The Troposphere

November 9, 2011  12:13 AM

OpSource, Rackspace upset cloud software market

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers, OpSource and Rackspace, threw their hats into the cloud software ring this week, disrupting the traditional enterprise software market and other upstarts in the cloud market.

OpSource announced Cloud Software, a way for companies to buy enterprise software such as Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint and Oracle database products on a pay-per-use basis. So far, cloud users have been able to pay pennies per hour for servers, but still had to pay the full perpetual license fee for whatever software they ran on those machines.

With this offering, users can rent Oracle or Microsoft products for a fraction of the price to buy them, as long as they are an OpSource customer.

Microsoft is moving in this direction itself with its EAs and Open Value licensing, but so far we haven’t seen this kind of licensing model from Oracle. The database giant is expected to announce changes to its licensing model for Oracle Public Cloud soon.

Keao Caindec, chief marketing officer at OpSource said he doesn’t expect these new pricing schemes for enterprise software in the cloud to cannibalize the perpetual license business. “It satisfies a different need,” he said. OpSource’s market is developers testing software in the cloud, where they only need to turn on a machine for the period of the test. He said pay-per-use would be more expensive on an annual basis than a perpetual license if you kept the machines running. A perpetual license from Oracle costs from $7,000 to $20,000 per processor. While OpSource cloud software is approximately $350 per month, flat rate for a fully-fledged Oracle machine.

There are many cloud database-only providers out there and also cloud providers that offer a database as part of their service, but OpSource said its goal is to be multi-vendor and multi-product.

Meanwhile, OpSource isn’t the only company upsetting the apple cart in the cloud software market. Rackspace, the hosting provider that morphed into a cloud provider, is now offering software to enterprises. It’s Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition, is its distribution of the OpenStack IaaS software for enterprises to run their own private clouds.

The OpenStack OS is free, but Rackspace will charge users for implementation support, OpenStack updates and upgrades, performance tuning, system analysis, security patching and fixing, escalation support for engineering questions and OpenStack training for developers. Think Red Hat Linux, but for the OpenStack OS.

For Rackspace, the goal is to push wider adoption of the OpenStack platform. As companies deploy this in house, and then need more resources, it becomes easier to move their OpenStack environments into Rackspace’s facilities, or into one of its partner’s data centers, like Equinix which just announced support for Rackspace Cloud Private Edition.

It’s a similar strategy to VMware’s vCloud business. VMware is seeding service providers with vCloud data center software that can connect to VMware infrastructure companies run in-house.

The big question now is how long all the standalone IaaS platform providers, Nimbula, Abiquo, Eucalyptus, et al, can last. It’s a bit of a bet to be sure, but I’m guessing OpenStack is most apt to nail the ’80’ while all these small cloud plays are nailing the ’20’.

October 31, 2011  6:59 PM

DuraCloud launches preservation service

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

Universities, cultural heritage organizations and libraries around the world – there’s a cloud service for you now too. It’s an open source offering developed by not-for-profit organization, DuraSpace, called DuraCloud and is focused on preserving important documents.

The service runs on top of cloud storage providers’ Amazon S3 and Rackspace Cloud Files and eventually, Microsoft Azure. Users can store documents, images, video, just about any content you like and as many copies as you like, across these providers and it’s all accessible from a single portal. Try moving content across different cloud providers today without this kind of service. It’s a royal pain. DuraCloud automatically synchronizes your copies across providers and offers a health check service to verify the integrity of your files.

There are no requirements to how your content must be structured for ingest into DuraCloud. In terms of content, DuraCloud is essentially a blob store. You can upload any bitstream, in any format. DuraCloud is also capable of storing any type of package (i.e., AIP, ZIP, TAR, etc.). And since there are no requirements, you can easily transfer data to DuraCloud yourself. There are three options for uploading content to DuraCloud: via the web interface, the client-side synchronization utility, or the REST API.

DuraSpace started the project in 2009 and initially built it on EMC’s Atmos Online and Sun’s Cloud storage services, both of which went poof in 2010. It was a good test of the software, according to Michele Kimpton, CEO of DuraSpace, who said they were easily able to move DuraCloud to Amazon and Rackspace.

“It proves the model, you can’t rely on just one provider …Users need flexibility of providers and their data in multiple geographies,” Kimpton said.

