Archive for March, 2010

Apple iPad Tests the Limits of Google’s Chrome Running on Cloud Computing Devices

With the recent release of its iPad, Apple is poised to challenge Google in the current cloud computing crusade, say Gartner analysts. Apple’s iPad is expected to offer the most compelling mobile Internet experience to date, but later on in 2010 Google is predicted to introduce its own version for mobile Web consumption in the form of netbooks built on its Chrome Operating System.

If Apple’s tablet PC catches on like the company hopes it will, then it could serve as a foil for Google’s cloud computing fans. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has already proclaimed that holding the iPad is like “holding the Internet in your hand.” The 9.7-inch IPS screen on the device displays high-def video and other content, like e-mail, e-books and games to be consumed from the cloud.

Author Nicholas Carr, an avid follower of cloud happenings, explains the intentions of Apple in introducing the iPad by saying, “It wants to deliver the killer device to the cloud era, a machine that will define computing’s new age in the way that the Windows PC defined the old age. The iPad is, as Jobs said today, ‘something in the middle,’ a multipurpose gadget aimed at the sweet spot between the tiny smartphone and the traditional laptop. If it succeeds, we’ll all be using iPads to play iTunes, read iBooks, watch iShows, and engage in iChats. It will be an iWorld.”

An iWorld? Not if Google has its say! Later on in 2010 Google is expected to unveil its very own version of the Internet able to be held in users’ hands: netbooks based on Chrome. Companies like Acer and Asustek Computer are also building a range of Android-based tablets and netbooks, while Dell CEO Michael Dell was recently seen showcasing the Android-based Dell Mini 5 tablet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It sounds like Apple may have more competition that just Google!

The iPad will undoubtedly be a challenge to Google’s plans for cloud computing, which include making Google search and Google apps able to reach any device connected to the Web. According to Gartner analyst Rau Valdes, Apple and Google are bound to face off with similar machines. Said Valdes to eWeek, “You could look and say that iPad is being targeted to the broad market of casual users rather than, say, the road warrior who needs to run Outlook and Excel and the people who are going to surf the Net on the couch. One could say that a netbook based on Chrome OS would have an identical use case.”

Consumers will eventually have to choose between shelling out around $499 for an iPad (that is just a base price, mind you) or a similar fee (or possibly lower) for a Chrome netbook. Valdes thinks that there are two types of users: a parent figure consuming Internet content on a Chrome OS netbook and a teenager playing games purchased on Apple’s App Store on an iPad. Stay tuned to see what happens when Apple and Google collide with similar machines later on in 2010.

Looking Back at the Changing Face of the Software Industry from 2004 and Beyond

Bill Gates may have made a whole lot of predictions about the future of software in the first edition of his 1995 book The Road Ahead, but even the founder of Microsoft couldn’t image the magnitude of the impact of the Internet.

Within a few years, the Web altered everything. As old software companies faded away—unable to adjust to the new paradigm—new ones cropped up in their place. Although many of these new companies weren’t able to survive the dot-com bust, they did make an impact on the software industry as a whole. The way in which companies coped with the industry in flux back then can be easily applied to the way companies are adopting the cloud computing model in 2010.

Driven by emerging business needs, new customer demands and market forces, the way software was developed and the vendors that deliver it were greatly altered in the mid-2000s. Said Microsoft’s platform strategy general manager Charles Fitzgerald in 2004, “There’s an argument that almost every company is in the software business in one way or another.” Fitzgerald added that although American Express and eBay aren’t commonly thought of as being in the software business, they are. “If you participate in the information economy, you will be a software company. If you’re in a customer-facing business, software is the way you’re going to differentiate yourself,” he explained.

The fact of the matter is that the industry that provided much of the software in 2004-05 was poised to change dramatically in the years that followed. The industry will continue to enter periodic waves of consolidation and expansions, and the industry consensus is that it will remain in consolidation mode for the next couple of years. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, predicted that within a few years the software market will be dominated by just a few companies: Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Adobe and SAP.

