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Primer for Secure Large Language Models (LLMs)

Large Language Models (LLMs) are undoubtedly a game-changer in the field of artificial intelligence, empowering us to interact with computers in more intuitive ways. From generating human-like text to language translation and question-answering, LLMs have demonstrated their capabilities across various domains. However, like any revolutionary technology, LLMs come with their fair share of security risks. As engineers and developers, it is crucial to comprehend these risks and employ strategies to safeguard against potential misuse. In this article, we will explore the top 10 security risks associated with LLMs, as identified by the Open Worldwide Application Security Project (OWASP), and delve into examples of LLM misuse. Additionally, we will outline actionable steps to mitigate these risks effectively.

Top 10 Security Risks for LLMs:

To understand the security landscape surrounding LLMs, let's examine the OWASP Top 10 for LLMs, which includes the following risks:



Data Poisoning

Malicious actors introduce incorrect or harmful data into an LLM's training dataset, leading the model to generate erroneous or harmful output.

Model Bias

LLMs trained on biased datasets may generate output that favors a particular group or viewpoint, perpetuating bias and potentially leading to discriminatory results.

Misinformation and Disinformation

LLMs can be misused to generate false or misleading information, which may be disseminated to spread misinformation or disinformation, negatively impacting individuals and society as a whole.

Advocacy and Manipulation

Malicious actors leverage LLMs to advocate for specific causes or manipulate people into taking particular actions, such as spreading propaganda or inciting violence.

Security Vulnerabilities

Due to their complexity, LLMs are vulnerable to security exploits, which could grant unauthorized access to the model or its underlying data.

Privacy and Confidentiality

LLMs often process sensitive data like personal information and intellectual property. Inadequate security measures could lead to data breaches, compromising user privacy and confidentiality.

Accountability and Transparency

LLMs deployed in black box systems can be challenging to understand or explain, making it difficult to hold them accountable for their actions. Lack of transparency raises ethical concerns and hampers investigations.


The substantial computing resources required to train and operate LLMs can have a negative impact on the environment, contributing to increased energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

LLM usage may be subject to various legal and regulatory requirements that vary across jurisdictions. Non-compliance can lead to legal liabilities and reputational damage for organizations.

Lack of Explainability

Many LLMs operate as black boxes, lacking explainability in their decision-making process. This hinders understanding the basis of their output and makes them challenging to validate and trust in critical applications.

Examples of LLM Misuse:

AI-generated Deepfake Videos

Malicious actors can misuse LLMs to create highly realistic deepfake videos, superimposing individuals' faces onto other bodies or making public figures appear to say or do things they never did. This could lead to widespread misinformation, causing reputational damage and sowing social discord.

Automated Phishing Attacks

Using LLMs to craft personalized and convincing phishing emails, attackers can exploit people's trust, leading them to reveal sensitive information or unwittingly install malware. Automated phishing campaigns could target thousands of individuals simultaneously, exponentially increasing the chances of successful attacks.

Automated Content Spamming

Malicious users might deploy LLMs to generate and distribute massive volumes of spam content across social media platforms, forums, and comment sections. This deluge of spam content can overwhelm legitimate discussions, tarnish brand reputation, and hamper user experience.

Identity Theft via Fake Profiles

LLMs can be used to create realistic profiles impersonating individuals, tricking users into believing they are interacting with genuine people. Such deception can be leveraged for identity theft, online scams, or social engineering attacks.

Mitigation Strategies for LLM Security Risks:

  1. High-Quality Data Training: Ensure LLMs are trained on high-quality data to reduce data poisoning and model bias risks. Implement data cleansing techniques, remove duplicates, and verify data sources to enhance data integrity.

  2. Responsible Data Usage: Exercise caution when inputting data into LLMs and critically evaluate output. Be aware of potential bias and misinformation in the generated content, cross-referencing it with reliable sources where necessary.

  3. Continuous Monitoring: Employ security tools to continuously monitor LLM behavior for signs of abuse or malicious activity. Unusual patterns, repeated requests for sensitive information, or unauthorized access attempts should be promptly investigated.

  4. Regular Security Patching: Keep LLMs up to date with the latest security patches to safeguard against known vulnerabilities. Take advantage of security updates provided by LLM vendors or developers.

Google Cloud's Security Features for GenAI Offerings

Google Cloud takes a comprehensive approach to security, providing a range of features to protect customer data and LLMs:

  1. Data Encryption: Google Cloud ensures that all data at rest and in transit is encrypted, reducing the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive information.

  2. Access Control: Google Cloud offers robust access control mechanisms, like role-based access control (RBAC), allowing users to control data access permissions effectively.

  3. Audit Logging: Comprehensive audit logging tracks all access to data, providing an invaluable tool for monitoring and investigating any unauthorized activities.

  4. Threat Detection: Google Cloud utilizes sophisticated threat detection mechanisms to identify and respond to malicious activities promptly.

  5. Incident Response: Google Cloud has a dedicated team of security experts available 24/7 to assist customers in responding to security incidents swiftly and effectively.

As mentioned earlier, Google takes data security very seriously for its Generative AI offerings. The architecture is built on a foundation of Large Base Models that form the backbone of GenAI. To ensure a customized and user-friendly experience, the Vertex AI API allows direct interaction with the models. Additionally, the Vertex AI Gen Studio offers a convenient UI experience for experimenting with the models. Customers can quickly build Search and Conversational apps using the GenAI App Builder.

