Report: Cloud and data centers join forces for a new IT platform for internet applications and businesses

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Cloud and data centers join forces for a new IT platform for internet applications and businesses by Rich Morrow:
An increasingly large swath of businesses are realizing that the cloud-plus-data-centers model provides the best of both worlds, and integrating the public virtual cloud with the physical data center is the best way to cost effectively scale, secure, and serve modern production workloads.
To read the full report, click here.

Google gets chatty about live migration while AWS stays mum

On Monday, Amazon wanted us to know that its staff worked day and night to avert planned reboots of cloud instances and updated a blog post to flag that information. But it didn’t provide any specifics on how these live updates were implemented.

Did [company]Amazon[/company] use live migration — a process in which the guest OS is moved to a new, safe host? Or did it use hot patching in which dynamic kernel updates are applied without screwing around with the underlying system?

Who knows? Because Amazon Web Services ain’t saying. Speculation is that it used live migration — even though AWS proponents last fall insisted that live migration per se would not have prevented the Xen-related reboots it launched at that time.

But where AWS remains quiet, [company]Google[/company], which wants to challenge AWS for public cloud workloads, was only too glad to blog about its live migration capabilities launched last year. Live migration, it claimed on Tuesday, prevented a meltdown during the Heartbleed vulnerability hullabaloo in April.

Google’s post is replete with charts and graphs and eight-by-ten glossies. Kidding about the last part but there are lots of diagrams.

A betting person might wager that Google is trying to tweak Amazon on this front by oversharing. You have to credit Google’s moxie here and its aspirations for live migration remain large. Per the Google Cloud Platform blog:

The goal of live migration is to keep hardware and software updated across all our data centers without restarting customers’ VMs. Many of these maintenance events are disruptive. They require us to reboot the host machine, which, in the absence of transparent maintenance, would mean impacting customers’ VMs.

But Google still has a long row to hoe. Last fall, when Google started deprecating an older cloud data center zone in Europe and launched a new one, there was no evidence of live migration. Customers were told to make a disk snapshots and use them to relaunch new VMs in the new zone.

As reported then, Google live migration moves working VMs between physical hosts within zones but not between them. Google promised changes there too, starting in late January 2015 but there appears to be nothing new on that front as yet.

So let the cloud games continue.

 

Kubernetes comes to OpenStack this time thanks to Mirantis

For businesses wanting to run the Kubernetes cluster management framework for containers on OpenStack clouds, Google and Mirantis have teamed up to make that happen more easily.

The OpenStack Murano application catalog technology promises to ease deployment of Kubernetes clusters on OpenStack and then deploy Docker containers on those clusters.

Murano provides what Mirantis CEO Adrian Ionel (pictured above) described as a “seamless point-and-click experience” not only for deploying workloads to OpenStack, but also making sure they get there with associated automation, provisioning and security intact. “In this case we use it to automate the provisioning and life cycle management of containers,” he said.

Murano, he added, makes it easier for people to build application environments that can be container-only, or mix containers with bare metal and virtual machines in one big happy package. (I’m paraphrasing here.)

This is not the industry’s first attempt to bring Kubernetes technology, open sourced by Google last year, over to OpenStack. In August, [company] Hewlett-Packard[/company] announced its own Kubernetes setup utility for HP’s OpenStack-based Helion cloud, but I haven’t heard much about it since.

There is no exclusivity in this latest news. The work Mirantis and [company]Google[/company] have done here will, in theory, help customers deploy Kubernetes on any OpenStack distribution. Mirantis and Google will demonstrate the technology Thursday in San Francisco.

And in the grand scheme of things, nearly every cloud or wanna-be cloud vendor worth its salt (including SaltStack) Microsoft, IBM, Red Hat and others, have pledged or contributed actual support for Kubernetes.

This latest news is another indication that Google is indeed serious about providing cloud capabilities to business customers, many of whom still view public clouds like Google Cloud Platform with suspicion. OpenStack is the cloud framework usually mentioned when a company decides to deploy a private cloud that they deem more suited for mission-critical workloads.

“From a Google perspective, containerization is important and running container clusters is a great way to enable developers to be productive,” said Kit Merker, the Google product manager focusing on Google Container Engine and Kubernetes.

“We know that enterprises will take time to transition to cloud. Kubernetes is a way to optimize infrastructure so it can run workloads in private or public cloud or bare metal.”

kubernetes openstackSo this is about workload portability but not really hybrid cloud per se. “This means you can build an application that uses containers and then move it to a different environment. That is what Kubernetes is all about,” he said. That is not the same thing as seamlessly integrating public and private clouds into a hybrid scenario.

