T-Mobile Sidekick owners last week were reminded about the risks of relying too heavily on cloud computing when a massive failure at Microsoft's Danger subsidiary left the handheld owners without access to the Web or their address book for several days.
If that weren't bad enough, after some of the data had been recovered, Microsoft on Saturday told customers that any other missing data may be permanently lost. While it's not uncommon for outages to occur, the potential for permanently lost data casts a dark cloud over, er, cloud computing.
For Microsoft, the timing couldn't be any worse. Next month, the software giant will launch Windows Azure, an operating system in the cloud. Microsoft is quick to point out that the Azure service is built with redundancy in mind and is able to withstand failures in single or multiple nodes, but will that be enough to convince users to put their confidence in the cloud?
Starting on October 5th IBM will begin selling a Web-based version of its popular Lotus Notes software suite, a move that puts it in direct competition with Google. The service which is currently being called “LotusLive iNotes” will include the traditional email, calendar, and contact management applications, but interestingly enough will not have any type of substitute for Google Docs.
IBM is apparently counting on the notion that most companies simply don’t want all of the applications that come with Google Apps, and would choose just the core communication applications if they had the choice. Just in case that alone isn’t enough to win over companies looking at cloud based options, they are also undercutting Google’s price per user by $14 a year, bringing the annual cost of a license down to a mere $36.
Google may have a two-year head start on IBM with over 1.75 million registered businesses, but researchers from Gartner claim this is only the tip of the iceberg. Apparently if current trends continue, almost 20 percent of companies will use some form of hosted email by 2012. It will be interesting to see if IBM’s sterling reputation with enterprises will be enough to beat out Google. Currently they don’t have any plans to offer free consumer level versions of the product, but that could certainly change over time.
Google says that it was high load on the internet giant’s Contacts server that caused the outages of last week. Users of Google Apps could not access their Google Contacts on September 24, from 10 AM to 11:30 AM EDT. Gmail contacts were also unavailable from 10 AM to 1 PM EDT. This also affected Google Voice, as it relies on Google Contacts.
According to the Google Apps team, the solution was to temporarily stop all requests to the Google Contacts servers. A banner was shown in Gmail that informed users of alternate ways of accessing their contacts, but this likely did not lessen withdrawal symptoms for those affected.
On September 25, Google explained that the increased server load was caused by a rare convergence of events. First, an error in a network data center caused additional load on the Contacts server. Also, it just so happened that the server was experiencing higher than average usage that day. Finally, an update to the Gmail platform unintentionally increased load on the Contacts server even more. If they keep this up, their uptime might fall below 99%... the horror.
While most of the attention between Microsoft and Google focuses on the search engine scuffle (Bing vs Google), the two sides are also doing battle in the Cloud, where things are starting to heat up. That's because Microsoft on Thursday began opening the doors of its free web-based version of its Office Suite -- called Microsoft Office Web Applications -- to select Windows Live SkyDrive users.
Things will really get interesting when Microsoft officially launches its online version of Office in the first half of 2010, and until then, the software maker still has time to fine tune the experience, although it might not have much to do. Microsoft Office Web Applications already works on Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari, while support for Chrome is being developed. But the biggest boon might be the ability to switch between the desktop and web versions
Between now and launch, Microsoft says it will be adding beta testers 1000 users at a time
The process begins when a message encrypted using Vanish is sent. The message can only be read until a pre-specified time is reached, after which the message can not be decrypted, as the encryption key is permanently “lost due to a set of both natural and programmed processes.”
Vanish works by shattering the encryption key and distributing the various fragments among computers on a peer-to-peer network – both parties holding the online conversation don’t possess the key. The pieces of the key begin to vanish due to the fact that “machines constantly join and leave the P2P network.” A prototype of the tool is now available. It supports timeouts of 8-9 hours, which simply means your messages will vanish without a trace after that time.
Microsoft first announced its cloud computing development platform called 'Azure' during last year's PDC before making it available as a free technology preview, and it will still be a few more months before it officially launches in final form. When it does launch, consumers will be able to choose from a variety of pricing plans, Microsoft said on Tuesday.
For those interested in strictly consumption-based billing, Azure will cost 12 cents per hour for computing, 15 cents per gigabyte for storage, and 10 cents per 10,000 storage transactions, CNet reports. Network bandwidth will run between 10 cents and 15 cents per gigabyte.
Alternately, subscribers can opt to sign a six-month commitment as part of a discount plan called "development accelerator." This will come in two forms and includes a 15 percent to 30 percent discount off the consumption charges, with any overages billed at the regular rate. Once the contract is up, standard rates apply.
The pricing model puts Azure in direct competition with Amazon, slightly undercutting the competition for Windows-based clouds, but still a bit more expensive than Amazon's Linux option.
AMD has its head in the cloud, and that may not be such a bad thing. The chip maker this week released another Opteron 1000 Series processor, codenamed Suzuka, with performance per watt and compatibility taking center stage.
"The flexibility of four cores and a low-cost infrastructure gives customers an edge when designing for a cost-effective or power-efficient platform," John Freuhe, director of business development for server and workstation products at AMD, wrote in a blog post.
Suzuka, which was designed for cloud computing, Web servers, small business servers, and other applications where lower power consumption is the primary focus, runs at 2.9GHz with 6MB of cache. And because Suzuka is based on the same core as Shanghai, existing AM2 platforms should only need a BIOS update to run the chip.
Do you think the smoke and mirror show will help Chrome’s adoption rate?
Earlier this month, Google blamed a bug for causing an "isolated incident" which resulted in some users of Google Docs having their word-processing and presentation documents inadvertently shared. According to Google, the mishap only affected 0.05 percent of documents stored at the site, but that's enough to have privacy advocates turning to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to shut down all of Google's online services until government-approved "safeguards are verifiably established."
"If we were talking about a child safety seat that could not be securely attached to a car passenger seat, the commission in that instance would say to the company, 'Look, you've got to fix that problem,'" Marc Rotenberg, a lawyer and adjunct law professor, said in a telephone interview with CNet on Tuesday. "Consumers are at risk when that product is in the marketplace. We have a similar view of cloud computing at this point: people are at risk."
Leading the charge is the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), who submitted a letter to the FTC asking that all Google cloud-computing services be halted, including Gmail. In addition to shutting everything down, EPIC also wants Google to pay $5 million into a "public fund" to benefit advocacy groups.
Is EPIC asking for too much? And equally important, can you manage without Gmail? Hit the jump and sound off.
The promise of hosted application "cloud computing" platforms is the ability to work anywhere, anytime. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the latest storm to obscure the promise of hosted applications hit its Windows Azure development platform last weekend. It was unavailable for 22 hours on March 13 and 14, eWeekreports.
It should be noted that Windows Azure, introduced at last October's Professional Developer's Conference (PDC), is still in its test phase. It's due to become generally available before the 2009 PDC in November, according to eWeek. Although it's still in testing, an essentially day-long outage isn't good news for Azure.
Is Azure the only cloud computing provider to have had problems from time to time? How reliable should cloud computing be? For your chance to sound off, join us after the jump.