HP Block Storage Service Released as Private Beta

Even as Hewlett-Packard prepares its public cloud compute service, it is already planning an upgrade to the portfolio that would include block storage.

The high-performance, high-availability HP Block Storage was released to private beta on Tuesday. HP didn't say when the public beta or final version would become available, or how much the service will cost.

The new service will allow customers to add storage volumes up to 2TB per volume and they will be able to add multiple volumes atop of HP Cloud Compute instances. Customers will also be able to create snapshots of their volumes to create point-in-time copies, allowing them to create new volumes from the snapshots, which can be backed up to HP Object Storage for added redundancy if needed.

With the current private beta, users must manually create backups but HP said it will release an API to automate the process. Gavin Pratt, a senior product manager for HP's Cloud Service, said in a blog post the service will appeal to enterprise customers requiring high availability. "Using RAID, along with other high availability techniques, your data will be preserved even if an entire hard disk or RAID controller fails," Pratt wrote.

Comparison chart of HP's different cloud storage service options. Source: Hewlett-Packard Company.

Comparison chart of HP's different cloud storage service options. Source: Hewlett-Packard Company. (Click image to view larger version.)

HP's Cloud Block Storage will appeal to those who require additional capacity on top of their compute instances as well as those who want to ensure data from compute instances persist beyond the life of a specific virtual machine," according to Pratt. "Additionally, it's perfect for applications & databases where you need to perform reads and writes concurrently with high IOPS performance," he said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on May 08, 20120 comments

Red Hat Reignites Cloud War vs. VMware

As VMware's Cloud Foundry effort continues to gain momentum toward creating an open-source platform as a service (PaaS) ecosystem, Red Hat this week re-invigorated its rival OpenShift alternative. But it remains to be seen if Red Hat's bid to rain on VMware's parade will succeed.

Both companies launched their respective projects last year but VMware appears to have gained the upper hand in lining up a broad mix of partners and enthusiasm for Cloud Foundry than Red Hat has with OpenShift. Red Hat revived OpenShift on Monday by releasing OpenShift Origin, the components of its OpenShift PaaS platform to the open source community. Developers can access the code from GitHub.

The move was expected but the announcement failed to generate much noise. When I talk to various software suppliers, service providers and others looking to migrate their platforms to the cloud, many speak of their interest, if not intent to support CloudFoundry. I have not encountered the same fervor for OpenShift.

"It hasn't had the kind of traction that they would like," said Forrester Research analyst James Staten. "This is true for frankly all of the cloud efforts that have come out of Red Hat. They have all been done in the open source community way but they haven't grabbed the community's attention."

For its part, it looks like Red Hat is trying to position OpenShift as a more open alternative to Cloud Foundry. While not mentioning its rival by name, Red Hat took a subtle dig at VMware's stewardship of Cloud Foundry.

"For developers who want to push and improve PaaS technology, [it's] a real, truly open and participatory open source project that you can pull, read, play with, and push back," wrote Mark Atwood, Red Hat's PaaS Evangelist, in a blog post. "There is a community that you can engage with. Your participation will be welcomed, your bug reports will be acknowledged, your bug fixes will be accepted, and your new code and pull requests will be honored. If you really want to be part of this, you will be a real member of the development process, not just if you work for Red Hat."

With the release of OpenShift Origin, VMware and Red Hat are set to butt heads, said RedMonk analyst Donnie Berkholz, adding that the market for PaaS is still burgeoning, meaning neither effort is central to the respective companies' revenues. But PaaS is expected to grow. Gartner predicts the market for PaaS this year will be $707 million, jumping to $1.8 billion in 2015.

"If one crushes the other, don't be surprised to see either of these companies jump ship," Berkholz said. "At the end of the day, Red Hat and VMware are going to support whatever makes them money on their core products and services."

While noting Cloud Foundry has a first-mover advantage, Red Hat has waged a new battle in a release of OpenShift Origin. The coming months will likely tell if one wins out over the other or both exist as legitimate PaaS options, though potentially setting up a scenario of fractured open-source PaaS options.

"OpenShift was operating at a serious disadvantage up until now, because Cloud Foundry's code has been open-source," Berkholz noted. "Now that OpenShift is truly open, it's got a new chance to build further momentum behind it on an equal footing. Second chances don't come often in life, so Red Hat needs to take advantage of this one -- and I fully expect it will."