[company]Amazon[/company] Web Services still leads the world in public cloud but Google and [company]Microsoft[/company] are giving it a run for its money. Microsoft Azure, because of its business roots, is seen as an attractive public cloud for that company’s myriad business customers so both Google and AWS have to show that they “get” CIO concerns about cloud deployment and provide enterprise class features and functions.

This step by Google, along with other moves announced in the fall and more recent news that it’s bringing four Google services to VMware’s  vCloud Air, are meant to reassure the C-suite set that Google means business.

Note: This story was updated at 11:11 a.m. PST with a more complete list of Kubernetes contributors.

 

Microsoft woos Y Combinator startups with big Azure credits

Microsoft wants to boost its cloud’s profile among startups so it’s making $500,000 in Azure credits available to Y Combinator-backed companies.

The credits start rolling with the Winter 2015 class and will continue after that, according to this Y Combinator blog post. This can be a good number of companies — there were 106 companies in the Spring and Winter 2014 classes, for example.

Cloud credits are ubiquitous — Y Combinator has special hosting offers from [company]Amazon[/company], [company]Google[/company], [company]Rackspace[/company] and now [company]Microsoft[/company], according to Y Combinator president Sam Altman. But, $500K is a big number. (Oh, and the startups will also get three years of Office 365 subscription, “access to Microsoft developer staff,” plus a year of CloudFlare and DataStax services.

Qualified startups can typically get $1,000 to $15,000 in Amazon Web Services (AWS) credits, and there are other freebies available. Then, in September, things started going a bit haywire. Google started offering $100,000 in Google Cloud Platform credits to qualified startups. Two months later [company]IBM[/company] upped the ante to  $120,000 in credit for SoftLayer infrastructure or BlueMix PaaS. Again all for “qualified” startups.

This is a strategic gambit for Microsoft, which wants to get more young companies — many of which are probably not Windows focused — to check out Azure. It’s also a way to chip away at [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services’ prodigious lead among startups. AWS is pretty much the default cloud selection for young companies.

This story was updated at 5:24 a.m. PST February 11 to reflect that AWS typically provides qualified startups with up to $15K in promotional funding.

Hooray! Amazon will start breaking out AWS numbers

For cloud watchers,  the real news out of Amazon’s fourth-quarter earnings call is that the company will finally break out Amazon Web Services numbers from the rest of its gigantic retail business starting in the first quarter.

To date, the AWS numbers have been buried in the poetically named “North America Net Sales (Other)” category along with a mish mash of other items. Of course that hot little tidbit prompted immediate speculation that Amazon is now on the road to spinning out AWS entirely.

The glomming of AWS in with branded credit card and other activities made sizing the cloud business a bit of a challenge for anyone outside of Amazon corporate, so any increased clarity is most welcome.

But for now we’re still stuck in the old model, so here are the AWS  results (such as they are) in a nutshell: cloud services continued to sell briskly in the fourth quarter according to the company’s earnings report. For that period, net sales in the closely-watched category grew 43 percent year over year, to $1.67 billion from $1.17 billion from the year ago period.

[dataset id=”911024″]

[dataset id=”911074″]

Gauging the true size of the [company]Amazon[/company] cloud business is an in-exact art to say the least, but we do what we can. And these numbers represent top line net sales, so profitability is (and has been) subject to debate.

awsq42014

 

It was a big quarter in terms of new products — most of which were unveiled at AWS Re:Invent in November including Lambda, an event-driven compute service: a service catalog; a container service, yaddayaddayadda.

Growth would seem to indicate that AWS is forging right along even as competitors — [company]Google[/company] and [company]Microsoft[/company] — bulk up their competitive clouds. Or maybe the thirst for public cloud is bottomless and there truly is room for everyone.

On the call, CFO Thomas Szkutak, said Amazon has invested heavily both in personnel and infrastructure to build that business and that will continue. For example, from the company’s statement, it spent $1.44 billion on property, equipment, software and website development for the quarter. That total was $4.89 billion for the full year.

In a note released Thursday night, Technology Business Research Analyst Jillian Mirandi estimated that Amazon’s mostly  IaaS business generated nearly $4.8 billion in revenue in 2014, up a whopping 50 percent from 2013. Meanwhile, Google and Microsoft, by her tally, generated, $177 million and $188 million respectively, in the IaaS segment.