Ellison wasn’t alone in his predictions, as some software buyers, like Mani Shabrang, head of technology deployment and research and development in Dow Chemical Co.’s business-intelligence center, agreed with him. “The number of software vendors will definitely get smaller and smaller,” said Shabrang in 2004. Another variable to consider, brought up by Shabrang, was that vendors of new types of software would emerge as vendors of mature software categories (like enterprise resource planning) consolidate. Shabrang predicted that a new generation of tools for visualizing data and intelligent software that recognizes the tone and meaning of written prose (in addition to mining text) would pop up as well.

Another group believed that there will be just as many software vendors in the future as there were back then. Danny Sabbah, chief technology officer of IBM’s software group, said that new companies would develop higher-level applications, thus leaving the markets for infrastructure software, middlewear and even core applications such as ERP to a few major companies.

CEO of business-intelligence software vendor Information Builders Inc. Gerald Cohen said, “Roughly every two or three years, new software categories appear. As long as there’s a venture-capital industry, there will be new categories of software.”

So what would the next application be? No one knew, although emerging service-oriented architecture technology was poised to lay the foundation for a new generation of software applications. The software of the future was predicted to be made up components, many of which would be developed in-house by the business requiring them. This is in contrast to what was the model back in 2004, in which vendors developed ever-larger applications that often took months to install.

According to Sabbah, software would likely switch from integrating business processes within a company to integrating these processes between companies. For example, applications might link ordering, invoicing, and inventory-management tasks up and down a supply chain within an industry in the not-so-distant future.

Another looming question was what the predominant operating system and underlying new applications would be. Microsoft ® Windows and Linux distributions would continue to compete, that much was sure, and the battle only got fiercer when Microsoft unveiled its next-generation Longhorn client and server in 2006-07, respectively.

Even in 2004, industry prognosticators knew that larger and more-complex systems weren’t going anywhere. The question was, how would the process of developing software be managed, especially as geographically disbursed programmers and offshore developers were doing an increasing amount of development work? The challenged awaiting users of the complex applications they create also needed to be addressed.

IBM’s Sabbah had this to say about the future of software, “The real challenge of our industry is to build software that is [easy to use] and simple to deploy but not simplistic.”

As shown by the growth of companies which provide software on a hosted basis, like Salesforce.com, it became increasingly important to pay attention to changes in vendor-buyer relationships and how software functionality was delivered.

Co-founder and CEO of business-intelligence and data-analysis software vendor SAS Institute Inc. Jim Goodnight wasn’t worried by these potential changes, instead placing his focus on that new opportunities awaited him and his company. In 2004 Goodnight said, “The IT industry needs to jeep a fairly shortened horizon. Our horizon is about two years. We make it a practice not to have these big five-year plans. If you do, you’re going to get about halfway through, and the world if going to change.” In 2010 Goodnight’s words still ring true.  For more information regarding the changing Software landscape, please visit Nubifer.com.

Microsoft and IBM Compete for Space in the Cloud as Google Apps Turns 3

Google may have been celebrating the third birthday of Google Apps Premier Edition on February 22, but Microsoft and IBM want a piece of the cake, errr cloud, too. EWeek.com reports that Google is trying to dislodge legacy on-premises installations from Microsoft and IBM while simultaneously fending off SaaS solutions from said companies. In addition, Google has to fend off offerings from Cisco Systems and startups like Zoho and MinTouch, to name a few. Despite the up-and-comers, Google, Microsoft and IBM are the main three companies competing for pre-eminence in the market for cloud collaborative software.

Three year ago, Google launched its Google Apps Premier Edition, marking a bold gamble on the future of collaborative software. Back then, and perhaps even still, the collaborative software market was controlled by Microsoft and IBM. Microsoft and IBM have over 650 million customers for their Microsoft ® Office, Sharepoint and IBM Lotus suite combined. These suits are licensed as “on-premises” software which customers install and maintain on their own servers.

When Google launched Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE), it served as a departure from this on-premises model by offering collaboration software hosted on Google’s servers and delivered via the Web. We now know this method as cloud computing.

