Who needs cloud computing?

Google Drive launches
Some will have to wait to take Google's new offering for a test drive. (Google / April 24, 2012)

With all of the chatter around Google Drive and the like, you may be wondering whether you should have a cloud drive somewhere.
Some people live blissful digitally disconnected lives -- free of smartphones, free of Facebook, devoid of a digital photo album with snapshots of everything from their baby to their breakfast, no tangle of charging cables, no bytes of data to transfer or tap.
But if you're sending yourself emails just to get a PDF or photo from one device to another, you might need a cloud drive somewhere.
If you've ever been out living your life and thought, "I really could use that file off my computer at home," there's a cloud with your name on it.
The question is where. And that depends on what you need. Most services are basically storage lockers for your stuff -- documents, photos, videos. But some offer smarter features as well.
Right now, a number of services are giving users free space, from about 2 gigabytes up to 7 gigabytes. You could go around and just collect free space, or study aspects such as the features, the terms of service and privacy policies,  or the service's reliability before committing.
Here's a quick look at some of what's out there.
Microsoft SkyDrive -- This one gives you 7 gigabytes of free storage. There are apps for Mac and PC, plus apps for Windows Phone, iOS  and through the OneNote app for Android, according to the site.
Google Drive -- You get 5 GB free, upgradable to a terabyte for $49.99 a month. In addition to allowing you to access your digital content, the service, unlike the others, also allows users to  collaboratively create and edit documents or video, and facilitates sharing. There's an Android app available now, with an iOS app in the works, the company said.
Something to note: The company, which also makes a good chunk of its money through wrapping some of your content in related ads, told me that it has no plans to do that with your content in Google Drive.
Amazon CloudDrive -- If you have or create an Amazon account, you get 5 GB for free. Your account is upgradable to one terabyte for $1,000 a year. The service lets you connect as many as eight devices, which can include mobile devices, different computers, and different browsers on the same computer. Any digital music you buy from Amazon is stored in that virtual locker but doesn't count against your quota.
SugarSync -- Here, you get 5 GB free. Some difference are that you can email files into your SugarSync storage and share folders with passwords or permissions, and you can send files of any size.  The service also keeps the previous five versions of all your documents (and photos) for either your reference or recovery. But only the most recent version counts toward the storage limit. It has apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Symbian and Kindle Fire, as well as an Outlook plugin.
DropBox -- This service gives you 2 GB to start, with the ability to boost your storage by "earning" up to 16 additional GB for referring others to the service. With the Pro account you can earn up to 16 GB additional space for referring friends, or upgrade to a Pro account with up to 100 GB and 32 GB for referrals starts at $10 a month. DropBox also keeps a snapshot of every change you make over the last 30 days without affecting your storage limit. You can share specific files or entire folders with friends, colleagues or family. On the mobile front, it has apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry.
Again, with any of these services, it's important to read and understand what the shared responsibilities and commitments are in the legal contracts you're accepting by hitting "agree."

Microsoft head: How 'the cloud' could save Europe

Europe's struggling economies could find themselves thrown a lifeline from the "cloud," according to Microsoft International's president Jean-Philippe Courtois.

Cloud computing -- where businesses access computing services from a centralized provider, rather than owning their own infrastructure -- could be the key to kick-starting Europe's struggling economies, Courtois told CNN.

The shift in technology is the biggest in the past decade, and can transform the way businesses can operate, he added.

"You don't need to buy any more of [that] huge IT equipment, because you are actually using a service, like how you use electricity," he said.

Instead of investing capital in IT infrastructure, businesses can now opt for a cloud computing solution in which they pay as they go. "You just pay for the service you use when you need it," Courtois said.
We call it the new world of work, because people don't all necessarily have to come together physically
Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International

This removes technological barriers that can hold back the small- and medium-sized businesses which are at the heart of the European economy.

"We see many small businesses jump on the cloud bandwagon right now, as opposed to the large companies, because they can ... compete with some big global players using an incredible technology for only a few euros a month. That is making a profound change, particularly in countries where the recession is pretty tough," he said.

"If you are a very small company today, you can have a much more visible and aggressive presence."

Cloud computing also allows for savings to be made by enabling workers in different locations to collaborate online, reducing paper waste and travel costs.

"We call it the new world of work, because people don't all necessarily have to come together physically," Courtois said.

As well as presenting opportunities for businesses, Courtois said cloud technology could allow governments to become more competitive. "When I go back to Europe, visiting Spain -- a very depressed economy -- we see some of the opportunity... to help governments rationalize their budget."

"If you look at predictions [for] the European economy, it doesn't look great at this point. But I'm very convinced again that the work we do is an enabler of economic transformations."

