VMWare makes vCloud Connector free

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2014 - 12:21 PM |
Tagged: cloud, vmware, vcloud connector

Getting familiar with virtualization, especially VMWare's take on the technology is a wise decision for anyone planning on starting or continuing a career in IT.  Even if you never end up hosting your own cluster of VMs, being aware of what they are capable of will help you deal with vendors and salespeople.  It is now even easier to expand your knowledge of how multiple virtual machine clusters can communicate as VMWare has made their tool free to use.  This does assume you have VSphere and ESX based clusters but as that software is also available at no cost, that is not a tough prerequisite to meet.  Check out the links from The Register to see about creating your own interlinked cloud, or perhaps hooking into a friends.

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"VMware has released version 2.6 of its vCloud Connector tool, and dropped its price to $0. At current exchange rates that's £0 and $AUD0, for UK and Australian readers."

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Source: The Register

CES 2014: Connected Data shows Transporter and new Transporter Sync at Storage Visions

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2014 - 10:14 PM |
Tagged: transporter sync, transporter, personal cloud, connected data, cloud, CES 2014, CES

At Storage Visions, we checked out the Connected Data Transporter as well as the recently launched Transporter Sync:

I love the idea of having DropBox-like functionaity without having to pay a bunch for a large amount of storage. Keeping that data under your own control is a good idea as well. The only thing missing from this equation is off-site backup, so be sure you are covered there in case anything happens to the location where the Transporter device is stored.

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A peacful night in O365 land

Subject: General Tech | November 14, 2013 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: running gag, microsoft, azure, cloud, office 365

Microsoft's Azure and its applications such as Office 365 are quickly gaining a reputation and it is not a very good one.  On November 11th Azure suffered an outage on some of its services across the entire planet and last night saw the Lync and email servers die.  That doesn't seem to have stopped companies from adopting the service, though perhaps that is more a decision being made by beancounters than it is by people who understand what is meant by "that is not a lot of 9s".  Since email is considered by most users to be the absolute most critical business service there are going to be a lot of complaints; at least you won't hear them until after Microsoft gets onmicrosoft.com working again.  The Register will post more on this as they receive confirmation but for now the hypothesis it was a DNS issue.

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"Numerous other sub-domains of onmicrosoft.com were also affected, we've verified, and the issue appeared to be briefly widespread. It was initially feared a DNS cockup was to blame, but we're still investigating."

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Source: The Register

Build your own Pi in the sky; Raspberry flavoured clouds

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2013 - 03:18 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, arkOS, cloud, DIY

Over at MAKE:Blog is an interesting little project for those looking for ideas on what to do with your Raspberry Pi.  Using arkOS, a lightweight Linux-based operating system specifically designed for hosting applications you can build your own private cloud without a huge investment of money.  Once you have the basics running, installing Jacob Cook's open-source Genesis application provides you a web based interface for running all your apps.  If you are relatively familiar with Linux and Raspberry it shouldn't take you that long to be fully functional. 

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"Twenty-three-year-old Jacob Cook is on a mission to help you create your own small piece of cloud on the internet, freeing you from other providers for services like file storage and sharing, web hosting, e-mail, calendars, music, and photos."

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Source: MAKE:Blog

Looking back at Azure's stormy day

Subject: General Tech | November 11, 2013 - 03:28 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, azure, red dog, cloud

The Register had a chance to conduct a brief interview with the Windows Azure general manager, Mike Neil, about what caused the recent global Azure failure.  The beginning was an update pushed to the Red Dog front end software which customers interface with and which communicates to load balancers for resource scheduling which started to break the ability of some admins to move VMs from staging to production.  While the problems were limited and intermittent, they were occurring in all regions of the globe which did not speak well of the systems partitioning.  Microsoft has realized that Red Dog is a single point of failure and will be working to modify that for the future and also discussed some of the other underlying technologies here.

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"Windows Azure suffered a global meltdown at the end of October that caused us to question whether Microsoft had effectively partitioned off bits of the cloud from one another. Now we have some answers."

