Archive for the ‘Amazon’ Category

5 key takeaways from Amazon’s big cloud day

Amazon challenges Box with file share services, attempts to woo mobile app developers

Amazon Web Services continued to push the IaaS market forward today by challenging established cloud players like Box and Dropbox with the company’s own document collaboration platform and rolling out new features to its public cloud focused on supporting mobile applications.

Here are the five biggest takeaways from Amazon’s Summit in New York City today:

Amazon’s cloud targets mobile applications
Amazon launched a number of new features to optimize its cloud for hosting mobile apps. The main new product is named Cognito and it provides shortcuts for mobile application developers. The idea is that there are a variety of core features that many mobile apps need that do not differentiate the app from others, says AWS VP of Mobile Marco Argneti. These include the ability to save user profiles and provide support across multiple devices, and save the state of the app when a user changes devices. Cognito provides these services so that app developers don’t have to build them, and it allows the developers to focus on the truly differentiated features of their app. The logon credentials integrate with Facebook, Google and Amazon usernames and passwords. Here’s a video describing the service from Amazon:

The move shows that in addition to being at the forefront of hosting startups and enterprise workloads, AWS wants to be the place to host mobile apps, too. It also shows Amazon turning into more of an application development platform as a service (PaaS) and Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS). Amazon isn’t alone though. Microsoft has a robust set of tools for hosting mobile applications as well. Time Warner Cable’s NaviSite rolled out new Enterprise Mobility Management tools this week for managing mobile workforces, which VMware is heavily invested.

Amazon launches document collaboration and file sharing business
Amazon announced Zocalo, a new file storage, sharing and synchronization platform based on its popular Simple Storage Service (S3). Think of it as Box or Google Drive, but in Amazon’s cloud and aimed at the enterprise market. Through a slick web interface, users can upload a variety of files — documents, PDFs, slides, spreadsheets and photos, among others — and synchronize them across devices that have a Zocalo client installed on them. Users can share documents and can also provide and solicit feedback.

Improvements in 10GbE technology, lower pricing, and improved performance make 10GbE for the mid-market
The move puts Amazon in direct competition with some darlings of the consumer cloud marketplace, like Box and DropBox and puts Amazon head to head with Google, again (those two companies compete on the IaaS cloud platform too). The move follows Amazon’s launch of Workspaces, a virtual desktop tool it debuted last year.

Amazon targets, and shows off, enterprise customers
Perhaps equally as important as the new products launched were the portions of the keynote where Amazon customers shared their experiences using the company’s platform. One perception the company is attempting to overcome is that it is focused on startups and developers, but not enterprise users. One way to get more enterprise customers is to show nervous potentially customers that their peers are using your platform.

Vogels outlined how startup Airbnb – which processes 150,000 stays per night on its site – has grown from using about 400 Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) servers a year ago to now more than 1,300. The company has a five-person IT team that manages it all in Amazon’s cloud. Siemens, which had $5.5 billion in sales last year, uses Amazon’s cloud to process HIPAA-complaint diagnostic images. Publishing company Conde Nast is selling its data center and servers because it’s moving into AWS’s cloud. It’s one thing to have enterprise customers using your cloud-based platform in some small test and development capacity; it’s another for them to be shutting down data centers in favor of using the public cloud.

Amazon eats its partners
Another new product the company launched today is named Logs for CloudWatch. Last year Amazon released CloudTrail, which is a stream of information customers can sign up for that reports every action that is made in a user’s account. That information alone is not extraordinarily valuable because it needs to be processed in a way that makes sense. A variety of third-party AWS partners have taken that data and made applications out of it that customers can use to track their cloud usage and find unusual behavior. Today, Amazon rolled out some of those features themselves.

The point here is that Amazon continues to develop features in its cloud, even if it has partnering companies who do the same thing. AWS has done this before; it made life difficult for companies that had built up cost optimization tools when it launched its own service that does the same thing named Trusted Advisor. It can be tough being an Amazon partner; the key for these vendors is staying ahead of Amazon’s fast innovation cycle.