Rackspace Starts the Great OpenStack Migration

It's inching out with a production-ready OpenStack cloud based on Essex


Rackspace, which wants to be the "Linux of the cloud" mimicking the now billion-dollar-a-year Red Hat, said Monday that it's "drawing a line in the sand against cloud providers." Everyone agrees it has Amazon, particularly, and VMware, to a certain extent, in mind. However, what'll probably end up happening is that Red Hat, which has a prominent part in the open source OpenStack project that Rackspace started, becomes the "Linux of the cloud" because it's got all the pieces, or thinks it does, but that's another story. Anyway, Rackspace is inching out with a production-ready OpenStack cloud based on Essex, the fifth and best-yet release of the open source cloud platform put in train by Rackspace and NASA in the summer of 2010.
Rackspace CEO Louis Napier told a New York Times blog that he expects to have all his customers, by then perhaps 200,000 businesses, on some or all of an OpenStack system by summer.
The fight is supposed to come down to a duel between the proprietary Amazon APIs, now lauded as the de facto standard of public clouds, and the still immature but open source CloudStack APIs.
Rackspace says come May 1, in roughly two weeks time, it will begin providing customers with default access to widgetry that it's now got in "limited availability."
That includes:
  • Cloud Servers, the Essex-based EC2-like compute piece of OpenStack, a k a Nova, accessible through the new programmable OpenStack API for switching between OpenStack clouds or a new intuitive control panel.
  • A built-from-the-ground-up graphical Control Panel that allows server tagging to discriminate between production and development servers so they can be controlled in concert and has multi-region capabilities.
Rackspace says "limited availability" means customers can sign up now, the widgetry is reportedly production workload-ready, there are unspecified SLAs, 24x7 support and regular billing. It seems it could take Rackspace a few months to ensure a smooth ramp-up but the move is supposed to be imperceptible.
Rackspace, which has already got the S3-like Cloud Files storage, a k a Swift, will move all of its public, private and hybrid cloud to this widgetry.
It's also got stuff in "early access" defined as "production workload-ready but with limited support available, no service commitments and no billing.
They include:
  • OpenStack Cloud Databases (Project Red Dwarf) with API access to a massively scalable, highly available MySQL database with redundant SAN storage for high performance and automated management. Figure on Microsoft SQL Server and other databases too but maybe not from Rackspace. Amazon, of course, has the MySQL-derived Relational Data Service (RDS).
  • Single-view Cloud Monitoring of the infrastructure and applications based on Rackspace's acquisition of Cloudkick.
Lastly it's got early versions of products in "preview" looking for testers namely:
  • OpenStack Cloud Block Storage, like Amazon's Elastic Block Storage (EBS), but offering either solid state or lower-cost disk storage.
  • Cloud Networks, software-defined virtual networks for managing logically abstracted network services programmatically. IDC says Rackspace's Cloud Networks is "going to eliminate some of the hesitation businesses have around cloud adoption." Thank you Cisco et al.
Here's what it all looks like:
Rudimentary pricing will remain the same starting at $0.015 cents an hour for a Linux virtual server with 10GB of disk space and 256MB of RAM and $0.08 an hour for Windows.
Rackspace still has to say what the database, storage and networking will ultimately run.
HP, a chief OpenStack acolyte, won't have a beta take on the Essex platform memorialized in its HP Cloud Services until May 10 with no estimates, as of last week, on when it could have a production public cloud.
There will be OpenStack fragmentation, observers prophecy. HP won't return all the distinguishing tweaks it makes to the community.
Rackspace says on its web site that it's got more than 170,000 businesses and 60% of the Fortune 100 as customers.

Amazon and Salesforce 'expected to join G-Cloud 2.0'

Government's new G-Cloud programme director Denise McDonagh says earlier legal fears have been ironed out.

Amazon and Salesforce are odds-on to join the UK government's G-Cloud and start serving civil servants with hosted computing, storage and ERP from May, reports the The Register.

The companies have been in talks to join G-Cloud, with government officials driving the programme having to reassure the firms' legal people on their obligations under the G-Cloud's terms and conditions.

The duo had passed on G-Cloud 1.0 which launched in February, over concerns about their legal obligations and responsibilities on things such as data audits.

Newly named G-Cloud leader Denise McDonagh revealed the development during a UKAuthority.com webcast on Thursday in response to The Register. McDonagh, who is also head of IT at the Home Office, was named on Friday as the successor to incumbent Chris Chant, who is retiring from the civil service after just 18 months in charge of G-Cloud.

Asked whether Amazon and Salesforce will be on the next version of G-Cloud, which currently gives hefty representation to existing suppliers of government IT like Microsoft, IBM and BT who have followed these two into cloud, McDonagh stopped short of saying she'd be disappointed if they didn't sign up, but continued: "I fully expect them to be on G-Cloud 2."

Commenting on the reason they hadn't joined up in February, she said: "There were some challenges. There was some language that gave their legal people a headache on the right to audit data. Since then we have spoken to the people at Amazon and Salesforce to explain the practicalities...therefore they are much more at ease with what we are asking them to do."

Amazon and Salesforce are synonymous with cloud computing. Amazon EC2 and S3 deliver hosted compute and storage at cut-throat prices while its APIs are soaking into business and consumer apps. Since spinning up in late 2006, Amazon has become the undisputed leader: with nearly 1tn data objects that sit in its silo and rapid expansion in the last 12 months. Everybody from OpenStack to Microsoft are racing to catch it.

Salesforce began in 1999 with a simple hosted customer relationship management (CRM) service. Through a combination of boisterous marketing by its chief executive Marc Benioff along with strategic development and acquisition, the company now counts among its offerings: a database-as-a-service; hosted websites; Amazon-style application hosting with Heroku; and crowd-sourcing and social networking apps for mobile and other devices which are used by Dell, Starbucks and others.

Both companies have created dedicated practices for the hosting of US government data and apps. The firms have managed this thanks to the fact that US government rules set a high bar on the physical location of servers hosting the nation's official data – and on who is allowed to come into contact with it.

