Telcos' Foggy Cloud Future

I recently reported that employment in the telco space dropped significantly. This struck me as odd since the cloud and mobile apps are all the rage. Shouldn't telcos be hiring faster than a newly formed government agency?

I think I found the answer in a piece by Boris Renski in Virtualization Review. Renski argues that telcos will flop badly and fare poorly in providing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

But shouldn't telco do just great, having ownership over which cloud data floats? No, says Renski. He argues that it doesn't matter if you own the network -- the real money is in how that network is used. Look at what new companies like Rackspace have done without that kind of incumbency. And don't forget that Amazon, not AT&T, is offering the insanely popular AWS. Telcos will play a role to be sure, but that will be more picking up the scraps like a remora.

What's your take? Explain yourself at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/17/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

RentTheCloud Isn't What You Think

You might think that sounds like any other cloud vendor where you rent time on their machines to run your applications or their applications (you know, IaaS vs. SaaS).

But you would be wrong. This Web site, from A-Frame Technology Services, doesn't rent the cloud at all. Instead, it helps you find a proper cloud landlord. The company's service is based on the real estate broker model. They'll find you a cloud provider and if you're happy, you pay them a commission, typically one to two months of the rental fee.

A-Frame isn't just flying blind. The company says it has cloud experts who can give expert advice.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/17/2012 at 12:47 PM4 comments

Ticked-Off Toigo

Jon Toigo has the freedom many of us would kill for. Originally a political scientist, Toigo turned to IT, made a bundle during the bubble (he apparently cashed in before this puppy burst) and now can pretty much do as he pleased. For Jon, that means speaking out in favor of consumers and often against huge industries. I've talked to Toigo about virtualization, which he cautions can be dangerous if not done with precision, and storage, where major vendors have mightily resisted customer demands for interoperability. And you wonder what took SANs so long to catch on.

Toigo recently talked with Virtualization Review magazine. His latest hot-button topic? The fact that x86 private clouds are inherently fragile given that the failure of one server can take down others.

Mainframes are different. Big iron is built for true resiliency. Apps have long been protected from one another on a mainframe and this partitioning is now extended to VMs, making for a stable private cloud. And there are fewer machines to house and cool and power in the datacenter.

Do you have a new view of big iron? Whether the answer is yes or no, I'd like to hear from you at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/10/2012 at 12:47 PM3 comments

TechMentor Needs Tech Experts

Virtualization Review magazine is not just a magazine, Web site and newsletter. We also have TechMentor, a training event. This summer, from Aug. 20 to 24, we'll be hosting the event at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Wash. That's right, TechMentor has moved to "the mothership" in Redmond for the first time in its 14 years of providing unbiased and immediately usable training to IT professionals. And we need speakers who are articulate and are experts.

Attendees come to TechMentor to acquire practical, pragmatic and immediately applicable knowledge. They come for inspiration, to be shown a vision of a better future through the use of concepts, techniques, patterns and technology that they can apply in their organizations.

Want to be a speaker? The deadline for submissions is Jan. 27, 2012. Submit proposals here. We welcome presentation proposals that include (but are not limited to):

  • Applying Windows PowerShell to Everyday Problems
  • Automating Windows Deployment, Servers and Desktops
  • Managing an Application Delivery Infrastructure: RDS, VDI, App-V, MED-V and Office 365
  • Learn the Secrets of How Microsoft Does IT
  • MCITP Certification Skills Refresher
  • Master Class: Becoming a Hyper-V and VMM Expert
  • Real-World Security Tactics for Servers and Wireless Networks
  • Finding the Fit for System Center: Tips, Tricks and Tactics for Small and Medium Businesses

For questions regarding submissions contact Danielle Potts, senior event manager, at [email protected] or (925) 207-0468.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/10/2012 at 12:47 PM5 comments

The Great Cloud Bottleneck

I spent six years as news editor for Network World and ran Network Computing magazine as editor in chief. In a field as complex as networking, that means I almost understand it. I applied this semi-knowledge to the intersection of the cloud and the corporate network, exploring how the WAN either enables or disables remote apps.

