Alberto Roura is an Alibaba Cloud MVP, Tech Writer and an ACP Certified professional. He is the founder of Cirrus Audit, a Cloud Consultancy business that is currently trialing a public beta of its first SaaS product for SMEs, a multi-cloud optimization tool with special focus on APAC providers. This week, he will share his story with us.
Cirrus Audit Panel is the multi-cloud resource optimisation SaaS platform I'm building. Targeted to Small & Medium (SME) businesses, it aims to help IT professionals deal with multiple cloud providers and accounts at the same time, all without worrying too much about the technical jargon. You can see how a Virtual Machine or DB performs and costs within seconds, no matter the provider or account.
Currently, Cirrus Audit Panel supports Alibaba Cloud, Tencent Cloud, AWS, Azure and DigitalOcean (with many others to follow). This tool is especially useful for APAC companies as it supports the 2 biggest providers in the area, especially Alibaba Cloud, which is the main player in this region and third globally.
Traditionally, this type of cloud tools supported only one provider and usually becomes very slow if more than one user are using it at the same time, as the same back-end needs to deal with multiple API calls simultaneously. The solution usually comes by throwing a load balancer with multiple ECS instances in it to deal with the growing demand. Expensive, but an easy fix. Of course, this path makes the final subscription price quite high due to the resource footprint. This was never an issue as, at the end of the day, only big companies were dealing with cloud computing extensively.
Well, welcome to 2019! The market is not only experiencing a huge growth, there are also new players in the field and millions of on premises servers are being migrated to the cloud.
The promise of managed resources and the lack of O&M tasks is especially tempting for small companies, so SMEs are jumping on it as well, but at a cost. SMEs usually can't afford qualified employees capable of efficiently identifying and optimizing its usage and they end up paying more than what they should. This, added to the high prices of the mentioned optimization tools, makes them unable to really achieve anything efficiently at all.
So this is why I came up with this idea; I needed to develop a platform capable of dealing with thousands of requests but at the same time affordable for small and medium companies. I even wanted to offer a Free plan! That, essentially, meant that the underlying infrastructure capacity needed to adapt precisely and instantly to the demand.
Not an easy task all of a sudden.
With the above in mind, and the fact that the cloud market is growing so fast in the APAC region, I needed to decide where to locate all my application's pieces in order to perform excellently where most of my customers would be, which are in countries like Australia, Singapore, India and China.
The ability to deploy a whole copy of my platform with a few commands in China, or the opportunity to setup an outstanding CDN service to accelerate requests, made Alibaba Cloud the clear winner in this case.
The other winning point was the amount of professional support received. I first started to develop the application on AWS and I felt I needed to rely too much on online forums. However, I often couldn't find the proper help due to the nature of my business needs, where the approach wasn't a traditional one. The support I got from Alibaba Cloud was out of this world, they fully jumped in when I first approached them with the idea.
As stated by Zhang Jianfeng, president of Alibaba Cloud and CTO of Alibaba Group, "Alibaba Cloud is not trying to be a SaaS provider, instead, it wants to provide a platform for its SaaS partners to get businesses onboard more readily and help them better adapt to the digital age". This was so clear to me when working with them. They benefit from partnering and helping companies and people around the world, it's so smart, it's a win-win scenario. Alibaba doesn't only provide products; they help you along the way when using them.
So, Alibaba Cloud to the rescue! Cirrus Audit is leveraging a range of products from this cloud provider such as OSS, API Gateway, Function Compute, Log Store and Table Store. It makes a really nice serverless ecosystem altogether.
If you are unaware of what serverless is, keep reading. Serverless is a new computing paradigm in which you can build applications composed of micro-services running as a response to events. Under this model the services automatically scale according to the usage. This means that you only get charged when they are executed in 100ms billing blocks, becoming the most "Pay-As-You-Go" model ever. This reduces the overall cost of maintenance for your apps, enabling you to focus more on the logic and deploying faster. Read more about serverless and Alibaba Cloud in this special article I wrote.
The following diagram exposes how pieces are connected.
Architecture diagram of Cirrus Audit Panel
With the above mentioned, you can see how a classic ECS instance under a Load Balancer wasn't an option, as that would make the platform as any other out there, as expensive as any other out there. My goal was to better serve small companies, so only a serverless approach was feasible.
Special thanks to the team at Alibaba Sydney. Their help made possible the use of the latest and most efficient backend technology I could imagine. Bringing this platform to life is been extremely hard and laborious for me, as I kept challenging myself and my software development notions to make something new and unique.
Read more about Cirrus Audit at Why I Chose to Build Cirrus Audit on Alibaba Cloud?
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