More than 10,000 people registered to attend Amazon Web Service’s Summit in New York Today.
One of the most notable aspects of the day was the amount of interest it drew. AWS said that more than 10,000 people registered to attend the event, which included a keynote by CTO Werner Vogels and then breakout sessions throughout the afternoon. Thousands of others watched a live stream. The biggest takeaway of all is that the cloud is real, and a lot of people are interested in it.


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Microsoft taps partners to sell Azure and take on Amazon in cloud

Microsoft has a big channel and soon it will arm them with Azure

Microsoft distributors will soon be able to resell the company’s Azure cloud IaaS, Microsoft announced today in a blog.

The move is welcomed by at least some Microsoft partners who are excited about the opportunity of offering customers more services. Previously Azure users had to buy directly from Microsoft.

Microsoft is allowing its distributors to resell Azure by expanding the company’s Open Licensing practice. This allows the distributor to resell an Azure license to a customer. Vendors will use tokens which are worth $100 Azure credits that will be distributed to customers. Doing so will give resellers the ability to manage Azure clouds for customers, as well as bundle other services on top of the Azure virtual machines, storage and databases. Resellers can bundle an Office 365 app, or backup and recovery services, for example.

Customer may be more inclined to buy services like Azure through a partner that they have an existing relationship with as opposed to buying directly through an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft.

Aidan Finn is a technical sales lead for Microsoft reseller MicroWarehouse Ltd. in Ireland and in blogging about the news today noted that it will make Azure more appealing, particularly to small and midsize businesses that may not be big enough for an EA but perhaps don’t have the in-house expertise to consume cloud without assistance. Some partners were even already buying blocks of Azure services and reselling them without the official Open License, Finn said. “The move to Open was necessary,” Finn wrote in an email. “The opportunity to resell a service product brings partners into the fold, and gives them a reason to be interested. Without a resell opportunity, Azure could have appeared like a competitor to some partners.”

The move seems like a natural one for Microsoft to make to take advantage of its large channel market, which is a differentiator for the company compared to some of its biggest rivals in Amazon and Google.

“The mechanism sounds a bit awkward, with the purchases via fixed denomination tokens rather than direct, resource utilization-based billing, but giving more efficient access to its large partner channel to its portfolio of cloud resources is good utilization of an existing strength for the company,” Stephen O’Grady, an analyst and RedMonk wrote in an email.

Microsoft announced that Open Licensing will be available starting in August.

 


 

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Amazon’s biggest competitor in the cloud: Salesforce.com?

Amazon’s biggest competitor in the cloud: Salesforce.com?
Amazon and Salesforce are each pioneering companies in cloud computing, but are they competitors?

Who is Amazon’s biggest competitor in the cloud?
The go-to answer for many may be companies like Rackspace with its OpenStack platform, perhaps Google with its Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure, VMware or one of the up-and-coming cloud computing companies like Joyent.

But Mikhail Malamud, founder of cloud consultancy startup CloudAware, says another cloud company could pose the biggest challenge to Amazon’s cloud plans: Salesforce.com.

These two companies, Amazon Web Services and Salesforce.com, are two of the leading cloud providers in their respective markets of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) for AWS and software as a service (SaaS) for Salesforce.com. But Malamud believes there is one reason why Salesforce.com could be a formidable foe for Amazon in the cloud moving forward: data.

Salesforce.com’s data stash
“Data is the kingmaker in the cloud,” says Malamud, whose firm, CloudAware, provides a platform to access AWS resources.

Salesforce.com has an enormous cache of customer data, and not just any data, but some of enterprises’ most valuable data — customer information. Salesforce.com has data about who its users’ customers are, what interactions they have with those customers, and increasingly it’s been attempting to collect even more data, from human resource management to social data.

