The Internet started it all off--the (theoretical) creation of a world without borders. There's a problem, however: borders still remain. And those borders are inhabited by sovereign entities that dictate the rules for their respective domains. This creates another problem, for both consumers and producers: what rules are in force over a technology that has no regard for arbitrary geographic boundaries? Microsoft, in a move that protects it and the consumers it serves, has asked that current federal technology laws be updated, new ones implemented, and that international standards be devised, so that border-oblivious technologies will be protected.
Microsoft’s push for change is motivated by the advent and expansion of cloud computing. Brad Smith, General Counsel for Microsoft, in a keynote address delivered at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., stated: “The PC revolution empowered individuals and democratized technology in new and profoundly important ways. As we move to embrace the cloud, we should build on that success and preserve the personalization of technology by making sure privacy rights are preserved, data security is strengthened and an international understanding is developed about the governance of data when it crosses national borders.”
The big concern for Microsoft is how clouds will be regulated and protected. Cloud computing won’t take-off unless consumers believe it secure, so consumer privacy is a must. To protect that privacy there needs to be rules that make punishing transgressors more certain. And all parties, including governments, need to be on board (as cloud computing transcends political boundaries). The benefits for providers and consumers are self-evident: consumers get the security they want, while producers have a stable environment within which to offer their product.
While it may seem odd to find Microsoft on the side of the angels, Smith makes a good point: there are no rules at present that govern cloud computing. Users have no protection from hackers, from providers, or from governments. Smith rightly notes: “The rise of cloud computing should not lead to the demise of the privacy safeguards in the Bill of Rights. The public needs prompt and thoughtful action to ensure that the rights of citizens and government are fairly balanced so that these rights remain protected.”
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.
Vint Cerf, former program manager for the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), co-designer of the Internet's TCP/IP protocols, and who many consider the father of the Internet, is now engrossed in cloud computing and wants to see data portability standards put into place.
"At some point, it makes sense for somebody to say, 'I want to move my data from cloud A to cloud B,' but the different clouds do not know each other," Cerf said during a session of the Churchill Club business and technology organization in Menlo Park, California. "We don't have any inter-cloud standards."
Cerf also talked about cloud security, noting that strong authentication will be a critical element in the securing of clouds. And in a nod towards Google, Ceft endorsed the idea of opening access to "white spaces" as a way to expand broadcast access, Networkworld.com reports.
Like most of the tech industry, Microsoft had its fair share of struggles in 2009. So what does the world's largest software vendor have to do kick off the decade on a positive note?
According to eWeek.com, the "disaster-free launches" of both Windows 7 and Bing could ultimately lead to greater fortunes in 2010. With regards to the recently launched OS, Microsoft (and its OEMs) are banking on companies with Windows-based IT infrastructures to use Windows 7 as an excuse to upgrade their systems, as well as upgrade to the next generation of Microsoft products.
"It looks like the Win7 inspired upgrade cycle can start in late 2010 and run through early 2013," Katherine Egbert, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in a report. "We expect new hardware purchases to precede the software upgrades by about 6 months."
Microsoft has also been positioning itself for the enterprise cloud market in 2010. The Redmond company's Azure cloud platform is now underway, and that could prove key in what research firm Gartner says is a potential $150 billion market opportunity.
Gizmo5 allows users to make VoIP calls over a data connection much like Skype. It seems clear that Google plans to beef up Google Voice with the technology from Gizmo5. “Gizmo5 gives us talent and talent technology. They have specific tech and skills in further integrating telephony with devices and desktop and Web-based computing,” said Horowitz. Skype already provides VoIP to 500 million users, but if any company can scale up to that level, it’s Google.
Google is already laying the groundwork for its cloud computing endeavors as well. They need users to feel secure storing data in Google’s cloud, and the creation of the Data Liberation Front goes a long way in gaining that trust. Similarly, the Google Dashboard increases data transparency at Google. According to Horowitz, Google is also aware people won’t use cloud services if that aren’t fast. So look forward to “blazing fast” cloud platforms with highly portable data in 2010… we can only hope.
Cloud computing has grown from an intriguing concept into serious business in 2009, and in 2010, it's going to be all out warfare, with IBM leading the offensive. According to an IBM exec, Big Blue will accelerate its cloud computing efforts in the coming year and invest in the cloud at a rate that is commensurate to a $120 billion cloud computing market, eWeek.com reports.
The cloud isn't new territory for IBM, who in 2009 rolled out several cloud-based initiatives covering servers and storage. But the real battle may be in collaboration, an area where Google is hot to trot with its Google Apps. IBM's counter is its LotusLive Connections, a SAAS (software as a service) version of its social networking suite.
"IBM is in earlier in the cloud than it has moved into the market in the last 10 years," said Sean Poulley, vice president of online collaboration for Lotus Software. "The reason is that we have a unique set of assets that no one else that is comparable to IBM has in that we have world-class delivery skills in our global services organization, we have world-class infrastructure software, and we have world-class experience of running other peoples' systems in a 24-by-7, 99.999 percent availability, way."
While Poulley didn't get into specifics, he did say you can expect IBM to use the cloud to create simple business processes across company firewalls, and that more information would be forthcoming next month during Lotusphere 2010.
For the next three years, Microsoft and NetApp will collaborate to deliver technology solutions in virtualization, private cloud computing, and storage and data management, the two companies jointly announced on Tuesday.
"Microsoft is committed to driving highly scalable dynamic datacenter solutions with innovative partners like NetApp," said Bob Kelly, corporate vice president of infrastructure server marketing, Server and Tools Business at Microsoft. "Through the deeper integration of server, virtualization, management and storage technologies, Microsoft and NetApp customers can expect datacenter solutions that help them reduce costs, increase performance, and reach new levels of efficiency."
The companies said that as part of the alliance, they will work together to expand product collaboration and technical integration activities in areas such as virtualized infrastructure solutions based on Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, Microsoft System Center, and NetApp storage systems; Sotrage and data management solutions for Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, and Microsoft SQL Server; and cloud computing and hosted services that provide integrated data protection.
During the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas, Extreme Networks unveiled a blueprint for migrating datacenters from the physical world to virtualization, and eventually to cloud computing. What's interesting about Extreme Network's evolution strategy is that it tries to eliminate virtual switching at the server level, which is the exact opposite approach of Cisco.
According to Gordon Stitt, Extreme chairman and co-founder, the blueprint is intended to assist in evolving datacenters to cloud computing "without forcing certain technologies or operating methodologies," which can be taken as a knock against Cisco's Data Center 3.0 strategy, Froce10 Networks' Virtualization Framework, parts of Juniper's Stratus project, and architectures pitched by Brocade, HP, and other datacenter switching competitors, Infoworld.com reports.
Piqued your interested? Download the 24-page blueprint in PDF form here.
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.
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.