Cloud FUD Goes Mainstream, But It’s Still Misguided

Cloud computing has taken a lot of hits lately, not all of which are deserved, and some of which are just flat-out misguided. The latest accusation — that cloud computing stifles software innovation — came at a grand scale via a New York Times column by Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain. Although provocative, Zittrain’s piece overlooks some important distinctions, by equating web applications with cloud computing and individual platforms with the entirety of the Web.

Today in Cloud

The big news today is IBM’s enhanced partnership with Juniper Networks, which lets IBM sell Juniper’s routers and switches under IBM’s name. Although IBM did extend its reseller agreement with Cisco, this move is nonetheless a pretty big thumb to the nose in Cisco’s direction. Alternatively, however, the whole ado around unified computing adds credence to the predictions put forth in this morning’s Computerworld article about cloud computing and job losses. This paradigm seems more legitimate by the day, and if unified data centers are a step in the direction of (eventually) outsourced cloud computing, companies will need manpower to build and maintain them as they slowly make the migration.

Cloud Computing Gets Hip to Green Markets

Last week, I attended Structure 09, the GigaOM Network’s second annual cloud computing and infrastructure conference, here in San Francisco, and I was struck by the increasing relevance of the space to the discussion around green and IT. As Katie has pointed out in the past, cloud computing’s “avoided costs” selling points map neatly to some green marketing messages that companies are beginning to leverage. But perhaps more notable to me was the expanding array of applications for which cloud computing is being used. In particularly, some of the coffee-break and cocktail-hour conversations floating around pointed to the increasingly “green” markets for cloud computing — the smart grid, in particular.

The Future of the Data Center is Murky

Is there anyone who can say with certainty what the next generation of enterprise data centers will look like? A recent Network World article, for example, handicaps the field of data center vendors, picking HP, IBM, Cisco and VMware as the odds-on favorites (where is Dell?). Given the move toward clouds and fabrics (in which computing, networking and storage are interconnected tightly), this group makes perfect sense for the enterprise. But Google and Amazon have charted a different course, eschewing specialized gear for commodity hardware and secret-sauce software. Which configuration will win out?

Today in Cloud

Am I way off base, or are MMO games behind the times technology-wise? Not only are some people lamenting the apparent database inadequacies of these platforms, which handle vast amounts of data, but the computing and networking aspects seem subpar, too. In Second Life, for example, servers are pretty much isolated, but I think it would make much more sense to have a grid- or cloud-like architecture wherein downtime is minimized via failover and autoscaling. There seem to be serious latency issues, too, that could resolved via data caching technologies. Hopefully this pre-CloudCamp London cloud/grid-and-gaming conference plants some seeds of advancement.

Asus Intends to Be Better Than Apple, After Besting Wii & Kindle First

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Asus may have made a name for itself in the U.S. by making netbooks, a category which Apple (s aapl) doesn’t seem to want to touch with a 10-foot pole, but that isn’t stopping Asustek’s vice chairman from talking some major smack. In an interview with The New York Times’ Ashley Vance, Vice Chairman Jonathan Tsang said that Asus has set its sights too low in the past, and that it now wants to take on bigger fish — like Apple.

Mr. Tsang didn’t convey this in any uncertain terms. In fact, his exact words were ,“Our goal is to provide products that are better than Apple’s,” which I think makes things pretty clear. But how does it plan to do that? Well, by first being better than Wii in the gaming market, and better than Kindle in the e-reader segment, of course. It’s actually already developed a system which Tsang says “rivals” the Wii, but content (i.e., games) isn’t forthcoming — which is sort of crucial when you’re trying to field a game console. Read More about Asus Intends to Be Better Than Apple, After Besting Wii & Kindle First

Cloud Momentum Building in D.C.

The federal government’s adoption of cloud computing is a lot like a boulder resting on a hill. It takes some work to get it moving, but once it starts, momentum makes stopping it a seemingly impossible task. This week should serve as a fair warning that it’s about to start rolling.

Papers

papers-icon.pngContrary to some belief, Macs are not just heavily used by designers, photgraphers, and other creative types, they’re heavily used by scientists as well. (As a scientist and computer tech in an all-Mac lab, I love my Macs.)

If you’re a scientist – and even if you’re not, so don’t stop reading, O Non-Scientists – there are a lot of .pdf files to deal with, everything from manuals for the equipment to grant forms and, of course, the ubiquitous scholarly papers. It gets so bad that on particularly busy days, my office looks rather as if a copier exploded in it.

Which is where Papers comes in. Papers, winner of the 2007 Apple Design Award for Best Mac OS X Scientific Computing Solution and product of the inimitable Alexander Griekspoor and Tom Groothuis, is a immensely elegant solution to those paper explosions. Papers can find, sort, organize, import, download, export, and email any paper you throw at it. Here’s how it works: first, import the papers you already own, then, using those papers and Papers easy tools, acquire all the other papers you need. Like the similar tool Yep, you can view the first page in a lower pane, but Papers has a more database-like interface, capable of sorting your papers by author, title, date, journal, your rating, and more. A pane on the right shows the title, journal, and paper abstract for easy flipping. A full-screen mode lets you read papers without distraction, and with easy mouse and keyboard control. There is a pane in the normal window mode that lets you take notes on the paper, and a small HUD that appears in the full-screen mode to do the same.

Even better, you can drag a paper to another application – say, Pages, where you’re writing your thesis – and have it appear as an Endnote citation. (Other options are a BibTex key, the title of the paper, or a URL-reference.)

Of course, this is all metadata based, so what if your paper didn’t have metadata added? That too is simple. Seven included search engines, including PubMed and Google Scholar, and more installable ones let you search for and match your paper with the online metadata. Just pull up a search tab, find your paper, and click Match. All those pesky metadata fields, including abstract, are filled. Those same integrated search engines will let you find and download papers related to those in your database in a snap, no browser needed – and even support some academic proxies!

This is, quite simply, one of the best and most time-saving pieces of software I’ve come across in years. If you’re trying to manage a library of .pdf’s on your Mac, you owe it to yourself to try this out. (Thirty-day full-feature trial available at link above; single-user license $42, with a 40% discount for students.) Also, if you’re interested in icons and icon design, check out the designer’s webpage for that library icon here – the use of layers and detail in the icon is fascinating, as is the way those construction layers appear in the setup for the application itself.