And Salesforce is building an ecosystem of products and services around that data. While the company may be best known as a SaaS-based customer relationship management (CRM) application, it also has a robust platform that allows customers to build new applications on its cloud.

Force.com and Heroku, the latter of which Salesforce acquired in 2010, are platform as a service (PaaS) tools allowing customers to leverage CRM data already in Salesforce’s cloud and build related applications that are customized to individual users’ needs. It’s where Malamud built his company’s app. A Salesforce CRM customer, for example, could build an application on Force.com that integrates with the CRM application to analyze the sales data. And Malamud says every new application that’s built in Salesforce.com’s environment is one less app that’s running in Amazon’s cloud.

Amazon: We’ve got data too
Amazon is responding in turn, though. In the past year AWS has made a concerted effort to manage more of its customers’ data. Announcements like Red Shift — the company’s headline announcement at its first-annual users conference, named re: Invent — is a new data warehousing service, meant to be a low-cost alternative to expensive on-premises database storage systems. Amazon Glacier is a “cold storage” service for storing a company’s long-term data, while Data Pipeline is a relatively new service that makes it easier to transfer all that data between various applications within Amazon’s cloud. “They’re clearly trying to get as much of your data as possible,” Malamud says.

Malamud says Salesforce will be the place where next-generation apps will be built, providing a legitimate threat to Amazon moving forward.
“It’s a legitimate theory, but it’s more of a longer term play,” says David Vellante, chief analyst at research firm The Wikibon Project, about the Salesforce.com-Amazon rivalry. The two companies are not really direct competitors right now, he says. They’re both cloud-based, but AWS at its core is about providing fast, easy and cheap access to virtual machines, storage and hosted applications in its IaaS cloud. Salesforce.com is a SaaS that is attempting to build up its accompanying PaaS.

Amazon’s bigger near-term competitors are the growing cavalry of IaaS providers looking to steal business from the company, he says. Google, Microsoft and Rackspace (with its OpenStack platform), as well as VMware, HP, Dell, Joyent, Terremark and Savvis, are just some of the whole range of IaaS providers looking to bite into Amazon’s market share that pose a more immediate threat to AWS.

Robert Mahowald, research vice president at IDC who leads the software as a service (SaaS) and cloud services practice, agrees with Vellante. “It’s not necessarily where the companies are today, but it’s certainly an aspiration of Salesforce,” he says. But he’s also on board with Malamud’s core premise of “follow the data.”

Applications that run in the cloud are fundamentally more important than the infrastructure they run on, so in that sense Salesforce has an advantage in being able to offer customers products, services and platforms that leverage data already in its cloud.

But AWS is a heavy-hitter in the cloud, too. Through partnerships with big enterprise software giants like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, AWS allows customers to migrate their existing enterprise software licenses to Amazon’s cloud and let AWS worry about all the underlying infrastructure.

Salesforce.com has a different business model: The company isn’t pushing customers to migrate their SAP, Oracle and Microsoft apps into its cloud; they want customers to be all-in with its own cloud. So far, the company has done an extraordinary job capturing the CRM market, but existing business apps aren’t being migrated into Salesforce’s cloud.

To Mahowald, that means the Amazon vs. Salesforce debate comes down to a new vs. existing apps debate. Amazon has everything in place to give customers the opportunity to outsource their packaged software onto its cloud, something enterprises are becoming more and more comfortable with. Salesforce wants to be the place where the enterprises’ next-generation business apps are built and stored.

The problem for AWS is that there are increasingly more and more competitors offering similar IaaS services. To date, Amazon has simply done it better than its competitors, Vellante says — it out-innovates competitors, has a broader range of services and continually lowers its prices. It’s tough for competitors to keep up, but a crop of providers are trying.