Google Managed Tenant Projects are created for each customer project, residing in the same region to uphold data residency requirements. VPC Service Controls (VPC-SC) are implemented to monitor Google Cloud API calls within a customer-defined perimeter. Customers have control over their data encryption by managing their own keys (CMEK) and adding an extra layer of encryption (EKM). Access Transparency provides transparency by logging any actions taken by Google personnel.

Data security measures continue when running a Tuning Job, with weights stored in customer-managed VPC-SC boundaries and encrypted using Default Google Managed Keys or CMEK. Queries to Large Language Models are stored temporarily in memory and deleted after use, ensuring data confidentiality. During model inference, the tuned model weights are stored in memory for the duration of the process and deleted after use, further ensuring data security.

Further, Google Cloud also provides the Security AI Workbench, a cutting-edge security solution built on Vertex AI infrastructure and harnessing the comprehensive threat landscape visibility from Google Cloud and Mandiant. This innovative platform empowers defenders with natural, creative, and highly effective methods to ensure unparalleled organizational safety.

At the core of Security AI Workbench lies Sec-PaLM 2, a specialized security Large Language Model (LLM) that has been meticulously fine-tuned for security-specific use cases. By incorporating intelligence from Google and Mandiant, this LLM provides a powerful and adaptive approach to threat analysis and mitigation.

The platform's extensible plug-in architecture enables customers and partners to seamlessly integrate their custom solutions on top of the Workbench, ensuring full control and isolation over their sensitive data. This collaborative environment fosters a thriving ecosystem of security enhancements.

Security AI Workbench also places great emphasis on enterprise-grade data security and compliance support, providing peace of mind for organizations handling sensitive information. With a focus on safeguarding data integrity and compliance, this platform ensures that security measures meet the highest industry standards.

The Wrap

As engineers, understanding and mitigating the security risks associated with Large Language Models is of paramount importance. LLMs hold immense potential for positive transformation, but their misuse could have severe consequences. By remaining vigilant, proactive, and implementing best security practices, we can embrace the potential of LLMs responsibly, harnessing their benefits while safeguarding ourselves, our organizations, and society as a whole. Collaboration between the technology industry, security experts, and regulatory bodies is crucial to address LLM-related security challenges effectively and ensure the safe and ethical use of this groundbreaking technology.

Building a Fail-Safe Cloud Landing Zone on Google Cloud

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, organizations are increasingly adopting cloud technologies to drive innovation, scalability, and cost efficiency. As a cloud architect, I recognize the critical importance of establishing a robust and fail-safe Cloud Landing Zone (CLZ) on Google Cloud. 

In this blog, we will explore the key considerations, best practices, and steps involved in building a secure and resilient CLZ on Google Cloud.

  1. Understanding the Cloud Landing Zone (CLZ): A Cloud Landing Zone is the foundational architecture that provides a secure and well-governed framework for deploying workloads in the cloud. It acts as a launchpad for successful cloud adoption and serves as a centralized hub for managing security, compliance, and operational aspects of your cloud environment.

  2. Key Considerations for a Fail-Safe CLZ: When designing a fail-safe CLZ on Google Cloud, the following considerations are crucial:

    a. Security and Compliance:

    • Implement robust security measures, including network isolation, identity and access management, encryption, and vulnerability management.
    • Ensure compliance with relevant industry standards and regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA or GDPR.

    b. Resiliency and High Availability:

    • Design the CLZ to be highly available and fault-tolerant by leveraging features like regional or multi-regional deployments, load balancing, and automated failover mechanisms.
    • Implement backup and disaster recovery strategies to protect against data loss and ensure business continuity.

    c. Scalability and Elasticity:

    • Architect the CLZ for scalability and elasticity, allowing seamless expansion or contraction of resources based on workload demands.
    • Leverage Google Cloud's auto-scaling capabilities and managed services like Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) for efficient resource allocation.

    d. Cost Optimization:

    • Optimize costs by leveraging Google Cloud's cost management tools, monitoring usage, rightsizing resources, and adopting serverless and containerized architectures.
    • Implement governance mechanisms, such as budget alerts and resource tagging, to track and control cloud expenses.
  3. Best Practices for Building a Fail-Safe CLZ on Google Cloud: When building a fail-safe CLZ on Google Cloud, the following best practices should be considered:

    a. Well-Architected Framework:

    • Adhere to Google Cloud's Well-Architected Framework, which provides guidance on building secure, reliable, efficient, and cost-effective cloud solutions.
    • Leverage Google Cloud's architecture blueprints and reference architectures for CLZ design inspiration.

    b. Infrastructure as Code (IaC):

    • Utilize Infrastructure as Code tools like Google Cloud Deployment Manager, Terraform, or Deployment Manager for automated, consistent, and repeatable infrastructure provisioning.
    • Define infrastructure configurations in version-controlled templates for easier management and collaboration.

    c. Network Segmentation and Isolation:

    • Implement robust network segmentation using Google Cloud Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to isolate workloads and control network traffic flow.
    • Leverage Google Cloud's VPC Service Controls to enforce additional security boundaries.

    d. Monitoring, Logging, and Incident Response:

    • Implement comprehensive monitoring and logging solutions, such as Google Cloud Monitoring, Stackdriver Logging, and Cloud Audit Logs, to gain visibility into CLZ performance and security.
    • Establish an incident response plan that includes automated alerting, centralized logging, and proactive remediation.
  4. Steps to Build a Fail-Safe CLZ on Google Cloud: The following steps outline the process of building a fail-safe CLZ on Google Cloud:

    a. Define CLZ Requirements:

    • Identify the organization's cloud adoption goals, compliance requirements, and architectural principles.
    • Determine the target Google Cloud region(s) based on business needs and data residency considerations.

    b. Design CLZ Architecture:

    • Architect the CLZ with appropriate network topology, security controls, identity and access management, and workload placement strategies.
    • Consider leveraging Google Cloud's reference architectures and design patterns for a solid foundation.

    c. Implement Infrastructure as Code:

    • Utilize Infrastructure as Code tools to automate the provisioning of the CLZ resources.
    • Define configurations for networks, security groups, compute instances, storage, and other required components.

    d. Enable Security and Compliance:

    • Implement security controls, such as firewall rules, network segmentation, and encryption, to ensure data protection.
    • Establish compliance measures, such as identity management, audit logs, and data governance, to meet regulatory requirements.

    e. Establish Monitoring and Alerting:

    • Configure monitoring and alerting tools to proactively detect and respond to performance issues, security threats, and compliance violations.
    • Set up dashboards and notifications to track key performance indicators (KPIs) and receive timely alerts.

    f. Test and Validate:

    • Conduct thorough testing and validation of the CLZ architecture and its components.
    • Perform security assessments, penetration testing, and disaster recovery drills to ensure the CLZ's resilience.

    g. Document and Govern:

    • Document the CLZ architecture, configuration details, operational procedures, and troubleshooting guidelines.
    • Establish governance policies and practices to maintain the security, compliance, and scalability of the CLZ.

Building a fail-safe Cloud Landing Zone on Google Cloud is crucial for organizations looking to leverage the full potential of the cloud while ensuring security, resilience, and cost optimization. By following the key considerations, best practices, and step-by-step approach outlined in this blog, businesses can establish a solid foundation for successful cloud adoption on Google Cloud, enabling them to accelerate innovation, scale efficiently, and gain a competitive edge in today's dynamic market.

Modernizing Infrastructure: Migrating from On-prem VMware ESXi to Google Cloud

In today's fast-paced digital landscape, organizations strive to enhance their operational efficiency, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. One way to achieve these goals is by migrating from traditional on-premises infrastructure to the cloud. In this article, we will explore a hypothetical use case where an ITeS (Information Technology-enabled Services) customer embarks on a migration journey from on-prem VMware ESXi to Google Cloud. Specifically, we will delve into why a solution combining Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE) and Google Compute Engine (GCE) was implemented for this migration.

The Challenge: Our hypothetical ITeS customer, let's call them XYZ Solutions, has been running their IT operations on a traditional on-premises infrastructure using VMware ESXi virtualization. They face several challenges, including limited scalability, maintenance overheads, and high infrastructure costs. XYZ Solutions recognizes the need to modernize their infrastructure to gain the agility, scalability, and cost-efficiency offered by the cloud.

Migration Strategy: To address the challenges faced by XYZ Solutions, a well-planned migration strategy is crucial. The following steps outline the migration journey from on-prem VMware ESXi to Google Cloud:

  1. Assessment and Planning:

    • Evaluate the existing on-premises environment, including compute, storage, and networking requirements.
    • Identify dependencies, performance benchmarks, and specific workloads to be migrated.
    • Define the target architecture in Google Cloud and create a migration roadmap.
  2. Preparing for Migration:

    • Provision a secure and reliable connectivity solution between the on-premises environment and Google Cloud.
    • Prepare the source environment by ensuring compatibility, updating software, and resolving any configuration issues.
  3. Migrating to Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE):

    • GCVE enables a seamless migration of VMware workloads to Google Cloud without requiring code or application changes.
    • GCVE provides a fully managed VMware environment, allowing XYZ Solutions to retain their familiar VMware tools and processes.
    • Migrate VMs, virtual networks, storage, and associated configurations to GCVE using the VMware HCX migration tool.
  4. Post-Migration Validation:

    • Validate the migrated workloads to ensure they function as expected in the GCVE environment.
    • Perform comprehensive testing, including performance and functionality verification.
    • Optimize and fine-tune the migrated workloads to leverage Google Cloud services for improved performance and cost optimization.
  5. Modernization with Google Compute Engine (GCE):

    • Once the migration to GCVE is successfully completed, XYZ Solutions can gradually modernize their workloads using GCE.
    • GCE offers scalable, virtual machine-based infrastructure with advanced features like autoscaling, load balancing, and managed instance groups.
    • Migrate and refactor applications to GCE, taking advantage of its flexibility, high-performance VMs, and integration with Google Cloud's rich ecosystem of services.

Why GCVE + GCE for this Migration? 

The combination of GCVE and GCE was implemented for XYZ Solutions' migration due to several compelling reasons:

  1. Seamless VMware Compatibility:

    • GCVE provides a VMware-compatible environment, ensuring a seamless migration without the need for application or code modifications.
    • XYZ Solutions can leverage their existing VMware investments, tools, and processes while benefiting from Google Cloud's scalability and flexibility.
  2. Familiar Operational Model:

    • GCVE allows XYZ Solutions to maintain their existing VMware operational model, reducing the learning curve and ensuring a smooth transition for their IT team.
    • The familiar vSphere interface and compatibility with VMware tools enable efficient management of the migrated workloads.
  3. Flexibility and Scalability:

    • GCE complements GCVE by providing a scalable and flexible infrastructure for modernizing workloads in Google Cloud.
    • GCE's autoscaling, load balancing, and managed instance groups enable XYZ Solutions to handle varying workloads efficiently while optimizing costs.
  4. Integration with Google Cloud Services:

    • Migrating to GCE enables XYZ Solutions to take advantage of Google Cloud's extensive portfolio of services.
    • They can leverage services like Google Cloud Storage, BigQuery, Pub/Sub, and others to enhance their applications, data analytics, and machine learning capabilities.

