Each day, through a tap on the touchscreen or the click of a button, we access and interact with a myriad of applications and services without giving much thought to the businesses and the entire IT infrastructures and frameworks behind them that make everything possible. Looking through the lens of the consumer or the end-user, we tend to overlook the fact that more and more companies compete with each other for our attention.
This shift in the mentality of businesses falls in line with the rapid developments ushered in by the explosive wave of digitization. Now more than ever, a good idea is all that you need to reserve yourself a seat at the business table, and who knows, maybe with a bit of luck and timing, your initiative can have a lasting impact and grow into a booming business.
Whether your idea takes the shape of a new application or service, you will most definitely need an IT infrastructure to act as a foundation for your new business. In the not so distant past, this requirement has acted as one of the chief obstacles for new companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, as it imposed significant costs and expertise to purchase, manage and deploy in-house compute, storage and network hardware.
Fortunately, the rapid evolution of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings alongside other cloud computing services have introduced a pay as you use model that radically simplifies how businesses and companies satiate their hardware related needs. The new levels of agility and mobility unlocked by this new approach to tech infrastructures give entrepreneurs and their development teams more time to focus their attention and resources on developing new features and functionalities for their products. Unsurprisingly, more and more companies and enterprises are pivoting from their traditional on-prem, monolithic IT infrastructures to a cloud ecosystem. Global research and advisory firm Gartner projects that by 2025, approximately 80% of enterprises will renounce their physical data centres in favour of cloud infrastructure services.
In the current dynamic business environment, the advantages of IaaS and other cloud-related services are undeniable but there are still some key areas that can be improved, especially down the lines of data security, transparency and control over the data stored on the machines of cloud providers. Moreover, the transition of existing systems to an IaaS model poses a series of complex integration challenges especially when legacy systems are involved.
As one of the earliest promoters of blockchain technology, Modex has identified a series of crucial areas of cloud computing that can be improved by blockchain’s ability to give businesses, companies and any type of organization that relies on a database system for their daily operations the ability to enhance the security of data records, giving them full control and ownership over their data. By combining the familiarity of a traditional database engine with a blockchain layer, Modex has created the Blockchain Database (BCDB) hybrid, middleware solution that hides the complex inner workings of its blockchain component behind the familiarity of a database system capable of accessing blockchain’s latent potential to set the foundation of a new and improved type of data ecosystem.
The rapid expansion of cloud computing and IaaS services over the past decade has provided an answer to many issues that revolve around building and maintaining a costly on-prem infrastructure. Naturally, the second step for Modex was to devise a way to help people tap into the benefits of cloud computing and blockchain. This innovative take on two different technologies previously thought incompatible is made possible by the integration of the Modex trademark, patented technology, BCDB solution with Microsoft Azure, one of the leading cloud service providers on the market. Through this technological integration, Modex has transformed the BCDB solution into an easy to use IaaS offering through which Azure beneficiaries can seamlessly integrate a blockchain component into their applications to create a zero-fault tolerant framework, characterized by unrivalled levels of data security and availability provided by the blockchain layer of the BCDB solution.
Infrastructure as a Service under the magnifying glass
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), defines IaaS as: “The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).”
At its core, IaaS is a cloud service that grants access to a fully provisioned, on-demand computing infrastructure that can be managed over the internet. Under the IaaS model, companies access all the benefits of on-prem computing resources without needing to worry about all the overhead involved with deploying, maintaining and operating an in-house infrastructure. As one of the most flexible cloud services, IaaS promotes easy scalability and resource management.
Because IaaS operates under a pay as you use model, consumers rent resources such as computation, storage and other hardware components, utilizing them on a need basis, meaning that when a spike in performance is required, companies can pay for more resources. On the same note, when the operations become less resource-intensive, companies can easily scale down to save costs. Beneficiaries have full control of the infrastructure via an API or dashboard. The higher degree of control means that users need to manage multiple aspects such as the operating system, applications, data, middleware and runtime environments. Meanwhile, the cloud provider manages the servers, the virtualization, storage and network.
How it works
A major advantage of IaaS is that it is tailored to answer the needs of every company, business or organization, regardless of their sphere of activity and size. By contracting the services of a cloud provider, companies can unlock a seemingly inexhaustible pool of computing, network, and storage resources to create an ideal infrastructure for their business. This model comes into stark contrast with the traditional on-prem frameworks where businesses were required to purchase and maintain the equipment, as well as the space for hosting and conditions needed to operate the equipment in optimal parameters. Businesses have a higher degree of mobility as they no longer need to buy servers, storage, software and other hardware components.