The UK is less stringent, having an escalating level of rules based on sensitivity of the data and whether it falls under European data privacy rules or national law.

McDonagh reckoned the need to clarify the language of G-Cloud was among the lessons the government has learned building the next iteration of G-Cloud and Cloudstore. It had been necessary to simplify the wording and to reduce the number of acronyms to attract new suppliers and to explain the services, and to also cut the Ts and Cs from hundreds of pages to just 20.

Google - another tech name now synonymous with cloud - had no difficulty with the language of G-Cloud. As McDonagh pointed out, Google is already listed on the G-Cloud Cloudstore, right along with Microsoft and the others. Five of Google's products, APIs and services are listed including Apps for Business that features Gmail and calendar, Maps API Premier, and Chrome OS. Like so many vendors' services on G-Cloud, these are waiting to be "assured" while Google has not bothered to provide descriptions of what they actually are or do in all cases.

The government also plans more "buycamps" to explain G-Cloud and Cloudstore to its people and try to shift the culture of civil service IT procurement. Since February, McDonagh estimated that "20 to 30 things" had been sold though Cloudstore.

It was Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff who last year berated the UK government for not going far enough on public cloud.

"The UK government is way behind in this, and way too much into virtualisation and the G-Cloud, which is basically just a big virtual machine that has not been executed well. Too much cost has gone into running too many data centres," Benioff is reported to have said in September, before G-Cloud floated.

In December, with a G-Cloud strategy document published and talk of an AppStore – which hasn't actually materialised – in the air, Benioff was patting the UK government on the head for coming around to his anti-VMware world view. The government's cloud was starting to gain "focus and momentum", he said.

The date for G-Cloud 2, meanwhile, might slip, McDonagh warned during the webcast. She noted while it's due at the beginning of May, she meant that "in a civil service" way.

Greenpeace's clean cloud push: Hey, they've got a point

The activists' "Clean our Cloud" campaign may have stumbled, but Greenpeace raised good questions about big tech companies and their influence on local clean-power generation.
Greenpeace makes a splash in Seattle by hanging this sign off a building near Microsoft and Amazon offices.
Greenpeace makes a splash in Seattle by hanging this sign off a building near Microsoft and Amazon offices.
(Credit: Greenpeace)
Commentary In its trademark smashmouth style, Greenpeace this week took cloud computing companies to task for using dirty energy -- and then came under fire itself over its methods and assertions.
Whatever Greenpeace's shortcomings, though, its activists have a point.
In the latest event of its "Clean our Cloud" campaign, Greenpeace activists yesterday rappelled off a building near Amazon and Microsoft offices and attached a banner which reads "Amazon, Microsoft: How Clean is Your Cloud?"
Earlier, it released three videos that poke fun at Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft by showing workers shoveling coal into a smoky fire behind scenes of consumers using the companies' Web services. Sure, the cloud looks clean, the videos suggest. But do you know where the power that makes it possible comes from?
The campaign has been marred by an angry response from Apple, which claimed that Greenpeace greatly overestimated the power usage of its latest data center and discounted its reliance on renewable energy. Amazon, too, says Greenpeace's numbers are inaccurate. The environmental watchdog group continues to defend its analysis.

Forget Cloud Computing, Say Hello to Crab Computing

In the 1980s, Edward Fredkin and Tommaso Toffoli proposed a computer based on Newtonian dynamics. In their computer, billiard balls would roll around in a theoretical environment without friction and bounce off certain walls in perfect timing. They would then pass through a series of gates that, depending on velocity of the balls, would process as different functions. Now fast forward to the modern day and replace “billiard balls” with “soldier crabs” and “theoretical environment” with “Japan.”
Computer scientists at Kobe University in Japan have recreated the billiard ball computer in great detail with one major change: Live soldier crabs now take the place of the billiard balls. First they developed a computer model of a model computer run by crabs, and then they actually built the thing.
Based on the way in which soldier crabs swarm, scientists recreated nearly identical results to the proposed computer by casting a facsimile of a bird’s shadow so that the crabs keep moving as they believe they’re about to be eaten. You see, when two crab swarms collide, they appear to then move as one in the direction that is the sum of the original two swarms’ velocities. This makes their movements predictable in fascinating ways.
By creating a specialized series of channels — and with generous use of the shadow being cast — researchers found that they could get the crabs to operate both an “OR” and “AND” logic gate. The OR gate, which only had two swarms coming together correctly, functioned with quite a bit more reliability than the AND gate, which is not surprising considering the AND gate required the swarms to follow one of three correct paths.
Perhaps if they weren’t crafting a computer by making crabs think they were about to be eaten by some hungry bird, they might get better results.
(Robust Soldier Crab Ball Gate via Ars Technica, image credit via Phil Camill)

Why Open Source Is the Key to Cloud Innovation

cloud logoIn the 25 years since Richard Stallman wrote the GNU General Public License, free and open source software (FOSS) have become pervasive in computing: Linux, Apache HTTP Server, MySQL and more can be found in large numbers of enterprises across the globe. And open source is now increasingly undergirding cloud computing as well.