The migration from on-prem VMware ESXi to Google Cloud is a strategic move for XYZ Solutions to modernize their infrastructure and gain the benefits of scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency offered by the cloud. By implementing a solution combining GCVE and GCE, XYZ Solutions can seamlessly migrate their VMware workloads to Google Cloud, retain their familiar VMware environment, and gradually modernize their applications. This migration journey sets the stage for XYZ Solutions to embrace the transformative potential of the cloud and embark on a path of digital innovation.

Terraforming a Landing Zone on Google Cloud

A landing zone is a well-defined and secure architecture on a cloud platform that serves as a starting point for an organization's cloud adoption journey. It typically includes a set of foundational resources, such as virtual private clouds (VPCs), subnets, security groups, and identity and access management (IAM) policies, that are required to establish a secure and stable environment for running applications and workloads on the cloud.

A landing zone on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is a set of resources that are created and configured in a specific way to meet the organization's security and compliance requirements, as well as to support its future cloud adoption strategy. These resources can include VPCs, subnets, firewall rules, IAM policies, and other cloud services that are needed to build and deploy applications on GCP.

The main purpose of a landing zone is to provide a secure and compliant environment for organizations to migrate their applications and workloads to the cloud, and to enable them to quickly and easily scale and manage their cloud infrastructure as their needs evolve over time. It serves as a foundation for an organization's cloud infrastructure and helps to ensure that it is well-architected, reliable, and secure.

Here is a basic Terraform script that you can use to create a landing zone on Google Cloud Platform (GCP):This script creates a virtual private cloud (VPC) network, a subnet within that network, and a firewall rule that allows incoming SSH connections from any IP address.

# Configure the Google Cloud provider
provider "google" {
  # Your GCP project ID
  project = "my-gcp-project"

  # The region where you want to create your resources
  region  = "us-central1"

# Create a VPC network
resource "google_compute_network" "my-vpc" {
  name                    = "my-vpc"
  auto_create_subnetworks = "true"

# Create a subnet
resource "google_compute_subnetwork" "my-subnet" {
  name          = "my-subnet"
  network       =
  ip_cidr_range = ""

  # The region where you want to create your subnet
  region        = "us-central1"

# Create a firewall rule
resource "google_compute_firewall" "allow-ssh" {
  name    = "allow-ssh"
  network =

  allow {
    protocol = "tcp"
    ports    = ["22"]

  source_ranges = [""]

You can then use this script as a starting point and customize it to meet your specific requirements. For example, you can add additional resources, such as Compute Engine instances or Cloud Storage buckets, and define their properties and dependencies.

Empirical Evaluation of FinOps Framework for Sustainable Cloud Engineering | Doctoral Research | Prasanjit Singh

Alongside my work in the Cloud Computing industry spanning 15+ years, I have always been a student and pursued academics. It was this quest that led me to complete my Bachelors and Masters degree in Computer Science and I am honoured to be now shortlisted as a PhD scholar in the same field.

In my doctoral pursuit, my research interests generally revolve around building & evaluating frameworks to achieve energy and cost efficiency for cloud computing systems. With the modern cloud computing platforms becoming increasingly large-scale and distributed there is a dire need to implement cost-effective and energy efficient systems that would lower carbon footprint for the whole planet. Following this spirit, and the advancements in the areas of Green Cloud Computing and evolution of FinOps practices, I'm pursuing an empirical approach to a sustainable form of distributed computing systems. 

My approach to addressing systems research challenges is grounded on concrete understanding through practical evaluation of real systems. In summary, the objectives of this research work are:

  • To create and analyze FinOps frameworks to achieve energy and cost efficiency for cloud computing systems.
  • To perform a detailed review and concrete knowledge of the practical assessment of real-time FinOps systems.
  • To embed sustainability into daily design, development and operational processes in cloud engineering.
I would be documenting my research outcomes in this repository and my youtube channel amongst other faculties. Thanks!

[FinOps] Cost Optimisation Strategies in Alibaba Cloud | Prasanjit Singh

Alibaba Cloud offers a plethora of services to assist customers with their Cloud cost management, i.e., the structural planning that lets a company manage the costs of cloud technology. However, many users struggle to control their expenditure. Here are some points that you can use to reduce Alibaba Cloud costs for your company.

  • Terminate unused ECS instances

Using Alibaba Cloud Cost Explorer Resource Optimization, you can get a report of idle or low-utilization instances. Once you identify these instances, you can stop or downsize them. Once you stop an instance, you must also terminate it. This is because if you stop an instance, your EBS costs will still be incurred. By terminating ECS instances, you will also stop EBS and ECS expenses.

  • Cut oversized instances and volumes

Before deciding which instances and volumes need to be reduced, an in-depth analysis of all available data is required. Do not rely on data from a short period of time. The time frame for a data set should be at least one month, and make sure to check for seasonal peaks. Remember that you will not be able to reduce EBS volumes. So, once you know the appropriate size you require, create a new volume, and copy the data from the old volume.

  • Use private IPs

Whenever you communicate in the Alibaba ECS network using public IPs or Elastic load balancer, you will always pay Intra-Region Data Transfer rates. Use private IPs to avoid paying this extra fee.