The service is geared to the 1200 or so academic institutions and cultural heritage organizations already using DuraSpace’s Fedora framework for building an archive and Dspace, a repository application. These hook directly into DuraCloud, although you don’t need them to use DuraCloud. The service doesn’t offer any kind of security capability today such as encryption, which is a definite downside for anyone thinking of using it for sensitive information.

And it’s not especially cheap. DuraSpace charges a subscription fee for running the service of $375 per month which includes 500 GB of storage and access to all services in the platform. Additional storage is charged at the rate of the underlying cloud provider.

There are other preservation services out there, but so far none have taken advantage of the cloud. Chronopolis is a digital preservation service developed by the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego. It takes a copy of your content and stores it offline, so you can’t see it or easily access it but they will keep it “forever” for you. Stanford University has a service called LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe), but you have to be a member and run a server called a LOCKSS box in your IT environment. Your box joins others in a peer to peer network and if any one box goes down, you can pull your content from another LOCKSS box. Kimpton claims it doesn’t scale well and you need specialist skills to use it.

Eventually DuraCloud will offer data mining and data analytics services for the content in its stores and Kimpton expects someone will probably want to license it as some point for commercial purposes. “We’ll decide if we want to do that down the line,” she said. “We’re not trying to make a profit, that’s why there is trust within our community.”

October 24, 2011  10:40 PM

Why cloud marketplaces are taking off

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

Just this week two different cloud marketplaces went live, Equinix’s cloud marketplace and Synnex’s CloudSolv. Both claim to bring buyers and sellers of cloud services together under one roof reducing network costs and improving performance of the services available.

Equinix says companies already housed in one of its International Business Exchanges can acquire services from each other, with Equinix facilitating the connection in the middle. Instead of doing an extensive search for a provider of a particular service only to discover they are right next door to you in an Equinix data center, now users can search the marketplace and in an instant, see what’s available. Equinix claims 4,000 companies are housed in its data centers.

A key advantage of finding a provider inside the same data center as you is bandwidth costs and network performance. There’s no need to shell out money for fat pipes to a provider if they are right next door to you, and you can expect much better performance from your neighbor than someone a million miles away.

Similarly, Synnex, the third largest distributor of IT products in the US, launched a cloud application marketplace for its resellers. It runs on a new product from FullArmor Corp. called AppPortal Marketplace.

One of the reasons these cloud marketplaces, sometimes called Cloud Brokerage Services are taking off is the sheer number of companies launching cloud-based services. There are literally thousands of them from industry specific vertical clouds that meet regulatory requirements for those industries, to cloud based IT services (security being a key one), to business functions like CRM as a service i.e., to IaaS and PaaS offerings.

Making sense of who does what and then figuring out which provider to go with is a huge undertaking. These marketplaces go some way toward simplifying that process and hopefully providing a better service as the providers are in a trusted community.

The downside to marketplaces is the fees the owner of the marketplace might charge to be in its club so to speak (i.e. eBay) and the power it gives the marketplace. Amazon for example monitors all the sales data on its site and uses that information to cherry pick popular products in categories it doesn’t normally stock, sometimes undercutting other sellers in its marketplace. It’ll be interesting to see if the cloud marketplaces evolve this way too.

October 11, 2011  5:19 PM

OpenStack: teenager or toddler?

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

The OpenStack project’s release of Diablo a few weeks ago invited comparisons to adolescence, but after attending the OpenStack Conference in Boston last week, that analogy strikes me as premature. OpenStack is more like a precocious first-born toddler from whom the family expects great things, but who still has a long way to go.

No doubt about it, OpenStackers have incredibly high hopes for their open-source cloud software stack. Take Chris Kemp, founder and CEO of Nebula, which is building an OpenStack-based private cloud deployment package. “OpenStack is more than just a platform, it’s turning in to an economy,” Kemp said, ”….that will power the next generation of computing.” If successful, “I really think we have an opportunity to change the world.”

At just one year, OpenStack’s achievements are impressive. At the show, Alejandro Comisario, infrastructure senior engineer at MercadoLibre, an e-commerce provider focused on Latin America, described how his firm runs 6000 VMs in a production cloud on top of OpenStack. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Melbourne told me they are developing a national OpenStack cloud for use by Australian research universities. Clearly, OpenStack has gained a lot of traction in a very short time.

