IBM: IT Pushing Demand for Company Cloud Services

IBM's SmartCloud public and private cloud portfolio are being fleshed out in answer to a growing demand from IT and enterprise users.

Based on an IBM survey of 500 enterprise IT and business executives, 33 percent have deployed more than one cloud pilot to date, a figure poised to double by 2014. The survey also found that 40 percent see the cloud as bringing "substantial change" to their IT environments. IBM said it will be supporting 200 million users in the cloud by the end of next year.

"It's clear to us, what we're seeing is a fundamental transformation of how our clients are trying to change the economics of their IT environment and speed the delivery of new innovative products and services," said Scott Hebner, VP of market strategy at IBM Tivoli.

On the public cloud front, IBM plans to launch a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) called SmartCloud Application Services, which will consist of a managed services offering that will provide application infrastructure. The service will offer application lifecycle management, application integration and the ability to manage applications in the hosted environment.

The new PaaS offering, due to go into beta later this quarter, will run atop IBM's Smart Cloud Enterprise and Enterprise+, the company's public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings announced in April. IBM this week announced the commercial availability of the IaaS offerings in the United States with full global availability slated for the end of 2012.

Building on its private cloud portfolio, IBM launched its SmartCloud Foundation, for customers looking to build and operate cloud infrastructures internally. The company introduced three offerings:

  • SmartCloud Entry: a starter kit that allows organizations to build private clouds running on standard x86 or IBM's Power processor-based infrastructure. The modular offering lets organizations scale as demand for capacity increases.
  • SmartCloud Provisioning: Software consisting of a provisioning engine and an image management platform that can spin more than 4,000 virtual machines in less than an hour, IBM said.
  • SmartCloud Monitoring: A tool that provides views of virtual and physical environments including storage, networks and servers. It offers predictive and historical analytics designed to warn IT admins of potential outages.

IBM also announced the availability of its SAP Managed Application Services. Announced back in April, the service will allow for the automated provisioning and management of SAP environments.

 

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on October 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


New Tools Ease Movement of Databases to Microsoft's SQL Azure

Microsoft's SQL Server database server platform and its cloud-based SQL Azure may share many core technologies but they are not one and the same. As a result, moving data and apps from one to the other is not all that simple.

Two companies this week set out to address that during the annual PASS Summit taking place in Seattle. Attunity and CA Technologies introduced tools targeted at simplifying the process of moving data from on-premises databases to SQL Azure.

Attunity Replicate loads data from SQL Server, Oracle and IBM's DB2 databases to SQL Azure and does so without requiring major development efforts, claimed Itamar Ankorion, Attunity's VP of business development and corporate strategy.

"The whole idea is to facilitate the adoption of SQL Azure, allow organizations and ISVs to benefit from cloud environments and the promise of SQL Server in the cloud," Ankorion said. "One of the main challenges that customers have is how do they get their data into the cloud. Today, it requires some development effort, which naturally creates a barrier to adoption, more risk for people, more investment, with our tools, it's a click away."

It does so by using Microsoft's SQL Server Integration Services, which provides data integration and transformation, and Attunity's change data capture (CDC) technology, designed to efficiently process and replicate data as it changes. "We wanted to basically provide software that would allow you to drag a source and drag a target, click, replicate and go," Ankorion said.

For its part, CA rolled out a new version of its popular ERwin data modeling tool for SQL Azure. CA ERwin Data Modeler for SQL Azure lets customers integrate their in-house databases with SQL Azure.

"CA ERwin Data Modeler for Microsoft SQL Azure provides visibility into data assets and the complex relationships between them, enabling customers to remain in constant control of their database architectures even as they move to public, private and hybrid IT environments," said Mike Crest, CA's general manager for data management, in a statement.

CA's tool provides a common interface for combining data assets from both premises and cloud-based databases. Customers can use the same modeling procedure to maintain their SQL Azure databases.

 

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on October 13, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Rackspace Will Offload OpenStack to Independent Foundation

Looking to quell criticism that it has too much control over the OpenStack Project, Rackspace has agreed to establish an independent foundation next year that will assume ownership and governance for the open source cloud platform.

