Cloud Winners

How would you like to spend eight hours taxing the computing power of a cluster of 30,000 cores? Heck, with that, I could finally get my taxes done in time.

Some lucky researchers are going to get all that computing time -- a $10,000 value -- for free. This all comes courtesy of Cycle Computing, a supercomputing company. The CycleCloud BigScience Challenge (I guess the company isn't a fan of spaces between words!) is open to nonprofit researchers trying to do good. CycleCloud is a platform building cloud-based HPC apps.

Right now, there are five finalists. Here is a brief synopsis:

  • Harvard is working on creating organic photovoltaic cells as a way to offer clean, green energy.
  • Morgridge Institute for Research is trying to create stem cell treatments tailored for individuals and their ailments.
  • The University of Notre Dame is learning more about how diabetes is formed.
  • The TU Munich ROSTLAB is trying to decode every single possible gene sequence mutation.
  • The Harvard Medical School is trying to understand the impact certain drugs have on Parkinson's disease.

What would you do with eight hours of massive processing time? Dream on at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/29/2011 at 12:47 PM1 comments


Microsoft Cloud Bravado

I'm sure nearly all major competitors would disagree, but Microsoft claims to be the one and only company to offer all three major styles of cloud computing: private, public and the blend called hybrid.

The claim was made at a recent investor event by Microsoft GM Charles Di Bona, who also took the opportunity to give Wall Street a crash course in cloud.

First, now that Ray Ozzie is gone from Microsoft, so is the term "Software Plus Services." A shorter and simpler term, "cloud," is its replacement. Second, Azure, perhaps the best-known of Redmond's cloud technologies, is really positioned as a Platform as a Service (PaaS). The idea is to have developers use .NET and other programming paradigms to build custom cloud apps. Finally, not content with just PaaS, Microsoft is now working to make Azure a real player in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/15/2011 at 12:47 PM2 comments


File Servers Kicked to the Cloud

I'm not a huge fan of research commissioned and released by vendors, since it is clearly self-serving. But that doesn't mean it's wrong (nor is it necessarily right). Just call me a bit skeptical.

Earlier this month, cloud file storage provider Egnyte (I don't know what the name means either) released research done by Forrester Consulting arguing that on-premise file servers should and will be killed off. Actually, the "killed off" part seems to be Egnyte's conclusion, which seems to be a reach.

Here's what the study found: Fifty-seven percent of IT pros surveyed think their file servers cost far less to run than they actually do. When IT runs the real numbers, they are a magnitude larger than what they initially imagined. A second piece of the puzzle is the fact that a bit over 40 percent of "information workers" use online storage for work purposes, services that IT did not specify or approve and don't manage.

Based on this, file servers are too expensive and workers are already used to online storage, which Egnyte claims is far cheaper. Putting two and two together, file servers should and will die. The replacement is a hybrid cloud where cloud file storage is synced with an on-premise NAS, which won't be so much a traditional file server as it is a "virtual appliance."

I have no doubt that plenty will move in this direction, and some may even use Egnyte's online storage services. (Did I mention that Egnyte sells the technology that will supposedly kill off the file server?) But certainly not everyone will, especially as server prices continue to plummet. Do you believe vendor-backed research? And in particular, how much sense does this report make? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/15/2011 at 12:47 PM2 comments


mindSHIFT a Best Buy

Best Buy is best-known for selling stuff, not buying it. That all changed recently when the electronics retailer thought is was best to buy mindShIFT for a cool $167 million (that's a lot of flat screens).

What makes mindSHIFT so valuable and how does it fit in with Best Buy? It all starts with Geek Squad, which Best Buy also bought rather than built. As you know, the Geeks support small businesses and individuals. They have saved the bacon of tech newbies and power users alike. Meanwhile, mindSHIFT aims at the enterprise, offering SharePoint consulting, app development, cloud infrastructure and cloud-based apps.

One of the best things going for Best Buy is its brand recognition and reputation, which I think are pretty darn good. I have only one question: Does mindSHIFT come with an extended warranty?

Actually, I have another one: Would you buy cloud services from Best Buy? Send your best guess to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/15/2011 at 12:47 PM2 comments


Government Lobbies for Cloud Clarity

I don't anyone who would argue that the U.S. government is the most efficient organization in the world. But it does have hundreds of thousands of well-educated employees with plenty of time -- at least, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (or 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., depending on their department) -- to study various issues.

Lately, government brain cells have been working on how best to move to the cloud. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is leading the charge. Two of the group's three planned volumes on the subject are now out for public comment.

Here are the key concerns. Government clouds must be secure, interoperate with other agencies as well as the outside world, and offer data and application portability. Achieving this can only be done with the proper standards and applications that have been built based on agreed-upon guidelines.