Amazon’s huge lead, she noted, is due to its  “six-year head start in the market, and is challenged as these vendors also continue to compete on price, removing price cuts as a differentiator for AWS.”

Here’s more on the non-AWS bits of Amazon earnings.

This story updated repeatedly during the earnings call Thursday.

AWS boosted cloud reliability in 2014, new stats show

Amazon Web Services is not an organization that rests on its laurels. New stats compiled by CloudEndure show that AWS, the public cloud market leader, boosted reliability significantly over the course of last year, based on the number of errors reported. It logged 41 percent fewer errors in the fourth quarter of 2014 than in the first quarter.

2014 AWS errors by quarter

CloudEndure, which offers disaster recovery and cloud migration services, based its findings on data from the [company]Amazon[/company] health dashboard.

Also tracked: Number of errors by AWS service, but there’s more data too, so check out the whole post. CloudEndure added suggestions right out of the AWS playbook, such as that workloads should be deployed across regions.

2014 AWS Errors by Service

CloudEndure, based in Israel with offices in New York City, also tracks [company]Microsoft[/company] Azure availability and posted this earlier this week. It does not follow [company]Google[/company] Cloud Platform.

Azure Service Errors 2014 by quarter

Google takes on AWS CloudWatch with a monitor of its own

Google is moving ahead with the integration of Stackdriver technology with a new beta of Google Cloud Monitoring. Google bought Stackdriver, a Boston-based provider of cross-cloud monitoring tools, last May and announced an alpha release of the tool at Google Platform Live a month later.

The new beta, which will compete with Amazon Web Services’ CloudWatch, will initially focus solely on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). The goal remains to provide a single way to watch workloads across public (including AWS) and hybrid clouds, according a blog post by Google product manager (and Stackdriver Co-founder) Dan Belcher. No timing on the non-Google cloud support was given but in an email message but in a follow-up email, Belcher said the company remains committed to providing a single tool to monitor applications across Google Cloud Platform, AWS and hybrid environments.

He added that Stackdriver (I guess that means Google now) added AWS Kinesis integration for existing Stackdriver customers.

 

According to the post, all GCP customers, as opposed to a select subset, can now use the monitor to see how their Google App Engine, Google Compute Engine, Cloud Pub/Sub and Cloud SQL workloads are doing.

The monitor promises metrics to help admins gauge the general health of their resources — users can create aggregate views of their key systems and bring in custom metrics. From there, they can create custom dashboards of what they want to watch. It also provides data on usage, up-time, performance and incidents where alerting policies are violated, according to the blog.

Stackdriver filled in a check box on Google’s to-do list of what it needs to gain credibility among enterprise accounts, where admins really need a window into what’s going on in their public cloud workloads.

Google Cloud Monitor

Cheap cloud + open source = a great time for startups

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While the rest of the world binges on IoT goodies from CES 2015, we thought we’d focus on (what else?) enterprise-grade infrastructure. This week’s guest, Steve Herrod was formerly CTO of VMware, and so knows a little something, something about that topic. Now he’s managing director of General Catalyst where he’s looking for the next VMwares of the world.

Listen to his take on the wild world of cybersecurity where it’s pretty clear that the battle has to move beyond fighting yesterday’s threats; why the Hortonworks IPO is so closely watched; and how today’s startups have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to available, inexpensive infrastructure. With [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, [company]Microsoft[/company] Azure and other players offering credits to woo startups, a young company can get up to $100K ($120K in IBM’s case) of plumbing for free. Let me reiterate: Free.

That’s a huge opportunity — although skeptics may point to parallels between cut-price cloud and crack cocaine, but I digress.

In our segment, Derrick Harris talks about how artificial intelligence is finding its way into the chip modules that will control our connected cars and other things, and we hash out the sticky matter of cloud closures and other topics.

Have a listen to the first Structure show of 2015 and let us be the gazillionth to say Happy New Year!

 

Structure 2012: Steve Herrod - CTO and SVP of R&D, VMware

Structure 2012: Steve Herrod – CTO and SVP of R&D, VMware

 

 

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Amazon Web Services tops list of most reliable public clouds

Google and Microsoft now host public clouds meant to give Amazon Web Services a run for its money, but they still have a way to go to rival good ol’ AWS in terms of uptime, according to cloud reliability ratings by CloudHarmony.

The Laguna Beach, California company tracks status of more than 30 clouds from AWS to Zettagrid, including a couple I’ve never heard of, so take a look.