But OpenStack is far from a done deal. The newly formed OpenStack Foundation, which took the reins from RackSpace, is still grappling with fundamental questions about OpenStack’s identity and modus operandi. In a panel session entitled ‘Winning OpenStack’s Second Year,’ panelists from companies including Citrix, HP, RackSpace, Nebula and Cisco discussed issues like whether it should publish a roadmap; whether to stick with Infrastructure as a Service or extend to Platform as a Service; how to ensure code quality; and how to engage end users.

These are all foundational questions which commercial cloud platform providers have, by and large, already answered for themselves.

“The troublesome two’s are a difficult time for parents,” said Tim Hill, group leader of the IT/OIS group within IT at CERN that has experimented with the platform. “Hopefully the OpenStack Foundation will have an easier time.”

October 11, 2011  3:47 PM

IBM snaps up Platform Computing for private cloud

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

IBM has acquired Platform Computing, a score for the commodity private cloud champions over those pushing expensive, proprietary cloud in a box systems.

Historically a strong player in the high performance computing market, Platform switched its focus from grid management software to private cloud management in 2009. Its software enables IT shops to create Infrastructure as a Service in-house from multiple hypervisors, provisioning tools and commodity hardware.

With the acquisition of Platform, Big Blue is hedging its bets on which way users will go to build private clouds. One approach is to lash together x86 servers with some virtualization, automation and management software; the alternative is to buy an expensive cloud in a box, like IBM’s Workload Deployer hardware appliance, where the software and hardware is pre-integrated. Oracle, EMC, Cisco, VMware, NetApp and HP all have cloud in a box systems.

Platform’s approach has won it over 2,000 customers including 23 of the top 30 largest global enterprises. CERN, Citigroup, Infineon, Pratt & Whitney, Red Bull Racing, Sanger Institute, Statoil and the University of Tokyo all use the software to manage commodity clusters.

Other vendors offering cloud platform management software include Embotics, Eucalyptus, Abiquo, Gale Technologies and VMware among others.

Platform Computing has approximately 500 employees worldwide who will join IBM Systems and Technology Group. Platform was privately held and thought to be profitable, due to its range of products and market leadership in HPC, not just Platform ISF its cloud management application.

October 10, 2011  9:07 PM

IBM beefs up SmartCloud

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

This week IBM plans to give the world a sneak peak at its latest public and private IBM SmartCloud services and software. It’s porting SAP, ERP and all database applications to it. And claims new technologies will be available to deploy and manage a private cloud 35x faster than existing offerings with support for image management and rapid provisioning. The company did not share numbers on this, so 35x faster doesn’t mean much, yet.

It also said it will be the first enterprise Cloud open to more than 130,000 software vendors, business
partners and value-added resellers — building and selling key applications in supply chain, healthcare and smarter commerce.

Taken together, IBM claimed more than 200 million users will be using IBM’s SmartCloud technology daily.

Stay tuned for more details.

October 5, 2011  8:13 PM

Cloud customer council shares advice from the trenches

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

The Cloud Standards Customer Council has posted a document called the Practical Guide to Cloud Computing, which offers IT pros basic advice on how to get started in the cloud.

The council includes 200 members from a variety of different companies including Aetna, State Street Bank, Daimler, Pacific Life, John Deere and Lockheed Martin among others. There are also vendors in the group. Melvin Greer, senior fellow and chief strategist for cloud computing at Lockheed Martin and chair of the council, said the vendor members are prohibited from pushing their company’s agenda.

“We are exclusively focused on the customer, we’re not interested in folks with an ax to grind or a position to pontificate,” he said.

The council does not itself create standards but works with other standards bodies like NIST, CSA, Object Management Group and the Open Cloud Consortium), to bring the customer perspective to the discussion on cloud. “We are driving user requirements into the standards process,” Greer said.

The document includes a road map with 9 steps to get you cloud strategy off the ground; it also includes metrics to think about to help measure the success of your strategy. The document does not include legal advice, cost comparisons between cloud providers, SLA advice or case studies at this point in time. Greer said it was a work in progress and the group would appreciate feedback from cloud users.

October 3, 2011  9:16 PM

HP hires some cloud cred

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

HP has hired John Purrier, one of the original project leads for OpenStack from Rackspace, to run its HP Cloud Services unit. [Ed note: Is he nuts!?]

Purrier is due to give a keynote at the OpenStack conference this week where he will announce what HP is going to be contributing to OpenStack.

The beleaguered company been working on HP Cloud Service using OpenStack since July but has yet to put any code commits in to the project. Either HP is forking the project (a common problem with open source initiatives), or OpenStack gets a serious partner…

Purrier will oversee the cloud infrastructure engineering, technical operations, and customer satisfaction teams for the HP Cloud Services organization.