Furthermore, the lack of an on-prem infrastructure means that companies are no longer required to hire an in house IT staff to manage, update and upgrade the equipment and software. It’s a fact that every company experiences fluctuations in their workload. The issue with on-prem infrastructures is that companies need to anticipate a potential peak of workload and build a system that is capable of maintaining operations at that level. The problem is that a decrease in the workload will mean that some systems may remain idle. On the other hand, there is also the possibility that the potential workload has been miscalculated, or the company is witnessing an exponential growth that far surpasses the capability of the system which may create numerous friction points for end-users and even a temporary suspension of services as a result of a workload overload.
IaaS business benefits
IaaS presents itself as an ideal value proposition for businesses that seek an aggressive expansion and a competitive edge through the following benefits:
- Economical technology – in the IaaS model businesses are no longer required to invest in expensive equipment. Resources are used on-demand and have a fixed cost. As such it becomes relatively predictable to calculate and respect an infrastructure budget.
- It preserves business continuity – in general, cloud infrastructures guarantee a higher degree of uptime and facilitate more disaster recovery options compared to on-prem systems. Redundancy is an inbuilt feature that facilitates fault tolerance. The distribution of resources in the cloud mitigates some of the dangers posed by a single point of failure scenarios.
- Innovation friendly – due to its modular approach and flexibility, IaaS beneficiaries have the option to test new products and ideas. In a bid to attract more customers, cloud providers tend to be among the first to adopt new equipment, services and technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to expand their offering to clients. This way businesses get hold of new technologies at a faster rate, compared to building an on-prem infrastructure.
- Promotes efficiency – resources are readily available. Companies can easily expand their infrastructure to accurately reflect their growth. Conversely, the risk of wasting resources by overbuilding is diminished.
- Enhanced productivity – the cloud provider is the one responsible for setting up and maintaining the underlying hardware components. Without this burden, the development team can focus on enhancing the company’s product and features, redirecting resources and manpower towards more strategic initiatives.
- Scalability – one of the most attractive aspects of IaaS is its scalability potential. Depending on their needs, businesses can swiftly scale up or down to meet workload demand.
- It enables faster time to market – the high levels of flexibility and scalability translate to streamlined development life cycles.
IaaS business use cases
Due to the wide range of benefits it facilitates, IaaS can be utilized in a series of meaningful business use cases:
- Test and development – the ability to add or subtract computing resources make IaaS an ideal ecosystem for quickly setting up testing and development environments at a low cost.
- Versatile application framework – IaaS supports cloud-native applications, enterprise-grade applications and websites at a reasonable cost. IaaS can also be used to quickly deploy and scale web-based and mobile applications.
- Disaster recovery – with the ability to quickly allocate new resources, companies can harness the reliability and scalability potential of IaaS to create multiple disaster recovery mechanisms and redundant systems that can take over the workload in case of a failover.
- Big data analysis and high-performance computing – storing, managing and analyzing big data require a tremendous amount of processing power. With its ability to handle large workloads, IaaS can act as an ideal environment for big data.
- Manage traffic and workload spikes – through its unparalleled levels of scalability, IaaS is an ideal environment for managing unexpected traffic or workload spikes.
- Fast resource allocation – IaaS makes it easy to pivot resources in case of a sudden shift in business priorities.
How is IaaS different from other cloud services?
Software as a Service (SaaS) often referred to as “on-demand software”, SaaS is a form of cloud computing that allows users to connect to and utilize cloud-based applications over the internet. Operating under a pay as you use model, SaaS offerings are an ideal solution for large scale enterprises as well as SMEs. A major advantage of the SaaS model is that it reduces users’ upfront cost by mitigates the need to purchase the software as well as a powerful on-prem infrastructure capable of running it, because all of the underlying infrastructure, middleware, software and application data are located on the service provider’s center. However, users need to keep in mind that the performance of SaaS services is dictated by internet connection speeds, as such fast network hardware is mandatory.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) primarily targets developers and programmers, enabling them to create, run and manage their own applications without needing to worry about building and maintaining a complex hardware infrastructure. All of the elements necessary for developing and maintaining a software application such as hardware installation, server maintenance, infrastructure updates are all covered by the cloud provider, leaving developers ample time to focus on their code and new features for their application.
Business can deploy an IaaS in one of the three different cloud service models:
Public clouds are a pool of virtual resources made available by hardware owned and managed by a third party company, the cloud provider, that is provisioned and allocated among multiple clients. Public clouds are an ideal way to circumvent expensive costs generated by purchasing, managing and maintaining on-premise hardware and application infrastructures. The sole responsibility for the management of hardware components rests with the cloud provider. Compared to traditional on-prem infrastructures, public clouds can be deployed considerably faster, holding an almost infinite scalability potential. Over the years, a number of data security and privacy concerns have been raised over public cloud environments, but if implemented correctly, public clouds represent an ideal way to stimulate business and gain a competitive advantage. At the moment of writing, the Modex BCDB solution is available as an Infrastructure as a Service offering on Microsoft Azure, one of the leading cloud providers available on the market.