NIST is also detailing exactly how these items are actually implemented and managed -- information that can serve as the basis of yet-to-be-built government clouds.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/08/2011 at 12:47 PM1 comments


VMware Gets Social with Socialcast

We think of VMware largely as a software infrastructure and virtualization management concern. But the company is also getting into apps, and most recently banged the drum in support of Socialcast, a collaboration tool with similarities to Facebook. Unlike Facebook, Socialcast can be deployed as a service or installed as an on-premise application.

This is just the beginning. VMware also bought Shavlik and can offer patching over the cloud. VMware is also working on sharing slides over the Web through SlideRocket, and groupware and e-mail through Zimbra. With these kinds of moves, we may see a very different VMware in years to come.

What is your take on VMware's direction? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/08/2011 at 12:47 PM1 comments


GM Puts Google Apps in Gear

Microsoft has been battling with Google over all the big cloud productivity deals. Redmond has already lost deals to the federal government and the city of Los Angeles. Recently, General Motors was up for grabs; looks like Google also won this one.

The Wall Street Journal is saying that GM has a deal to use Google Apps enterprisewide, but that the actual rollout is still not 100 percent defined -- or perhaps official. The deal could mean 100,000 users for Google and one huge Google Apps reference account.

Google claims over 4 million Google Apps users, but it remains to be seen how active these are. Do you use Google Apps? If so, fire up the e-mail and let me know why at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/08/2011 at 12:47 PM5 comments


Netflix: Leave Some Bandwidth for Us

I was a fan of Netflix until it split its service in two and jacked up prices. With cable, DVDs, a DVR and a cellar full of VHS tapes, I guess I don't need Netflix after all. The Internet could also do without Netflix as a staggering one-third of all 'Net traffic is actually Netflix traffic.

The scary part is that Netflix and such services are still in their infancy. Add video, VoIP, mobile and cloud apps, and you can see the strain our favorite network is under.

Telecom and network providers continue to beef up the Internet, and IT is adding WAN bandwidth like mad, but how can we keep up? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/01/2011 at 12:47 PM1 comments


Hearing Herrod

Stephen Herrod spent the last decade driving technology at VMware, where he now serves as CTO. Herrod spoke with Bruce Hoard, editor in chief of Virtualization Review, about application development, the cloud and, of course, more than a sprinkle of virtualization.

Herrod believes that virtualization is easier than it used to be since the products are so much better. That said, it still takes a lot of prep work. You can't just virtualize a dysfunctional IT shop.

To help speed adoption, VMware has a new hosted service, VMware Go. Using auto-discovery, the service locates your hardware and layers hypervisors on top of it. No fuss, no muss. While it's pretty bare-bones now, the service will gain the ability to patch and do some management in future revs.

Finally, Herrod talked about a cloud on a stick. Micro Clouds, based on Cloud Foundry, puts the whole stack on a USB stick, a great way to develop and test quick-and-dirty cloud apps.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/01/2011 at 12:47 PM6 comments


Citrix Crafts Cloud Course

VMware may get the bulk of cloud headlines, but let's face it -- most of this is server virtualization and, now, the cloud. Citrix is no slouch, either, and has ruled the desktop virtualization roost for over two decades (has it really been that long?).

Citrix is taking that expertise to the cloud, looking to serve up virtual desktops from the cloud as opposed to in-house servers. Citrix has also been on a big buying binge, including App-DNA, a company that eases the migration to either Windows 7 or virtual desktops. ShareFile is also in Citrix's pocket, helping users store files in the cloud -- similar to Google Docs, Carbonite (for backup) or Skyline. Finally, Citrix can help build "personal vDisks" through its purchase of RingCube.

What do you think of Citrix? Shoot me a note at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/01/2011 at 12:47 PM0 comments


Google Losing It

Google crowed and crowed when it beat out Microsoft for an epic deal to move much of the city of Los Angeles from the aging GroupWise (does anyone remember GroupWise?) to Google's cloud apps. After two years of effort, Los Angeles is as miffed as Lindsay Lohan visiting her probation officer.

The problem is not performance, though cloud productivity apps are rarely as fast as on-premise. The issue is security -- or lack thereof. Google argues that its apps are secure, but that Los Angeles changed the rules midstream. Los Angeles is refusing to pay for all the work called for in the contract.

My guess? The Google apps are basically secure, but city government needs it all to be ultra-safe.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/25/2011 at 12:47 PM2 comments


JRuby Meets Engine Yard Cloud

In an earlier item, I talked about an impressive cloud startup called Piston Cloud. Now I'm going to talk about Engine Yard Cloud.

The venture-funded Engine Yard is aimed at helping programmers write cloud apps. Founded five years ago, its initial foray was a Platform as a Service (PaaS) tool for Ruby on Rails developers.

Last month, Engine Yard embraced JRuby developers. JRuby is a Java-based rev of Ruby, and these apps can now run on the Engine Yard cloud infrastructure. Engine Cloud can also support PHP apps.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/25/2011 at 12:47 PM2 comments


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