HP Bursts into Hybrid Clouds

Hewlett-Packard Co. is looking to let customers create hybrid cloud services that extend internal private clouds to public cloud services.

The company today announced what it describes as a "dual bursting" capability that will allow customers to add capacity from outside cloud providers when they have a spike in demand for capacity.

Bursting will be applied to CloudSystem, HP's turnkey appliance based on its converged BladeSystem server, storage and network-based hardware, loaded with the company's Cloud Service Automation (CSA) software. HP launched CloudSystem back in January.

"We are going to allow customers to dynamically provision and harness IT resources, bursting and grabbing them from an external service provider. Or, [if] there are security or compliance concerns, they will be able to burst internally, as well," said Steve Dietch, HP's VP of cloud solutions and infrastructure, speaking at a press conference at HP's Discover conference taking place this week in Las Vegas.

The first partner that HP's service will connect with is Savvis. It is in technical preview now and is slated for availability later this year, said Nick van der Zweep, HP's director of business strategy.

HP is recruiting other partners, including those in its CloudAgile program, also announced Tuesday. CloudAgile is a program intended to give partners access to HP's direct sales force and network of channel partners to create hybrid cloud deployments.

"We are going to incent our sales teams to collaborate to do the right thing for the customer, regardless of where that solution gets deployed from a hybrid perspective, whether it be on-premise or off-premise," Dietch said.

The first partners announced to the program include Verizon, NaviSite, OpSource, Datapipe, Axcient, SHI and Harris.

Also at its Discover conference Tuesday, HP released two new cloud security services: Vulnerability Scanning which, as the name implies, scans nodes within a customer's cloud infrastructure, and Vulnerability Intelligence, a service that provides alerts on new threats, providing the means to react to those threats.

HP says it has offered these services to its largest outsourcing customers for years but now is delivering them as a managed service.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/07/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Cloud Sherpas Acquires Omnetic

Google Apps reseller Cloud Sherpas today said it has acquired Google solution provider Omnetic for an undisclosed sum.

By acquiring Omnetic, Cloud Sherpas says it will have the largest concentration of Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialists outside of Google. Cloud Sherpas says it has migrated 800,000 users to Google Apps, while Omnetic has moved 100,000.

The move by Atlanta-based Cloud Sherpas to acquire Omnetic will give it a West Coast presence, since Omnetic is based in San Francisco. Besides its Atlanta headquarters, Cloud Sherpas has offices in Austin, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

"The addition of Omnetic significantly enhances our presence on the West Coast," said Cloud Sherpas CEO Jon Hallett in a statement. "With an office and a highly trained staff in San Francisco, we can bolster relationships with regional clients and prospects, and with Google itself, which will be critical as Google introduces new products and programs for customers and partners."

Cloud Sherpas also pointed to Omnetic's customer base, which includes National Geographic, Dr. Martens, Design Within Reach, Mazda Raceway and the Schumacher Group.

In addition to providing integration services, Cloud Sherpas offers the SherpaTools IT admin tool for Google Apps, which the company said is installed on 16,000 domains accounting for 3 million users.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/02/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


RightScale Launches MultiCloud Marketplace

RightScale this week kicked off its MultiCloud Marketplace, aimed at providing a repository for buying and selling cloud management solutions.

The goal is to provide predefined cloud deployments, while offering the ability to customize them, the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company said. Some of the solutions will be free, others available to RightScale subscribers and yet others for sale by partners. Enterprises can also create their own walled-off version of the marketplace to share their own pre-defined cloud deployments.

The marketplace is a clearing house for what RightScale calls ServerTemplates, which allow the server to dynamically configure itself to whatever role it's supposed to be in relation to other servers in the cloud. For example, you can have a Web server launch to absorb higher loads and it can automatically detect which load balancer it's supposed to be working with, which application server, which database and so on, explained RightScale CEO Michael Crandell.