I ran across sophisticated technical arguments on either side, with some saying that only the least latency-sensitive apps should run on the cloud, and others claiming today's high-speed connections are more than up for nearly any cloud task.

In the end, I relied on the actual experiences of actual users. From them, I learned that the speed of the network really is a grating factor. For some, the cloud is out of the question -- true high-speed either isn't available or costs too much. Others do just fine, but haven't migrated their most taxing apps to a service provider.

The result of all this research is a long piece with real-world stories and actionable advice. Take a look at it here and let me know what you think at [email protected] Here is what reader Brian had to say about the piece:

"Great article. The thing is, it's all true. Depending on your timeframe, location, budget and purpose, the cloud can be the answer to many problems or the cause of them. If you have the bandwidth, it could be great for DR or a number of less critical services... If you have plenty of service providers, redundant connections and your provider has real capacity, then maybe I would trust a mission-critical app in the cloud. I don't believe it would be cheaper without sacrificing something, though. One area that benefits from cloud services are very small businesses that do not employ IT staff. They operate knowing that they are going to have outages whether their apps are in-house or [in] the cloud. It gives them an alternative to trying to manage their systems themselves. And you know that with in-house systems someone at a small company will try to fix the problem themselves...messing it up more before calling a pro."

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/10/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

Parallels Adds Microsoft Muscle to Cloud Play

Virtualization vendor Parallels now wants into the cloud, a natural progression as clouds are largely built on virtualized infrastructure. In fact, the company is already in the cloud and is helping Microsoft Office 365 partners set up and charge for cloud services.

Parallels is strengthening its Redmond ties with a new hire for CTO, Michael Toutonghi. Toutonghi has some serious Microsoft chops, having helped start the .NET effort and heading up the group that built the Windows 95 kernel.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/13/2011 at 12:47 PM0 comments

Office 365 Gets a Facelift

Less than six months after shipping, Office 365 got its third update. The first two were modest; this one has some real meat.

Like the on-premise version of the Office productivity suite, Office 365 has tight links to SharePoint. The update gives it closer ties to the document repository and collaboration platform. These ties revolve essentially around the Web version of SharePoint, which makes sense for the Web-based Office 365.

Office 365 also now supports Lync for Mac, a unified communication tool, and Windows Phone 7.5.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's Internet storage service SkyDrive has been enhanced to be more app-specific, making it more logical to peruse and work with your files.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/13/2011 at 12:47 PM2 comments

Oracle Angles for Cloud Apps

Oracle has bought its way into many a market -- Java, ERP, even server hardware. It also has a role to play in application servers. It got into this area by buying BEA a few years back, which bought WebLogic way back in 1998.

Now Oracle is on the 12th iteration of the WebLogic server, a version designed to build and migrate apps to the cloud. WebLogic Server 12c ("c" for "cloud") is designed to support private cloud apps or programs meant to run on Oracle's Exalogic cloud. WebLogic is meant for Java developers and supports Oracle's JRockit Java Virtual Machine.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/13/2011 at 12:47 PM0 comments

Mainframe Clouds

Guess who invented virtualization and when? VMware in the late '90s? Citrix in the very late '80s? Try IBM, which in 1968 shipped the very first hypervisor, which ran on the IBM System/360 Model 67 mainframe. Some of those same engineers who worked on that hypervisor later helped build hypervisors for System p and other high-end IBM servers.

So what about mainframes, now dubbed the System z? It is not well-known, but the System z has long been able to virtualize AIX and Linux workloads. The biggest of the big iron can act as some 2,500 discrete servers.

Even lesser-known is the fact that IBM mainframes can also mimic and virtualize x86 machines and run x86 (i.e., Windows) workloads. This effort was announced earlier this year and is now reaching fruition. It may well be the ultimate green machine. Instead of a warehouse full of 2,000-plus servers, you have a much smaller room with much cheaper and simpler cooling and power doing the exact (well, not exactly exact) same thing.