  • Delete low-usage Alibaba EBS volumes

Track Elastic Block Storage (EBS) volumes for at least 1 week and identify those that have low activity (at least 1 input/output per second per day). Take a snapshot of these volumes (in case you will need them at a future date) and then delete them.

  • Use Alibaba Cloud Savings Plan

Alibaba Cloud Savings plan is a flexible pricing model running for one to three years. In this model, you pay a lower price on ECS and Fargate usage for a promise of a steady amount of usage during the specified period. The agreed usage amount is usually discounted by more than 30%. Alibaba Cloud Savings Plan is ideal for stable businesses that know their resource requirements.

  • Utilize Reserved Instances

By reserving an instance, you may save up to 70%. But, if you don't use the reserved instance as much as you expected, you may end up overpaying. This is because you will pay 24/7 utilization for the entire reserved period regardless of whether you used the resource or not.

  • Buy reserved instances on the Alibaba Cloud marketplace

The Alibaba Cloud Marketplace is like a stock market. You can sometimes buy Standard Reserved Instances at extremely affordable prices in comparison to buying directly from Alibaba Cloud. In this way, you can end up saving almost 75%.

  • Utilize Alibaba ECS Spot Instances

Spot instances can reduce costs by almost 90%. Spot instances are great for workloads that are fault-tolerant, for example, big data, web servers, containerized workloads, and high-performance computing (HPC). Auto-scaling automatically requests spot instances to meet target capacity during interruptions. 

  • Configure autoscaling

Autoscaling allows your ECS fleet to increase or shrink based on demand. By configuring autoscaling, you can start and stop instances that don't get used frequently. You can review your scaling activity using the CLI command. Review the results to see whether instances can be added less aggressively or to see if the minimum can be reduced to serve requests with smaller fleet sizes.

  • Choose availability zones and regions

The cost of Alibaba Cloud varies by region. Data transfers between different availability zones are charged an extra fee. It is therefore important to centralize operations and use single availability zones.

Cloud Engineering Podcast Covering AWS, GCP, Azure & Alibaba Cloud

Good news! I have started a series of monologues and dialogues about Cloud Engineering and the Podcasts are available on multiple channels across various platforms. This will help you learn about the cloud on the go!

Podcast Page -

Here is a sneak-peek into the playlist:

The cloud is not just another method of running your organization's IT needs. It's the technological leap that will move you from the status quo into a future world of business innovation. Deloitte's industry-leading cloud professionals will enable your end-to-end journey from on-premise legacy systems to the cloud, from design through deployment, and leading to your ultimate destination—a transformed organization primed for growth.

Cloud Infrastructure & Engineering services help clients integrate technology services seamlessly into the fabric of their day-to-day business. Deloitte experts provide infrastructure and networking solutions to connect, optimize, and manage private, public, and hybrid cloud solutions across leading platforms, including AWS, Azure, GCP, Alibaba, VMware and Cisco.

Container Registry at Alibaba Cloud

In simple words, a container registry is a repository, or collection of repositories, used to store container images for Kubernetes, DevOps,  and container-based application development.

Container Registry allows you to manage images throughout the image lifecycle. It provides secure image management, stable image build creation across global regions, and easy image permission management. This service simplifies the creation and maintenance of the image registry and supports image management in multiple regions. Combined with other cloud services such as Container Service, Container Registry provides an optimized solution for using Docker in the cloud.

Container images
A container image is a copy of a container— the files and components within it that make up an application— which can then be multiplied for scaling out quickly, or moved to other systems as needed. Once a container image is created, it forms a kind of template which can then be used to create new apps, or expand on and scale an existing app.

When working with container images, you need somewhere to save and access them as they are created and that's where a container registry comes in. The registry essentially acts as a place to store container images and share them out via a process of uploading to (pushing) and downloading from (pulling). Once the image is on another system, the original application contained within it can be run on that system as well.

In addition to container images, registries also store application programming interface (API) paths and access control parameters.

Public vs. private container registries
There are two types of container registry: public and private.

Public registries are great for individuals or small teams that want to get up and running with their registry as quickly as possible. They are basic in their abilities/offerings and are easy to use.

New and smaller organizations can take advantage of standard and open source images to start and can grow from there. As they grow, however, there are security issues like patching, privacy, and access control that can arise.

Private registries provide a way to incorporate security and privacy into enterprise container image storage, either hosted remotely or on-premises. A company can choose to create and deploy their own container registry, or they can choose a commercially-supported private registry service. These private registries often come with advanced security features and technical support, with a great example being Alibaba Cloud® Container Registry.

What to look for in a private container registry
A major advantage of a private container registry is the ability to control who has access to what, scan for vulnerabilities and patch as needed, and require authentication of images as well as users.

Some important things to to look for when choosing a private container registry service for your enterprise:

Support for multiple authentication systems
Role-based access control management (RBAC)
Vulnerability scanning capabilities
Ability to record usage in auditable logs so that activity can be traced to a single user
Optimized for automation
Role-based access control allows the assignment of abilities within the registry based on the user's role. For instance, a developer would need access to upload to, as well as download from, the registry, while a team member or tester would only need access to download.

For organizations with a user management system like AD or LDAP, that system can be linked to the container registry directly and used for RBAC.

A private registry keeps images with vulnerabilities, or those from an unauthorized user, from getting into a company's system. Regular scans can be performed to find any security issues and then patch as needed.  