Private clouds are a computing service that operates over the internet or a private internal network that is dedicated to a single end-user or a group of companies that operate as a consortium. They offer an extensive range of benefits, including scalability, elasticity and high levels of customization. Compared to public clouds, private clouds deliver higher levels of security and privacy facilitated by company firewalls and internal hosting. Data resides within a well-established perimeter and is not accessible to third party providers. A drawback of private clouds is the fact that it requires the same staffing, management, and maintenance expenses as traditional on-prem data centres. Overall, every type of cloud environment falls within the private typology once the underlying IT infrastructure is dedicated to a single customer (or group of customers that operate under the same banner) with completely isolated access.
A hybrid cloud is a computing environment that leverages the benefits of both public and public clouds. A system becomes a hybrid cloud when applications can move in and out of multiple separate cloud environments connected together by standardized or proprietary technology that facilitates data and application portability.
Modex BCDB, a blockchain solution on the cloud
Modex BCDB is published as a solution template on the Azure Marketplace. A solution template is a powerful tool that helps Azure subscribers set up multiple services and infrastructures connected by networks while also acting as a mechanism through which beneficiaries can install and configure a collection of machines. In short, it’s a more complex solution that helps Azure subscribers quickly deploy multiple services. The main benefit of a solution template stems from its ability to significantly reduce deployment time by relying on automation and scripting. Another important benefit stems from its ability to remove or hide complexities through an abstraction layer that significantly simplifies the interaction with the deployment process.
Azure subscribers are now able to access and deploy with the push of a button a blockchain database infrastructure that enhances data security and data management operations. Modex enables companies to customize and deploy from a wizard interface the network infrastructure in a matter of minutes, compared to the weeks and even months required for deployment by other solutions present on the market. Once a client configures the network according to the business logic of their company, Modex begins to set up the infrastructure and virtual machines according to the network configurations chosen by the client. Once that step is complete, Modex will coordinate the client’s configuration settings while also providing the blockchain and database technological layer.
Through the Modex BCDB solution template, Azure subscribers are just a few clicks away from setting up and configuring their own Modex BCDB infrastructure. Once a set of minimal information has been passed in the installation interface, and the deploy button is hit, the Azure platform takes over all the heavy lifting and allocates all the hardware required for the backend processes. After the automated setup process concludes, beneficiaries have a fully deployed BCDB infrastructure and workbench at their disposal that can be used to add a blockchain backend to their applications.
The BCDB enhanced IaaS
Devised as a solution that can easily complement existing infrastructures and systems, Modex has utilized its technological layer that combines traditional database systems with a blockchain layer to augment and enhance some key-value areas where IaaS offerings are still lacking:
- Security – there is a common misconception that cloud service providers are solely responsible for securing their clients’ data. The fact of the matter is that data security is a joint responsibility between cloud providers and the beneficiary. The global hacking campaign known as “Cloud Hopper” is probably the most notable example of this point. By utilizing complex encryption mechanisms, hashing algorithms and through the distributed nature of its blockchain component, Modex BCDB adds a much-needed layer of security to cloud infrastructures.
- Removing integration friction points – IaaS offers the ideal building blocks for creating new IT infrastructures from the ground up. But transitioning an existing system to the cloud is still a difficult task, especially if we take into consideration legacy systems. Designed as a middleware, hybrid solution, Modex BCDB can seamlessly connect to existing systems through a set of custom connectors. Once connected to an application, Modex BCDB grants access to all of the inherent advantages of blockchain technology without affecting the user’s interaction with the original system.
- Customizable encryption – public cloud users may have limited control and ability to customize. Modex BCDB comes with an inbuilt encryption mechanism that can be set to function at the field level or at the column level.
- Data availability – even the largest cloud service provider experiences downtime. By distributing data across an intricate web of computer nodes, the BCDB solution unlocks new levels of availability for companies most valuable asset, their data.
- Enhanced data visibility and transparency – the Modex technological layer unlocks data traceability through which data owners can determine who accessed their information.
- Privacy and data ownership – a major downside of public cloud infrastructures is that data owners are required to cede a portion of control over their data to the cloud provider. Through the clever use of hashing, Modex BCDB creates a hash digest of the information stored in the database and moves it into the blockchain to act as proof of ownership.