Forrester's Staten said it's too early to tell how this will play out. The public PaaS market is still in its formative stages and even further out is private PaaS. Cloud Foundry has picked up some partners in the service provider community, such as Joyent and AppFog, which is creating links to Amazon Web Services. But it's not too late for Red Hat to create enthusiasm for OpenShift and it has a key asset in its JBoss middleware platform.

At this point, Staten has seen a stronger push by VMware to build Cloud Foundry than Red Hat toward OpenShift. "It's not clear there is the same strategic push or the same priority within the company," Staten said. "Red hat may try to refute that or point to some things that are different but we haven't seen that so far from them."

It's also interesting to note that both companies have reached out to the OpenStack infrastructure as a service (IaaS) open source initiative based on initial contributions by NASA and Rackspace. Having a rich set of compatible IaaS options would bolster both efforts and support for OpenStack could further solidify it as an alternative to Amazon Web Services.

Staten said popular PaaS providers such as CloudBees, Engine Yard and Heroku have an advantage by running atop of an infrastructure as a service cloud. "They have benefited from being on top of infrastructure as service because some parts of your applications may not be appropriate to run in a platform as a service but will be appropriate to run on an infrastructure as a service," he said. "That combination of infrastructure as a service plus platform as a service is a wining combination going forward."

To that end, Red Hat last month announced it has joined the 155-plus member OpenStack project, while Piston Cloud Computing Monday launched a new open source initiative aimed at letting Cloud Foundry to run on OpenStack. VMware said it will cooperate in enabling Piston to develop a "cloud provider interface" that integrates its OpenStack Piston Cloud OS with Cloud Foundry.

Piston's code would allow service providers and enterprises to deploy Cloud Foundry on top of OpenStack, making it easier to deploy the two as a complete solution, Staten pointed out, though he warned Piston hasn't announced a product, just a development effort. Yet if the project leads to a product, it would appeal to large enterprises, he said. "Piston is focused 100 percent on enterprises and highly secure environments only," he said. "Every one in the private cloud space wants to offer a higher level value and this could be a differentiator for Piston."

VMware detractors will certainly like to see OpenShift succeed. But will it? And what are the repercussions of two strong horses in the open-source PaaS race? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on May 03, 20120 comments

CollabNet Brings Dev Teams to Cloud with CloudForge

CollabNet, well known by software developers for its commercial distribution of the Subversion open-source application lifecycle management (ALM) platform, is bringing its source version control (SVC) technology to the cloud.

The company this week is launching CloudForge, a self-service iteration of its TeamForge ALM platform and source code repository that runs in public and private clouds. CollabNet's ALM technology is used by developers who practice Agile development.

Enterprises typically have used TeamForge on premises or in privately managed datacenters. But as IT organizations look to move more of their non-essential infrastructure off-premises, CollabNet sought to cloud-enable its platform. The effort began in earnest in 2010 with the acquisition of Codesion. At the time, CollabNet launched a multi-tenant version of TeamForge called TeamForge Project.

CloudForge will allow distributed development teams to manage the lifecycle of their code on public cloud services from Amazon Web Services, Joyent Google (App Engine) and Salesforce.com (Force.com). Through a partnership with VMware, CloudForge will also work with public and private clouds based on CloudFoundry.

CollabNet describes CloudForge as a development platform as a service, or dPaaS, because it's architected for development, deployment and scaling of applications. "We looked broadly across our 10,000 customers and started to recognize the trend of how public cloud customers are deploying to Amazon Web Services and leveraging our source code repositories on demand, and how our on premises customers are doing the same thing," said Guy Marion, VP and general manager for CollabNet's cloud services and formerly Codesion's CEO. CloudForge is built on the Ruby on Rails-based multi-tenant platform that runs Codesion, Marion said.

CloudForge will appeal to development teams because it provides self-service access to various programming tools and simplified deployment to public and private clouds, according to Marion. At the same time, it's designed to address enterprise concerns by offering role-based security, automated backups and support compliance requirements of running code in the cloud. CollabNet's TeamForge and Subversion Edge will also integrate with CloudForge.

Available first is Subversion Edge CloudBackup, which provides archiving, redundancy and migration services for CollabNet's on-prem offerings. Later this year, CollabNet will offer elastic server provisioning, reporting and collaboration services for hybrid cloud services.

