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Showing posts with label Orlando. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orlando. Show all posts

Sunday, May 28, 2017

An essential guide to the serverless ecosystem

Serverless computing is gaining momentum in the IT industry, and for good reason. Despite being a relatively new capability, it has captured the imagination of many technologists with the promise of delivering such benefits as shortened time to market, improved operational and security practices, and a revolutionary economic model based on pay-as-you-go pricing.
You may already understand the essentials of serverless architecture. But what does the overall serverless ecosystem look like, and what options do you have? In this guide I map it all out for you. I'll start with function as a service (FaaS), the linchpin of serverless computing, and expand into the cloud services used for building serverless architectures across major public and private cloud providers. From there I'll review the frameworks and tools you can use when building systems using a serverless stack. Finally, I'll draw the boundaries around "serverlessland" and show you where it lives in the overall world of cloud services.
The essential guide to serverless technologies and architectures

It all started with FaaS

Despite vendor claims that serverless computing was born long ago, it actually started with the arrival of FaaS. The preview release of AWS Lambda, announced in November 2014, put FaaS firmly on the cloud computing map. (Amazon promoted Lambda to general availability status in April 2015.)
Yes, it was possible to run applications without directly managing servers before FaaS, using Google App Engine, Heroku, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, and others. But those compute services never offered a function-oriented execution model or per-invocation billing. Instead, they usually provided elastic scalability for server- or application-oriented workloads.
After AWS arrived, the other big public cloud providers began working on their own FaaS platforms. Azure Functions was released in preview in March 2016 and became generally available the following November. The preview release of Google Functions was released in February 2016 and promoted to beta on March 2017. The date of general availability is still unknown. There are many other FaaS platforms out there as well. 

Why functions are not enough

While FaaS provides a way to execute arbitrary business logic using the function as a deployment and execution unit, by itself it’s not particularly powerful. The power of a serverless platform is only realized when you can integrate functions with many other services to build complete architectures.
Many people use the terms FaaS and serverless interchangeably, but there's an important distinction between the two concepts.
  • FaaS is a compute service that uses functions as the primary abstraction for deployment, scalability, execution, and billing. 
  • Serverless is a form of platform as a service (PaaS) that's ideal for event-driven, potentially volatile workloads. It combines FaaS with other cloud services to build complicated systems, while offering scalability, operability, integrated security, and pay-per-use billing.

Serverless platforms: The options

At the moment the most effective way to build serverless architectures is to pick one of the many serverless platforms on offer and take full advantage of all of its capabilities. Here are your choices:

Amazon Web Services

Amazon was the first major cloud provider to roll out FaaS capability, in the form of AWS Lambda.
The power of a serverless platform is determined to a substantial degree by the number and quality of capabilities you can leverage within it. On AWS, functions can be triggered by an increasing number of other services. These include notifications from S3 buckets, HTTP requests from API Gateway, record changes in DynamoDB tables, messages arriving on SNS topics, and Kinesis streams. Lately, AWS has placed more emphasis on FaaS as the primary, or even sole, compute service that integrates with many of the new services.
You can use AWS Lambda functions to power IoT back endsAlexa skills, conversational bots using Lex, and workflows with step functions. And the FaaS compute approach is being pushed into other execution environments, such as when using functions to augment the behavior of CloudFront, Amazon’s content delivery network, and even into IoT devices, with AWS Greengrass.
As with any other distributed system, building serverless architectures requires excellent support from IT operations. AWS Lambda integrates seamlessly with CloudWatch, the monitoring and logging service. Besides providing out-of-the-box log aggregation and metric collection, AWS CloudWatch lets you use Lambda functions to customize the operational capabilities of the platform.
Functions can be triggered by CloudWatch events (which can support scheduled function execution) and by CloudWatch log streams, and can react to CloudWatch metric alarms via a social network service.
Recently, X-Ray, a distributed tracing service, started supporting AWS Lambda (preview release) so that you can monitor and trace complex data flows. And AWS IAM, the identity and access control service, provides an integrated and fine-grained security model for function execution.

