Amazon is the New Coal Tar, and I Mean That in a Good Way

Ages ago, before the documentary channels on satellite and cable degenerated into today’s freak shows of bounty hunters, “reality” Prima Donnas, conspiracies and the paranormal, they carried programming that could actually teach you something. Shows like the multiple incarnations of Connections contained solid history and the science behind the developments being discussed.

One thing I learned is that coal tar was surprisingly useful despite its rather dreary name. Being a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and other chemicals, it was a crucial material in several technical developments over the past couple of centuries.

Look deeply enough into a modern product, and you’re likely to run into coal tar in its history.

What does this have to do with cloud computing, and especially cloud security?

When Amazon Web Services first appeared for its early adopters, it was simply the bare AWS products. If you want self-deployed pay-as-you go servers with great network connectivity and performance-for-price ratio, EC2 is there. Of course you have to do your own system administration, but that has to be done in-house as well. For storage, there is EBS if you want it to act like a disk, or S3 if you want even higher reliability along with some abstraction.

Then Amazon rolled out more and more services — database services, content delivery service and DNS to tie it all together, and the ability to elastically grow and shrink your cloud architecture in response to dynamic requirements.

It all had a bit of a Heathkit or mad scientist air for some people, though. You had to understand operating systems and server administration to use AWS.

Then the cloud brokers or cloud butlers appeared, to give you guidance and do some of the work for you.

After that, more and more companies started offering products based out in the cloud, using AWS and other early cloud providers as their raw material.

Want data storage with the ease of use and the data integrity and availability of Dropbox, but you also need confidentiality? There’s a market for that, so now there’s a product.

Want a security event monitoring and management system with a friendly browser-based dashboard, but you don’t want to maintain it yourself? There’s a market for that, so now there’s a product. It’s based out in Amazon’s EC2 cloud, but the typical user would never realize that.

We’re getting to the point where many organizations who don’t think they’re using the cloud really are. You just have to dig to find it, like the coal tar making your television possible.

Learning Tree’s Cloud Security Essentials course shows you the security strengths and limitations of the cloud raw materials and the growing catalog of products and services built on top of that.

Bob Cromwell

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