Until the introduction of GAPE, Google Apps was available in a free standard edition (which included Gmail, Google Docs word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software), but with GAPE Google meant to make a profit. For just $50 per user per year, companies could provide their knowledge workers with GAPE, which featured the aforementioned apps as well as additional storage, security and, most importantly, 24/7 support.

Google Apps now has over two million business customers–of all shapes and sizes–and is designed to appeal to both small companies desiring low-cost collaboration software but are lacking the resources to manage it and large enterprises desiring to eliminate the cost of managing collaboration applications on their own. At the time, Microsoft and IBM were not aggressively exploring this new cloud approach.

Fast-forward to 2009. Microsoft and IBM had released hosted collaboration solutions (Microsoft ® Business Productivity Office Suite and LotusLive respectively) to keep Google Apps from being lonely in the cloud.

On the third birthday of GAPE, Google has its work cut out for it. Google is trying to dislodge legacy on-premises installations from Microsoft and IBM while fending of SaaS solutions from Microsoft, IBM, Zoho, Mindtouch and the list goes on.

Dave Girouard, Google Enterprise President, states that while Google spent 2007 and 2008 debating the benefits of the cloud, the release of Microsoft and IBM products validated the market. EWeek.com quotes Girouard as saying, “We now have all major competitors in our industry in full agreement that the cloud is worth going to. We view this as a good thing. If you have all of the major vendors suggesting you look at the cloud, the consideration of our solutions is going to rise dramatically.”

For his part, Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Microsoft Online Services, thinks that there is room for everyone in the cloud because customer needs vary by perspective. Said Markezich to EWeek.com, “Customers are all in different situations. Whether a customer wants to go 100 percent to the cloud or if they want to go to the cloud in a measured approach in a period of years, we want to make sure we can bet on Microsoft to serve their needs. No one else has credible services that are adopted by some of the larger companies in the world.”

Microsoft’s counter to Google Apps is Microsoft’s ® Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). It includes Microsoft ® Exchange Online with Microsoft ® Exchange Hosted Filtering, Microsoft ® SharePoint Online, Microsoft ® Office Communications Online and Microsoft ® Office Living Meeting. Microsoft also offers the Business Productivity Online Deskless Worker Suite (which includes Exchange Online Deskless Worker for email, calendars and global address lists, antivirus and anti-spam filters) and Microsoft ® Outlook Web Access Light (for access to company email) for companies with either tighter budgets or those in need of lower cost email and collaboration software. Sharepoint Online Deskless Worker provides easy access to SharePoint portals, team sites and search functionality.

The standard version of BPOS costs $1 user per month or $120 per user per year while BPOS Deskless Worker Suite is $4 per user per month or $36 per user per year. Users may also license single apps as stand-alone services from $2 to $5 per user per month, which serves as a departure from Google’s one-price-for-the-year GAPE package.

The same code base is used by Microsoft for its BPOS package, on-premises versions of Exchange and SharePoint, thus making legacy customers’ transition into the cloud easier should they decide to migrate to BPOS. Microsoft thinks that this increases the likelihood that customers will remain with Microsoft rather than switching to Google Apps or IBM Lotus.

At Lotusphere 2008, IBM offered a hint at its cloud computing goals with Bluehouse, a SaaS extranet targeted toward small- to mid-size business. The product evolved as LotusLive Engage, a general business collaboration solution with social networking capabilities from IBM’s LotusLive Connections suite, at Lotusphere 2009. In the later half of 2009, the company sought to fill the void left open by the absence of email, by introducing the company’s hosted email solution LotusLive iNotes. iNotes costs $3 per user per month and $36 per user per year. Additionally, IBM offers LotusLive Connections, a hosted social networking solution, as well as the aforementioned LotusLive Engage.

Vice president of online collaboration for IBM Sean Pouelly told EWeek.com that IBM is banking on companies using email to adopt their social networking services saying, “It’s unusual that they just buy one of the services.” Currently over 18 million paid seats use hosted versions of IBM’s Lotus software.