A private registry also allows for authentication measures to be put in place to verify the container images stored on it. With such measures in place, an image must be digitally "signed" by the person uploading it before it can be uploaded to the registry. This allows that activity to be tracked, as well as preventing the upload should the user not be authorized to do so. Images can also be tagged at various stages so they can be reverted back to, if needed.

Alibaba Cloud container registry
Alibaba Cloud Container Registry is a private container image registry that enables you to build, distribute, and deploy containers with the storage you need to scale quickly. It analyzes your images for security vulnerabilities using Clair, identifying potential issues and addressing them before they become security risks.

Alibaba Cloud Container Registry ensures your apps are stored privately with powerful access and authentication settings that you can control, as well as the following features and benefits:

- Compatibility with multiple storage backends and identity providers
Logging and auditing
- A flexible and extensible API
- Intuitive user interface (UI)
- Automated software deployments using robot accounts
- Automatic and continuous image garbage collection to efficiently use resources for active objects without the need for downtime or read-only mode.

Understanding Alibaba Cloud VPC & Use Cases

Alibaba Virtual Private Cloud (Alibaba Cloud VPC) is a service that lets you launch Alibaba Cloud resources in a logically isolated virtual network that you define. You have complete control over your virtual networking environment, including selection of your own IP address range, creation of subnets, and configuration of route tables and network gateways. You can use both IPv4 and IPv6 for most resources in your virtual private cloud, helping to ensure secure and easy access to resources and applications.

As one of Alibaba Cloud's foundational services, Alibaba Cloud VPC makes it easy to customize your VPC's network configuration. You can create a public-facing subnet for your web servers that have access to the internet. It also lets you place your backend systems, such as databases or application servers, in a private-facing subnet with no internet access. Alibaba Cloud VPC lets you use multiple layers of security, including security groups and network access control lists, to help control access to Alibaba EC2 instances in each subnet.

Use cases of VPC

- Host a simple, public-facing website
Host a basic web application, such as a blog or simple website, in a VPC and gain the additional layers of privacy and security afforded by Alibaba Cloud VPC. You can help secure the website by creating security group rules which allow the web server to respond to inbound HTTP and SSL requests from the internet while simultaneously prohibiting the web server from initiating outbound connections to the internet. Create a VPC that supports this use case by selecting "VPC with a Single Public Subnet Only" from the Alibaba Cloud VPC console wizard.
Host multi-tier web applications
Host multi-tier web applications and strictly enforce access and security restrictions between your web servers, application servers, and databases. Launch web servers in a publicly accessible subnet while running your application servers and databases in private subnets. This will ensure that application servers and databases cannot be directly accessed from the internet. You control access between the servers and subnets using inbound and outbound packet filtering provided by network access control lists and security groups. To create a VPC that supports this use case, you can select "VPC with Public and Private Subnets" in the Alibaba Cloud VPC console wizard.

- Back up and recover your data after a disaster
By using Alibaba Cloud VPC for disaster recovery, you receive all the benefits of a disaster recovery site at a fraction of the cost. You can periodically back up critical data from your data center to a small number of Alibaba EC2 instances with Alibaba Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes, or import your virtual machine images to Alibaba EC2. To ensure business continuity, Alibaba Cloud VPC allows you to quickly launch replacement compute capacity in Alibaba Cloud. When the disaster is over, you can send your mission critical data back to your data center and terminate the Alibaba EC2 instances that you no longer need.

- Extend your corporate network into the cloud
Move corporate applications to the cloud, launch additional web servers, or add more compute capacity to your network by connecting your VPC to your corporate network. Because your VPC can be hosted behind your corporate firewall, you can seamlessly move your IT resources into the cloud without changing how your users access these applications. Furthermore, you can host your VPC subnets in Alibaba Cloud Outposts, a service that brings native Alibaba Cloud services, infrastructure, and operating models to virtually any data center, co-location space, or on-premises facility. Select "VPC with a Private Subnet Only and Hardware VPN Access" from the Alibaba Cloud VPC console wizard to create a VPC that supports this use case.
Securely connect cloud applications to your datacenter
An IPsec VPN connection between your Alibaba Cloud VPC and your corporate network encrypts all communication between the application servers in the cloud and databases in your data center. Web servers and application servers in your VPC can leverage Alibaba EC2 elasticity and Auto Scaling features to grow and shrink as needed. Create a VPC to support this use case by selecting "VPC with Public and Private Subnets and Hardware VPN Access" in the Alibaba Cloud VPC console wizard.

Alibaba's VPC functionality:

- Create a Virtual Private Cloud on Alibaba Cloud's scalable infrastructure, and specify its private IP address range from any block you choose.
- Divide your VPC's private IP address range into one or more subnets in a manner convenient for managing applications and services you run in your VPC.
- Bridge together your VPC and your IT infrastructure via an encrypted VPN connection.
- Add Alibaba Cloud resources, such as Alibaba EC2 instances, to your VPC.
- Route traffic between your VPC and the Internet over the VPN connection so that it can be examined by your existing security and networking assets before heading to the public Internet.
- Extend your existing security and management policies within your IT infrastructure to your VPC as if they were running within your infrastructure.

To get started you'll need to not only sign up but create a VPN connection to your own network from Alibaba's datacenter. You'll need information about your hardware such as its IP address and other networking-related data. 

Alibaba Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK)

Kubernetes is an open source container-orchestration system that enables teams to deploy, scale and manage containerized applications. It handles the scheduling of containers in a cluster and manages workloads so that everything runs as intended.