Filtering worldwide downtime over the past year, the [company]Amazon[/company] S3 storage service, for example, registered 23 outages for a total of 2.69 hours of downtime, while EC2 compute logged 20 outages accounting for 2.41 hours out, according to CloudHarmony’s CloudSquare status metrics.

By contrast, the [company]Google[/company] Compute Engine component of Google Cloud Platform showed 72 outages for 4.42 hours downtime and Google Cloud Storage reported 8 outages adding up to 14.23 minutes down.

And [company]Microsoft[/company] Azure Virtual machines fell more than 92 times for nearly 40 hours of downtime over 12 months — including a significant outage in November; Azure Object Storage was off 141 times for 10.97 hours.

Some caveats

Jason Read, co-founder of CloudHarmony, acknowledged that the service can’t and won’t record every glitch. For example, it monitors only relatively recent M3 large EC2 instances running in one Availability Zone per AWS Region. So if there were glitches in older AWS instances during the great Xen reboot of 2014, they wouldn’t show up. And CloudHarmony only “watches” Linux instances running in Microsoft Azure.

So take a look at the numbers, but remember they represent a subset of total cloud resources from each provider.

cloudharmony AWS

CloudHarmony Google

Microsoft Cloud Harmony

After rough year for Amazon stock, will AWS feel the pain?

People who watch Amazon Web Services tend to be cloud oriented and don’t necessarily pay a ton of attention to the Amazon Inc. mothership. Maybe they should broaden their focus a bit.

In 2014, that mothership had a rough year  — Amazon’s stock price fell 18 percent over a period during which the Nasdaq overall was up 14 percent. That put [company]Amazon[/company] founder and CEO Jeff Bezos on the receiving end of a $7.4 billion paper loss for that period. (His 18 percent ownership is still worth just north of $26 billion.)

The company’s third quarter was particularly worrisome. For the period ending September 30, 2014, Amazon posted a $544 million loss on revenue of $20 billion, provoking much consternation on Wall Street, which appeared to be losing patience with Bezos’ growth-at-all-costs strategy. At that time, I wondered whether, given all that angst,  the company would keep investing in AWS to the degree it had previously. I’ve reached out to Amazon for comment and will update this post as needed.

Some people see AWS as a profit generator for Amazon Inc. Despite the steady drumbeat of price cuts, it’s been clear for some time that AWS isn’t the loss leader most experts once deemed it to be. But as of 2014, AWS was no longer the sole arbiter of public cloud IaaS pricing. Google and Microsoft sliced the prices of public cloud services on their own, sometimes beating AWS to the punch — which means that even as AWS adds scale and features, it is in a much more competitive market than it was for the first seven years of its existence.

AMZN Chart

AMZN data by YCharts

More big fish in the pond

Over the past year or so, big competitors have come online with many comparable services for the first time. And two of those competitors — [company]Microsoft[/company] and [company]Google[/company] — seem prepared to spend what it takes to keep scaling up, cutting prices and adding higher-level services.

The thinking seems to be that AWS (and Amazon itself) sacrifices profits for market share growth, and then, when the growth spurt stops, it can start reaping the rewards.

That strategy worked well for Amazon’s retail operations a decade ago.  But at that time, there weren’t e-commerce competitors capable of competing at Amazon scale. That’s changed. Now there’s Chinese retail giant Alibaba, Target.com and Walmart.com. While Bezos’s net worth got a haircut in 2014, Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma added another $25.1 billion  to his stockpile, thanks to his company’s September IPO.

Just as those retail competitors got with the program, tech competitors have gotten the cloud memo. Microsoft now fields Azure, Google has Google Cloud Platform, [company]IBM[/company] has SoftLayer.

No one doubts Bezos’ financial acumen, and he isn’t standing still. In early December, the company sold $6 billion in a debt offering, a move that met mixed reviews by various bond rating agencies. Moody’s pretty much immediately downgraded its outlook on Amazon to negative; Standard & Poor’s, on the other hand, reaffirmed its positive AA rating on the debt.

In November, AWS SVP Andy Jassy was asked whether Amazon’s cloud could compete with cash-rich rivals and he expressed confidence that the company can continue to “fund this business to its potential” and reiterated that with its head-start it still offers far more services than anyone else.

Still, it helps to remember that even companies that dominate markets can’t hold the top slot forever. The public cloud marketplace has been validated, so competitors flooded in. The niche players won’t all be able to play at mass scale IaaS, but it’s clear that Microsoft and Google are here to stay. AWS isn’t alone anymore.

Note: This story was updated at 10:13 a.m. to include Andy Jassy’s comments from November for context.