The hybrid cloud platform will include a UI that supports collaboration among developers, an activity feed for developers that provides real time streaming, reporting for IT pros, the new AppCenter for hosting or connecting Agile tools from a provisioning platform called My Services to a number of third party tools such as Basecamp, Rally, JIRA and Pivotal.

CollabNet is also launching Marketplace, an online store where developers can purchase add-on tools and services from its partners such as Cornerstone, ALMWorks, BrainEngine, SOASTA, New Relic and Zendesk.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on May 02, 20121 comments

Twilio Offers Windows Azure Developers Telephony, Text Messaging APIs

Microsoft today said it has partnered with Twilio in a pact which will let developers build voice and SMS-enabled applications that run on the Windows Azure cloud service.

Twilio is a startup based in San Francisco that offers a cloud-based telephony service. Its APIs let developers build the ability to initiate and receive phone calls from mobile and Web apps. In addition to enabling call control, the APIs allow developers to integrate voice messaging, interactive voice response and text messaging into their applications.

"Our mission is to unlock the black box of telecommunications by building a simple, clean abstraction layer on top of the complex and esoteric telecommunications protocols," said Jon Plax, Twilio's director of product management, in an interview. "We present simple RESTful APIs, that can be used from any language, any platform, that require a very basic developer skill set to utilize. You don't have to be a telecom wonk in order to build applications that do interactive voice communications or interactive SMS."

The partnership is targeted at developers looking to build apps that allow users to initiate and receive phone calls from their apps. It will also appeal to those looking to build that capability into mobile and Web-based customer relationship management (CRM) apps as well as interactive voice response and distribution of apps to mobile devices via text message rather than through app stores, Plax said. The API simplifies access to telecom networks, he added.

Twilio's APIs will work with applications built in Java, .NET and PHP running on Windows Azure. "Sending text messages from Windows Azure has never been so easy," wrote Brian Goldfarb, director of product marketing for Microsoft's Windows Azure group, in a blog post.

The company is offering Windows Azure developers 1,000 free text messages or 1,000 voice minutes to try the service, which costs 1 cent per minute per inbound call or per message and 2 cents per outbound call and $1 per month to host a telephone number. Twilio doesn't require contracts -- users pay just for what they use, Plax said.

Twilio's client libraries, which allow developers to build audio into their Web and mobile apps, support Javascript, iOS and Andoid. The libraries enable call control routed through the Twilio service, which is hosted on Amazon Web Services Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Asked if Twilio was considering running any of its service in Windows Azure, Plax said no such discussions have taken place.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on May 02, 20120 comments

IBM Wrestles Big Data with Cloudera Pact, Buys Vivisimo

Looking to shore up its big data strategy, IBM has formed a partnership with Cloudera, provider of the widely deployed distribution of Hadoop, the open-source data management platform for searching and analyzing structured and unstructured data distributed across large commodity compute and storage infrastructures.

IBM also announced Wednesday it has agreed to acquire Vivisimo, whose federated search and navigation software is used to analyze big data distributed across an enterprise. Terms were not disclosed. IBM made the two announcements together as it seeks to stake its position as a key player in the hotly contested market of big data analytics providers.

Big Blue is gunning to extend its analytics leadership beyond traditional data warehouses and marts, as it looks to let users analyze petabytes of data generated from content management repositories and less traditional sources including social media. IBM's rivals, including Oracle, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Teradata, Microsoft and SAP as well as upstarts like Splunk, Hortonworks and even Cloudera are investing heavily in offering big data solutions.

IBM said it will integrate the Cloudera Distribution of Hadoop (CDH) and Cloudera Manager with the IBM open source big data platform, called InfoSphere BigInsights, available both as software on premises and in the cloud. The goal is to enable IBM customers and partners to run BigInsights within CDH and Cloud Manager and allow them to build on top of it.

"Our intention is not to compete directly with Cloudera, it's to build value on top," said David Corrigan, IBM's director of information management strategy. "We struck this partnership with Cloudera and ensured our BigInsights components, advanced components for workload optimization or development environments, would actually leverage the Cloudera open source distribution instead of our own."

Corrigan said Cloudera customers can run IBM's analytics tools, enabling them to extend and take advantage of IBM's big data capabilities, which include enterprise integration, support for real-time analysis of streamed data and extended parallel processing and workload management.