Enterprise businesses have been rapidly adopting the cloud and various cloud services to modernize their workloads and increase their agility and scalability. Through concepts like containerization and orchestration, companies have found ways to make applications more portable, increase efficiency and address challenges surrounding the deployment of code.

Alibaba Cloud, the global leader in cloud computing, offers a variety of cloud services, including Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK), a fully managed Kubernetes service.

Running Kubernetes in Alibaba was once a challenge due to several manual configurations which required extensive operational expertise and effort. With ACK, Alibaba solved that problem. Now, ACK can be used for a variety of use cases, including web applications that are powered by headless CMS like Crafter.

Dissecting Containerization and Kubernetes Orchestration
First of all, before diving into Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK), let's go over containerization, orchestration and Kubernetes.

What is Containerization?
A popular trend in software development and deployment, containerization involves the packaging of software code so that it can run uniformly and consistently on any infrastructure.

Containerization enables developers to build and deploy applications faster and with more security. Traditionally, code is developed in a specific environment. When moves to different environments happen, bugs can be introduced.

With containerization, this problem is removed since application code, configuration files and dependencies required for the code to run are all bundled together. This container can stand alone and run on any platform or in the cloud.

What is Orchestration?
Orchestration helps IT operations manage complex tasks and workflows by automatically configuring, managing, and coordinating applications systems and services.

When ops have to manage multiple servers and applications, orchestration helps to combine multiple automated tasks and configurations across groups of systems.

What is Kubernetes?
Kubernetes is an open source container-orchestration system that enables teams to deploy, scale and manage containerized applications. It handles the scheduling of containers in a cluster and manages workloads so that everything runs as intended.

Kubernetes was designed for software development teams and IT operations to work together, so it allows for easy adoption of GitOps workflows.

Kubernetes also manages clusters of Alibaba ECS instances and runs containers on those instances. With Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK), Alibaba makes it easy to run Kubernetes in the cloud.

Digging Deeper with Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK)
ACK offers the best way to run Kubernetes for a number of reasons and takes away the manual effort that development teams once had to go through in setting up Kubernetes clusters on Alibaba.

You can run your ACK clusters using Alibaba Fargate; a serverless computer for containers that removes the need to provision and manage servers and leverages application isolation by design to improve security.

ACK deeply integrates with other Alibaba services such as CloudWatch, Alibaba Identity and Access Management (IAM), and Alibaba Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). These services supply a seamless experience that enables you to monitor, scale and load-balance applications.

ACK also provides a highly-available and scalable control plane that runs across multiple availability zones, eliminating any single points of failure.

ACK Benefits
The Kubernetes Community
Applications managed by ACK are fully compatible with those managed by a standard Kubernetes environment. That's because ACK runs upstream Kubernetes and is also a certified Kubernetes conformant.

Since Kubernetes is open source, the community contributes code to its ongoing development, along with Alibaba's contributions as part of that community.

High Availability
The Kubernetes management infrastructure is run by ACK across multiple Alibaba Availability Zones. This allows ACK to automatically detect unhealthy control plane nodes and replace them and also leads to on-demand, zero downtime upgrades and security patches.

The latest security patches are automatically applied to the cluster control plane. Plus, Alibaba leverages and coordinates with the ACK community to make sure critical issues are resolved before any new releases are deployed to existing clusters.

ACK Use Cases
Hybrid Deployment
ACK can be used on Alibaba Outposts to run low latency containerized applications to on-prem systems. Alibaba Outposts is another fully managed service from Alibaba that extends Alibaba infrastructure, services, tools and APIs to essentially any connected site.

ACK on Outposts allows you to manage on-premise containers just as easily as if you were managing containers in the cloud.

Batching Processing
Run sequential or parallel batch work on an ACK cluster by using the Kubernetes Jobs API. ACK will allow you to plan, schedule and execute batch workloads across the range of Alibaba compute services and features whether you're using ECS, Fargate or Spot Instances.

Web Apps
Build web applications that can scale up and down automatically and run in a highly available configuration across multiple Availability Zones. When using ACK, web apps can leverage the performance, scalability, availability and reliability benefits of Alibaba.

Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK) for Content Management
With ACK, Alibaba has made it easier for organizations to deploy cloud-native applications. Having a cloud-native CMS, for instance, allows organizations to leverage the benefits of containers and apply them to running a content management system and CMS-driven web and mobile apps.

As companies look for ways to improve the digital customer experience by publishing content to multiple channels, a cloud-native CMS can help in a number of ways.

It allows for lower upfront costs compared to on-premise solutions, more accessibility for content authors at any time and on any device, developer-friendly tools and services, and the capacity to scale as required.

Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK) allows enterprises to deploy cloud-scalable CMS environments and serverless digital experience applications quickly and cost effectively.

Alibaba Cloud OSS Overview

Alibaba Cloud's OSS is a versatile, economical, and safe way of storing data objects in the cloud. The name stands for "Object Storage Service," and it provides a simple organization for storing and retrieving information. Unlike a database, it doesn't do anything fancy. It does one thing: letting you store as much data as you want. Its data is stored redundantly across multiple sites. That makes the chances of data loss or downtime tiny, far lower than they would be if you used on-premises hardware. It has good security, with options to make it still stronger.

OSS vs. other services
OSS isn't a database, in the sense of a service with a query language for adding and extracting data fields. If that's what you want, you should look at Alibaba Cloud's RDS. With RDS, you can choose from several different SQL engines. Alternatively, you can host a database on your own servers, with all the responsibility that entails. OSS is more economical than RDS if you don't need all the features of a database.