Rackspace had been under pressure to make such a move, and did so last week, announcing its intention to form the foundation during the OpenStack Conference in Boston.

"This marks a major milestone in the evolution of OpenStack as a movement to establish the industry standard for cloud software," said Mark Collier, Rackspace's VP of business and corporate development, in a blog post. "The promise of a vendor-neutral, truly open cloud standard is within reach.  By doing this important work together, as a community, we can achieve something much bigger with a lasting impact on the future of computing."

Developed by NASA and Rackspace, the two made the OpenStack code freely available under the terms of the Apache 2.0 license last year. More than 100 companies have jumped on the OpenStack bandwagon, including Canonical, Citrix, Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and SuSE. Many have contributed code and have committed to developing cloud products and services based on OpenStack. While the project has grown, Rackspace's control over the effort was an ongoing concern.

The company held a meeting last Thursday to take the first step toward creating the foundation. According to the meeting notes of Scott Sanchez, director of business development for Rackspace Cloud Builders, the gathering was a session to answer questions, gather input and for the company to explain its intentions. No decisions were made regarding how the foundation will be structured or funded.

Lew Moorman, Rackspace's president and chief strategy officer told attendees that the company's motives were not to defray costs or re-assign his company's personnel to other tasks but rather to prevent OpenStack from "forking," according to the meeting notes.

One concern was the potential for the transition process to cause new member companies to delay joining, since they will want to see how the organization is structured. The issue, noted Moorman, is to "ensure long term independence for OpenStack," while not creating short-term barriers to progressing the effort.

Rackspace moved forward this week, creating a mailing list aimed at getting the discussion going. The initial discussion will revolve around determining the foundation's mission and scope, Collier noted in an updated blog post.

It appears Rackspace is taking an important step that should be welcome by the OpenStack community and future stakeholders. The challenge will be to get everyone on board with the structure and funding, neither of which is trivial, while not moving too slow that the process ends up in limbo.

What's your take on Rackspace's decision to move OpenStack to an independent foundation? Leave a comment below or drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on October 12, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


IBM Tackles HPC in Cloud with Deal To Acquire Platform Computing

In a move that will boost its portfolio of high-performance computing (HPC) and cloud management software, IBM on Tuesday said it has agreed to acquire Platform Computing for an undisclosed sum.

Founded 19 years ago, Toronto-based Platform is regarded as a leading provider of workload management software for distributed, clustered and grid computing environments. IBM boasts Platform has more than 2,000 customers, including 23 of the 30 the world's largest enterprises. Among them are the European Organization for Nuclear Research (better known as CERN), Citigroup and Pratt & Whitney.

"IBM considers the acquisition of Platform Computing to be a strategic element for the transformation of HPC into the high growth segment of technical computing and an important part of our smarter computing strategy," said Helene Armitage, general manager of Systems Software at IBM, in a statement.

That strategy includes allowing customers to move HPC workloads to public and private clouds. Among its offerings are Platform ISF, a private cloud management tool that manages workloads across various virtual machines, operating systems, cloud resources and physical and virtual servers.

Customers can also create new clusters to cloud and hosting providers with Platform LSF, a workload management platform, and Platform MultiCluster, a cluster consolidation tool, enabling them to create policy-based distribution of workloads between in-house HPC clusters and cloud-based resources. 

The addition of Platform will augment IBM's existing efforts to bridge HPC-based applications to the cloud. Big Blue's HPC Management Suite for Cloud enables provisioning of different operating system images on bare metal hardware and virtual machines, provides access to the HPC infrastructure via a Web-based management interface and allows for the sharing of HPC resources.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on October 11, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Savvis Expansion Includes New Database Hosting Service

Hosting provider Savvis this week said it will offer Microsoft's SQL Server and Oracle's Enterprise 11g RAC databases in the cloud.

Savvis said its new Symphony Database lets customers provision the databases without having to license the software or acquire hardware, while providing a scale-up and scale-down architecture.