IBM’s efforts in the cloud began to really get attention when the company scored Panasonic as a customer late last year. In its first year of implementing LotusLive iNotes, the consumer electronics maker plans on migrating over 100,000 users from Lotus Notes, Exchange and Panasonic’s proprietary email solution to LotusLive.

When it comes down to it, customers have different reasons for choosing Google, Microsoft or IBM. All three companies have major plans for 2010, and each company has a competitive edge. For more information regarding Cloud Computing please visit Nubifer.com.

The Main Infrastructure Components of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is perhaps the most-used buzz word in the tech world right now, but to understand cloud computing is to be able to point out its main infrastructure components in comparison to older models.

So what is cloud computing? It is an emerging computing model that allows users to gain access to their applications from virtually anywhere by using any connected device they have access to. The cloud infrastructure supporting the applications is made transparent to users by a user-centric interface. Applications live in massively scalable data centers where computational resources are able to be dynamically provisioned and shared in order to achieve significant economies of scale. The management costs of bringing more IT resources into the cloud can be significantly decreased due to a strong service management platform.

Cloud computing can be viewed simultaneously as a business delivery model and an infrastructure management methodology. As a business delivery model, it provides a user experience through which hardware, software and network resources are optimally leveraged in order to provide innovative services on the web. Servers are provisioned in adherence with the logical requirements of the service using advanced, automated tools. The cloud enables program administrators and service creators to use these services via a web-based interference that abstracts away the complex nature of the underlying dynamic infrastructure.

IT organizations can manage large numbers of highly virtualized resources as a single large resource thanks to the infrastructure management methodology. Additionally, it allows IT organizations to greatly increase their data center resources without ramping up the number of people typically required to maintain that increase. A cloud will thus enable organizations currently using traditional infrastructures to consume IT resources in the data center in new, exciting, and previously-unavailable ways.

Companies with traditional data center management practices know that it can be time-intensive to make IT resources available to an end user because of the many steps it involves. These include procuring hardware, locating raised floor space, not to mention sufficient power and cooling, allocating administrators to install operating systems, middleware and software, provisioning the network and securing the environment. Companies have discovered that this process can take two to three months, if not more, while IT organizations re-provisioning existing hardware resources find that it takes weeks to finish.

This problem is solved by the cloud—as the cloud implements automation, business workflows and resource abstraction that permits a user to look at a catalog of IT services, add them to a shopping cart and subsequently submit the order. Once the order is approved by an administrator, the cloud handles the rest. In this way, the process cuts down on the time usually required to make those resources available to the customer from long months to mere minutes.

Additionally, the cloud provides a user interface that allows the user and the IT administrator to manage the provisioned resources through the life cycle of the service request very easily. Once a user’s resources have been delivered by the cloud, the user can track the order (which usually consists of a variable of servers and software); view the health of those resources; add additional servers; change the installed software; remove servers; increase or decrease the allocated processing power, storage or memory; start, stop and restart servers. Yes, really. These self-service functions are able to be performed 24 hours a day and take just minutes to perform. This is in stark contrast to a non-cloud environment, in which it would take hours or even days to have hardware or software configurations changed to have a server restarted. For more information regarding Infrastructure components for a Cloud ecosystem please visit Nubifer.com.

Heightening Cloud Security in Your Enterprise

The responsibility of securing corporate information in the cloud falls upon the enterprise, and enterprises, as cloud consumers, can greatly improve cloud security. Currently, if there is a breach in security, the enterprise is responsible. eWeek Knowledge Center contributor Matthew Gardiner reveals six ways in which enterprises can improve cloud security essentially by thinking as a cloud provider. Once an enterprise has improved security within their cloud computing model, it can fully reap the benefits from the cloud.

Cloud security is a shared responsibility between cloud providers and enterprises, although the dividing line between the two is currently, well, cloudy. The dividing line between cloud providers and enterprises is dependent on the type of cloud model–ranging from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

SaaS approaches what can be though of as a security black box, in which application security activities are largely invisible to the enterprise. IaaS, in which an enterprise is principally responsible for the security of the application, data and other levels of the infrastructure stack, sits at the other end of the spectrum.