"Open source is certainly at the foundation in terms of building out cloud technologies," says Byran Che, senior director of product management at Red Hat and responsible for its cloud operations offerings, management software and Red Hat Enterprise MRG, (Red Hat's Messaging, Real-time and Grid platform). "If you take a look at market share in the server space, as you look at traditional data centers, about 70 percent are running on the Windows platform and about 30 percent are running Linux. As you take a look at what operating systems people are choosing to build applications on in the cloud, the ratio flips completely."
The reasoning is simple, Che says: With a fresh start, you get to build a whole new architecture from the ground up, and open source gives you the best value.
"You can't get to the Amazon scale or the Google scale and pay the license fees," he says.
Cost isn't the only thing giving the open source model an edge in the cloud space. Che also points to the capability to create a community around a project and thus drive rapid innovation.
"That's what open source is really good at," he says. "Amazon, Google, Facebook, all the people building out all these cloud applications, infrastructure and services, they're all doing it on open source. The fact that they're using open source software is the only way they can innovate at the pace they need to. They can't wait for their vendors to go through the development cycle."
Does SaaS Violate Free Software Principles
But what exactly is open source doing in the cloud? Stallman, for whom free software is intensely political (he disdains the term open source), claims that cloud computing--specifically Software as a Service (SaaS)--cannot be free by definition.
"SaaS and proprietary software lead to similar harmful results, but the causal mechanisms are different," Stallman wrote in an article published by the Boston Review in 2010. "With proprietary software, the cause is that you have and use a copy which is difficult or illegal to change. With SaaS, the cause is that you use a copy you don't have."
"Many free software supporters assume that the problem of SaaS will be solved by developing free software for servers," he adds. "For the server operator's sake, the programs on the server had better be free; if they are proprietary, their owners have power over the server. That's unfair to the operator, and doesn't help you at all. But if the programs on the server are free, that doesn't protect you as the server's user from the effects of SaaS. They give freedom to the operator, but not to you."
Stallman's contention has its roots in the philosophical divide between free software and open source software. The open source movement, Stallman says, is a development methodology with a practical focus on making the source code available. The free software movement, on the other hand, promotes an ethical stance on how users should be able to interact with their software.
For Stallman, free software must provide users with four essential freedoms:
1. The freedom to run the program as you wish
2. The freedom to study and change the source code so it does what you wish
3. The freedom to redistribute exact copies
4. The freedom to redistribute copies of your modified versions
While the open source definition and the free software definition are nearly identical, they seem to come apart at the seams when it comes to cloud.
"Releasing the server software source code does benefit the community: Suitably skilled users can set up similar servers, perhaps changing the software," Stallman wrote. "But none of these servers would give you control over computing you do on it, unless it's your server. The rest would all be SaaS. SaaS always subjects you to the power of the server operator, and the only remedy is, Don't use SaaS!. Don't use someone else's server to do your own computing on data provided by you."
Meanwhile, the open source world is working feverishly across the cloud stack--Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), SaaS, Data Storage as a Service (DaaS)--and in cloud management.
The Properties of Open Cloud
Che says Red Hat believes in the open cloud, which he says has seven defining properties:
1. It's open source. "That's the foundation upon which you build," Che says.
2. It's based on collaborative development. "There's got to be a viable, independent community around the project," he says. "That dynamic has to be there, otherwise it's just a proprietary company releasing its source code."
3. It's based on open standards and open formats that are not tied into proprietary technology.
4. It gives you the freedom to use your intellectual property.
5. It gives users a choice of infrastructure. They get to choose their infrastructure provider and cloud provider.
6. It has open APIs. "It's got to be pluggable and extensible," Che says. "It can't be restricted by what you got out of the box."
7. It has to be portable to other clouds. It can't lock you in to a particular vendor.
"One of the areas where we need an open cloud is to give you the ability to have interoperability and portability across different clouds," Che says. "I should be able to manage a hybrid cloud that spans across all these different technologies."
Open Source Cloud to Avoid Vendor Lock-in
One big step in that interoperability and portability direction is Apache Deltacloud, a project initiated by Red Hat in 2009 and then contributed to the Apache Software Foundation, where it gained Top-Level Project (TLP) status in 2010. With Deltacloud, the Apache Software Foundation is attempting to provide an answer to a problem that hasn't much reared its head yet, but is likely to become pressing in coming years: cloud lock-in.
"The biggest challenge is that there's so much happening in the cloud that users are so busy figuring out how best to use cloud that lock-in is still not a big concern for them," says David Lutterkort, principal software engineer at Red Hat and chair of the Apache Deltacloud project. "It's not that high on peoples' lists yet."
Deltacloud is an API that abstracts differences between clouds, enabling management of resources in different IaaS clouds using a single API. It can essentially be implemented as a wrapper around a large number of clouds, freeing users of cloud computing from dealing with the particulars of each cloud's API.
Standards bodies have also coalesced to create open and interoperable standards. In 2009, leading standards development organizations (SDOs) to form Cloud Standards Coordination, intended to coordinate the work of the various SDOs developing cloud standards. Members include the Cloud Security Alliance, Cloud Standards Customer Council, Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Open Grid Forum (OGF), Object Management Group (OMG), Open Cloud Consortium (OCC), Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information and Standards (OASIS), Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), The Open Group, Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) and TM Forum.
Lutterkort is also a board member of the DMTF, which, among other things, is working on a standard called the Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI), which would create a standard API that any cloud could use.
Project Aeolus is another forward-looking open source project, driven by Red Hat, that essentially seeks to build an open source cloud broker. A stand-alone project, Aeolus offers a single, consistent set of tools to build and manage organized groups of virtual machines across clouds. It consists of the following:
  • Aeolus Conductor, which offers a way to provide cloud resources to users, manage users' access to and use of those resources and control users' instances in clouds
  • Aeolus Composer, which provides a way to build cloud-specific images from generic templates so users can choose clouds freely using compatible images
  • Aeolus Orchestrator, which provides a way to manage clumps of instances in an organized way, giving users the ability to automatically bring up a set of different instances on a single cloud or spanning multiple clouds, configure them and tell them about each other
  • Aeolus HA Manager, which provides a way to make instances or clumps of instances in the cloud highly available
Red Hat is far from alone in contributing to the open cloud. Rackspace Cloud and NASA have made waves with the OpenStack IaaS cloud computing project, also made available through the Apache Software Foundation. The OpenStack project's mission is to give any organization the capability to create and offer cloud computing services running on standard hardware.
Thor Olavsrud is a senior writer for CIO.com.