OSS also isn't a full-blown file system. It consists of buckets which hold objects, but you can't nest them inside other buckets. For a general-purpose, hierarchical file system, you should look at Alibaba Cloud's EFS or set up a virtual machine and use its file directories. If you set up a cloud VM using a service like EC2, you pay for storage as part of the VM's ongoing costs.

Alibaba Cloud OSS is optimized for "write once, read many" operation. When you update an object, you replace the whole object. If your data requires constant modifications, it's better to use RDS, EFS, or the local file system of a VM.

The basics of OSS
The organization of information in OSS is very simple. Information consists of objects, which are stored in buckets. A bucket belongs to one account. An object is just a bunch of data plus some metadata describing it. Metadata are key-value pairs. OSS works with the metadata, but the object data is just a collection of bytes as far as it's concerned.

You can save multiple versions of an object, letting you go back to an earlier version if you change or delete something by mistake. Every object has a key and a version number to identify it uniquely across all of OSS.

You can specify the geographic region a bucket is stored in. That lets you keep latency down, and it may help to meet regulatory requirements.

Normally OSS reads or writes whole objects, but OSS Select allows retrieving just part of an object. This is a new feature available to all customers.

Uses for OSS
Wherever an application calls for retrieving moderate to large units of data that don't change often, OSS can be a great choice.

Backup: OSS can hold a backup copy of a website, a database, or a whole disk. With very high durability, it gives confidence your data won't be lost.
Disaster recovery: A complete, up-to-date disk image can be stored on OSS. If a disaster makes a primary server unavailable, the saved image is available to launch another server and keep business operations going.
Application data: OSS can hold large amounts of data for use by a web or mobile application. For instance, it could hold images of all the products a business sells or geographic data about its locations.
Website data: OSS can host a complete static website (one which doesn't require running any code on the server). To set it up, you tell OSS to configure a bucket as a website endpoint.

Access control and security
Buckets and objects are secure by default, and you can make them more secure by applying the right options. You have control over how they're shared, and you can encrypt the data.

The system of bucket policies gives you detailed control over access. You can limit access by account, IP address, or membership in an access group. Multi-factor authentication can be mandated. Read access can be open to everyone while write access is restricted to just a few users. If you prefer, you can use Alibaba Cloud IAM to manage access.

For additional protection of data, you can use server-side or client-side encryption. That way, even if someone steals a password and gets access to your objects, they won't be able to do anything with them.

Getting started
If you have an Alibaba Cloud account, setting up OSS usage is straightforward. From the console, select the OSS service. You'll be given the option to create a new bucket. You need to give it a unique name and select a region. There are a number of options you can then choose, including logging and versioning. Next, you can give permission to other accounts to access the bucket. The console will let you review your settings, after which you confirm the creation of the bucket.

Next, you can upload objects to the bucket and set permissions and properties for them. If you're using OSS through other Alibaba Cloud services, you may never need to upload directly. You'll still want to check the OSS console occasionally to verify that your usage and costs are in the range you expected and that bucket authorizations are what they should be.

When deciding whether OSS is the best way to handle the storage for your application, evaluate how it stacks up against your needs. If you don't require a full file system and you don't need to rewrite data often, OSS can be a very cost-effective choice. It provides high data availability and security at a very reasonable price.

Delivering Results Under Tight Deadlines

"Quality, Budget, or Time - pick any two!"

That is the rule of thumb when it comes to delivering projects in the Software Engineering world.

In a real world no one likes that. No sane project manager would compromise on quality, go over-budget, or miss a deadline!

As a part of Engineering at STARZPLAY we are often required to deliver results under tight deadlines. Recently we had to pull through a project under extremely unreal deadlines for something that would ideally have taken at least 3X the given time. Now, how did we manage to maintain quality, within budget, and ensure we meet our deadline? 

Here are some of my takeaways from the experience of being a part of this project-

- Parallelism & Sequence:
Having clear expectations is the basic necessity for planning well. And once the plan is on the table, the most important factor for rapid delivery is finding out the tasks that can be executed in parallel and zeroing in on the order(sequence) of execution. That is where time is saved/earned.

- Automation:
Replace manual efforts around deployment, and the provisioning, cloning, and sharing of environments with automation scripts & tools as far as possible.

- Flat Hierarchy:
People are important for any successful execution. However, it's not just the number of people but skilled/productive people that make a difference, because we are looking at meeting a tight deadline and not grooming a team for the future (that is another paradigm and subject for discussion for another day). Each member of the team is considered a leader who owns his tasks. Instead of one large team, we kept the team size small & fully autonomous- with members, carefully picked & possessing a variety of skillsets.

- Tracking Time & Direction:
One member in the team tracks actions and decisions and ensures follow-ups on a daily basis and documents the outcomes. This allows the team to keep the members focussed in the desired direction, staying within budget and also helps in reconfiguring priorities when needed.

- Scope & Acceptance Criteria:
So we keep our quality, we stick to budget, and we meet our deadline, but what's delivered on that deadline is continually up for discussion and consideration. That is where scope comes in. One should be clear on the acceptance criteria for every deliverable. Because optimization is a process that can go on infinitely. So in order to be able to close a project on time, a 'scope' for every task needs to be agreed upon.

- Tweak your process not the outcome:
For high velocity projects, it helps to give more weight to `people and interactions` over following a process because its a "process"! Quoting Steve Jobs - "Customers don't measure you on how you do it or how hard you try, they measure you on what you deliver".