Some providers are carving out niches in vertical markets, offering healthcare-, government- or financial services-focused clouds, for example. Others are banking on the hybrid cloud — which combines both on-premises and public cloud resources — as being the future the industry. VMware, sensing an opportunity in the market, recently announced plans to create a hybrid cloud offering.

Salesforce isn’t competing with those offerings, though, Vellante says. Salesforce has found a niche in its ecosystem of customers and is nurturing and growing it. But Salesforce.com is not the be all and end all of cloud service providers now or into the future. “If you’re running a big data app and you need a 10-node cluster spun up today to host your analytics app, you’re not going to Salesforce,” Vellante says. “You’re going to Amazon or another IaaS.” It’s a different play for each of the providers, which is why Vellante says both of these companies — AWS and Salesforce.com — will be around for a long time, and they both likely will make a lot of money in the cloud.

 


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Amazon Web Services launches CloudSearch

The service is based on Amazon’s A9 technology and aims to simplify the use of search

IDG News Service – Amazon Web Services has introduced CloudSearch, which allows users of its cloud to integrate fully managed and highly scalable search functionality into their applications, the company said on Thursday.

CloudSearch is based on the same A9 technology that powers search for Amazon.com, the company said

To use the search functionality, IT staff start by creating a search domain and uploading the data they want searchable. CloudSearch then automatically provisions the technology resources required and the indexes needed, the company said.

To make data searchable, it first needs to be described in the Search Data Format, which can be done using JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) or XML text files, according to an FAQ.

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CloudSearch automatically scales as the amount of searchable data increases or as the query rate changes, and enterprises can change search parameters, fine tune search relevance and apply new settings at any time without having to upload the data again.

Settings are changed using the AWS Management Console, which is also used to administer Amazon’s other services.

As with its other cloud services, Amazon pitches the new addition as way to add search capabilities without needing a lot of expertise.

However, figuring out what the service will cost may not be as simple. Users are billed on a monthly basis for search instances, document batch uploads, IndexDocuments requests and data transfer.

As a managed service, CloudSearch determines the size and number of search instances required to deliver low latency, high throughput search performance. The service builds an index and picks the appropriate initial search instance type to ensure that the index can be stored in RAM.

Instance types come in small, large and extra large, which cost 12 cents, 48 cents and 68 cents per hour.

New IndexDocuments are created by CloudSearch when the IT staff make configuration changes to the index, for example by adding a field. The cost is 98 cents per gigabyte of data stored in the search domain.

Added to that is 10 cents per 1,000 batch upload requests, which each can be up to 5MB. The last part of the bill is a charge for the amount of data transferred out of CloudSearch. In the US East region, the first 10TB costs 12 cents per GB, according to Amazon.

On the CloudSearch website, Amazon details a cost example that includes 100MB of data and adds up to $86.94 per month.

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How To Hide Your Data

Want to keep your private files under wraps without making it obvious they’re important? Rather than encryption, try hiding them, so prying eyes don’t even know they exist.

We live in a world where data rules. Sharing your files, from docs to pictures to videos is as easy as breathing. But we’ve all got some stuff that we’d like to keep to ourselves. It could be data files that are so important to your company that your job hangs in the balance. Maybe you have secret plans drawn up on your home PC, and you don’t want busybody siblings, parents, spouses, or offspring peaking at them. Perhaps you travel and, on principle, you don’t want “The Man” getting into your stuff even legally—customs agents and border patrol can delay you plenty if you don’t show them what they want. Occasionally, we all need to make sure some of our important files aren’t open to all.

 

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The typical method for file protection is encryption—the process of turning your information into unreadable junk that can’t be opened without a password. However, encrypting a file is like sticking a red flag in the data that says, “Look at me! I’m ever so important and clandestine! Please, obsess over cracking my cipher! Decrypt me and you’ll know all my secrets.”

Thankfully, there is a better way—one that can work hand in hand with encryption. Camouflaging your data—and where you store it—can go a long way to providing you with peace of mind. Plus, you’ll never stir up those snoops in the first place.