HP Takes On Amazon

The thing is called the HP Converged Cloud

By Maureen O'Gara

Limping from losses, like in its executive suite, HP finally took its shot at Amazon Tuesday though it doesn't like saying that.
It announced an open source public IaaS cloud based on the immature OpenStack platform as it promised to do.
It will offer public on-demand compute instances or virtual machines and scalable online storage with "accelerated delivery of cached content."
And all the while it can't afford to alienate companies that buy hardware for their server farms.
The betas of its Cloud Services should get here on May 10. And since they're just betas, there aren't any prices yet.

HP will also have a relational database service for MySQL and a block storage service that moves data from one compute instance to another in private beta.
The thing is called the HP Converged Cloud. HP says it's for hybrid clouds and that it's for the enterprise. That includes service providers and SMBs.
It's advertised as the industry's "first strategy and portfolio based on a single architecture" for building, managing and securing hybrid environments.
According to ex-Microsoftie turned head of HP software and chief strategy officer Bill Veghte, "There is a gap between what businesses need and what information technology is delivering."
It will let companies choose from public, private and managed cloud services.
Swimming against the powerful Amazon tide, HP wants to entice enterprises away from notions of using Amazon's ever-so-popular public cloud and now - recently - its Eucalyptus-provided hybrid clouds. HP research found that IT doesn't know that jobs are being outsourced to the cloud.
It wants its corporate customers to set up an internal OpenStack-based IaaS cloud that - when the time comes - happens to works well with other OpenStack clouds outside.
OpenStack has accumulated 150 impressive followers but nobody's gone into production yet but HP still wants to infuse corporate confidence in the cloud.
OpenStack deplores the lock-in Amazon standard and its APIs but - despite its own preferred prized APIs - still claims AWS-compatibility - we'll see - that HP could conceivably use to get some private cloud reverse traffic.
HP is trying to strike a "gently, gently" approach to address lingering fears about going cloud.
Customers, in HP's usual "please everybody" way, can use any virtualization they like though OpenStack has a bias toward Red Hat's KVM.
They can also use various operating systems and development environments.
HP has got templates, a k a cloud maps, of preconfigured cloud services.
One can expect HP Service Virtualization 2.0 to test cloud environments, Virtual Application Networks to speed up app deployment, a self-explanatory Virtual Network Protection and Cloud Optimization and outsourced private cloud management called Enterprise Cloud Services.
Forrester Research, which thinks HP's Converged Cloud could attract service providers, figures the market for cloud computing services will reach $61 billion by the end of this year.

EMC to Tackle Private-cloud Complexity With All-in-one VSPEX Platform

By Stephen Lawson

EMC on Thursday gave more enterprises a way to build all-in-one private cloud systems, providing an alternative to the VBlock architecture that it developed with Cisco Systems and VMware for customers who need to integrate other vendors' technology.