Microsoft Azure

Despite joining the serverless race quite a while after AWS, Azure is making steady progress toward becoming a competitive platform. At this point, Azure Functions can be triggered by Azure Storage blob notifications, HTTP (REST or webhook) requests, events from Azure Event Hubs, or messages from storage queues or service bus queues or topics, or the triggers can be based on a schedule.
Azure adopts a more structured configuration model for its functions. It allows input and output bindings to be attached to the function, greatly simplifying—or completely removing—the code required to integrate with other services from within the function itself. Contrast this with AWS, where the SDK must be used for any form of integration. Similarly, Azure enables a few external integrations out of the box. For example, you can send text messages via Twillio or email messages using SendGrid.
When it comes to operational support for the serverless platform, however, Azure falls a bit short of AWS. Monitoring metrics are only available when using the App Service plan, which requires running a function on virtual machines managed by the cloud tenant. Is that really serverless?
And if functions are executed on the provider-managed compute, no monitoring information is available. Instead, Azure provides a set of guidelines. Also, it defines security policies for functions implicitly, based on input and output bindings, rather than explicitly configuring them using a dedicated service, as with AWS.

Google Cloud Platform

Google has yet to make its Google Cloud Platform (GCP) FaaS capability generally available, but it already provides some of the same core integration capabilities as AWS and Azure. You can trigger Google Functions by Cloud Storage bucket notifications, HTTP requestsCloud Pub/Sub events, and a few types of Firebase events (Firebase is Google’s mobile-back-end-as-a-service platform).
Operationally, GCP provides well-integrated support for the functions in Google's Stackdriver monitoring service. As with AWS, logs emitted from Google Functions are automatically stored, in this case by Stackdriver. Logging and metrics are recorded by Stackdriver Monitoring, and GCP offers a Stackdriver Debugger that you can use to investigate the behavior of function’s code. That's quite helpful when troubleshooting. GCP’s security model is somewhat different from that of AWS, however, and it doesn't yet provide support for fine-grained security policies.

IBM Bluemix/OpenWhisk

IBM Bluemix is a PaaS offering that includes Apache OpenWhisk, an open-source FaaS/serverless platform with capabilities similar to offerings from the big three public cloud providers. Because OpenWhisk is an open-source project, you have complete visibility into the workings of the FaaS platform, and it's extensible and customizable. When running Bluemix, you can run OpenWhisk on your own infrastructure on-premises, in the cloud, or as a fully managed platform.
Functions (called "actions "in OpenWhisk) can be triggered by HTTP requests, messages from Apache Kafka or Message Hub topics, changes in Cloudant noSQL DB tables, scheduled events, or virtually any type of external system, provided an integration has been created for it.
From an IT operations point of view, OpenWhisk focuses mostly on the visual presentation of activities associated with function execution but also allows command-line interface-based polling for activity logs. Sadly, metrics, logging collection, and storage are not yet available, and the security model is not very well defined or documented. Developers may need to manage it explicitly, without a great deal of support from the platform.

Other FaaS platform choices

Many other products and projects are competing for a place in the serverless space. Some only offer FaaS capabilities (optionally with HTTP access to functions), while others provide a few other services, such as messaging or storage. Most started as BaaS providers and have rebranded themselves as serverless products. A few of note include: 
  • Iron.io, one of the most complete platforms in this group. It offers a FaaS product called IronWorker, as well as a distributed queue service (IronMQ) and cache service (IronCache).
  • PubNub, which allows for arbitrary code, called blocks, to execute within real-time messaging flows while it takes care of managing scalability of the compute stack.
  • Webtask.io, a mobile BaaS platform that you can use for running arbitrary code. It's packaged as "webtasks" and offers good support for creating Slack bots.
  • Hook.io, a similar product that offers its own key-value data store, as well as integrations with many cloud storage services.
  • You'll also find many open-source projects that provide FaaS abstraction on top of container schedulers. These include FunktionFissionKubelessFuncatron, and FaaS.

Frameworks and tools

While serverless platforms sounds great, they don't always offer the best developer experience. That's why it makes sense to create or use frameworks and tools. In fact, the serverless space is experiencing something like the Cambrian Explosion when it comes to available tool options. New offerings are emerging rapidly, and you have many choices.
The Serverless Framework (formerly JAWS), which offers integrations with all major platform providers, is the most popular option today. Others you might consider include Chalice (Python, AWS), Zappa (Python, AWS), ClaudiaJS (Node, AWS), Dawson (Node, AWS), Shep (Node, AWS), Sparta (Go, AWS), and Lambada Framework (Java, AWS).
Besides frameworks, you can find many tools that can help you build and deploy functions or serverless architectures. For example, you can use HashiCorp Terraform as an alternative to your provider's own infrastructure-provisioning capabilities (such as AWS CloudFormation). Other popular tools include ApexGordon, and Kappa.

