The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Tag: cloud computing

Cloud Computing

Data hubs are becoming increasingly virtual. According to the most recent annual cloud computing survey by North Bridge venture partners, 50 percent of organizations had either a cloud-first or cloud-only policy and 90 percent used the cloud in some way. As the cloud continues to grow, it is essential that software engineers looking to advance in their field have a working knowledge of cloud-based services.

Brandeis GPS will be offering Cloud Computing as a part-time, fully online course this October. During the 10-week course, students will explore cloud-based services, using internet-based software suites such as Google Docs or Salesforce.com, through platform-based systems (PaaS), such as Microsoft’s Azure environment, that make it easy to focus on developing new apps or services, to complete cloud-based infrastructure (IaaS), such as Amazon’s Web Services.

The course also explores how use of the cloud changes how we “do” IT. Cloud-based services are especially well-suited to Agile development and Lean Startup thinking. This leads to new ideas such as DevOps and “continuous deployment.” In addition, use of SaaS security systems changes how we integrate systems, how we handle identity and access management (IAM), opening up new threats and new opportunities to keep data secure. Finally, the course looks at how the cloud enables us to work with more data than ever before, “Big Data”— NoSQL databases and scalable infrastructure (e.g., Hadoop).

Throughout the course, students will learn how to evaluate the various cloud-based services and how to communicate that evaluation to decision-makers in the organization.

It also includes a hands-on practicum using Amazon Web Services (AWS). Students will explore the most common features of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and how IaaS, overall, differs from older paradigms of systems management and program architecture.

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the major categories of cloud-based services and the major trends in cloud computing and be able to explain the impact of cloud computing on the role of corporate IT;
  • Describe new roles and approaches to software development tuned to the cloud, starting with DevOps and the idea of continuous development;
  • Assess specific services, evaluate whether or not they are appropriate to specific challenges, and plan their implementation, where relevant;
  • Describe how the cloud has enabled enterprises to rethink how data are gathered, analyzed, and processed, using NoSQL databases, and scalable infrastructure such as Hadoop;
  • Evaluate security challenges in the cloud and understand current best practices;
  • Successfully carry out backup, system imaging and disaster recovery;
  • Successfully set up, monitor, and maintain a reasonably complex web-based service on Amazon Web Services (the course practicum).

At Brandeis GPS, you can take up to two courses before enrolling in one of our 12 online master’s degrees. If you’re interested in exploring the Master of Software Engineering, or would like to learn more about cloud computing for professional development, contact the  GPS office for more information or to request a syllabus: 781-736-8787, gps@brandeis.edu, or submit your information.

Analytics: Not Just For Data Experts

By Ariel Garber

Analytics is useful in any profession, with the potential to increase efficiency, profitability and accuracy. From healthcare, to marketing, to even sports, analytics is becoming an essential tool in all fields. Here’s a sneak peak into how data affects more industries that you expect.

Technology is shaping a new health care economy, evident in the advances of Stethoscopemobile devices, cloud computing and analytics. “‘We need to empower consumers with the in-the-moment guidance they need,’” said Dennis Schmuland, MD, Microsoft’s chief health strategy officer, “adding that a key technological component of that on both sides of the patient-provider equation is health analytics, thus the need to ‘make analytics easy for everyone.’”

Social media Picture1and marketing analytics tools are also important as social media becomes essential in all fields. Research has shown that “the conversations your customers have among themselves drive about 13 percent of business decisions and can amplify your advertising by 15 percent.

Sports analytics are valuable to both consumers and professionals, for the way we consume sports industry through sports data is dependent upon analytics. “Sports analytics is not just a catch phrase, but an influential part of the future of sports,” said Bloomberg Sports, the leading global provider in data and analytics, “We believe sports analytics plays an integral role in the future of sport, both at a fan engagement and elite sport performance level.” Bloomberg Sports offers a variety of resources to both consumers and professionals. For professional purposes, they provide analytic tools for scouting, video analysis and “player-centric applications to assess performances and aid the preparation of upcoming games.” They also have created a predictive analytics program and use their own broadcast and TV stations to “translate analytics-rich content into broadcast tools used on-air to inform and educate viewers.” They also host their own website, StatsInsights.com, featuring analytics-rich sports articles.

Big data is becoming incorporated into all aspects of sports, from devices that can track pitches during the game, to wearable technology. Adidas’ miCoach system collects data from a device attached to the player’s jersey that shows the top performers and who is tired, as well as “real-time stats on each player, such as speed, heart rate and acceleration.” The data from these devices assists trainers, coaches, and physicians in planning better training and conditioning.