The new VSPEX platform, which combines computing, virtualization and storage in one system, also gives EMC's channel partners a way to build such systems for vertical industries. The partners will be able to offer custom VSPEX systems with applications that meet enterprises' specific requirements. EMC is establishing a VSPEX Lab program where partners will be able to certify their configurations as compliant with the platform, and partners will be able to put their own brands on the systems they create.
EMC also plans to add a security vendor to the group of VSPEX vendors that it unveiled on Thursday at an event in San Francisco, said Prasad Rampalli, senior vice president of the EMC Solutions Group. The current list of partners includes VMware, Microsoft and Citrix Systems for virtualization, Cisco and Brocade Communications for networking, and Intel and Cisco for servers. The platform is open with regard to computing, so customers will be able to integrate servers from HP, IBM or Dell into VSPEX, though the "deep partnership" between EMC and Cisco allows the companies to optimize the systems for Cisco UCS (Unified Computing System) hardware, Rampalli said.
Through its RSA division, EMC already brings some security capabilities to VSPEX, Rampalli noted. EMC eventually may add partners in other areas, though dealing with the many possible combinations made possible by the current lineup will keep the company occupied for a while, he said. When it comes to storage, VSPEX is based on EMC's offerings, so there are no plans for other partners for that, he said.
VSPEX is part of a trend toward preconfigured systems for data centers, which can save enterprises time and money when they decide to implement cloud computing, according to industry analysts. Other vendors are also finding ways to integrate all the components of a cloud in one system, including IBM, which announced its PureSystems line on Wednesday.
EMC's main play in this field has been the VBlock platform delivered with Cisco and VMware through the joint venture VCE (virtual computing environment). VBlocks combine storage from EMC with networking and Unified Computing server hardware from Cisco, all tied together with virtualization software from EMC spinoff VMware.
VBlocks have been fairly successful since their launch about three years ago, industry analysts said. But they have been targeted mostly at large enterprises and service providers, and VCE's tight focus on the three vendors makes VBlocks a difficult fit in some environments. Many enterprises are already too heavily invested in other suppliers' gear to adopt VBlocks. To address those customers, small and midsized enterprises, and vertical industries, EMC is introducing VSPEX as a middle ground between VBlocks and build-it-yourself private clouds.
EMC's approach with the new platform sets it apart from some other major enterprise vendors, such as Oracle, HP and IBM, Pund-IT analyst Charles King said. For example, Oracle's Exalogic Cloud is entirely built around that company's technology, King said.
"When you're buying into Exalogic, you're buying not just a hardware platform, but you're buying an entire Oracle software stack and virtualization stack as well," King said. EMC, which makes storage but not computing or networking products, approaches the problem differently, he said. "Rather than taking a single-vendor view of the market, they are in essence acting as the ringmaster."
VSPEX may also prove to give EMC a better shot at the emerging cloud market, King said. EMC has frequently pushed VBlocks to service providers, partly reflecting a view that companies interested in cloud computing initially would look to carriers' public clouds, he said. However, enterprises have proved to be more interested in private clouds, and VSPEX is likely to be a better platform to meet those demands, King said. Letting channel partners configure them specially for individual customers or industries should help to serve that market too.
Only about two-thirds of enterprises are ready to buy or deploy private clouds, according to surveys of Fortune 1000 companies and public agencies by 451 Research. Though some larger organizations have moved already, midsized ones have not moved as fast. As they dive into private cloud, platforms such as VSPEX will be what many are looking for, 451 Group analyst Peter ffoulkes said.
"I do think this is likely to be the wave of the future, but I don't think it's going to take off tomorrow," ffoulkes said.
Most VSPEX configurations are available now, though ones using VMware's Vue 5.1 desktop virtualization software won't be available until August. The platform is designed exclusively for configuration and sale through channel partners. EMC could not immediately estimate a price range for VSPEX systems.

IBM and Red Hat Join OpenStack

The new Open Stack Foundation has eight companies kicking in as platinum members

 By Maureen O'Gara

OpenStack announced Thursday that, as expected, it's moving to a foundation governance model with a published framework that's supposed to limit Rackspace's dominance of the nascent open source cloud platform.

OpenStack is an alternative to Amazon. Citrix started a competing effort to OpenStack last week around its open source CloudStack, which unlike OpenStack uses Amazon APIs. These APIs are supposed to make Amazon, which now also has the open source Eucalyptus in its corner, the de facto standard.
The new Open Stack Foundation has eight companies kicking in as platinum members including IBM and Red Hat, which have both been working in the background until now. In fact, Red Hat says it ranks third of all corporate members in contributions to date.

The other platinum members include AT&T, Canonical, HP, Nebula, SUSE and, of course, Rackspace which started the whole thing along with NASA.
Cisco, ClearPath Networks, Cloudscaling, Dell, DreamHost, ITRI, Mirantis, Morphlabs, NetApp, Piston Cloud Computing and Yahoo are coming as gold members.
That gives it 19 members altogether. The Platinums will pay $500,000 a year and have to make a three-year commitment. The Golds will pay 0.025% of their revenue, which will mean at least $50,000 a year but no more than $200,000. Platinums are also supposed to provide operational resources such as staffing or development environment infrastructure.
According to the foundation's wiki, it's figuring on an annual operating budget of $4 million-$5 million "equal to current Rackspace funding for the same activities today."
The biannual OpenStack Design Summit & Conference will be subsidized primarily through event sponsorships.
Individual members can join for free.

AICTE becomes Microsoft's biggest cloud computing client

A visitor uses his mobile phone as he walks past the Microsoft booth with a logo for cloud computing software application at the CeBit computer fair in Hanover, March, 6, 2012. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/Files
Microsoft  announced its biggest-ever customer for cloud computing - software that it hosts on behalf of clients and delivers over the Internet - after winning a contract to provide free services to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

Microsoft, which was built on the sale of expensive software that is installed on individual computers, has been forced by competition from Google and others to branch out into the fast-growing world of cloud computing.

The U.S. software giant said on Thursday it would provide its Live@edu communication and collaboration software to more than 7 million students and half a million teachers through a deal with the AICTE.
The service, which Microsoft is providing for free as part of its education initiative, includes email, Office Web applications, instant messaging and storage.
For users, cloud computing is inexpensive and simple, because it removes the need to spend time and money on installing software and managing servers.
Large government departments are prime targets for vendors such as Microsoft and Google.
Last June, Microsoft unveiled a revamped online version of its hugely profitable Office software suite.