Where serverless fits in the cloud computing landscape

Many technologies and products provided PaaS and BaaS capabilities before either FaaS or serverless became popular. You had lots of SaaS products offering anything that could possibly be consumed either as an end-user functionality or a third-party product that could be integrated into an application or a system.
These categories are still relevant now, even with FaaS and serverless entering the cloud computing landscape. To recap:
  • FaaS is a high-abstraction compute service where the service provider takes full control over managing compute resources, including the runtime process executing the code.
  • Serverless describes a specialized PaaS that combines FaaS for compute with other managed cloud services in order to create scalable architectures that are cost-effective to operate.
  • BaaS offers back-end capabilities to browsers or mobile apps. It can be delivered on top of the serverless stack, as well as on a container-as-a-service (CaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or other technology stack.
  • SaaS just means any software-based system offered without the need to run it on your own infrastructure. SaaS systems can be built on any technology stack; what matters is how users consume it.
No doubt, the word serverless will be used to describe all of these other services, and that may confuse many people. But that’s okay, as long as in the end the IT industry experiences even greater innovation. Your businesses will certainly benefit from the increased business agility that comes from adopting serverless computing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Your Company Blog Is Still Just as (or More) Powerful Than Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook

Today, it can be easy to disregard something like blogging as un-sexy and outdated in terms of being a viable channel to market your business. Plus, with a new social media platform arising virtually every year, neglecting blogging is easier now than ever before.
Despite this, having an active, curated company blog is just as important today as it was 10 years ago (if not more important).
In this article, you will discover a handful of reasons why you should still blog even if you’re killing it on much newer, hipper social media platforms. You’ll also learn four strategies on how to maximize blog traffic and the influence of your blog.

Why You Should Still Write a Blog

1. Longer Lifespan of Content

For the most part, Instagram and Snapchat content doesn’t show up in Google’s search results. On top of that, the lifespan of a Snap is a mere 24 hours. On Instagram, posts are lucky to stay relevant longer than 13 hours.
The short life cycle of this social media content is certainly a double-edged sword: the fact platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are so real-time means they facilitate the fluid exchange of ideas and information. All this makes them timely and relevant, thus powerful tools.
On the flip side, it also makes content on the same platforms fleeting, causing it to be difficult for businesses to keep up with the “digital Joneses” when it comes to social media. It is in the best interest of these social media platforms to ask for more content. It is in the best interest of Google to ask for the best content.
By having a company blog, customers could potentially be reeled in years down the road, all with a single piece of high quality content.

2. Impact on SEO

Image Credit: VerticalResponse.com
Despite the amount of media attention given to Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and company, you shouldn’t forget that there are approximately 3.5 billion Google searches conducted every single day.
Comparatively, Facebook sees an estimated 2 billion searches per day, and Pinterest approximately 2 billion searches per month. Instagram’s total monthly user count just recently reached one-fifth of Google’s number of daily searches, and Snapchat is even further behind.
It’s clear Google is still the world’s top search engine. In order to get the most out of Google, you should be taking SEO (search engine optimization) into close consideration. When it comes to SEO, writing quality blog posts is a terrific way for your company to climb up the search rankings.
The higher your SEO, the higher your probability of landing a client who stumbles across your work through Google in the future.

3. Ownership

Time and again, history has proven that the relevance of social media networks is a hard thing to predict. Just remember, Myspace was king from 2005 to 2008, Tumblr was popular from 2007 to 2013, and Vine was hottest from 2013 to 2015.
Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and the rest are all terrific platforms to use in order to garner the attention of your audience and to grow an audience, but using them as your company’s “home base” could prove unwise.
Blogs are much different. They are yours and only yours. No one else can take them away from you…well, except GoDaddy or Google Domains, but you get the point.

Successful Blogging Strategies

Now that you know a handful of reasons why blogging is still an indispensable marketing strategy, the real work begins. To help you, here are some tips and best practices to use to make sure your blog is getting the maximum exposure it deserves.