Does a mainframe running Windows make sense, or it the worst combination of the old and the new? You tell me at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/06/2011 at 12:47 PM3 comments

Souring on the Cloud

In most cases, IT looks at the cloud carefully, moves forward tentatively and -- if it likes what it sees -- adds more services as time moves along. Rare is the shop that slams the whole thing in reverse faster than a Hollywood stunt driver. But analytics vendor Mixpanel did just that, and blogged about its reasoning.

The company had high hopes for the cloud, buying into the promises of low cost and elasticity. However, theory and practice were two very different things. The company recently backed out of its Rackspace service, opting for a dedicated solution.

I recently wrapped up more than a month of research about how the WAN impacts cloud performance. Mixpanel had the same exact problem that I found: performance. More specifically, the variability and unpredictability of its application performance. Instead of blaming the WAN, Mixpanel thinks it has to do with the fact that the cloud datacenter is a shared environment. If another customer does something stupid, you also pay the price. The company also believes you can't duplicate in-house performance because cloud vendors buy lower-priced gear, not the best and fastest.

Today most important Mixpanel servers are dedicated, and the company couldn't be happier. "Since I started this migration, our traffic has grown more than ten-fold. At the same time, our infrastructure has gotten significantly faster, more reliable, and interestingly enough cheaper (at the per machine level). Most importantly, the amount of time I've spent fixing server issues late at night or on weekend has decreased to almost nothing," wrote a Mixpanel blogger.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/06/2011 at 12:47 PM6 comments

Concerns Cloud Cloud Adoption

The cloud can be a big, scary place. For as long as there have been IT departments, IT has had more or less full control of the infrastructure. With a datacenter, you can walk around all your gear, replace drives, reboot, update software and sometimes just stroll around happily seeing everything humming.

You can't see the cloud. You can't cruise around it (unless you're Superman). And your service provider is the one that gets to reboot the servers. In short, IT no longer has the control it is used to. According to a recent survey by cloud storage purveyor Nasuni, almost half of those questioned have serious reservations about losing control when moving to the cloud.

But a much bigger concern, the survey reveals, is security. Over 80 percent of IT pros are worried about the safety of their data and applications. These fears are holding back cloud apps, but also holding back cloud storage. A minority of IT personnel, 43 percent, will use the cloud for storage in the next year.

The onus is now on the vendors to show that apps and data in the cloud are not only safe, but still in the hands of IT. Only then will we see the full promise of the cloud realized.

Do you have any cloud fears? Cop to them at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/29/2011 at 12:47 PM0 comments

Azure Hybrids Gain Fujitsu Backing

The battle for cloud partners continues with Microsoft winning the hand of Fujitsu, which is using Microsoft's Windows Azure to power its new Fujitsu Hybrid Cloud Services.

Fujitsu is doing far more than just loading Azure and SQL cloud services onto servers in its datacenter. It is making more of a services and consulting play, hoping to help IT build clouds that rest in the on-premise datacenter and span out to the external cloud. On the private side, Fujitsu is offering to help IT build and install internal Azure programs that run on Windows servers.

Some in IT see a hybrid cloud as the way to go long term. For others, the hybrid approach is a bridge as they eventually move all major operations off-site. "This will enable customers to have a good, solid model for integrating with their on-premises apps," said Fujitsu alliance director Jeff Stucker. "Even if they are going to move a majority of their workloads into the cloud over time, they need something that's going to tie it all together while they are in that process. It's a real nuts and bolts type of solution."

Fujitsu also says it can help migrate older apps, including those built for mainframes and minicomputers (like the AS/400) to the cloud, be it private, public or a bit of both.

Who is your cloud partner and how is it working out? You tell me at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/29/2011 at 12:47 PM0 comments