Meanwhile, IBM's move to acquire Pittsburgh-based Vivisimo gives it software that enables federated discovery and navigation of big data. The software allows users to search structured and unstructured data -- typically massive amounts of content -- across disparate systems and allows for the analysis of the data without moving it, Corrigan explained. Instead of moving the data, the software indexes it, assigns relevance and lets users analyze it. "You don't have to move the data into a new location to get a sense of its value," he said. "Leave it in place, therefore it's a faster time to value."

Forrester analyst Boris Evelson said in a blog post data discovery is an important but first step in the BI and analytics cycle. "Once you discover a pattern using a product like Vivisimo, you may need to productionalize or persist your findings in a traditional DW, and then build reports and dashboards for further analysis using traditional BI technologies."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 26, 20120 comments

Google and Microsoft Stir Cloud Storage Free-for-All

The personal cloud storage landscape this week grew with Google throwing its hat in the ring -- but not without the competition attempting to rain on its parade.

Google Drive arrived Tuesday, making it the latest personal cloud storage offering to join the likes of Apple's iCloud, Box, Dropbox and Microsoft SkyDrive. Google Drive includes 5 GB of free storage with the option of paying for more. Among several alternatives, Google Drive subscribers can pay $4.99 per month for 100 GB of storage or $49.99 per month for 1 TB.

Users can download the Google Drive app on their PCs, Macs or Android- or iOS-based devices and use it to store and synchronize files, images and videos. Google Drive uses Google Docs to access files and, naturally, it allows users to search their documents and content.

But in anticipation of the Google Drive launch, Box, Dropbox and Microsoft this week jockeyed for position by announcing new capabilities in their respective offerings. Box announced an updated API designed to make it easier for developers to integrate their apps with its service. Dropbox added a feature to its namesake service that lets users share access to files (documents, spreadsheets, folders, etc.) by providing links to designated recipients. And most prominently, Microsoft, seemingly anticipating the arrival of Google Drive, launched a major new release of its own SkyDrive offering.

I primarily use Dropbox to store documents but put files in there sparingly because the free version I signed up for has a limit of 2 GB. When Microsoft started offering 25 GB for its free SkyDrive service, I couldn't resist setting up an account.

Though I didn't find SkyDrive as easy to use as Dropbox, I did backup all of my personal photos on my SkyDrive account. I assumed SkyDrive would eventually become easier to use but always wondered if the 25 GB capacity limit would be yanked away. Sure enough, this week both of my assumptions came to pass.

Microsoft improved SkyDrive by adding a new downloadable app for Windows that works much like the Dropbox client. Now SkyDrive appears as another drive on Windows, allowing users to drag and drop files from their PCs to SkyDrive and vice versa. Microsoft added some other niceties such as the ability to synchronize and upload large files and folders up to 2 GB.

But as I had feared, Microsoft cut the 25 GB limit. The new maximum is 7 GB. While that's a major cut, it's still more generous than the 2 GB Dropbox offers and just enough to one-up Google Drive (Box offers 5 GB, as well). The good news is for those of us fortunate enough to set up SkyDrive accounts before this week, we get to keep that higher limit as long as we opt to do so. I fail to see why anyone would opt not to but I am presuming Microsoft is betting that many will fail to take that action.

Of course, I am tempering my excitement. While Microsoft hasn't said it may take the 25 GB limit away at some point for those now grandfathered, the company hasn't given any assurances it's permanent either, leading me to wonder when the other shoe will drop. Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

But in a blog post announcing the changes to SkyDrive, Microsoft said 99.94 percent of its SkyDrive customers used less than 7 GB of the capacity. I must admit I was among those in that range but it was nice knowing the added capacity was available.

While many individuals are likely to set up free accounts from multiple providers, all of them want to be your cloud storage provider of choice. And they want your organization to coalesce around a cloud storage provider where collaboration will take place and ultimately customers will start paying to store all of their content.

This is not just about a battle for cloud storage. As Google and Microsoft take each other on with their respective Office 365 and Google Apps cloud productivity offerings, the cloud storage services will lay a foundational layer for how a growing number of groups collaborate.

Many larger organizations use Microsoft SharePoint. But Google wants to stop Microsoft from further taking over the market for collaboration, said Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz in a blog post. "The top deployed workloads for SharePoint are collaboration and content management," Koplowitz noted. "Expect Google Drive to go right after that."

