Strength In Numbers: Demystifying the Cloud

March 9, 2018 Matt Duffy

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In this post of our Strength in Numbers series, Matt Duffy breaks down the importance of the cloud.

The cloud is ubiquitous. It’s storing the photos you take with your phone; it’s on TV commercials solving formless, undefined problems; and according to your neighbor, it’s the wave of the future, and the future is here. But what are we really talking about when we talk about “the cloud”? And more importantly, how can we use “the cloud” to solve everyday business challenges that we face?

In most business contexts, cloud solutions typically involve the outsourcing of various data and networking infrastructure components to a third party provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP). For a simple example, if your server no longer suits your data storage needs, you could buy an expensive new server for thousands of dollars, or you could pay pennies per gigabyte to store data on a secure, FISMA compliant, scalable, on-demand storage platform like AWS Simple Storage Service (S3) with no performance loss. Often, the latter is the more cost-effective solution.

We all want to do more with our data, and managers are often challenged to find data-driven solutions to their problems. We can build many of those solutions in the cloud:

  • Real-time data summaries, data visualizations, and customized reports. We can use cloud platforms to develop a solution which stores and manages the data, and updates the data in real time. With this infrastructure in place, we can build a secure web-based application accessible by multiple users to visualize the data, generate reports, and streamline data-driven solutions, all on one cost-effective, secure cloud platform.
  • Using machine learning to find hidden patterns. We can use cloud platforms to increase our computational capacity. Large machine-learning models that would take hours or days to run on a typical desktop computer, may run in minutes on the cloud, increasing the speed by which we can deliver important business insights.
  • Streamline processes. Cloud solutions can also speed up the process of developing data solutions that leaders and managers need. Since cloud platforms allow users to outsource a slice of their infrastructure, managers can forego many of the in-house requirements for providing the solution, like seeking all of the approvals necessary to make software or hardware changes. Cloud developers working with the cloud platform handle licensing issues and build cloud environments custom made for particular softwares and solutions to ensure smooth transitions from idea phase to planning phase to implementation.

Summit has developed cloud solutions serving all three of the above purposes. For example:

  • A federal client required advanced modeling, model version control, and report generation on a single platform accessible by the client and two additional organizations. Summit developed a fully integrated cloud-based platform combining reporting software, model development software, version-control software, and menu-driven model management all accessible through a secure web framework. The platform automatically scaled to the level of computational efficiency required for the advanced predictive models, and model run times decreased from days to hours. The result was an optimized platform, accessible to all relevant stakeholders.
  • A litigation client required a large-scale machine-learning model. Running the model on a local computer took one week before Summit constructed and introduced a cloud solution. Summit’s solution reduced run times to five hours.

Leaders and managers seeking to improve their use of data should consider cloud based solutions to unlock the power of their data. Contact Summit if you would like to learn how we can help your organization through the power of the cloud.

You can read the rest of our Strength in Numbers blog series here.

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