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Source: The Register

Verizon Cloud Powered By AMD Seamicro SM15000 Servers

Subject: General Tech | October 9, 2013 - 01:59 AM |
Tagged: verizon, sm15000, seamicro, enterprise, cloud, amd

Verizon is launching its new public cloud later this year and offering both compute and storage to enterprise customers. The Verizon Cloud Compute and Cloud Storage products will be hosted on AMD SM15000 servers in a multi-rack cluster built by Verizon-owned Terremark.

The new cloud service is powered by AMD SM15000 servers with are 10U units with multiple microservers interconnected by SeaMicro's Freedom Fabric technology. Verizon is aiming the new cloud service at business users, from SMBs to fortune 500 companies. Specifically, Verizon is hoping to entice IT departments to offload internal company applications and services to the Verizon Cloud Compute and Cloud Storage offerings. Using the SeaMicro-built (now owned by AMD) servers, Verizon has a high density, efficient infrastructure that can allegedly provision and deploy virtual machines with fine tuned specifications and performance and reliability backed by enterprise-level SLAs while being compliant with PCI and DoD standards for data security.

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Verizon will be launching Cloud Compute and Cloud Storage as a public beta in Q4 of this year. Further, the company will be taking on beta customers later this month.

The AMD SM15000 is a high performance, high density server, and is an interesting product for cloud services thanks to the networking interconnects and power efficient compute cards. Verizon and AMD have been working together for the better part of two years on the cloud platform using the servers which were first launched to the public a little more than a year ago.

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The SM15000 is a 10U server that is actually made up of multiple compute cards. AMD and SeaMicro also pack the server with a low latency and high bandwidth networking fabric to connect the servers to each other, multiple power supplies, and the ability to connect to a shared pool of storage that each compute card can access. Each compute card uses a small, cut down motherboard, processor, ram, and networking IO. The processors can be AMD Opteron, Intel Xeon, or Intel Atom with the future possibility of an AMD APU-based server (which is the configuration option that I am most interested in). In this case, Verizon appears to be using AMD Opteron chips, which means each compute card has a single eight core AMD Opteron CPU clocked at up to 2.8GHz, 64GB of system memory, and a 10Gbps networking link.

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In total, each SM15000 server is powered by 512 CPU cores, up to 4TB of RAM, ten 1,100W PSUs, and support for more than 5PB of shared storage. Considering Verizon is using multiple racks filled with SM15000 servers, there is a lot of hardware on offer to support a multitude of mission critical applications backed by SLAs (service level agreements, which are basically guarantees of uptime and/or performance).

I'm looking forward to seeing what sorts of things customers end up doing with the Verizon Cloud and how the SeaMicro-built servers hold up once the service is fully ramped up and utilized.

You can find more information on the SM15000 servers in my article on their initial debut. Also, the full press release on the Verizon Cloud is below.

Source: AMD

Western Digital launches My Cloud storage device

Subject: Storage | October 2, 2013 - 10:42 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, My Cloud, cloud storage, cloud

Imagine a device of a similar form factor to the Western Digital My Book, but instead of USB or Thunderbolt connectivity, you had a Gigabit Ethernet connection and a dual core CPU capable of handling large throughputs to your home network. Toss in some back end software and a handfull of remote access apps for various mobile devices, and you have what Western Digital calls the My Cloud:

WD My Cloud.jpg

The concept behind this is to have something similar to DropBox, with some differences. We will be diving further into the My Cloud shortly and will publish a full write-up for your viewing pleasure, but for now it seems to cover every base except for having your shared data available on mobile devices when those devices are offline (with the exception of cached copies, of course).

Full press blast afer the break:

Microsoft's Azure cloud qualifies as secure

Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2013 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, azure, cloud, DoD, secure

Microsoft just picked up a big win in their battle against IBM and Amazon for a share of the Cloud now that the US Government has certified them as being secure.  This is their first such certification which opens up a very large market for them and will make them more attractive to private firms as well.  While most salespeople will tell you that the only thing that matters about the cloud is high availability, IT departments are far more concerned about security.  High availability is assumed, if that is the only sales pitch a cloud provider gives you then you should probably stay away from them, your clients will be much happier knowing their proprietary data is secure and available as opposed to just available.  Slashdot commenters await you.