"It's really a key part of automation," he told me. "It also makes launching more predictable and reliable because every time you launch that server, the same template is at work, and you only can change a few variables. You're not going to get different results on the fourth launch from the first one. So the reliability goes up and IT departments like it because the governance and control goes up because they know exactly what's running when a user runs a server."

The marketplace provides the ability for partners to offer their own solutions in the form of ServerTemplates. "The other thing that's new and unique in the cloud space is that these ServerTemplates, if you design them correctly, run across multiple cloud infrastructures, hence the name MultiCloud Marketplace," Crandell said. "That's very powerful because at the end of the day it returns freedom of choice back to the end user to choose which cloud infrastructure they want to use for their own reasons, at any given time."

Among the cloud providers RightScale supports are Amazon Web Services, Rackspace Hosting, Eucalyptus and Cloud.com. RightScale intends to support Microsoft's Windows Azure once a forthcoming release of its VM Role is made available.

Some partner ServerTemplates in the marketplace include IBM's DB2 database and WebSphere Web Server, and Zend has a collection of ServerTemplates that run a full PHP scalable Web site using Zend's PHP accelerator.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/01/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Is Office 365 Coming in June?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Office 365 will launch in June but company officials are not confirming that timing.

Office 365 is the successor to Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services offering. It provides hosted Exchange, SharePoint and Lync along with integration to Office.

Until now, the company only would confirm that Office 365 would be available sometime this year but many have speculated it will come sooner than later. But Ballmer said in a speech last week that it will launch in June. Blogger Mary Jo Foley, who last week reported on the anticipated ship date prior to the Microsoft CEO's comments, noticed and tweeted Ballmer's comments Tuesday.

Ballmer disclosed the planned launch date in a speech given at the Confederation of Indian Industry Cloud Summit in New Delhi. Microsoft posted a transcript of his speech here.

"We're pushing hard in the productivity space," Ballmer said. "We'll launch our Office 365 cloud service, which gives you Lync and Exchange and SharePoint and Office and more as a subscribable service that comes from the cloud. That launches in the month of June."

A company spokeswoman said she is aware of Ballmer's comments but the company's official ship date remains "sometime this year." Of course, Microsoft often holds launch events in advance of the shipment of a product, so it's hard to say that Ballmer's launch date would equate to a release.

Microsoft released the open beta of Office 365 in April and, so far, reaction has been positive. Testers have indicated that for a beta, it appeared pretty clean.

"I would say 99.9 percent seems like it's ready to go," said Chad Mosman, principal consultant with MessageOps and an Office 365 MVP. "There are minor things that don't seem to work, and I'll be the first to admit it might not be working because maybe I'm not doing something right. It seems pretty functional."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/31/2011 at 1:14 PM2 comments


Rackspace Launches Hosted Desktops

Rackspace Hosting is making a push into offering virtual hosted desktops.

The company last week announced it is working with Citrix and the company's joint partners to deliver virtual desktops to users on PCs as well as phones and tablets. Citing Gartner, Rackspace predicted 70 million users will have virtual desktops by 2014.

"We feel like it's the right timing. We are seeing a convergence of the proliferation of mobile devices and cloud computing, coming together as a good infrastructure to host virtual desktop solutions," said Chris Zagorski, Rackspace director of enterprise product development.

Zagorski explained that by leveraging the elasticity of Rackspace's RackConnect cloud servers, customers can use them to create Xen farms and scale up and scale down in minutes. It will work with Citrix's XenDesktop and XenApp solutions.

Joint Citrix and Rackspace channel partners will provide customized solutions, he said. Rackspace has also partnered with NetApp to provide higher-speed storage and with Akamai and Riverbed to provide accelerated connectivity.

End-user pricing can range anywhere from approximately $25 to $50-plus per seat per month, depending on configuration, according to Zagorski.