"Unlike traditional database offerings, Symphony Database does not require hardware provisioning and software licensing, freeing enterprises from long-term contracts and expenses," said Brent Juelich, Savvis senior director of managed services, in a statement.

The database offering is the latest in a series of new services added by Savvis, which earlier this year was acquired by CenturyLink for $2.5 billion. The company also recently launched its Virtual Private Data Center Premier offering, aimed at proving a higher level of performance, security and support for mission-critical applications.

Savvis is in the midst of expanding its datacenters in North America. The company added new capacity in Atlanta and Seattle and is set to expand its facilities in Boston, Piscataway, N.J. and Toronto in the coming weeks.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on October 06, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


New Google Cloud Transformation Program Targets Large Enterprises

Looking to convince large enterprises to use its broader suite of infrastructure and platform cloud services, Google has launched its Cloud Transformation Program.

To date, much of the company's enterprise cloud emphasis has focused on Google Apps, its suite of e-mail, calendaring, collaboration and productivity tools. Now the company is looking to extend its other cloud offerings, notably its Google App Engine Platform as a Service (PaaS), to large enterprises.

The company has tapped seven partners to help large organizations use its cloud services, including App Engine, Google Storage for Developers, Google Apps Script and the Google Prediction API.

The partners include CSC, Cloud Sherpas, Cognizant, Opera Solutions, Razorfish, SADA Systems and TempusNova. Google said it intends to bring onboard additional cloud implementation partners.

Google wants enterprises to use its cloud services to build Web sites, mobile, social media, business process and customer-facing applications using App Engine and Apps Script, said Rahul Sood, global head of enterprise partnerships in a blog post.

With the Prediction API, Google sees customers building apps that detect fraud and analyze customer churn, for example. And with Google Storage for Developers, Google is pitching an array of services such as backup and data sharing.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on October 06, 2011 at 11:59 AM1 comments


Adobe Gets Creative in the Cloud

Adobe Systems has been slow to move its traditional desktop software business to the cloud, but the company will take a key step forward to change that when it lets users of its Creative Suite of apps share and synchronize content through a new cloud service it plans to launch next month.

The company announced Creative Cloud at its annual AdobeMAX 2011 conference in Los Angeles this week. Initially, the service will offer 20 GB of storage capacity to users of Adobe Touch Apps, also launched this week, and the flagship Adobe Creative Suite, enabling collaboration and sharing of the content created with the software.

Adobe Creative Cloud will be the hub for Adobe Touch Apps, designed to allow creative professionals to deliver content that run on tablet devices. Content developed with Adobe Touch Apps can be shared and viewed across devices and transferred to Adobe Creative Suite CS5.5, the company said.

Early next year, the service will offer access to Adobe's flagship Creative Suite tools which include Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Premier Pro, Edge and Muse.

"The move to the Creative Cloud is a major component in the transformation of Adobe," said Kevin Lynch, Adobe's chief technology officer, in a statement

Pricing for the service will be announced next month.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on October 06, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Startup Piston Readies OpenStack Distribution for Private Clouds

Startup Piston Computing came out of stealth mode this week, introducing a hardened operating system based on the open source OpenStack project for private enterprise clouds.

Piston is led by CEO and co-founder Joshua McKenty, who was technical lead and cloud architect of NASA's Nebula Cloud Computing Platform. NASA and Rackspace co-founded the OpenStack Project. Just last month, former NASA CTO Chris Kemp launched Nebula, which offers a turnkey appliance based on the OpenStack platform. McKenty left NASA last summer to launch Piston with the goal of bringing private clouds like Nebula to enterprises based on OpenStack.

McKenty maintains that much of the attention on OpenStack has been on the potential for service providers to build clouds based on the open source platform, but there has been little emphasis on opportunities for private clouds.

"A lot of the early contributions were around service provider requirements and there seemed to be more and more focus on that side of the story," McKenty said. "We had enterprise customers showing up at every [OpenStack] Design Summit saying, 'Hey what about our needs? We need things to deal with regulatory compliance and security and we know NASA worked on these -- why aren't they in the code base?' We really set out to rectify that. In a lot of ways I'm trying to finish what I started [at NASA]."

