• Under The Radar – Brokering The Clouds

    Under the Radar

    Image by thekenyeung via Flickr

    Under The Radar, a series of conferences organized by Dealmaker Media, is a platform for startups to launch themselves in front of some of the top minds in industry is organizing their cloud event on April 16th, 2010 with a focus on Commercializing the Cloud, highlighting the fact that Cloud Computing has moved from the hype phase to increasing enterprise adoption. Cloud Ave is a media partner for the event and Zoli has already written about it. We even have a special deal for Cloud Ave readers and they can get $100 off the ticket price by using this link. (Previous Cloud Ave coverage of Under The Radar event can be found here).

    In a series of posts, I am going to talk about some of the companies participating in the event. I am hoping that this will serve as a warm-up for the event happening in two weeks. You can see the full schedule of the event here. What I am trying to do in this series is to pick some of the participating companies, categorize them based on what I feel is their role in the cloud marketplace and give a brief introduction about their product(s).

    In the first part of this series, I am going to talk about Cloud Brokers. Cloud Brokers are services acting as an intermediary between the end user and cloud providers. They add more value to end users beyond what is offered by the cloud vendors and, also, play a role in brokering interoperability between different clouds. In 2009, Gartner highlighted the role of Cloud Brokers in their special report. From the list of companies presenting in the event, I have selected four companies to be categorized as Cloud Brokers. Some of them may not exactly fit the description of Cloud Service Brokers but I have them categorized under this term to keep the number of categories (and, hence, the number of posts) small. Feel free to pick me apart if you don’t like my characterization.

    • CloudSwitch: CloudSwitch came under my radar when they won the launchpad event at the recently concluded CloudConnect Event. CloudSwitch offers an easy point and click way to move the multi-tiered applications at the enterprise datacenters to various clouds. Using what they call as Cloud Isolation Technology™, they move the applications and data to public cloud with a few clicks while keeping the control in the hands of the enterprise. This helps the enterprises to maintain a better leverage on the security. CloudSwitch also helps enterprises extend the policies of their datacenter and keep the applications running on the cloud to be tightly integrated with their existing datacenter tools. The ease with which the applications and data can be moved between the datacenter and different cloud providers helps enterprises prevent the potential vendor lock-in problems. They have a free version called CloudSwitch Explorer and an enterprise version called CloudSwitch Enterprise.
    • Makara: Makara came under my radar when they spoke at the San Francisco Cloud Computing Club (SFCC) meeting recently. Their platform could very well turn out to be the developers dream. Their platform helps developers deploy, manage, scale, monitor their applications on the cloud seamlessly without even knowing about what it means. Unlike some of the application management platforms that requires an installation of an agent at the application layer, Makara leverages the virtualization layer and makes it easy for developers without any need for agents. Similarly, there is no need for setting up management servers/appliances too. Makara platform makes it super easy to get the applications to the cloud without any code changes in minutes. Using the words of their CTO Tobias Kunze Briseno, the developers could instantly turn on the applications in the cloud.
    • Layerboom: Layerboom, based in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Canada, could turn out to be the hosting companies’ dream come true. As we move further into the cloud, questions are raised about the fate of hosting companies. I have been talking about an open federated cloud ecosystem and arguing that some of the existing hosting companies can transform themselves into cloud providers by tapping into solutions like the one offered by VMOps. Layerboom is trying to solve this same problem by offering a platform where hosting companies could easily create and manage virtual cloud servers easily. Their BoomBox appliance can help any company transform their existing infrastructure into a cloud computing platform. Soon, they are going to offer Layerboom Live Image, which is a hosted dashboard to manage the cloud servers.
    • Reductive Labs: Reductive Labs (now called as Puppet Labs) has been under my radar for a long time, ever since I was doing system admin stuff and evangelizing open source. I have used cfengine briefly for my professional needs. Since then, I am keeping tabs on various developments in that field, from cfengine to puppet to chef. I know very well how Puppet dramatically makes it easy to completely automate an entire datacenter with its configuration management platform and I am well aware of how deeply it has penetrated the enterprise market. Like Chef (and its parent company Opscode), Puppet is well positioned to play a major role in the cloud infrastructure space. I had a brief chat with their CEO, Luke Kanies, couple of weeks back at a bar in SFO after the OSBC event but he didn’t give any hints about their Cloud plans. I, myself, is keen to see what they are going to offer during the event.

    We have an interesting mix of companies in the cloud brokerage space presenting in the event. In my next post, I will talk about some companies presenting in the UTR event and who are in the Cloud Monitoring space. In the mean time, if you have any take on the above companies or if you want to add some insight about their product/service, feel free to jump in and add your comments. However, if you have absolutely no idea about them and want to learn more about them, take advantage of the $100 discount offered to Cloud Ave readers and register for the event.

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  • Cloud Computing – Scrap the Term?


    OK – So this is going to be contentious… ah well, I’ve never shied away from that. I wonder if it isn’t in fact time to ease off on the whole “Cloud Computing” term. While this might sound a little heretical, bear with me here…

    I’ve been running a bunch of CloudCamps around the place – and a common issue I’ve come up against is being part of sessions where half the crowd are talking high stack level stuff, while the other half is talking infrastructure. It’s easy to see how this occurs – the term “Cloud Computing” covers a huge variety of things – from customer applications, down to the millions of Amazon servers spinning away – along with everything in-between. It’s not surprising there’s sometimes a disconnect between people involved in the cloud.

    In the early days of the cloud (hey – a whole few years ago) we needed a term we could hang our hats on – something that was all encompassing and, to a certain extent, something that let us find some commonality in the fight for legitimacy against the legacy vendors and their well articulated, and well funded FUD.

    But we’re in a different world now – everyone does cloud, from the most traditional vendor to the smallest startup. Cloud is, to a greater or lesser extent, the default and because of that the term becomes problematic.

    This sounds a little funny coming from someone who edits on of the preeminent Cloud blogs, runs Cloud events and attends pretty much every cloud focused event – while I think the term cloud still has legs, I believe its days are numbered. When we’re all doing cloud, and there’s simply nothing else, the term will fade into our collective memories. As Ric Telford from IBM said in his Cloud Connect keynote in San Jose:

    in five years time, cloud will be the new normal

    Admittedly that was pretty much the only thing that Ric said that wasn’t tainted with what was a recurrent problem at Cloud Connect, CloudWash. It seemed that every traditional vendor was calling their product cloud this or cloud that, whether or not there was anything ever remotely cloud-like about it. As I remarked during one of the vendor pitches sessions:




    And don’t believe for a moment it was only IBM that was talking this way – a number of other vendors were taking a similar line: Oracle, HP and Dell to name just a few.

    Of course dropping the cloud moniker won’t result in marketing departments all across the globe jumping on the latest theme du jour, but perhaps it’ll lessen the hype. After all the cloud is really to good to be wasted…

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  • New Whitepaper – Questions to ask Your Cloud Vendor


    Over at DiversityAnalysis we’ve just published a new report – right in time for the Cloud Connect event in San Jose next week. Krish and I wanted to write a very basic report tailored for mid to late adopters as a guide to the pitfalls and problems involved in a move to the cloud (especially cloud software) and the questions to ask prospective vendors to ensure all those risks are mitigated.

    We were stoked that Intacct saw the value of what we were doing and decided to support us in the writing of the report – it was something we wanted to do anyway, Intacct support just made it all the easier.

    Our report articulated a number of questions to ask when evaluating cloud applications – these questions fall into several distinct groupings:

    • Business requirement questions
    • The reliability questions
    • The availability questions
    • The upgrades, maintenance and outages questions
    • The security questions
    • The privacy questions
    • The data ownership questions
    • The integration questions
    • The customization questions

    We’re pretty pleased with the report – feel free to check it out here.

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  • Video: The Year Open Data Went Worldwide

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee has been spearheading efforts to make web more intelligent and useful to people. As a part of this effort, he has been calling people to open up the data and put it on the web in an open format. Recently, at TED University, he spoke about some examples of how open data on the web has been used for many useful purposes, including a major role in rebuilding Haiti. We thought we will share the video of his talk here.
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    (Hat Tip: Huffington Post )
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  • 2010 – The Year of the Cloud (or something)


    I kind of thought we were a little for “10 things to watch for in 2010” type posts but it seems ChannelWeb doesn’t think so and have compiled a list of somewhat conflicting Cloud prophesies for 2010 from some of the clouderati. So without any further ado – let’s hear what them-that-know predict will happen this year and my measure of how accurate their predictions are:

    First up James Demoulakis, CTO of GlassHouse Technologies opines that Cloud Storage Adoption will Broaden. Coming from a perspective of technology developments solving security and latency issues – he predicts 2010 will all be about cloud storage. I kind of agree that cloud storage will broaden this year but don’t see that’ll be caused by anything so high level. Quite simply it’s a reflection of a degree of momentum and some critical mass. Any issues that did exist still will. I give this an 80% chance of eventuating.

    Hybrid will Happen, says Jimmy Tan, general manager for PEER Software. He calls it hybrid but I’d call it more offline available web apps. Either way he suggests that cloud services will continue to develop “off-line” working modes to complement their “always on” approach. Given HTML5, Google ascending and Microsoft’s play with Office 2010 – I give this a 90% chance.

    Platform-as-a-Service Takes Hold says Sam Charrington (a really nice guy by the way) from Appistry. he believes that 2010 is the year that PaaS will really take hold as organizations look at how they take advantage of cloud platforms and push it beyond just requests for virtual machines. I’m not entirely convinced – while I love PaaS as a concept, I just don’t see widespread use as a given. I’ll give this a 50% chance.

    Public Vs. Private Becomes Less Relevant says Vanessa Alvarez an industry analyst from Frost & Sullivan (and someone I’m looking forward to meeting at Cloud Connect in a few weeks). Vanessa says that in 2010, we’ll START to move away from these terms as the importance of how apps/services/resources are delivered and/or from where, becomes less relevant to end users and the market overall. I’ve got to agree with Vanessa here – I’m not a hand wringing dogmatic who gets caught up passionately defending “purity” chapter and verse. At the end of the day it’s about results and I for one don’t care if those results are obtained through some sort of “pseudo cloud”. 75% of happening but less if the handwringers have their way.

    2010 will be the year of planning for the cloud says John Ross, CTO of GreenPages. Apparently everyone will need to stop thinking about how we have done things in the past and begin to think about how we can do things differently with the resources that are being made available to us. I’m not so sure – I don’t see the world in black and white pre cloud/post cloud terms and I see the planning that John talks about as being more of the same due diligence type stuff that has always occurred. I’m not sold and I give this a 20%.

    Cloud Platforms Gain Acceptance opines Barry Lynn, CEO of 3Tera. Apparently 2010 will be the year that the best cloud platforms will be accepted as enablers of mission critical enterprise applications in need of high availability, dependable SLAs and world class disaster recovery. What? I don’t think so. I think Barry’s been drinking the KoolAide a little too much 10% on this one.

    Disaster Recovery In The Cloud will be big says Chris Pyle, CEO of Champion Solutions Group. Clients will start considering using the “cloud” as another choice when developing a disaster recovery plan he says. I don’t think so. Clients who already use the cloud will think about using it for DR, those who don’t won’t give it a second thought. DR will stay inline with general cloud adoption – 20% from me.

    Private Clouds Die, Intercloud Rises, Openness Abounds says the normally reticent Sam Johnson. Sam’s a strong character and, gets a little passionate about things and attached to the dogma of cloud. I love what he tries to do but disagree with much of his vehemence. When it comes to this prediction, I’m erring on the side of the (somewhat confusingly) opposite view given by Vanessa – public? private? who cares just make it work. 10%

    WAN Optimization-as-a-Service Surfaces preaches Adam Davison, corporate vice president for Expand Networks. Where do they get these guys from? Get a load of this: “As cloud-based services become more prevalent, whether private or public, the provision of an end-to-end software solution for virtualized WAN optimization from the data center, to the branch office and mobile users will be paramount.” Yeah whatever dude – just buy some bigger pipes – 15% although I’d qualify that by saying he’s probably got a 40% chance within enterprise who love the big words he uses.

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  • Video: Intel's Single Chip Cloud Computer

    Here, at CloudAve, we highlight research leading to future technologies from time to time. Intel has announced an experimental single chip cloud computer. Imagine it to be something like a datacenter in a single chip. We are sharing it here for our readers.
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  • Video: A Comprehensive Video Guide For Google Voice

    One of my favorite apps from Google is their Google Voice service. It has completely transformed how I handle phone calls. Today Google has posted a comprehensive list of videos explaining how Google Voice can be tapped to your advantage. We don’t want to post the videos here. We will just post one video and lead you to their blog for other videos.
    The rest of the videos can be viewed here .
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  • IBM Targets College Students With Free Cloud Offerings But ….

    Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

    Image via CrunchBase

    College students are always attractive targets for software vendors. Whether it is the effective targeting of college students in the desktop era by Microsoft or Google’s attempt to enter the market in this cloud era through their #gonegoogle campaign, there is no denying that software vendors find the route attractive from a marketing perspective. It gives them an opportunity to hook the young minds into their technology (philosophy) easily so that they can reap benefits later when these kids get into decision making positions in the industry, academia or government.

    Last week IBM announced an initiative under the Smarter Planet campaign to help academic institutions get IBM software in the cloud computing environment. This will allow professors in these institutions to incorporate technology into their curricula. The idea is to let students of any discipline learn these technologies and use them effectively in their work.

    IBM is initially working with 20 colleges and universities and have plans to expand it further in the future. The offering called, Academic Skills Cloud, will provide academia an opportunity to use IBM software on their cloud computing environment at no cost. The fact that it is running on the cloud ensures that there is no maintenance overhead for these institutions. This initiative will help college students gain experience in the newer technologies.

    The advantages of using IBM Academic Skills Cloud for students include

    • learn the latest technology skills, such as software development and practical use of information management, Web 2.0 and cloud computing and how they can be applied for decision-making
    • access IT curricula and courses from anywhere using their laptop or netbook
    • differentiate themselves from other graduates by gaining key IT skills to better compete for jobs

    From the professors point of view, it helps them to

    • quickly integrate new IT courses in their curriculum, regardless of subject taught
    • more easily facilitate group and long-distance learning programs for students
    • free-up existing university technology infrastructure resources

    With this offering, IBM is all set to capture the minds of young students and a chunk of marketshare in the future.

    I am pretty excited about how we can tap into cloud computing to change the face of education. Our own Dan Morrill is working on an effort that could potentially change the way our kids will get educated in the future. i will let Dan talk about the initiative when he is ready but I want to emphasize that cloud computing has a potential to overhaul the entire education system. If cloud computing is going to change the way education works, it is only natural that these institutions would want to give hands on training on these technologies to their students.

    I really want the young kids to learn about these newer technologies very early in their life. In fact, it is my strong belief that such an early exposure will help them compete at the highest levels easily. But I am worried about molding them so early to a technology of a particular vendor. Whether it is IBM or Microsoft or Google, forcing vendor specific technologies down the throats of young students could be counter productive. Rather, the education institutions should expose the students to a wide variety of technologies from different vendors and open source projects. This will help students gain valuable experience on wide ranging platforms, an experience that could come handy for them even if they specialize on a specific platform in the future. Instead, drilling down specific vendor based technologies may even have undesirable side effect of hindering innovation.

    Education institutions should not encourage such practices because this leaves their students unexposed to some amazing technologies available with smaller vendors who are lacking the money power to offer freebies like IBM, Microsoft or Google. Even though some people in this country think that the idea of capitalism is about winner taking it all, I have a different approach to capitalism. I am convinced that Adam Smith had the my kind of idea in mind when he promoted the concept of free markets heavily. My idea of capitalism involves having a level playing field where vendors, big and small, compete purely on the merits of their products and services. Any playing field that is skewed towards vendors with big money goes against the very spirit of free markets. Education institutions, by joining hands with such big players, are contributing to the very decline of the freedom in the marketplace.

    Yes, this is a rant. Yes, this practice has been going on for quite a while now. Yes, it hasn’t completely killed innovation. I am just throwing this idea out in public so that some of us can take a moment and think about the impact of having an education system not influenced by powerful players. Well, I know that such initiatives help education institutions already burdened by lack of funds. But there are ways to work around such issues. For the very success of a markets based system, we need an education system that is vendor neutral. Keeping in mind that this is a rant and not an analysis, please feel free to jump in and offer your thoughts on this topic.

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  • Video: Private Cloud 101, A Rackspace Video

    From time to time we link videos from vendors that offers insight into their thinking on various cloud computing related topics. Here is a video from Rackspace on Private Clouds.
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  • iPad And SaaS Junkies

    Apple Inc.

    Image via Wikipedia

    When Apple announced the release of iPad earlier this week, all hell broke lose in the tech blogosphere including here at Cloud Ave. On a personal level, I am put off by the lack of camera and Apple’s arrogance to wield control on people’s buying habits. However, the idea of iPad excites me on a different level, especially as a SaaS power user and evangelist.

    Just when I was planning to write a post on the topic, I came across a guest post at GigaOm by Joe Hewitt, the guy who originally developed the Facebook iPhone application. Even though he is approaching the issue from a different angle, some of the statements he has made in that post completely captures how I feel about iPhone.

    I felt strongly that all Apple needed to do to revolutionize computing was simply to make an iPhone with a large screen. Anyone who feels underwhelmed by that doesn’t understand how much of the iPhone OS’s potential is still untapped.

    He ends the post with how he feels about iPad as a developer

    So, in the end, what it comes down to is that iPad offers new metaphors that will let users engage with their computers with dramatically less friction. That gives me, as a developer, a sense of power and potency and creativity like no other. It makes the software market feel wide open again, like no one’s hegemony is safe. How anyone can feel underwhelmed by that is beyond me.

    I am looking at it from a completely different perspective. As a heavy SaaS user, it excites me to have access to my applications from a mobile device that is reasonably bigger than a mobile phone and without the disadvantages of netbooks. iPhone changed the way I used business apps. Coupled with SaaS, my productivity has increased many-fold. Most of the SaaS vendors offer access through mobile phone in one form or another. Some like Mindmeister, Remember The Milk, etc. offer native iPhone applications whereas many others, who are fed up with the Apple approval process, use mobile web applications. In fact, SaaS providers like Google and Zoho (disclaimer: Zoho is the exclusive sponsor of this blog but this is my independent opinion) offer mobile web apps that almost mimics the users’ web experience.

    However, my experience with using SaaS apps on iPhone left a lot to be desired. I found the iPhone screen to be too small to have a strain-free experience. I also wanted the keyboard to be a bit bigger to suit my fingers. At times, I also want better processing power to have a more seamless experience. With iPad, I get all of these and more. It is a perfect mobile companion for heavy SaaS users without the clunkiness associated with netbooks. In short, iPad is a great device for any SaaS junkie and, in some ways, magical.

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