There is also a demand for data analytics specialists to translate the data from these devices in a coherent manner for the players and coaches. Moneyball, a 2003 book and 2011 movie featured the Oakland Athletics competitive baseball that utilized analytics in their data-driven strategies. This highlights a shift in sports from gut instincts to a reliance upon science. Analytics is “gaining recognition as a tried and true instrument for competitive advantage in countless industries.”

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies offers a Strategic Analytics program that produces professionals who understand the strategic potential of big-data analytics and who can translate analysis into effective organizational decision-making, poised to lead today’s organizations to new standards of efficiency and competitiveness.

Brandeis GPS is hosting an Analytics 360 Symposium on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 from 9am-4:30pm at Hassenfeld Conference Center of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

360LogoALT2The day-long symposium will focus on promoting a discussion of the growing field of analytics and how organizations can leverage big data to make more strategic decisions. Panelists will engage in a conversation that places analytics in the context of big data, education, health, marketing and business.

Register here for the Analytics 360 Symposium on April 8, 2015 at Brandeis University. The cost for NERCOMP members is $135 and the cost for non-members is $265. Submit this form to learn more about special pricing available to members of the Brandeis community. For more information, email analytics360@brandeis.edu or call 781-736-8786. You can also find us on Twitter using #GPSAnalytics.

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The Opportunities in Big Data Still Ripe for Innovation

– Associate Editor, BostInno Tech

Big data is the “new currency” — an innovation that can boost or bust a business when not properly taken advantage of. Smart startups have been dipping into the deluge of data to draw out audience analytics, predict maintenance before costly breakdowns or better deliver targeted treatments to their consumers.

With innovation naturally comes a surge of yet-to-be explored opportunities other companies should have the foresight to capitalize on.

“More big data disruption is coming,” said Ryan Betts, CTO of Bedford-based VoltDB, in an email to BostInno. “And it will be around real-time, interactive experiences.”

The space is one VoltDB has been able to establish itself in, by providing an in-memory relational database that combines massive data ingest with real-time analytics and decisioning, so that organizations can act on data at its greatest point of value.

Betts pointed to big-name behemoths, such as Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, that are also establishing themselves in the space. He noted “unlimited Internet-attached storage space can be purchased at very cost competitive prices,” which, when combined with “ubiquitous computing,” are creating a network effect that’s become increasingly beneficial to consumers.

“In the same way that social networks become more powerful and offer greater utility as members join and build connections,” Betts explained, “these devices will connect to share data, to cooperate with one another and to interact with us in our environment.”

Betts menCloud-Computing-captioned Nest, a company reinventing the thermostat and smoke alarm by connecting to the Internet and syncing up to apps in a way that’s reinventing climate control. The collision Betts’ described is even more evident in individuals’ “smartphone on the coffee table” or “tablet a family member uses for Facebook.”

He added, “For the consumer, the automation and the disruptive potential of these devices communicating and interacting with one another will create relevant, micro-personalized experiences.”

To Atlas Venture Partner Chris Lynch, co-founder and board member of Kendall Square’s big data hackerspace hack/reduce, the future is, indeed, in “automation, simplification and integration.” Lynch broke each element down in an email to BostInno, saying:

Automation of the process of analyzing data, simplification of the user interface to allow non-data scientists to participate in the big data revolution and integration of next generation analytics into legacy applications people already know how to use.

Lynch acknowledged big data’s downfalls, adding, “Platform and tool companies are largely played out.”

His comment was reminiscent of that of Google Ventures’ Rich Miner, who, at Harvard Business School’s recent Cyberposium, argued, “Big data is a very overused word.” He added that big data is often “a layer, not a startup itself.” Yet, he had formerly singled out Nest for taking “mundane devices” and making it work on users’ behalf, noting there’s “a huge amount of innovation” in the connected devices space — which all circles back to big data.

“From a pure technology perspective, we need to deliver scale, security and simplicity,” Lynch said. “[We need to] make it easy for people to absorb the technology and increase the time to value.”

To Betts, the industry can see immense value from interconnections, as well. As he posited:

Interconnections will impact factory manufacturing plants; impact how predictive maintenance is scheduled and executed on high-end industrial equipment; create connected Internet services that must scale authorization and authentication, detect and prevent financial, telephone and even online-game fraud, and make construction sites better monitored, safer and more efficient. And that’s not all. It will also participate in building a smarter electric grid that is cheaper, less wasteful, more reliable and designed to supply power to electric vehicles while generating power through broadly distributed residential solar panels and other alternative sources.