Leverage Platforms Like the One You’re Reading on Right Now — Medium ;)

It’s no surprise that today’s online landscape is saturated, and the blogosphere is no different. That’s why fresh platforms like Medium are such a valuable asset to have to increase the traffic and influence of your company blog.
Medium provides the perfect venue to showcase your own blog because it is (more or less) a blog in itself. It is a channel designed specifically for written content.
Additionally, Medium provides users with something they can’t automatically get from a standalone blog: a built-in audience of more than 30 million monthly users. Medium gives users the scale that would otherwise take years to build and nurture with a standalone blog.
Ready to get started? Here are some pointers:
  1. Read Quincy Larson’s article, which analyzes the best practices of the top 252 Medium articles in 2016.
  2. Use tools like Rabbut and Upscribe to seamlessly capture your reader’s emails, preferably after offering them a freebie (ebook, video course, etc.) in exchange for their email address.
  3. Use Medium to republish content from your company blog, and be sure to include a link to the original post so readers can stay in touch with you.
  4. Try your very best to get published on a large, relevant publication. To do this, reach out to the respective editor (via email or Twitter) with a link to your 100% completed article. Include a quick pitch going over why your content would be a great fit for the publication.

Don’t Be Afraid to Pay

Don’t be too shy to pay to promote your blog in the form of social media advertising (via Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, and Twitter ad, etc.).
Social media moguls like Gary Vaynerchuk think Facebook advertising is single most valuable commodity in the online marketing world today, so it could definitely be worth your while to put some dollars behind the medium.
To get started, watch this short tutorial video covering how to create and manage Facebook Ads.

Use Quora

Neil Patel, digital marketing expert and founder of four multi-million dollar companies, preaches to his audience to search on Quora to discover which questions are being asked most often in your niche. You can find these questions in the Top FAQ section of the website.
After you find a question you like, write an answer to it in the form of a blog post. This will increase the likelihood others will search for and see the post, find it valuable, and come back for more.


You never can go wrong with networking, and tools like Meetup.com, Facebook Groups, and LinkedIn Groups make meeting like minded people easier now than ever before. Set aside an hour to search for groups and meetups in your niche.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

Call to Action

If you really enjoyed this article and want to receive the shortened, PDF version of The 7 Mindset Shifts Needed for Successful Social Media Marketingthen click here to receive it now!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Your First Marketing Hire For A Startup

Your First Marketing Hire

As many have written (most recently Jason Lemkin on Quora), B2B marketing contains at least four really discrete disciplines: demand generation, product marketing, positioning/strategy, and PR/communications/branding. Increasingly, marketing technologist & operations is being broken out separately, but it otherwise falls into the demand generation role.
When it comes time to hire a company’s first marketing person, most founders think they just need a director or experienced individual contributor to start doing demand generation and bring in leads. They think, “I’ve got to make sales productive with leads.” They invest in SEO, spend thousands on SEM, turn on email marketing, and crank out webinars. That is one approach, but I’ll argue it is the wrong one.
I recommend starting with a director or senior product marketing manager who is willing and ready to roll up her sleeves for three key reasons:
1. In the early stages, all marketing is product marketing.
The most important marketing milestones are to articulate the value proposition in your customer’s’ eyes, position it relative to competition and alternatives and help the company tell its story. If you’re spending money to amplify a bad or wrong story, it’s money down a drain.
2. Making sales productive is sales enablement not lead gen.
Making the company’s new sales people productive *is* critical, but what sales most needs is sales enablement tools rather than leads. Product marketing creates company presentations, case studies, ROI calculators, the website, and materials for a webinar or conference presentation. Product marketers are domain experts who can create content for lead gen and generate thought leadership.
3. Product marketers by definition are generalists with broad skill sets.
Someone who is exclusively really great at Demand Gen is not likely to be good at articulating a great story. They look for short-term clicks vs. playing the long game, which is what positioning is. On the other hand, product marketers tend to be “athletes” who play a productive role and stand up other marketing disciplines. A product marketer can build the website, write and disseminate articles, pick and manage PR agencies, run an analyst tour, optimize website for search, initiate and manage a competent SEM campaign, and pick the first basic marketing tools.
Companies who do not do the positioning work up front do not build the necessary foundation.
The risk of NOT doing the positioning work up front is you get customers, but they’re not the best or right ones. Your single best marketing asset as an early B2B company are early customers who love you.
For example, one major online backup company did all performance-based acquisition in its early days. They took anyone whose money was green. Only when they saturated their early markets did they start working on positioning, but at that point Dropbox already dominated the conversations in their categories. Shifting awareness at that point took millions instead of the thousands it would have taken to own their position in those markets up front.
There are plenty of companies that have experience on one side of this line or the other. But even though it’s contrary to today’s conventional wisdom, at Costanoa we feel leading with product marketing is the way to go.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New Video from Manta Racks

New Video from Manta Racks

MANTA RACKS were designed to solve a long existing problem – to get your boards off the floor of your center console or other fishing boat’s floor and secure them. Our rack systems allow you to organize your boat to keep it clutter free, so that your guests can move freely without tripping over your boards and possibly being injured.

