Google Nabs Federal Cloud Deal

The General Services Administration yesterday said it will move to Google Apps, a huge win for the company because it's the first federal agency to use Google Apps. The GSA's five-year, $6.7 million deal will save the GSA 50 percent in IT costs over the span of the contract, the agency said.

The GSA will move 17,000 employees and contractors in 17 locations to Google Apps including Gmail during the coming year. Apparently helping Google and its lead contractor Unisys bag this deal was the fact that Google Apps is FISMA certified.

"Earlier this year, Google Apps became the first suite of cloud computing e-mail and collaboration applications to receive Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification, enabling agencies to compare the security features of Google Apps to that of existing systems," wrote Mike Bradshaw, director of Google's federal enterprise team, in a blog post announcing the deal.

It just so happened that Microsoft today announced that its cloud infrastructure has received FISMA approval. "Meeting the requirements of FISMA is an important security requirement for U.S. Federal agencies," wrote Mark Estberg, senior director of risk and compliance of Microsoft's Global Foundation Services unit, in a blog post.

Nevertheless Google's win comes after Microsoft charted some big wins, most recently the City of New York and the state contracts in California and Minnesota.

Microsoft officials have been aggressively questioning Google's ability to compete in the enterprise. Case in point was a recent blog post after winning the State of California deal. "Google can't meet the needs of the state," was the subhead in a TechNet blog posting announcing the California win.

I chatted with Tom Rizzo, Microsoft's senior director of online services yesterday and he ripped into Google's enterprise aspirations. "They're trying to shoehorn consumer products into the enterprise space," he said. "That's like us trying to take things like [Microsoft's] Hotmail and Skydrive and say "it is enterprise ready."

Google sees it differently. "Modern e-mail and collaboration tools will help make [GSA] employees more efficient and effective," Bradshaw noted. "Google Apps will bring GSA a continual stream of new and innovative features, helping the agency keep pace with advances in technology in the years ahead."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on December 02, 20100 comments

Red Hat's PaaS Play

Red Hat's acquisition of Makara is aimed at helping the open-source software vendor extend its foray into platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud offerings.

The plan, announced this week, is to enable partners to build their own cloud services using its Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution and JBoss middleware tuned with Makara's Cloud Application Platform.

Red Hat intends to deliver a PaaS Automation Engine that will provide automatic scaling, monitoring and high availability, according to Scott Crenshaw, vice president and general manager of Red Hat's cloud business unit.

"This strategy is designed to provide the most scalable, portable and open clouds, clouds that are consistent between the cloud environment and the enterprise environment," Crenshaw said on a conference call announcing the deal.

But that led to the question: How will portability work? Issac Roth a co-founder and CEO Markara explained that apps can be migrated unmodified to the cloud. "As long as the application is written to Red Hat Linux, and supported middleware such as JBoss or LAMP," Roth said.

Cloud operators can use Makara's PaaS to deploy, manage and scale JBoss and LAMP applications with a variety of middleware components including caching different pieces of application middleware and messaging, Roth added. "This is the technology that will be incorporated into [Red Hat's] Cloud Foundations to enable platform-as-a-service for enterprises," he said.

That said, Crenshaw said Red Hat will take the best of Makara's platform and integrate it into JBoss. In other words, Makara's Cloud Application Platform will not continue to be offered as a standalone product. However Crenshaw said the technology will be open-sourced.

What's your take on Red Hat's acquisition of Makara and the company's PaaS efforts? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on December 02, 20100 comments

10 Noteworthy New Features Coming to Microsoft's Azure Cloud Platform

Late last month Microsoft fleshed out its Windows Azure Platform with a roadmap of new capabilities and features that the company will roll out over the coming year.

Microsoft late last month fleshed out its Windows Azure Platform with a roadmap of new capabilities and features that the company will roll out over the coming year.

The improvements to Microsoft's cloud computing platform, revealed at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) held in Redmond and streamed online, are substantial and underscore the company's ambitions to ensure the Windows Azure Platform ultimately achieves a wider footprint in enterprise IT.

"They are making Windows Azure more consumable and more broadly applicable for customers and developers," said IDC analyst Al Gillen.

The Windows Azure Platform, which today primarily consists of Windows Azure and SQL Azure, went live back in February. Microsoft boasts its cloud service is now being used for over 20,000 applications. In his keynote address at the PDC, Microsoft Server and Tools president Bob Muglia, played up the platform as a service (PaaS) cloud infrastructure that the company is building with Windows Azure.

"I think it is very clear, that that is where the future of applications will go," Muglia told attendees at PDC in his speech. "Platform as a service will redefine the landscape and Microsoft is very focused on this. This is where we are putting the majority of our focus in terms of delivering a new platform."

Muglia recalled Microsoft's second PDC in July of 1992 when the company introduced Windows NT, a platform that would play a key role in client-server computing. "We see a new age beginning, one that will go beyond what we saw 18 years ago," he said. "Windows Azure was designed to run as the next generation platform as a service. It is an operating system that was designed for this environment."

Still Gillen pointed out that Windows Azure represents the future of how applications will be built and data will be managed but it will not replace traditional Windows anytime soon. "At the end of the day, there will be customers running perpetual license copies [of traditional software] 10 or 15 years from now," Gillen noted.