Now it’s up to innovators to seize the opportunities.

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Is Healthcare the Next Frontier for Big Data?

The health care industry has always been at the center of emerging technology as a leader in the research and application of advanced sciences. Now, more than ever, the industry is on the edge of an innovation boom. Health care information technology possesses vast potential for advancement, making the field fertile ground for game-changing innovation and the next great frontier for big data.

The use of electronic health records (EHR), electronic prescribing, and digital imaging by health care providers has exploded in recent years, Health Affairs reports and the global health information exchange (HIE) market is projected to grow nearly ten percent per year, reaching $878 million in 2018, according to Healthcare Informatics.

But despite massive growth, health care IT faces a number of barriers slowing advancement.

When it comes to health information technologies, demand is outpacing delivery. Users desire higher levels of performance beyond the capacity of current IT solutions.

“Providers certainly want to do things that vendor technology doesn’t allow right now,” Micky Tripathi, Ph.D., CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (MAeHC), said to Healthcare Informatics.

program-hero-health-medical-informaticsOne reason technology is lagging is health care IT systems are independently developed and operated. Rather than one massive network, there are numerous “small shops developing unique products at high cost with no one achieving significant economies of scale or scope,” Health Affairs reported. As a result, innovations are isolated, progress is siloed, and technology cannot meaningfully advance.

To deliver the highest quality of care, the health care community must unite disparate systems in a centralized database. But, this is easier said than done. The industry must be sure to maintain the highest standards of security complying with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

As a result, the health care IT industry currently faces a crucial challenge: devise an overarching system that guarantees security, sustainability, and scale.

The key to unlocking solutions is Big Data are the informaticians who translate mountains of statistics into meaningful healthcare IT applications.

“The growing role of information technology within health-care delivery has created the Electronic-Prescribingneed to deepen the pool of informaticians who can help organizations maximize the effectiveness of their investment in information technology—and in so doing maximize impact on safety, quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of care,” the American Medical Informatics Association noted. The future of health care hinges on the ability to connect the big data dots and apply insights to a creating and practicing a smart IT strategy.

Organizations have thrown themselves into the big data trenches to innovate solutions to the problem facing their industry. Ninety-five percent of healthcare CEOs said they were exploring better ways to harness and manage big data, a PricewaterhouseCoopers study reported. With the commitment of the health care community, plus the right talent and resources, industry-advancing innovations won’t be far behind.

Health care is indisputably the next great frontier for big data. How we seek, receive, and pay for health care is poised to fundamentally change and health care informaticians will be leading the evolution.

Find out more about the opportunities in health care information technology at the MS in Health and Medical Informatics Virtual Open House on June 3rd.

Cloud Computing and the OpenStack Advantage

by: Nagendra Nyamgondalu, Senior Engineering Manager at IBM India and Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Master of Software Engineering Alum

It was only a few years back that most IT managers I spoke to would smirk when they heard  the  term  “cloud” in  a  conversation.  They  either  didn’t  believe  that  cloud cloud-iaas computing  would  be  viable  for  their  businesses’  IT  needs  or  were  skeptical  about  the maturity  of  the  technology.  And  rightly  so.  But,  a  lot  has  changed  since  then.  The  technology, tools and services available for businesses considering adoption of a public cloud, setting up their own private cloud or treading the middle path of a hybrid one, has  made  rapid  strides.  Now,  the  same  IT  managers  are  very  focused  on  deploying  workloads and applications on the cloud for cost reduction and improved efficiency.

Businesses  today  have  the  choice  of  consuming  Infrastructure  as  a  service  (IaaS),  Platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS). As you can imagine, these models map directly to the building blocks of a typical data center. Servers, storage and networks form the infrastructure on top of which, the required platforms are built such as databases, application servers or web servers and tools for design and development. Once the two foundational layers are in place, the applications that provide the actual business value can be run on top. While all three models are indisputable parts of the bigger picture that is Cloud Computing, I have chosen to focus on IaaS here. After all, infrastructure is the first step to a successful IT deployment.