Hewlett-Packard: Once More Toward the Cloud

Hewlett-Packard says it is again revamping the corporate sales of its servers and software to better take advantage of the growing market for cloud computing by large businesses.
The initiative, called HP Converged Cloud, is in some ways the operational reflection of the changes recently put in place at the top of H.P. by Meg Whitman, who became chief executive in September. Ms. Whitman consolidated the personal computing and printer divisions of H.P. and also streamlined the sales functions to large corporations. HP Converged Cloud similarly consolidates what were separate businesses involved in the construction and running of a large data center.
Cloud computing promises a more efficient use of information technology resources by tapping into large amounts of data storage and computational power via the Internet. This means remote workers can have access to a lot of data, sensors tied to the system can gather more data and centralized resources can work more efficiently.
“We’ve got lots of intellectual property, lots of products, and expertise at running things at scale,” said Bill Veghte, chief strategy officer and executive vice president of software at H.P. “There is a new wave of cloud and mobile computing, and big data, and there is a gap between what businesses need and what information technology is delivering.”
H.P., which has had four chief executives in a little over seven years, has been losing the initiative to companies like Amazon, which is believed to have one of the largest corporate cloud businesses, and I.B.M., which has been increasing its efforts in the construction of private corporate clouds. Amazon only sells access to things like computing and data storage, not hardware. I.B.M. is strong in computers, but H.P.’s data storage systems are regarded as particularly strong. Its large-scale automation software is regarded as an underutilized gem.
It is also somewhat early in the contest. About half of H.P.’s $130 billion in annual revenue comes from large companies, which tend to move slowly to new technology. H.P. wants to be using those big-company relationships in its Converged Cloud proposition, which emphasizes things like operational flexibility, management control and security rather than cutting-edge technology. The company’s main selling points, he said, would be “choice, confidence and consistency.”
H.P. will offer companies the ability to build their own clouds or to gain access public clouds, including a system that H.P. is expected to bring online in a few weeks. The company will also have a service to modernize software and develop new ones. It will merge the structured and unstructured data analysis capabilities it gained with last year’s acquisitions of Vertica and Autonomy.
Some aspects of the Converged Cloud sound a lot like what H.P. has peddled before. And Mr. Veghte could not say how H.P.’s sales representatives, who are typically given incentives to move hardware, would be compensated in the new system, other than to say that he had targets that must be met. A number of specialists in cloud computing will also be used, he said, and these two groups will be expected to work together.

New OpenStack 'Essex' Release Provides Pluggable Cloud OS

OpenStack announced the release of "Essex," the fifth version of the open-source cloud operating system that offers users a pluggable platform.

OpenStack has announced “Essex,” the fifth version of its community-driven, open-source cloud operating system, with a focus on quality, usability and extensibility across enterprise, service provider and high-performance computing (HPC) deployments.
The OpenStack Essex news comes just days after Citrix announced its plans for the next version of its CloudStack cloud platform, which the company submitted to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) and itself became a sponsor of ASF.
Speaking of sponsorships, GigaOm reported that IBM and Red Hat are poised to lend their substantial might behind the OpenStack open-source cloud project at the upcoming OpenStack Spring 2012 conference.
OpenStack Essex enables users to leverage pools of on-demand, self-managed compute, storage and networking resources to build efficient, automated private and public cloud infrastructures.
Moreover, illustrating the power of community-driven software development, the Essex release was written by over 200 developers from 55 different companies. Essex delivers user-requested features for improved automation, integration across projects, and central management and provisioning by leveraging OpenStack's pluggable architecture. The Essex development cycle included an earlier feature freeze and an extensive testing phase before release, resulting in greater stability and reliability, and Essex will also be included in the next Ubuntu 12.04 long-term support release.
There have been more than 100,000 downloads from openstack.org, with production cloud environments deployed around the globe. Essex adds new features and better project integration across the three pillars of compute, storage and networking. Essex also marks the first full release of two new projects, Dashboard and Identity, which provide additional infrastructure and support across the three pillars. With a focus on quality, usability and extensibility across the projects, Essex adds about 150 new features.
Among the new updates to the system is the new OpenStack Compute feature, code-named Nova, which, along with the new Dashboard and Identity features, focuses on stability and integration. It includes enhancements to feature parity among the Tier 1 hypervisors—making it a seamless user experience across each hypervisor—improved authorization and live migration with multihost networking. There were also contributions to support high-performance computing and additional block storage options, including support for Nexenta, SolidFire and NetApp storage solutions.
The new OpenStack Object Storage feature, code-named Swift, delivers new capabilities to improve compliance and data security with the ability to expire objects according to document retention policies, more protections against corruption and degradation of data, and sophisticated disaster recovery improvements. There are also new capabilities important to service providers, including the ability to upload data directly from an authenticated Web page and the ability to restrict the maximum number of containers per account.
The new OpenStack Dashboard, code-named Horizon, is the first full release of OpenStack Dashboard. It provides administrators and users with the ability to access, provision and automate cloud-based resources through a self-service portal. The extensible design makes it easy to plug in and expose third-party products and services, such as monitoring. Right alongside it is the new OpenStack Identity, code-named Keystone, which is the first full release of OpenStack Identity, and it unifies all core projects of the cloud operating system with a common authentication system. The technology provides authorization for multiple log-in credentials, including username/password, token-based and Amazon Web Services (AWS) style log-ins.
Rounding out the major new and enhanced features is OpenStack Image Service, code-named Glance, which gains several key updates to improve usability, authorization and image protection.
“The Essex release represents an exciting time for both OpenStack users and for NetApp as it marks a significant step forward in the flexibility of the platform and our first contribution to the community,” said Jeff O’Neal, senior director of the Solutions Integration Group at NetApp, in a statement. “With NetApp technology integrated into OpenStack Compute, users will be able to build on a storage platform that delivers a unique array of storage efficiency technologies, data replication features, fault tolerance, and high availability to help reduce costs and enable users to get the most out of their private and public cloud architectures. We're thrilled to take part in the OpenStack maturation process and help build a wave of production deployments combining OpenStack and NetApp.”
OpenStack is looking beyond Essex. For instance, Project Quantum, led by Nicira, Cisco, Citrix, Midokura and Rackspace, was incubated during the Essex release and aims to provide an automated framework for managing data center network activities. Quantum is a plug-in-based service that manages common network administrative tasks, from creating ports and routes to configuring VLANs. Many users have been deploying OpenStack clouds with the Quantum networking service during the incubation phase, and Quantum is expected to become a core part of OpenStack in the “Folsom” release expected fall 2012.
"We've been working with OpenStack for about 15 months, and we're pleased to see how the AUTHORS file keeps growing with every release,” Juan J. Martinez, lead OpenStack developer at Memset, said in a statement. “The number of people contributing code is a fine indicator of good health, supported by the excellent management of the elected technical leaders and the best development practices that translate into lots of fixed bugs, improvements and new functionalities. We're confident that we made the right decision committing resources to include OpenStack in our business strategy."
"The Essex release shows tremendous evolution and improvement of the most critical components of OpenStack,” said Josh McKenty, founder and CEO of Piston Cloud Computing, in a statement. “Most notably, the Keystone authentication and authorization service, which was extensively revamped to enable easier and more collaborative development. The community also really rallied around improving the level of integration between the various OpenStack sub-projects. Finally, major enhancements to the modularity of core OpenStack projects (including Horizon) will make it possible for rapid development of tightly integrated plugins without impacting the project as a whole."
The spring 2012 OpenStack Design Summit & Conference is taking place April 16-20 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. The Design Summit will bring together more than 400 OpenStack developers and key contributors to determine the roadmap for the “Folsom” release. Conference keynote presentations will be given by HP, Canonical, Nebula and Rackspace, and the event will feature presentations from OpenStack users, including Deutsche Telekom, San Diego Supercomputer Center, eBay’s X.commerce, Department of Energy Magellan and NeCTAR.