And expect Box (which has gained a strong foothold into numerous large enterprises), Dropbox and a number of other cloud storage providers to go after that, as well.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 25, 20120 comments

Microsoft and CommVault Target Azure for Backup, Archiving

Looking to incent enterprises to use its Windows Azure cloud service to backup and archive their data, Microsoft today launched a discounted plan that lets customers store up to 41 TB of data for one year for $50,000.

At 8.5 cents per GB, that's a healthy discount over the current per-GB rate of about 12.5 cents, said Karl Dittman, a Microsoft business development director. "Normally a customer would have to purchase a petabyte of storage in order to get this pricing model we are providing for  [approximately] 50 TB," Dittman said. That's not the upper limit; pricing will scale for larger amounts of storage.

Microsoft is offering the service with longtime partner CommVault, whose Simpana 9 Express software will allow IT pros to manage their backups and archives. The 41 TB limit covers standard Windows Azure storage. For those using non-geo replicated storage, the limit is 62 TB.

Simpana 9 Express includes a policy engine, supports data de-duplication, encryption and support for application awareness with Microsoft apps, said Randy De Meno, CommVault's chief technologist for Windows products.

Aimed at midsized and large enterprises, Simpana provides backup, recovery and archiving of Microsoft's key software offerings, including file services, SharePoint, Exchange and SQL Server, to premises systems running Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V and to the Windows Azure cloud service.

Customers sign up for the service from Microsoft, which is providing free usage of CommVault's software for the year. By CommVault's estimate, it costs $8,000 per TB for primary disk storage on premises.

Less clear is how much it will cost in subsequent years. In a call with Microsoft's Dittman and CommVault officials, they said it will depend on the customer's configuration, noting the amount of stored data will only increase over time. Dittman did say Microsoft will continue to offer the 8.5-cents-per-GB rate for Windows Azure storage but customers will have to buy licenses for CommVault's full-fledged Simpana 9 package through the vendor or its channel partners.

Both companies see this as an opportunity for enterprises to use Azure for backup and archiving of Microsoft-based data initially and, ultimately, Linux and Unix data, as well. CommVault is not the first vendor to link its software to Windows Azure; Symantec's Backup Exec and CA's ARCserve offerings also allow customers to backup their data to Microsoft's cloud service.

It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will offer similar pricing for bundles with other storage software providers. But the bigger question is how quickly enterprises will turn to Windows Azure for backup and archiving as a replacement for premises-based storage. The less it costs to see how it works at scale, the better.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 23, 20120 comments

UPDATE: As Open Source Cloud Options Grow, OpenStack Plods Ahead

While it took longer than planned, Rackspace, the first OpenStack co-sponsor and co-contributor along with NASA, says its cloud compute service is now based on the OpenStack platform. That means Rackspace has transitioned its existing Cloud Servers compute service to OpenStack, though it had originally gunned to have that work done by the end of last year. Customers can start utilizing it May 1.

It's always a good thing that the key sponsor is eating its own dog food. But OpenStack is a work in progress with much functionality to be added. The OpenStack Project’s backers are meeting this week in San Francisco for the OpenStack Design Summit and Conference.

Some beg to differ but the OpenStack effort appears to have the most momentum of the variety of open source efforts in play with 155-plus sponsors and 55 active contributors. It just gained two new heavyweights with IBM and Red Hat acknowledging they are on board.

The news comes as another OpenStack supporter, Hewlett-Packard, last week launched HP Cloud Services. Dell today also launched its Emerging Solutions Ecosystem, a partner program to bring interoperable and complimentary tools to its Dell Apache Hadoop and Dell OpenStack-Powered Cloud solutions.

The first three Dell partners are Canonical, which is using Ubuntu's Linux distribution to power Dell's OpenStack solution, cloud infrastructure vendor enStratus and Mirantis, a provider of OpenStack infrastructure and apps. Mirantis said it has already completed a number of private cloud deployments with Dell. Mirantis provides custom solutions that work with Dell's OpenStack-based hardware, software and reference architecture.

Yet despite these latest milestones for OpenStack, critics argue it is far from mature. Perhaps the most prominent critic is member Citrix, which two weeks ago broke ranks from OpenStack and released to the Apache Software Foundation an alternative, CloudStack. While OpenStack is an alternative to Amazon, CloudStack is aiming to provide interoperability with it.