Piston is launching pentOS, which stands for Piston Enterprise operating system. The three key attributes of pentOS that Piston is emphasizing centers around its built-in security, interoperability and ease of deployment.

McKenty said pentOS is based on what the company calls a "null-tier" architecture that integrates compute, storage and networking on every node, providing a massively scalable platform.

Thanks to a hardened custom-built Linux distribution, pentOS is secure, McKenty said. Enabling IT to securely deploy pentOS is a feature called Cloud Key, which allows for the automated distribution of the software onto servers and switches via a USB stick. Admins can configure the OS on a laptop and then install it onto the hardware. This provides a critical component of security, McKenty explained, because it minimizes the number of administrators who need credentials for the physical hardware.

McKenty said 50 percent of all attacks come from insiders, and by reducing those who need credentials, the more secure the environment will be. "This is the largest single concern for enterprise IT security," he said. "So the fewer users that have administrative rights on your physical hardware, the better, in my opinion."

Piston claims pentOS includes the first implementation of the Cloud Audit standard, which provides a common interface and namespace, or repository, for cloud providers to automate audit, assertion, assessment and assurance of their environments. McKenty, who is on the Cloud Audit working group, said implementing the standard is important to enterprises who rely on certifications such as HIPAA, PCI, NIST 800-53 and other compliance frameworks.

The pentOS software can be installed on any server hardware and initially on switches supplied by Arista Networks and, shortly, on Hewlett-Packard and Dell Force10 switches, McKentry said, with others to follow.

Founded earlier this year, Piston has $4.5 million in Series A funding from Hummer Winblad and True Ventures.

Piston will issue a developer preview of pentOS next week at the OpenStack Design Summit with general availability scheduled for Nov. 29. The company is not yet revealing pricing but it will be based on per-server licensing and a subscription service for security updates.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on September 28, 2011 at 11:59 AM1 comments


Salesforce.com Targets SMBs with Assistly Acquisition

Looking to extend the reach of its customer support and service platform, Salesforce.com last week said it has acquired Assistly for $50 million.

The company said it will integrate Assistly, a provider of online customer service help-desk apps for small and medium businesses that run in the cloud, into the Salesforce.com Service Cloud offering. Assistly is targeted at SMBs and startups with its $49 per month, per user subscription fee.

Founded in 2009, Assistly pulls customer interactions from a variety of channels and social media including Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and phone into a common user interface, enabling customer service agents to engage in real time with customers.

The move is in line with Salesforce.com's push to bring social networking to enterprises using its platforms. At last month's annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, CEO Marc Benioff focused on what he calls the emergence of "the social enterprise."

"Service Cloud will now enable even the smallest companies to become a social enterprise," said Alex Dayon, Salesforce.com's executive VP of applications, in a statement.

Of its 104,000 customers, Salesforce.com said 17,000 use Service Desk. The company said the acquisition of Assistly will help it extend its reach to SMBs by providing a lower barrier to entry and providing the option of migrating to other Service Cloud services over time.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on September 27, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Nimbula Upgrades IaaS Cloud Software

Cloud infrastructure software vendor Nimbula has released an upgrade of its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform.

Nimbula Director 1.5 now supports a geographically distributed cloud and can manage the multi-site cloud from a single management interface. It also features policy-based automation for compute and storage, aimed at simplifying the request of resources; persistent block store, which provides self-service interfaces to cloud storage; and a customizable installer for operating system, drivers and management software.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Nimbula also announced it has expanded its partner ecosystem with the addition of Atalanta Systems, Electric Cloud and Standing Cloud to its roster.

"Nimbula is continuing its commitment in building a rich, diverse partner base to serve the new use cases and solutions enabled by cloud computing," said Reza Malekzadeh, Nimbula's VP of marketing, in a statement. "We are able to strengthen our complete end-to-end solution offerings by supporting PaaS [Platform as a Service] and DevOps use cases for agile application development and by supporting additional storage solutions."