Get in the Cloud
When we talk about hiding files, we typically mean they’re still stored on your computer hard drive but are invisible to digital peeping-toms. However, these days, a quick way to keep files handy but not readily visible is to store them in the cloud. The files remain hidden (the files aren’t physically with you), though you can access them anytime and anywhere on any computer. The secret of keeping the data truly hidden is to erase your browser history after accessing them and sign out of your cloud storage accounts without saving passwords. In theory, no one will ever know you have files online to access.

This isn’t the same as synchronizing data with the cloud and other computers, like you would with Dropbox or SugarSync or the like. Those services don’t hide your files; in fact, they, arguably, put them in more locations for people to find. To help hide them, you could cheat a little by deactivating synching to your computer for a limited period—say, when you’re traveling—and then turn it back on to get your files back on the drive later. But that defeats the purpose of ongoing synch. (Some of the tips below can help obscure files even when synched, however.).

There are a few ways to skin the cloud-storage cat, but right now the best services for the average computer user are:

• Amazon Cloud Drive (3 stars): You can store any kind of file, and if it’s a music file (MP3 or AAC), you can play it back easily with the Amazon Cloud Player app. The allotment is 5GB for free and then $1 per GB per year (so about $20 for 25GB a year). However, you can jump up to 20GB for “free” for a year if you purchase one MP3-based album from Amazon. Note: This service lacks sharing, backup, and online editing.

• Google Docs (3.5 stars): It was once the place where you went to edit files created with the Docs apps. Now Google lets you save any kind of file, too. You get 1GB free, but you can upgrade to 20GB for $5 per year—a better price than Amazon Cloud Drive but not as nice as Windows SkyDrive—and scale all the way up to 16TB for a measly $4,096 per year. The extra storage you buy is also shared with Gmail and Picasa for messages and pictures, respectively. Sharing is a regular component, and Docs is all about online editing, but you’d have to convert your files to its format during the file transfer to edit them later.

• Windows Live SkyDrive: Free file storage of 25GB is hard to beat. If they’re Microsoft Office files, you can edit them online easily either by opening the files instantly in the online Office app equivalent or at office.live.com (if you use Internet Explorer as your browser). Sharing files with others is a built-in feature. MCITP Training

Remember, most cloud storage is meant to be a backup of your local files. My suggestion, however, is to move files to the cloud. Leaving them on your hard drive means they’re still visible. The three services mentioned above excel at back up, as well as acting as a cloud-based hard drive (albeit not as if they’re a drive letter in Windows Explorer), which will help keep your files on the down low.

Amazon Thinks Every Penny Counts

All those loose coins sitting around your house are music to Amazon’s ears. The popular e-commerce site announced on Tuesday a program that will allow users of Coinstar counting machines to cash in their extra change for Amazon.com gift certificates.

 

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Coinstar normally charges an 8.9 percent convenience fee for use of its machines. However, by selecting the option to receive an Amazon gift certificate, users would be able to bypass the charge.

While Coinstar is not making money through convenience fees, it is making money off of each gift certificate sold, as Amazon is selling them to the company at a discount.

Both companies feel that such a deal will help expand their reach. Amazon’s customer base is largely made up of those with credit cards, and Coinstar’s growth has been limited by reluctance by consumers to pay the fee. With the deal, Amazon could now target cash-carrying consumers and Coinstar may be able to broaden its user base.

The program will initially be made available on 3,500 machines, with up to 5,000 machines offering the service by the end of the year, according to Coinstar. Since some machines also accept bills, a user could also load up a gift certificate by inserting bills into the machine.

Amazon is not the first company to sell gift certificates through Coinstar. Popular coffee store chain Starbucks last year successfully ran a pilot program that worked much in the same way. The Starbucks program now is offered on most Coinstar machines, along with gift cards from Hollywood Video and Pier 1 Imports.