Today in Cloud

The big news over the weekend was SAP‘s U.S. subsidiary’s $3.4 billion acquisition of SuccessFactors. Arik Hesseldahl is amongst those seeing this as an attempt to boost SAP’s cloud abilities. Larry Dignan points to this (and recent Oracle acquisitions) as evidence that the established enterprise software players have decided to buy rather than build their way to cloud success. Dignan also posits “a run on cloud-related companies.” Dennis Howlett takes a step back, and explores some of the implications of the purchase. And finally for now, Larry Dignan returns to the story this morning with some more reflection. He worries that a continued spate of these acquisitions will squeeze the “revolution” out of the cloud space, and make progress slower and more evolutionary. A little bit of evolution might actually not be a bad thing.

Today in Cloud

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports Gartner figures suggesting that homegrown servers such as those built to Facebook’s Open Compute designs “now account for 20 percent of the U.S. market for servers.” Whilst the article points to the detrimental effect this trend is apparently having on traditional server vendors such as Dell and HP, it paints a rosier picture for chip manufacturers with “Intel Corp. [reporting] its revenue from chips used to craft servers for data centers surged 50 percent in the second quarter.” Intel (presumably?) sees higher margins selling chips this way, with bespoke server build-outs commanding far smaller bulk discounts than behemoths like HP. ZDNet’s Larry Dignan is more cautious than Gartner or BusinessWeek, noting “it’s unclear how many orders Dell, HP and IBM were really losing. There aren’t any concrete examples or figures to back up the premise.” Dignan is right, and continues “For Facebook and Google, the data center is the largest capital expense. It’s only natural that they’d go the DIY route.” The same is far less true for Wal-Mart or Ford or Boeing, where IT infrastructure is a necessary cost (and hassle) of doing business; it’s far easier for them to haggle a good deal for boxes from Dell or HP than to concern themselves with sourcing power supplies, and cables, and chassis’, and solder, and fans, and processors, and RAM, and all the rest. So DIY servers are growing nicely, but only really in niche areas such as the server farms of the web’s giants. The nightmare scenario of the Boeing designed-and-built server in a Boeing data center, or the Wal-Mart designed-and-built server in every Wal-Mart is unlikely to keep Dell and Apotheker awake at night. Far more worrying might be the prospect of new low-margin upstarts entering the business and selling Open Compute-inspired servers to the customers upon which Dell, HP, IBM and all the rest depend.

Today in Cloud

Austin-based Spanning already offers a backup service for the calendar, contacts and documents within Google Apps, giving their customers some peace of mind in the face of (vanishingly unlikely) catastrophic data loss at Google or (far more probable) inadvertent file deletion by the customer themselves. Today the company added a Gmail backup capability. Unlike the existing service, which is free for up to three users per domain, the Gmail backup requires a paid subscription. Many cloud customers probably assume that their cloud provider handles backup already, and often they sort of do. Interesting times lie ahead, as companies like Spanning and Backupify explain why we need them, and as less reputable actors perhaps start trying to dupe unsuspecting cloud users into paying for “backup” services that they really don’t need.

Today in Mobile

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that federal antitrust officials from the FTC are investigating whether Google prevents manufacturers of Android handsets from using competitors’ services. That may seem like a worthy pursuit given Android’s increasing dominance in the mobile world, but Larry Dignan of ZDNet explains why the Android investigation is “likely to hit a dead end.” Dignan makes several good points, but the most important is that Android supports a wide variety of apps and services that compete directly with Google’s offerings. Heck, there are even multiple Android stores, including Amazon’s new app distribution channel. Other angles of the FTC’s investigation of Google may prove fruitful, but the probe into Android seems misguided.

Today in Cloud

Low-power computing specialist SeaMicro has shipped a new server featuring 768 cores, a significant increase on the 512 cores of the previous product released just a few months ago. GigaOM’s Stacey Higginbotham notes that the performance boost is accompanied by 25% reduction in power consumption. Over at VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi reports that the 17.5″ (44.5cm) high box “can replace… 60 traditional servers, four rack switches, four terminal servers, and a load balancing server. It uses a quarter of the power and a sixth of the space.” SeaMicro currently uses processors provided by Intel, although Larry Dignan picks up on the company’s intention to be “processor agnostic,” noting that ARM-powered servers should follow next year. SeaMicro’s innovations around increasing processor density whilst reducing power consumption sound impressive, but these servers aren’t yet for everyone. RAM configurations and — especially — the relatively low power of these “wimpy cores” mean that today they’re best-suited to serving high volumes of reasonably quick, reasonably simple tasks such as delivering web pages.

Today in Cloud

Larry Dignan published a post at the end of last week, in which he speculated that the increasingly loud public cloud mutterings from IBM, Dell, Hewlett Packard and others are part of them positioning for “the day where no one builds a data center.” All are investing heavily in public clouds, in cloudy research centers, in their own new data centers, and playing to their strengths. Trusted enterprise-grade partners with whom you’ve done business for decades, and therefore surely a better bet than a jumped-up bookseller from Seattle. Anyone would think they were scared. And yet… Hewlett Packard is investing in a business unit that designs, builds and manages customer data centers, all three are churning out new hardware and selling it to willing buyers, and the surveys keep telling us that some ridiculously high proportion of companies plan to build new data centers in the coming years. Are all the signs right? Are we seeing more need for data centers and less? Do these big IT companies have an overarching plan, or are they as confused as everyone else, launching contradictory and competing internal projects in the hope that one will pay off?