OpenStack versus CloudStack: A contest between services and software

Rivalry between the two open source options distracts us from the true point of cloud computing: It's the services, stupid

By David Linthicum

It looks like OpenStack won't be the only open source cloud computing player. Earlier this week, Citrix Systems released its CloudStack software to the Apache Software Foundation as an alternative to OpenStack. Formerly a member of the project, Citrix cited difficulties in making OpenStack work with its technology as a major driver behind the defection.

CloudStack will launch with about 30 technology partners, many of them already involved with OpenStack. CloudStack claims an Amazon Web Services-compatible native API set. OpenStack has an AWS API compatibility feature as well.

[ InfoWorld editor in chief Eric Knorr took an early look at OpenStack's quest to become your data center OS. | Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]

For those expecting an apples-versus-apples fight, you're way off. CloudStack is a software product with an install base that's been moved to open source for marketing purposes. This game has been played many times before, with everything from CRM software to ESBs. Indeed, you'll find open source versions of most major software patterns.

Compared to CloudStack, OpenStack is less finished. Rather, it's a framework or a base set of code that companies such as Piston Cloud Computing and Nebula are able to leverage as a foundation for their products. OpenStack is more complex and not truly baked for the end-user without distribution support. However, OpenStack supports advanced networking capabilities, and it can be implemented for specific use cases, such as high-performance and widely distributed computing. OpenStack also uses the Apache open source license, and the forthcoming Essex release includes contributions from more than 200 developers from 55 companies. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages.

I don't have a problem with this battle potentially becoming the cloud version of Microsoft versus Apple. But I don't like that the focus has seemed to shift from building and deploying cloud computing services, both private and public, and back to software.

If the goal is to construct better shared cloud services to displace the volumes of hardware and software in enterprises, I'm all for it. However, if this is about arguing over what "cloud software" will be loaded on the new rack of servers, we're headed in the wrong direction. Services, not software, should be the focus of cloud computing.

5 takeaways from the CloudStack-OpenStack dustup

Citrix stunned its OpenStack partners with news on Tuesday that it is setting up CloudStack as an Apache-based rival to the OpenStack cloud platform.

There’s been a lot of jawing and some bad feelings on both sides: OpenStack wasn’t ready for primetime; Citrix was disloyal, yada yada yada. But now as the smoke starts to clear, here are some key takeaways from the latest cloud spat.

1: The API debate is (still) over

Amazon won. CloudStack’s support of the Amazon API confirms this, much as the Amazon-Eucalyptus deal did a few weeks ago. (Eucalyptus — another OpenStack rival — claims compatibility with the Amazon APIs in a move that should make it easier for private clouds running Eucalyptus to interoperate with workloads in the Amazon public cloud.)  As Forrester Research analyst James Staten blogged:
“Like Eucalyptus, Citrix CloudStack provides API compatibility with Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). The OpenStack community is debating the degree of compatibility its software should have with this de facto and clearly proprietary API set. Citrix no longer has to debate this issue or be beholden to the OpenStack group decision here which looks to be leaning away from EC2 compatibility.”
Still, there’s support and then there’s support — and there is real confusion about which clouds support which Amazon APIs.  As Adrian Cockroft, Netflix’ director of architecture of cloud systems, tweeted Tuesday: