VMWare this week announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Zimbra from Yahoo. Zimbra specializes in email and collaboration software.
"Over the coming years, we expect more organizations, especially small and medium size businesses, to increasingly buy core IT solutions that deliver cloud-like simplicity in end-user and operational experience," said Brian Byun, VP and GM, Cloud Services, VMWare. "Zimbra is a great example of the type of scalable 'cloud era' solutions that can span smaller, on-premise implementations to the cloud."
In short, VMWare's interest in Zimbra stems from wanting help in selling cloud-computing services to businesses. At the same time, VMWare stated it plans to support existing Zimbra products and open-source projects.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, although it's believed VMWare paid far less than the $350 million Yahoo spent acquiring the company in September 2007.
I've been a relatively fortunate mobile phone owner. I've dropped various phones countless times throughout my geek life, including the extended cleaning of my first-ever iPhone by accidentally introducing it to my apartment complex's pool. I've broken countless critical features on my phones as a result of this clumsiness, the smashing of a phone against the car keys in my pocket, and the general wear-and-tear of a semi-busy lifestyle. In college, I had a flip-phone that was anything but, the exterior having been beaten up and bruised enough to transform the phone's external screen into a strobe light of-sorts whenever anyone called. Awesome for parties; useless for caller ID.
I've never lost my phone, though. And every day I board a train to head to work, sit in a taxicab, or go about my business without really paying much attention to where I last put my dialing device, I wonder: Is this it? Will today be the day that some unscrupulous person gets a hold of my iPhone and, by proxy, my entire online life?
In some ways, someone already has.
This isn't some kind of "won't somebody think of the children" scare tactic. It's a simple reality: You're hearing a lot about the wonders of cloud computing at this year's CES. And while that has different applications for the enterprise level than consumer, the practical reality of it for most PC users (and laptop users especially cough-cough-Chrome OS-cough) is that you're taking the data that would otherwise reside on a system within your control and placing it in the hands of another entity.
Cloud applications can be super-useful when you let others run the services that improve your geeky life. Your data, however, is your own--the more consumers coalesce their computing lives into access points, the more this data becomes ripe for abuse... or worse.
The barrage of new product announcements that inevitably precede CES is now underway, and the latest comes from A/V equipment manufacturer Sherwood. Actually, two product announcements: the RD-7505N A/V receiver, and the iNet-2.0 media tabletop.
Starting with the former, the RD-7505N is touted as being "one of the first to accommodate the new HDMI 1.4 3D standard," coming equipped with three inputs with repeater and a single HDMI output. The 7.1 receiver cranks out 110W per channel and decodes both Dolby TruHD and DTS HD. It's also fully UPNP and DLNA compliant. And as a result of Sherwood's partnership with Verismo Networks, the receiver supports broadband access with direct access (through Verismo's VuNow module) to Hulu, YouTube, Internet radio including SHOUTcast, movie downloads from CinemaNow, streaming video, and more.
Moving on to the tabletop, the iNet 2.0 digital media player combines an Internet radio, iPod/iPhone dock, and an 8-inch digital photo frame into a single unit.
"The iNet 2.0 is a very cool high-tech device. With its large display and alarm function, it's the ultimate connected alarm clock," said Jeffrey Hipps, Sherwood's Sr. VP for Marketing and Product Development. "Whether you're listening to streaming music or playback from your iPod of phone, it's the perfect desktop companion, and it's great for starting and ending your day with music."
The iNet supports both wired and wireless Internet connections.
Both products will ship in May 2010, with the RD-7505N priced at $500 and the iNet 2.0 carrying an MSRP of $300.
Ask any 10 people how they feel about cloud computing and you may end up with 11 answers. Or they may all voice concerns over security. Hoping to change all that, the Cloud Security Alliance on Thursday published the second edition of its guidelines for secure cloud computing.
The 76-page document (PDF) attempts to provide a strict definition on cloud computing, which the alliance labels as computer environments that feature on-demand, self-service consumption, allow broad access via networks, draw from a pool of shared computing resources, can quickly scale either up or down based on demand, and involve some type of usage metering.
"To bring these efficiencies to bear, cloud providers have to provide services that are flexible enough to serve the largest customer base possible, maximizing their addressable market. Unfortunately, integrating security into these solutions is often perceived as making them more rigid," the document states. "This rigidity often manifests in the inability to gain parity in security control deployment in cloud environments compared to traditional IT. This stems mostly from the abstraction of infrastructure, and the lack of visibility and capability to integrate many familiar security controls -- especially at the network layer."
The report looks at cloud security from 13 different angles, including disaster recovery, application security, governance issues, and more.