The following six steps outline what enterprises can do to improve security in a cloud computing model and thus reap the full benefits from the cloud:

1. Learn from your current internal private clouds and the security systems and processes constructed around them

Medium to large enterprises have been setting up internal clouds for the past ten years, so while many of them didn’t refer to them as clouds, most enterprises have internal clouds already. These clouds were often referred to as shared services, like authentication services, database services, provisioning services or enterprise data centers.

2. Assess the importance and risk of your multiple IT-enabled business processes

Although the potential cost savings resulting from a transition into the cloud can be calculated rather easily, conducting a “risk vs. reward” calculation is difficult without having a basic understanding of the risk side of the equation. Because this is entirely dependent on the business context of the business process, the cloud providers cannot conduct this analysis for enterprises. The obvious first candidates for the cloud are low Service-Level Agreement (SLA) applications with relatively high cost. The potential regulatory impacts need to be considered as well, because some data and services aren’t allowed by regulators to move off-site or out of the state or country.

3. Analyze different cloud models and categories

There are general differences between different cloud models (public, private, hybrid) and cloud categories (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS) that directly relate to security control and responsibility, thus enterprises need to analyze both.

Enterprises must have both an opinion and policy for these cloud approaches within the context of their organizations and the risk profile of their own businesses.

4. Apply your Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) design and security principles to the cloud

The cloud can be seen as an expansion of SOA, as most organizations have been using SOA principles in their application development organizations for several years. In this way, the cloud can be seen as service orientation taken to its next logical step. Combined with centralized security policy administration and decision making, the SOA security principles of highly distributed security enforcement apply  directly to the cloud. The principles can simply be transfered to the cloud rather than reinventing the system when switching your focus from SOA to the cloud.

5. Think like a cloud provider

Rather than thinking of your enterprise as a cloud consumer, think as a cloud provider. Your organization is part of a value chain in which you supply services to your customers and partners. If you are able to equate the risk/reward balance so that you profitably consume cloud services, you can apply that way of thinking to guide your entry as a cloud provider within your ecosystem. This will in turn help your organization better comprehend what is happening within the realm of cloud providers.

6. Get to know and start using Web security standards sooner than later

The Web security industry has been working on securing and managing cross-domain systems for quite some time, and useful security standards to secure cloud services have emerged as a result. These standards–which include Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), Service Provisioning Markup Language (SPLM), Extensible Access Control Markup Language (XACML) and Web Services-Security WS-Security)–must be adopted for security systems to be effective in the increasingly cloud-connected world.

Ensuring that security professionals be viewed as rational advocates of the cloud is an important requirement for enterprises when it comes to improving the security of cloud services. When properly balanced and business-driven, technologists can serve as positive forces in the risk/reward dialogue and also help increase the probability of increasing cloud security for their enterprise. To learn more about Cloud Security please visit Nubifer.com.

Media Streaming Added to Amazon CloudFront

Amazon Web Services LLC unveiled media streaming for its content delivery service, Amazon CloudFront, on December 16, 2009. The brand new feature enables streaming delivery of audio and video content, thus providing an alternative to progressive download where end users download a full media file.

According to Amazon officials, Amazon CloudFront streams content from a worldwide network of 14 edge locations, which ensures low latencies and also offers cost-effective delivery. Like all Amazon Web Services, Amazon CloudFront requires no up-front investment, minimum fees or long-term contracts and uses the pay-what-you-use model.

General manager of Amazon CloudFront Tal Saraf said in a statement released in conjunction with the company’s announcement, “Many customers have told us that an on-demand streaming media service with low latency, high performance and reliability has been out of reach—it was technically complex and required sales negotiations and up-front commitments. We’re excited to add streaming functionality to Amazon CloudFront that is so easy, customers of any size can start streaming content in minutes.”

Amazon reports that viewers literally watch the bytes as they are delivered because content is delivered to end users in real time. In addition to giving the end user more control over their viewing experience, streaming also lowers costs for content owners by reducing the amount of data transferred when end users fail to watch the whole video.