Another open source cloud operating platform that supports compatibility with Amazon is Eucalyptus, which last month inked an agreement with Amazon enabling it to license the Amazon Machine Interface APIs. On the heels of that agreement, Eucalyptus yesterday announced it raked in $30 million in Series C funding from Institutional Venture Partners, joining investors Benchmark Capital, BV Capital, and New Enterprise Associates, bringing its grant total up to $55 million.

Eucalyptus and Amazon don't support OpenStack. Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier called out Amazon in a CRN interview as a proprietary cloud provider that locks its customers in.

Meanwhile, the OpenStack Project is looking ahead. The group earlier this month issued its latest release cycle of the platform, called Essex. The new release adds support for a Web-based dashboard, code-named Horizon, for managing OpenStack clouds and an identity and authentication system, code-named Keystone.

The next release on the agenda is Folsom, which will add a number of new features, many of which are being determined at this week's OpenStack Summit. A key area of focus will be on a project code-named Quantum, which will provide advanced networking, said Jonathan Bryce, chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board and co-founder Rackspace Cloud.

"That will bring some really great capabilities for managing networks and not just routing traffic to virtual machines and back out to the Internet but creating complex network configurations that let you do more advanced security, that lets you do quality of service, VLAN management, really the kinds of things that enterprises want to do," Bryce said. The release goal for Folsom is this Fall.

Also on the open source front, the VMware led Cloud Foundry initiative last week celebrated its first anniversary, by announcing it has successfully recruited partners ranging from service providers to ISVs to build PaaS-based services and private cloud solutions based in its stack. The latest are Cloud9, Collabnet, ServiceMesh, Soasta and X.commerce.

Cloud Foundry last week also demonstrated the deployment of an application to four Cloud Foundry-based clouds. Each took only a few minutes and didn't require code changes. Cloud Foundry also open-sourced under an Apache license BOSH, a tool to facilitate the deployment and management of instances to Cloud Foundry. So far it has received support from VMware for vSphere and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Partners supporting Cloud Foundry can build platform as a service (PaaS) clouds that run on premises, off site or by service providers and is viewed as a competitor to other PaaS offerings such as Microsoft's Windows Azure, Google App Engine and Salesforce.com's Heroku and Force.com.

Update: Based on clarifications from companies mentioned in this blog, we've corrected the fact that Rackspace Cloud Servers already supported object storage services, code-named Swift. Rackspace Cloud Servers on May 1 will support OpenStack compute, storage and networking services. It also clarifies the fact that new in the OpenStack Essex release is a Web-based dashboard, code-named Horizon, and identity services, code-named Keystone. Swift is not part of Essex. -- JS.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 19, 20120 comments

Amazon Becomes SaaS Distributor With Marketplace Launch

Amazon Web Services today launched the AWS Marketplace, an online store that lets enterprise users procure cloud-based development tools, business applications and infrastructure from software suppliers.

This is a major step forward for the leading provider of cloud services in that the company is not only offering enterprises an alternative to running compute and storage infrastructures in their own datacenters but now Amazon is using its cloud infrastructure to become a major software-as-a-service (SaaS) distributor.

Amazon customers can rent applications by the hour or by the month and run them on the AWS portfolio of cloud services and pay for them on the same bill. Already on board are well-known players such as 10gen, CA, Canonical, Couchbase, Check Point Software, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, SAP and Zend, as well as open source purveyors Wordpress, Drupal and MediaWiki, said Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, in a blog post.

The move is the latest effort by Amazon to extend the breadth of its enterprise cloud offerings and its reach. Just yesterday, Amazon launched a new partner program that it plans to roll out this year, aimed at certifying ISVs, systems integrators and consultants. In addition to distributing apps from major software providers, Vogels underscored it will democratize the distribution of wares from lesser-known developers.

 "The way businesses are buying applications is changing," Vogles said. "There is a new generation of leaders that have very different expectations about how they can select the products and tools they need to be successful. It has had a true democratization effect; no longer does the dominant vendor in a market automatically get chosen."

Amazon has grouped the marketplace into three categories: software infrastructure (development, app servers, databases, data caching, networking, operating systems and security), developer tools (issue and bug tracking, monitoring, source control and testing) and business software (business intelligence, collaboration, content management, CRM, e-commerce, HPC, media, project management and storage and backup).