While PDC was targeted at developers, the company's new offerings are bound to resonate with IT pros and partners. Some of the new services coming to Windows Azure and SQL Azure are aimed at bringing more enterprise features found in Microsoft's core platforms to the cloud. Among the new cloud services announced last month at PDC:

  1. Windows Azure Virtual Machine Roles: Will allow organizations to move entire virtual machine images from Windows Server 2008R2 to Windows Azure. "You can take a Windows Server 2008R2 image that you've built with Hyper-V in your environment and move that into the Windows Azure environment and run it as is with no changes," Muglia explained. Microsoft will release a public beta by year's end. The company also plans to support Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 SP2 sometime next year. "That's a compatibility play and an evolutionary play so the customers can have an opportunity to bring certain applications into Windows Azure, run them in a traditional Windows Server environment," Gillen said. "Over time, they will have the ability to evolve those applications to become native Azure or potentially just leave them there [on the VM Role running on top of Azure] forever and encapsulate them in some way and access the business value that those applications contain."
  2. Server Application Virtualization: Will let IT take existing applications and deploy them without going through the installation process, into a Windows Azure worker role, according to Muglia. "We think it's a very exciting way to help you get compatibility with existing Windows Server applications in the cloud environment," Muglia said. Added Gillen: "It has the potential to give customers a pretty comfortable path to bring existing applications over to Windows Azure. That can be really huge because if Microsoft can do that and they can bring Windows Server applications over to Windows Azure, and let them run without dragging along a whole operating system with them, that creates an opportunity that Microsoft can exploit that no one else in the industry can match." The company will release a community technology preview (CTP) by year's end with commercial availability slated for the second half of 2011.
  3. Remote Desktop: Set for release later this year, IT pros will be able to connect to a running instance of an app or service to monitor activities or troubleshoot problems.
  4. Windows Server 2008R2 Roles: Also due out later this year, Windows Azure will support Windows Server 2008R2 in Web, worker and VM roles, Microsoft said. That will let customers and partners use features such as IIS 7.5, AppLocker and command-line management using PowerShell Version 2.0, Microsoft said. 
  5. Full IIS support: The Web role in Windows Azure will provide full IIS functionality, Microsoft said. This will be available later this year.
  6. Windows Azure Connect: The technology previously known as Project Sydney, Windows Azure Connect will provide IP-based connectivity between enterprise premises-based and Windows Azure-based services. "That will connect your existing corporate datacenters and databases and information and apps on your existing corporate datacenter virtually into the Windows Azure applications that you have," Muglia said. "In part that enables hybrid cloud," Gillen said. "Hybrid cloud is going to be so important simply because customers are not going to go directly to a full native cloud. If they can have an opportunity to have a hybrid scenario it's actually very attractive for a lot of customers. The company plans a CTP by year's end with release slated for the first half of 2011.
  7. Windows Azure Marketplace: Much like an app store, the Windows Azure Marketplace is aimed at letting devs and IT pros share buy and sell apps, services and various other components, including training offerings. A component of the marketplace is Microsoft's DataMarket, formerly code-named Dallas, which consists of premium apps with more than 40 data providers now on board. The Windows Azure Marketplace beta will be released by year's end.
  8. Multiple Admins: In a move aimed at letting various team members manage a Windows Azure account, the service will by year's end allow multiple Windows Live IDs to have administrator privileges, Microsoft said.
  9. Windows Azure AppFabric: The company announced the release of Windows AppFabric Access control, which helps build federated authorization to apps and services without requiring programming, Microsoft said. Also released was Windows Azure AppFabric Connect, aimed at bridging existing line-of-business apps to Windows Azure via the AppFabric Service Bus. It extends BizTalk Server 2010 to support hybrid cloud scenarios –those that use both on and off premises resources.
  10. Database Manager for SQL Azure: This Web-based database querying and management tool, formerly known as "Project Houston," will be available by year's end. Also, for those who like SQL Server Reporting Services, SQL Azure Reporting will be a welcome addition to SQL Azure, allowing users to analyze business data stored in SQL Azure databases.

Perhaps more mundane but bound to be noticed by all Windows Azure users, is an overall facelift to the portal, with what the company describes as an improved user interface. The new portal will provide diagnostic data, a streamlined account setup and new support databases and forums.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on November 15, 20101 comments

Amazon Slashes S3 Storage Pricing

Amazon Web Services recently cut the price of its cloud storage service by as much as 19 percent.

The cuts affect users of the company's S3 storage service utilizing 500 Terabytes of capacity or less. The announcement was made by Jeff Barr, Amazon's Web services evangelist in a blog post.

AWS established a new pricing tier at the 1 TByte level and removed the 50 to 100 TByte level, according to Barr, "thereby extending our volume discounts to more Amazon S3 customers," he noted. The new pricing is as follows:




First 1 TB


$0.140 per GB

Next 49 TB


$0.125 per GB

Next 50 TB


$0.110 per GB

Next 400 TB


$0.110 per GB

Next 500 TB


$0.095 per GB

While it is arguable these price cuts are relatively modest, any movement in the right direction should be welcome news. Is cloud storage pricing still too high for widespread use or are providers offering services in a suitable range? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on November 09, 20101 comments

'All In' The Cloud

When Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in March announced that the company was "all-in" the cloud, it was a defining moment not just for Microsoft but for the entire IT industry.

That the software giant said the cloud will embody everything the company does was the clearest sign yet that there is no stopping the transformation in the way software is bought and sold.

Others such as Dell (which just announced it is buying Boomi), Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Oracle and VMware are also steering their ships in the direction of cloud computing initiatives. Of course for the likes of Amazon, Google, Rackspace and, among others, the cloud already is the basis of their existence.

Whether the cloud is the basis of your existence or you're in the camp that believes it is still a lot of hype, I hope to hear from you and will look to share your thoughts with the community. Look to this blog for insights, observations and tidbits about issues related to the cloud. Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on November 01, 20100 comments