Users only need to store the original copy of their media objects in the Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) in order to stream content with Amazon CloudFront, and then enable those files for distribution in Amazon CloudFront with a simple command using the AWS Management Console or the Amazon CloudFront API. Amazon officials said that end users requesting streaming content are automatically routed to the CloudFront edge location best suited to serve the stream, thus end users can get the highest bit rate, lowest latency and highest-quality stream possible. Due to multiple levels of redundancy built into Amazon CloudFront, customers’ streams are served reliably and with high quality.

Daniel Rhodes of video sharing website Vidly said in a statement, “In the five minutes it took us to implement Amazon CloudFront’s streaming service, Vidly was able to both cut costs and offer additional features that significantly improved the in-video experience for our worldwide audience. Without any upfront capital, we are able to side-step the purchase and administration of streaming servers while still getting all the same benefits. Amazon CloudFront brings all the benefits together in such a great tightly integrated way with Amazon’s other services we use and is reliably distributed worldwide, all with barely any work on our part.”

LongTail Video had added support for Amazon CloudFront Streaming to their popular open source video player, JW Player. “There was a great fit between the JW player and Amazon CloudFront streaming: both focus on making it as easy as possible for anyone to incorporate high quality video into Websites,” said LongTail Video co-founder Jeroen “JW” Wijering.

Using Adobe’s Flash Media Server 3.5.3 (FMS), Amazon CloudFront lets developers take advantage of many features of FMS. Customers can decide to deliver their content via the Flash standard Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) or using its encrypted version, RTMPE (for added security). Customers can also use advanced features like dynamic bit rate streaming (which automatically adjusts the bit rate of the stream plated to the end user based on the quality of the user’s connection). Currently supporting on-demand media, Amazon CloudFront streaming support for live events is slated for 2010. For more information regarding Cloud Hosting options please visit Nubifer.com.

The Effects of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) on ISVs

Over the past decade, the ascent of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has allowed Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to develop new applications hosted and delivered on the Web. Until recently, however, any ISV creating a SaaS offering has been required to create its own hosting and service delivery infrastructure. With the rise of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) over the past two years, this has all changed. As the online equivalent of conventional computing platforms, PaaS provides an immediate infrastructure on which an ISV can quickly build and deliver a SaaS application.

Many ISVs are hesitant to bind their fate to an emerging platform provider, yet those that have taken a leap of faith and adopted PaaS early on have reaped the benefits, seeing dramatic reductions in development costs and timescales. PaaS supercharges SaaS by lowering barriers to entry and foreshortening time-to-market, this quickening the pace of innovation and intensifying competition.

The nature of ISVs will forever be altered by the advent of PaaS, not only ISVs who choose to introduce SaaS offerings but those who remain tethered to conventionally-licenses, customer-operated software products. The ways in which PaaS alters the competitive landscape across a variety of parameters:

Dramatically quicker cycles of innovation

By implementing the iterative, continuous improvement upgrade model of SaaS, PaaS allows developers to monitor and subsequently respond to customer usage and feedback and quickly incorporate the latest functionality into their own applications.

Lowered price points

Developers’ costs are cut down across multiple dimensions by the shared, pay-as-you-go, elastic infrastructure of PaaS. This results in greatly reduced development and operations costs.

Multiplicity of players from reduced barriers to entry

Large numbers of market entrants are attracted to the low costs of starting on a PaaS provider’s infrastructure. These entrants would not otherwise be able to fund their own infrastructure and thanks to a PaaS are able to significantly increase innovation and competition.

New business models, propositions, partner channels and routes to market

New ways of offering products and bringing them to market, many of them highly disruptive to established models, are created by the “as-a-service” model.

It is important for ISVs to understand and evaluate that PaaS is different than other platforms in order for them to remain in control of their own destiny. PaaS is a new kind of platform, the dynamics of which are different than conventional software platforms. Developers need to be weary of assessing PaaS alternatives on the basis of criteria that are not valid when applied to PaaS. For more information on Platform as a Service please visit Nubifer.com.