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"Microsoft's cloud storage platform Azure received their first government certification yesterday, less than 24 hours before the official shutdown. The certification, which grants Azure 'Provisional Authority to Operate,' should make it easier for Microsoft to compete with rivals like IBM and Amazon Web Services for government contracts. The certification signifies that the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and US General Services Administration have all deemed Azure safe from external hackers. Government cloud contracts are a lucrative market, as seen by Amazon's recent tussle with IBM over a $600M contract for a private CIA cloud."

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Source: Slashdot

Kickstarter begins for Transporter: Internet Connected Private Storage

Subject: Storage | December 6, 2012 - 10:12 AM |
Tagged: transporter, storage, NAS, cloud

I was recently briefed on an interesting new product called the Transporter, a file sharing device engineered by the same folks that took part in the creation of the Drobo. Connected Data has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its production, so I am now free to talk about it. Here's what it looks like:

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Transporter is basically a local area network share. It connects to your router via Gigabit Ethernet (and reportedly runs at close to HDD throughput). With the software installed to your local PCs or Macs, it enables folder sharing and real-time syncing to any other Transporter-equipped location (i.e. a family member). There will also be versions of Transporter with 1TB or 2TB internal hard drives, which shift the file storage burden off of the local computers, if desired.

This may sound a lot like other cloud-based sharing solutions out there, but there are some very significant differences:

  • User data is only stored on local systems or shared with other user-invited locations (via their Transporter).
  • The capacity shared is only limited by your local storage capacity (plus whatever internal storage is installed into the Transporter via its internal 2.5" drive bay).

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To put it simply, Transporter is similar to Dropbox in functionality and convenience, but your data is *only* stored privately, and there are no subscription fees or storage limits (beyond that of your local storage capacity). The Kickstarter has only been going for a few hours, and the 'early adopter' pre-orders are more than half gone. Once the 'early' orders are used up, price for a bare Transporter goes from $149 to $179. 1TB models go for $269 and 2TB for $359. We're definitely keeping our eye on this one.

Source:

Microsoft is going out of their way to make Office 365 more attractive than its boxed cousin

Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2012 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: SaaS, office 365, office 2013, microsoft, cloud

Today The Register posted the pricing Microsoft plans for their two new office suites, the familiar semi-yearly upgrade that is Office 2013 and the brand new, yearly licensed cloud dwelling Office 365.  They are two very distinct products in many ways even if they both encompass the same software suite.  The boxed Office 2013 will come it the three flavours we are familiar with as well as pricing that remains in line with previous releases, though the licensing terms of one copy of Office per machine seem to be more strict and you may not be able to transfer a license to a new PC if your old one is forcibly retired.

Office-2013-Logo.jpg

Office 365 on the other hand is a very different beast and it seems that Microsoft is offering a few carrots to tempt the home and small office users who didn't really jump onto the beta release of this new online version of Office.  Pricing is much less especially considering you get the same suite of programs as the most expensive boxed edition, though it is of course a  yearly fee. However at the cost of $100/yr a home user would only start paying more than the Professional Edition of the boxed set after the fourth year and you can bet that Microsoft would have released a newer version in the interim. 

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The other edition of Office 365 is intended for small to medium companies and as even the basic edition of 365 comes with Outlook, Access and Publisher, Microsoft needed to find another hook to attract customers.  That hook is a hosted Exchange server with a 25GB Outlook mailbox for each user, 10GB of online storage plus another 500MB per user, and HD Video conferencing which will more than likely use Skype.  The pricing isn't bad either, at $150 per license you do pay a bit for the extras but each Small Business Premium license allows the user to install Office 365 on five different machines, though only under their user and obviously nobody would ever share users to overcome that hurdle. 

This is a very different Office, which will have to compete with Open Office and Google's new offering as well.  It is hard to predict if small companies will jump on this new way of licensing Office but the lack of an announcement about an Enterprise Edition is very telling.

"Redmond is still offering shrink-wrapped versions of Office 2013 for those who prefer the old model. The suite will be available in three configurations: Home & Student for $139.99, Home & Business for $219.99, and Professional for $399.99.

All three bundle the same core components, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The Home & Business edition adds Outlook, and the Professional edition throws in Publisher and Access."

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Source: The Register