until you need it and just does one small part of a larger system. But these microservice components will start to find re-use opportunities. I expect cloud frameworks - building blocks and design patterns for larger applications - to emerge in the coming year or two.
Q. What does ISE offer in cloud technologies?
Sam: We do it all! For starters we can craft solutions that are cloud-aware out of the box and take advantage of the benefits of cloud architectures, such as automatic scaling. Our specialty is really Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. We have been very invested in telematics as a company and IoT is a natural extension of that. We have experience with connected devices streaming data, and responding to those device events and analyzing all that data in meaningful ways, and the cloud is uniquely suited to solutions like this. We can also help with mobile app infrastructure and creative big data processing and analysis, another area where cloud resources can reduce costs and add flexibility and value.
Q. What do you do for fun?
Sam: Work is a lot of fun! But seriously, I often write code in my free time. I also enjoy cooking, live music, and lots of outdoor activities - camping, hiking, fishing, biking and so on. I try to mix up my activities to keep things fresh and interesting. I’m always up for trying new things!