September 26, 2011  10:28 PM

Ex-Fed CIO Vivek Kundra’s Cloud First policy trashed

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

Former federal CIO Vivek Kundra has been slammed by IT pros working for the government for his “Cloud First” policy, according to a survey by MeriTalk, an online IT community for U.S. government workers.

The survey of 174 federal IT pros was conducted in August 2011 at the MeriTalk Innovation Nation forum, six months after Kundra’s resignation.

“Vivek’s tenure … was like a bottle of champagne — seems like a great idea, exciting start, but the plan’s unclear, and the next morning you wake up with the same problems and a sore head,” said Steve O’Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk. The firm has presented its findings to Steven VanRoekel, Kundra’s replacement.

The feds supported Kundra’s initiatives, but said timing, funding and conflicting mandates made it impossible to carry them out, according to O’Keeffe. Kundra placed a heavy emphasis on modernizing infrastructure spending on IT, which he said soaked up $19 billion per year out of the approximately $70 billion federal IT budget.

While the majority of federal IT professionals (71%) believe Vivek Kundra made a significant impact while in office and credit his vision as his greatest strength, the study revealed that top challenges under Kundra included lack of funding to fulfill mandates (59%), conflicting mandates (44%) and unrealistic goals/mandates (41%). When asked to vote on the three most important priorities for the new federal CIO, respondents said:

Reduce the number of mandates and conflicting mandates (60%)
Reassess goals/timelines to make success attainable (53%)
Listen to feedback/counsel from IT operations (46%)

According to the study, 92% of feds believe cloud is a good idea for federal IT, but just 29% are following the administration’s mandated “Cloud First” policy. And almost half (42%) say they are adopting a “wait-and-see” approach related to cloud. Respondents cite numerous challenges including security issues (64%), cultural issues (36%) and budget constraints (36%) as barriers to cloud computing.

Almost all feds (95%) also vote for data center consolidation, although the majority (70%) say federal agencies will not be able to eliminate the mandated 800 data centers by 2015. Respondents do anticipate realizing savings from their data center consolidation efforts, with most (74%) estimating the federal government can save at least $75 million overall. Respondents acknowledge, however, that investment is needed — 85% say Feds will not realize data center savings without new investment.

When it comes to cyber security, respondents unanimously agreed threats have increased in the last year (100% say yes). Feds say the most important priorities for cyber security going forward are: securing federal networks (68%), critical infrastructure protection (56%) and privacy protection (36%). However, feds say funding to meet these priorities is, on average, 41% short. Further, feds are unclear who owns cyber security, highlighting a leadership vacuum.

September 21, 2011  10:23 PM

Autodesk launches design cloud on Amazon

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

One of the biggest challenges in computer-based design is the amount of processing power it takes to simulate how designs will perform in the real world.

Autodesk Inc., makers of the popular design software AutoCAD, will launch a suite of applications in the next two weeks for visualization, optimization and collaboration on Amazon’s cloud, reducing the computational overhead for users.

The company hopes to be a bridge to the cloud for its existing customers and also to attract smaller design firms that cannot afford big compute farms for 3D visualization.

“Our cloud services will open up these capabilities to more companies,” said Dr. Andrew Anagnost, VP of Web services at Autodesk. “We can do all that processing for them.”

An optimization service will run simulations and show the best result and a collaboration service will crunch data for specific users in a workflow model. In typical cloud fashion, Autodesk will offer a free subscription for a limited amount of capacity, with more capacity for a fee. The company didn’t release exact pricing.

Autodesk has plenty of experience running Software as a Service. Its Buzzsaw online data management tool for the construction industry is over a decade old and taught the company a few lessons. It was spun out and then back in and is currently run from Autodesk’s internal servers.

“There are benefits to that, but absolute problems too around scaling up dynamically … You can’t do it with internal infrastructure,” Anagnost said. Autodesk expects to push elements of Buzzsaw out to the cloud in an experimental way. “As long as the customer will see no difference, it will go to the cloud,” he said. “The lines will blur around what’s on the desktop and what’s in the cloud.”

Anagnost expects all Autodesk’s software will have online versions within three years.

The biggest limitations to its new services will be bandwidth and security. Smaller firms may not have enough pipe to upload data to the cloud. And security in the cloud, or lack thereof continues to be a worry for many companies. 

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