Essentially, IaaS is the ability to control and automate pools of resources, be it compute, storage,  network  or  others  and  provision  it  on-­‐demand.  Delivering  IaaS  requires  technology  that  provides  efficient  and  quick  provisioning,  smart  scheduling  for deployment  of  virtual  machines  and  workloads,  support  for  most  hardware  and  of  course, true scalability. OpenStack is an open source framework founded by Rackspace Hosting  and  NASA  that  takes  a  community  approach  to  make  all  this  possible.  It  was  designed  with  scalability  and  elasticity  as  the  overarching  theme  and  a  share­nothing, distribute-­‐everything approach. This enables OpenStack to be horizontally scalable and asynchronous. Since inception, the community has grown to a formidable number with many  technology  vendors  such  as  IBM,  Cisco,  Intel,  HP  and  others  embracing  it.  The  undoubted advantage that a community-­‐based approach brings, especially to something like IaaS, is the extensive support for a long list of devices and cloud standards. When a new type of storage or a next generation network switch is introduced to the market, the vendors have a lot to gain by contributing support drivers for their offerings to the community. Similar support for proprietary technology has dependencies on customer demand and the competitive dynamics amongst the vendors -­‐ this almost always results in delayed support, if that. While proprietary versus open source is always a debate, the innovation and cost benefits that open alternatives have provided in the recent years, has  clearly  made  CIOs  take  notice.  Support  for  a  variety  of  hypervisors,  Open  APIs,  support  for  object  or  block  storage  and  the  mostly  self-­‐sufficient  management capabilities are some of the common themes I hear on why businesses are increasingly adapting OpenStack. Additionally, the distributed architecture cloud_securityof OpenStack where each component (such as Compute, Network, Storage & Security) runs as a separate process connected  via  a  lightweight  message  broker,  makes  it  easy  for  ISVs  looking  to  build  value-­‐adds  on  top  of  the  stack.  All  the  right  ingredients  for  a  complete  cloud management solution for IaaS.

Most  IT  managers  dream  of  the  day  when  every  request  for  infrastructure  is  satisfied  instantly by the click of a button regardless of the type being requested, workloads run smoothly and fail-­‐over seamlessly when there is a need to, resource usage is constantly optimal  and  adding  additional  hardware  to  the  pool  is  a  smooth  exercise.  Business  managers dream of the day when they have instant access to the infrastructure needed to run their brand new application and once it is up, it stays up. Aaah Utopia.

The good news is it is possible here and now.

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Nagendra Nyamgondalu is a Senior Engineering Manager at IBM in India. He is a 2003 graduate from Brandeis University, Graduate Professional Studies’ Master of Software Engineering Program.

 

Bigger than “Cloud Computing”

by: Ari Davidow

It’s textbook season once again. That’s the time of year when I go through new textbooks for next semester’s course.

Cloud-Computing-capThe good news is, “Cloud Computing,” a subject so out on the edge when it was first offered four years ago that it was a “special topic,” is now relatively main stream. The bad news is, the textbooks still focus on how to teach network administrators how to set up cloud services. Which wouldn’t be a bad class, and it is certainly useful to IT professionals, but it isn’t the class that we teach here at Brandeis.

My course focuses as much on how “Cloud Computing” is changing how we do our jobs, as it does on the practicalities of using common Cloud infrastructure. We don’t neglect becoming familiar with common Cloud “Infrastructure as a Service” components such as: storage, queue servicing, database and web servers and the like. But that is a limited corner of the field.

I first realized how far ahead of the times our course was when I saw one of the computing consulting groups, IDC, refer to the topics we address as “The Third Platform.” Turns out, by focusing on the different types of Cloud Computing platforms, spending time considering related issues (“Big Data” and how “mobile computing” affects it all), we were focusing attention on what IDC feels is a major shift in computing. A shift so large it is comparable to the switch from mainframes to personal computers not so many years ago.

Additionally, the IDC report accidentally highlights how we create courses. Sometimes, when we’re teaching a language or computing system, we focus on the basics of just learning that language or platform. If you take a Ruby class, or a class in Analytics, you’ll get a good grounding in those disciplines. But with Cloud Computing we are talking about changes in technology that are changing everything around them.

SaaSSoftware as a Service (SaaS) has radically changed how Enterprise applications are purchased and maintained. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) has changed the way start-ups work and thoroughly changed the economics of putting new ideas to the test. The proliferation of mobile devices has similarly destroyed the likelihood that network security is as simple as thinking in terms of one person/one device, most of which are physically hooked up to the network. This is a paradigm already challenged by the need to integrate SaaS services with the rest of the network.

When you sign up for “Cloud Computing” this summer, you are signing up to explore the entire “Third Platform.” We’ll also walk you through some bare metal Cloud Computing basics and have some big fun with Big Data. I look forward to seeing you soon.

P.S. As with all Brandeis GPS classes, you can participate with whatever computing device is convenient to you—your computer, your tablet or smartphone. We like to practice what we teach.

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