Recently, I sat down with Microsoft’s Director of Justice & Public Safety Solutions, Rick Zak, to discuss cloud technology and the benefits it provides to public safety agencies. In a previous post, we discussed questions many public safety agencies have about cloud security. Today, I want to focus on topics such as configurability and the different types of cloud technologies and solutions.
Kristen Goode: Some of the most common questions we receive are about configurability in the cloud. Since every agency is different, how can an agency configure the cloud to meet its unique needs, and how difficult is it to configure?
Rick Zak: Yes, public safety agencies are able to customize their cloud-based technologies, but there is some nuance here. One key thing to keep in mind is that there are three different ways we can view the cloud: as hardware, as a platform for connection, and as software.
If we view it as hardware, we’re essentially utilizing the data centers of cloud providers – data centers that are more robust, secure, and cost-effective than what public safety agencies have. The theory being that it’s cheaper for cloud providers to store agency data, and it frees up space for agencies.
If we view it as a platform, we’re utilizing it as a place for public safety agencies to collaborate – it’s not in anybody’s data center. It’s one common layer that everybody connects to, allowing them to get what they need without wires.
If we view it as software, we’re moving back to a model similar to the cloud as hardware – with the cloud serving as a platform that connects everything together. The difference is, in this model, agencies get capabilities, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning, that are only available in the cloud.
So, yes, agencies are able to configure the cloud to meet their needs, but it depends on how it’s deployed and where they set the dial – how much they do versus how much their cloud providers do. There are four deployment options: on-premise, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
KG: What are the differences between on-premises, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS?
RZ: With on-premises, everything stays in the agency’s data center. This is how systems have traditionally been deployed, and there’s no cloud involved.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) allows agencies to utilize the cloud as an extension of their data centers, but they still control everything. Many people see this as a first step into the cloud.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) has the cloud providers doing almost everything, except for managing the data and the applications on top.
Software as a Service (SaaS) gives all responsibility to the provider. Agencies pay for a subscription, and everything resides in the cloud. They access the needed software via browsers and sometimes mobile apps.
For an agency to select the deployment type that’s right for them, they must decide how much they want to do and how much control they want. If they want to own the whole cloud and have control over everything, here’s a lot to configure, administer, and maintain. If all they want the cloud to do is provide effective computing power coming out of a pipe, they don't have to do anything at all.
KG: What are some examples of solutions I can only get in the cloud?
RZ: Great question. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are two examples that are crucial solutions for agencies, and to work effectively they require the amount of compute resources only the cloud can deliver. Another issue the cloud solves that’s vital for emergency management folks is availability. Early on, the emergency management community recognized that the cloud’s security, resilience, and reliability meant having computing infrastructure that was always there and always on. It can also very easily scale up to provide more resources during extreme events. This provides a real value in the emergency management world.
What other questions do you have about the cloud?
Ask us on social media and look for more cloud questions and answers soon. Interested in moving your public safety agency to the cloud? Check out the HxGN OnCall portfolio of public safety solutions.