MANTA RACKS simply insert and lock into pre-existing flush mounted rod holders. You will have more fun with your family and friends when you “Take Your Boards.” You can increase your fishing experience when you “Take Your Boards.”



Edited by Chase Gregory from NSG Consulting.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Numbers Don't Matter, Influence Does

CEO, Entrepreneur, Investor, Best-Selling Author, Speaker, Jets Fan
The importance that people and brands place on follower counts or the impressions their content receives is grossly overvalued. I can’t say numbers don’t matter, but the value everyone places on these numbers needs to be reconsidered.There is just too much emphasis on the width of engagement—how many potential connections they make—rather than the depth of those interactions which, in my eyes, is far more important.


The entire marketing world is blinded by the notion that more impressions always correlates to a successful piece of content (the sad part is, most of them don’t care about the business outcomes). For example, you might hear somebody say “500,000 people saw my YouTube pre-roll ad!” But, the truth is that they likely didn’t. What probably happened was that as soon as the ad started, the “viewer” clicked away to another tab or did something else until it was over. Or looked at their phone…. So even though they didn’t pay attention, the analytics still show that they saw it.
Not only can an impression count be misleading, but it may not even reflect a positive consumer engagement. There are companies I will never buy from again because their pop-up ads annoyed me so much—you know, the ones that havehundreds of extra “clickthroughs” because someone accidentally clicked on it 8 times because the “close window” icon was too small. While those extra clicks look like engagement, they were only expressions of frustration with the brand. That context gets lost when we are playing in a world that treats impressions as a be-all, end-all.


The same misconception can be applied to follower counts: they only matter if the audience actually cares and actively consumes your content. Followers can be absolutely everything or absolutely nothing.
Let’s say you have 20,000 followers on Instagram and 12,000 of them buy ten copies of your book because you posted about it. That type of conversion means you have an engaged audience consuming your content. That’s valuable.
On the other hand, let’s say you have 200,000 purchased fans. When you post something and it gets zero engagement, those followers have zero value because (1) they either don’t care about your content or (2) they’re not real. Either way, your follower count does not represent their real value to you.
Even the thought that a low number of followers can be considered “irrelevant” makes no sense to me. You can have 10, 10,000, or 1,000,000 followers and all it takes is for one post to be noticed by one person to cause a social media chain reaction. The absolute number does not matter. One retweet, one repost, one link in an email is enough to get the ball rolling.


Instead of talking about how many people see your content, we need to be focusing on how much value that piece of content actually brings your audience. For a consumer to get excited about something, to be compelled to click an ad or watch a video, it comes down to caring about your audience’s attention. And in order for you to win, they really need to consume it. That’s the game.
In terms of organic reach, the #1 platform in the world right now is Instagram (even with the new algorithm). If you have 297 followers on Instagram, 150 of them are actually going to consume your posts. On the reverse side, someone with 3,000 followers on Twitter would not command nearly as much attention due to Twitter’s noise problem. For any platform, you need to understand the context of how your followers are consuming. Once you do that, you can reverse engineer how you can go deep to connect with that consumer and how that “impression” translates into actual interest.
For my newest book release, I sent free advance copies to over 1,000 Instagram influencers and asked them to post a substantial longform review with a photo. Not on Amazon, not on Twitter, not on their blog, but Instagram. Why? Because I day trade attention and I understood that this tactic was going to command the most amount of awareness.
Snapchat also has great organic reach right now. It’s the reason why I’ve been so excited for custom Snapchat filters and Story takeovers. When someone is using a filter or watching a Story, they have intent and you can be sure they’re paying attention. Remember, it’s about depth, not width. It’s not how many you reach, it’s how many you connect with.
Bottom line: I don’t care how many people see something, “I care about how many people see something.” Quality over quantity. Depth over width. Reach does not equal value and follower count doesn’t mean people are listening. We need to stop focusing on optimizing the number of views and instead concentrate on making each one of those viewers care about your brand. Because, at the end of the day, that’s the only way you’ll drive results to your end goal.
This article was originally published at www.garyvaynerchuk.com/blog