The products are distributed as Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), which run on EC2 instances. Customers can search for products, which are each described by a "detail" page, which provides information such as an overview, ratings, versioning data, support offerings and a link to the end user license agreement (EULA) as well as pricing.

Mimicking the "Click-to-Buy" model of its online consumer store, users can "Click-to-Launch" applications in the AWS Marketplace. "We've streamlined the discovery, deployment, and billing steps to make the entire process of finding and buying software quick, painless, and worthwhile for application consumers and producers," wrote Amazon Web Services technical evangelist Jeff Barr, on the AWS blog.    

Certainly Amazon is not the first to launch a marketplace selling software for enterprises. But given its footprint as growing presence as a provider of cloud infrastructure, not to forget the huge success of its consumer retail site, Amazon could become could become a key player in the sales and procurement of enterprise apps, dev tools and infrastructure.


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 19, 20120 comments

Amazon Courts Partners as Cloud Growth Escalates

Not always seen as the most partner-friendly cloud provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS) today took a key step toward trying to reverse that perception.

The company has formed the AWS Partner Network, a program aimed at supporting a wide cross-section of partners, including ISVs, third-party cloud providers (including SaaS and PaaS), systems integrators, consulting firms and managed services providers (MSPs).

"Partners are an integral part of the AWS ecosystem as they enable customers and help them scale their business globally," said AWS technology evangelist Jinesh Varia in a blog post announcing the new program. "Some of our greatest wins, particularly with enterprises, have been influenced by our partners. This new global program is focused on providing members of the AWS partner ecosystem with the technical information, and sales and marketing support they need to accelerate their AWS-based businesses."

The move comes as one of AWS' largest rivals, Rackspace Hosting, has expanded its partner program this year amidst the growing influence of the OpenStack Project it has championed.

But Amazon's actions also reflect the unrelenting growth of its cloud business, which will need experienced partners to help expand its footprint. In the latest measure of how expansive AWS is becoming, one estimate suggests it is carrying 1 percent of Internet traffic, according to a report in Wired today. Citing a study by startup DeepField Networks and some of its network provider partners, Wired determined one-third of all Internet users will access content or data residing on at least one AWS cloud.

To cover the various constituencies, Amazon has created two partner categories: technology and consulting. Depending on the requirements they meet, partners will qualify for one of three tiers: registered, standard and advanced. Certified partners will be able to display an AWS logo and receive a listing in the AWS Partner Directory and $1,000 credits for service and premium support.

The program is currently in beta and Amazon plans to have it up and running later in the year, though existing partners can prequalify for the standard and advance tiers now. To do so, partners must submit Amazon's APN Upgrade form.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 18, 20120 comments

IBM Targets Private Clouds with New PureSystems

While public and private clouds are changing the economics and delivery model of computing, IBM hopes to shake up the status quo of how systems are configured and supplied.

Big Blue on Wednesday said it will deliver a new class of hardware and software this quarter that it believes will reshape how servers, storage, networks, middleware and applications are packaged, set up and managed in datacenters run by enterprises, hosting facilities and cloud service providers.

IBM describes PureSystems as "expert integrated systems" because they consist of turnkey, multicore servers that are tightly bundled with storage and network interfaces and feature automated scaling and virtualization. The company will also offer versions of PureSystems bundled with middleware including IBM's WebSphere and DB2 database. And IBM is offering, through its partners, models tuned with various vertical and general-purpose applications. The systems will all include a single management interface.

Gearing up for this week's launch, IBM told partners at its PartnerWorld Leadership conference in New Orleans in late February of the coming rollout of what insiders internally called "Project Troy."

The company is initially releasing two models. The first is PureFlex System, designed for those looking to procure raw, virtual compute infrastructure in a turnkey bundle. The systems include caching, scaling and monitoring software. "Essentially it's focused on the infrastructure as a service level of integration of all the hardware and system resources, including cloud, virtualization and provisioning, which will take standard virtual images as patterns for effective deployment," said Marie Wieck, general manger of IBM Software Group's Application and Integration Middleware business unit.

The second offering, PureApplication System, builds on top of PureFlex by including IBM's WebSphere and DB2. With the addition of those components, the PureApplications System offers platform-as-a-service capabilities, Wieck said. Both offerings will be delivered as a single SKU and offer a single source of support.

The bundling, or datacenter-in-a-box approach, itself is not what makes PureSystems unique though. Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle all offer converged systems. But IBM appears to be upping the ante with its so-called "scale-in" systems design by which all of those components and applications are automatically configured, scaled and optimized.