SMB's concerned about the security of their Wi-Fi networks have a new low-cost service to choose from that will tell them if their passwords are up to snuff.
The service is a cloud-based WPA Cracker with access to a 400-CPU cluster. For just $34, it will check a company's password against a 135-million word dictionary, which takes about 20 minutes. For those who don't mind waiting 40 minutes, the price drops to $17 to access the system at half mode.
What's notable about the 135-million dictionary is that it's been set up specifically for cracking Wi-Fi passwords. It contains common phrases and forms of "elite speak" that have taken WPA networks into account.
Microsoft's revamped and rebranded search decision engine has been doing so well that you hate to see something like this happen. But in the evening hours last night, Bing fell flat on its face for about 30 minutes, during which time users were either unable to get to the site, or received incomplete results pages to queries.
"The cause of the outage was a configuration change during some internal testing that had unfortunate and unintended consequences," Satya Nadella, Senior Vice President, Online Service Division, wrote on the official Bing Team blog. "As soon as the issue was detected, the change was rolled back, which caused the site to return to normal behavior. Unfortunately the detection and rollback took about half an hour, and during that time uses were unable to use bing.com."
Nadella went on to say that they're running a post mortem to find out what improvements need to be made to their software and processes so this doesn't happen again.
The paper, which is titled "Government ICT Strategy: New world, new challenges, new opportunities," notes that many new technologies are poised to become mainstream by 2015, but that the above three stand out from them all. It says that Web 2.0 will provide the foundation to improve public sector interaction between citizens and businesses, while cloud computing will lead to different business models for the use and reuse of applications. Service oriented architecture, it says, will enable the delivery of the G Cloud and ultimately lead to an online store of government apps.
Other technologies discussed in the leaked document include the potential of semantic advancements, which separate data and content files from application code and meanings, location aware services, human-computer interaction which removes the need for a keyboard, and technologies to improve energy efficiency.
While the Cabinet Office doesn't comment on leaked documents, a spokesman did say that the paper is aimed at steering the government's approach to IT over the next five years, and that a it hopes to publish a final draft in time for Christmas.
There have been a number of data flubs in the past year that serve to underscore the risks associated with cloud computing. For Microsoft, they've also presented an opportunity to add to its patent portfolio. Specifically, the software giant has a filed a patent that appears to cover moving data to a new cloud under a number of scenarios. These include situations in which the existing service has failed, the provider has gone out of business, or if the user is able to find a better deal elsewhere.
In the filing, Microsoft outlines an architecture that involves executor, detection, organizer, and summary components that will receive and verify notices that a cloud service is going to be terminated, find the applicable data and service, prioritize it all, and finally give a summary, The Register reports.
Microsoft's well-timed filing coincides with increasing concerns over the need to make applications portable, as well as data between different clouds.
A rising number of data flubs has caused some to question whether the benefits of cloud computing truly outweigh the risks, but is that really a fair assessment? The eggheads at Kroll Ontrack don't think so, who point out that the recent spike in data losses with corporate enterprises is simply the result of human error.
"While advanced storage options such as virtualization and cloud computing offer corporations storage optimization, human processes are still at the root of these solutions, instructing the technology as to how to perform," said Phil Bridge, managing director at Kroll Ontrack UK. "The complextity of these systems often requires a steep learning curve. With reported IT spending at a low, human error is increasingly common."
According to Kroll Ontrack, some of the biggest mistakes attributed to the human element include pulling the wrong drive while trying to pull a failed disk in a RAID array, accidentally deleting a business-critical database and restoring it with a corrupt or incomplete backup, attempting to force failed drives back online when rebuilding a bad array, accidentally deleting files, volumes, virtual machines, or a SAN LUN with no backup in place, and reformatting the wrong SAN LUN during a server migration.
We have to hand it to keepgoing.biz, because if you're going to get your point across, you might as well go all out in a high powered YouTube video that ends in a bang (literally). The victim, in this case, is a server.
To demonstrate the benefit of disk-to-disk backups with multiple offsite backups at data centers in separate states, keepgoing.biz posted a video of company president Jon Klaus and others firing rounds at a computer server with shotguns and an assortment of other weapons. The video culminates with the server being blown to bits.
So what's the point?
"Businesses rely on their servers and data being protected and safe," a voice over narrates. "When a server fails, data is often lost, putting your business at risk. Keepgoing.biz backs up your data continuously and restores it completely in minutes, no matter what happens."
Because, you know, a good IT is always prepared for a Colt M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun firing rounds in slow motion at an exposed server that happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
All joking aside, keepgoing.biz's 2 minute video is worth every second. Check it out here.