Atalanta Systems will provide integration of Opscode Chef with Nimbula Director, enabling customers to use Chef to orchestrate and manage workloads running on the Nimbula platform. Electric Cloud is enabling its Electric Commander to automate build-test-deploy processes with the Nimbula cloud platform. Standing Cloud and Nimbula created a solution that allows users and developers to build, deploy and manage applications that run on Standing Cloud's PaaS.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on September 27, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


OpenStack Rolls Out Diablo

The OpenStack consortium on Thursday released the fourth version of its open source cloud operating system.

Dubbed Diablo, the new release gains improved compute scalability, storage and networking. And OpenStack is introducing identity management features and a new Web-based management interface slated for the next release of the platform.

OpenStack, founded by NASA and Rackspace, is an open source project to deliver a cloud operating system for enterprises to build private clouds and for service providers. It has more than 100 companies contributing to the project. 

Diablo takes an important step forward in making OpenStack more suited for enterprise cloud deployments, said Jonathan Bryce, chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board and a founder of the Rackspace Cloud.

"It's a pretty significant release for us, it's a release that opens the door for many more organizations to come in and use OpenStack," Bryce said. "With the last release [Cactus], the functionality of the cloud was all there, but if you were not a sophisticated IT department or development shop, it could be difficult to jump right into it. I think there are quite a few features in this one that make it a lot easier and a lot more deployable for many more organizations."

With 70 new features in Diablo, Bryce emphasized three:

  1. Compute (Nova): Includes a distributed scheduler for the deployment of virtual machines globally, a high-availability networking mode and a new authentication system called OpenStack Identity management.

  2. Object Storage (Swift): A new feature called Container Syncing allows an administrator to pick individual containers or folders of data and mark them for syncing to an entire separate OpenStack Object Storage cluster. "It will keep track of the changes and make sure the containers stay in sync across separate clusters, not just within a cluster," Bryce said. "It's another added level of scale across multiple locations and data resiliency."

  3. Image Service (Glance): The Image service includes new filtering and searching functions through the API.

Also introduced in conjunction with Diablo are two incubation projects that will be core in the next release of the OpenStack platform, called Essex, which is slated for release in the next six months.

The first is Dashboard, which will let admins provision and manage cloud resources via a self-service portal. The second is Keystone, aimed at providing common authentication across all OpenStack projects. Keystone is not a new directory system, Bryce explained, but rather one that can interface with existing authentication platforms such as Microsoft's Active Directory and repositories based on LDAP.

Coinciding with next year's release of Essex, OpenStack will release another incubation project called Quantum, which provides an API that dynamically requests and configures virtual networks and offers advanced networking and virtualization capabilities, Bryce said.

Plans for Essex will be discussed at the OpenStack Design Summit and Conference, to be held in Boston during the first week of October.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on September 22, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Microsoft Explains Recent Cloud Outage

Wondering what caused the outage that brought down some of Microsoft's cloud services two weeks ago? While Microsoft attributed it to a DNS error, that was all the company was saying at the time.

The three-hour outage occurred on the evening of Sept. 8 and affected Windows Live services such as SkyDrive, MSN and Hotmail for three hours. Also affected was Microsoft's Office 365 service.

Arthur de Haan, VP of Windows Live test and service engineering at Microsoft, elaborated on the incident in a blog post on Tuesday night, explaining a corrupt file in the company's DNS service was to blame.

Microsoft was in the process of updating a tool that helps balance network traffic and the update went awry, he noted. Consequently, the configurations were corrupted, resulting in the outage, he said.

"The file corruption was a result of two rare conditions occurring at the same time," de Haan said.  "The first condition is related to how the load balancing devices in the DNS service respond to a malformed input string (i.e., the software was unable to parse an incorrectly constructed line in the configuration file). The second condition was related to how the configuration is synchronized across the DNS service to ensure all client requests return the same response regardless of the connection location of the client. Each of these conditions was tracked to the networking device firmware used in the Microsoft DNS service."

He said Microsoft intends to further harden the DNS service to by providing greater redundancy and failover capability.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on September 21, 2011 at 11:59 AM0 comments


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