IBM also has teamed up with 125 key ISVs, including Dassault Systèmes, EnterpriseDB, Fiserv, SAP, SAS, Sophos and SugarCRM, who are enabling their apps to be customized and tailored using what IBM calls "patterns of expertise" that embed automated configuration and management capabilities.

With these embedded technologies, IBM claims customers can get PureSystems up and running in one-third the amount of time it takes to set up traditional systems, while substantially reducing the cost of managing those assets, which it says now can consume on average 70 percent of an organization's operational budget.

Designed with cloud computing principles in mind, IBM said the new PureSystems automatically scale up or down CPU, storage and network resources. IBM offers a common management interface for all of the infrastructure and applications. The company claims the cost of licensing apps is more than 70 percent less than when purchased with traditional systems.

"This is a whole different discussion, they are creating packages that perform like never seen before," said analyst Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics. "In effect, IBM has distilled decades of hardware, middleware and software design and development experience into PureSystems, resulting in solutions with deeply integrated system and automated management capabilities," added analyst Charles King of PundIT, in a research note.

"The company is also offering additional integration related to specific applications and software packages that can be implemented at the factory, so PureSystems are ready out of the box for quick and easy deployment. In essence, IBM has taken what were once (and for most other vendors, still are) highly customized, usually high-priced solutions and made them into standardized SKUs that can be easily ordered, deployed and implemented to address serious existing and emerging IT challenges."

The PureSystems line will also appeal to ISVs and systems integrators that want to deliver their software as a service, according to Wieck. "It's not just the integration of the hardware components that is as compelling as the integrated management across the environments and the resources that are applied and the software necessary to manage those resources," she said.

PureSystems were brought together by a cross-section of IBM's business units, including its Tivoli systems management group, Rational development tools unit, which is the software business that develops its WebSphere infrastructure platform and DB2 and its server and storage divisions. IBM acquired the networking components from Blade Network Technologies in 2010.

The systems are also available in a number of configurations, powered by the company's own Power processing platform running Linux or IBM's AIX implementation of Unix, or Intel-based CPUs that can run Linux or Microsoft's Windows Server. Customers can configure the systems with a number of virtualization options including VMware, KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V and IBM PowerVM, as well as any virtual machine that supports the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) standard.

Entry-level systems consisting of 96-core CPUs will start at $100,000. High-performance configurations with up to 608 cores will run into the millions of dollars.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 12, 20120 comments

Microsoft Claims Its Biggest Office 365 Customer

Microsoft today said the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has agreed to deploy Office 365 across 10,000 technical colleges and educational institutions throughout India, making the cloud service available to 7 million students and 500,000 faculty members.

Colleges that are part of AICTE will start using the Live@edu hosted e-mail, Office Web Apps, instant messaging and SkyDrive storage service over the next six months, and ultimately Office 365 as the version for educational institutional services rolls out. Office 365 will give students and faculty in colleges across India access to Exchange Online e-mail and scheduling, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.

While Microsoft is touting AICTE as its biggest cloud customer to date, there's only one problem: The company is not making any money on the deal. Do you even call it a deal when the customer isn't paying anything? It's not that Microsoft gave AICTE any special deal. It offers Live@edu free of charge to any K-12 educational institution and all colleges and universities.

"Even though it is provided for free, we see it as a value for Microsoft and for the school system," said Anthony Salcito, Microsoft's VP of worldwide education, in an interview. "This is allowing the governing body and school leaders to have a communication pipeline to a broad set of students and not only improve collaboration across the system but provide a rich set of tools for students in the cloud. That would be difficult using traditional models [software]."

Of course, both Google and Microsoft have been courting schools to deploy their cloud suites for several years for obvious reasons. The goal: Get students hooked and that's what they'll want to use in the workplace in the future.

Also, there is some revenue potential for those educational institutions choosing premium editions of Office 365. Microsoft's Plan A3 includes a copy of Office Professional Plus (the premises version of the software that works with Office 365) and other features, including voicemail (priced at $2.50 for students and $4.50 for faculty and staff). And for those wanting voice capability, Plan A4 includes everything in the A3 plan plus voice capability (priced at $3.00 for students and $6.00 for faculty and staff). Microsoft last month revised its pricing for those services.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 12, 20120 comments