For those wanting more turnkey offerings, Rackspace also has partnered with Desktone, which offers an alternative to the Citrix offering. "The Desktone solution is much more turnkey in terms of the pricing as well as the control panel that they provide for customers to be able to add users," Zagorski said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/30/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Oracle Databases Released to Amazon Cloud

Back in February, Amazon Web Services announced it would support Oracle 11G Release 2 databases on its Relational Database Service (RDS). On Tuesday, Amazon said the service is ready.

Amazon is offering two key licensing models for those who want to run Oracle on RDS: "License Included" and "Bring Your Own License."

Pricing for the version that includes a license starts at 16 cents per hour for a small instance. That price includes software, hardware and RDS management capabilities. For those with larger scale requirements, pricing for large instances is 64 cents. Extra-large, double extra-large and quadruple extra-large instances are available for 85 cents, $1.70 and $3.40, respectively.

For those who want to bring their own licenses, the rates start at 11 cents for a small instance and 44 cents for a large instance. Extra-large instances are 65 cents, double extra-large instances cost $1.30 and quadruple are $2.60. Amazon posted a detailed spec sheet and price list here.

"As is generally the case with AWS, we'll be adding even more functionality to this service in the months to come. Already on the drawing board is support for enhanced fault tolerance," said Amazon Web Services evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post.

"When I demonstrate Amazon RDS to developers I get the sense that it really changes their conception of what a database is and how they can use it," Barr wrote. "They enter the room thinking of the database as a static entity, one that they create once in a great while and leave thinking that they can now create databases on a dynamic, as-needed basis for development, experimentation, testing and the like."

Barr said a Launch DB Wizard is available on the AWS Management Console that will guide administrators through the various setup options.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/24/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Intel Taps Hybrid Clouds for SMBs

Intel is rolling out what it describes as a hybrid cloud service that will allow small and medium businesses to deploy bundled solutions on their premises that would be administered by a managed service provider.

Think of it as having the benefits of paying for Software as a Service, in that customers pay for usage but have the data and apps on-premises. Still, it is managed by an outside provider.

The Intel AppUp Small Business Service Catalog is kicking off with solutions from about two dozen software vendors whose offerings will run on the Intel Hybrid Cloud Platform. Among the software vendors and ISVs whose offerings are in the catalog are Allscripts, Asigra, Astaro, Coversant, GFI, Intuit, KineticD, Level Platforms, Microsoft, Novell, Symantec and Vembu, among others.

Customers will have a server on premises based on Intel's reference architecture by OEM partners that will be delivered by the MSP. Initially single-socket Xeon servers will be available from Lenovo and white-box server vendors, with dual-socket servers to follow from Acer and NEC, and perhaps others in the future. Customers can lease the servers from the MSP or the vendors, Intel officials said.

The Intel Hybrid Cloud software stack provides secure usage monitoring that enables the pay-as-you-go service. The AppUp service catalog consists of a variety of solutions, some that Intel officials outlined on a conference call, including:

  • ERP as a Service: Running Windows Server 2008 R2, Intuit's QuickBooks and firewall, backup and anti-virus software from partners in the catalog.

  • Collaboration as a Service: Windows Small Business Server with Exchange and SharePoint, backup and anti-virus software.

  • Security as a Service: Astaro's unified threat management suite.

  • Backup as a Service: Vembu's StoreGrid backup software, which allows customers to backup locally and to a cloud provider such as Amazon Web Services.

Everybody benefits in this model, explained Bridget Karlin, general manager for Intel Hybrid Cloud. "The small business benefits because they get access to the pay-as-you-go software. They have cloud access to the software catalog for the applications that are important to them, and they have their data on-site, with no capital expenditure up front for the server hardware," Karlin said.

For a physician's office, delivering electronic medical record (EMR) solutions may be out of reach for some, Karlin explained. But if it can be delivered in a cloud model, where the office can pay for it on a subscription basis yet keep the data securely on-premise (a key requirement), that might address many of the barriers to deploying the EMR solution. 

"We've had some of our health care ISVs identify that this is a fantastic solution to take their EMR applications, load that onto the hybrid cloud server, maybe wrap it with some other offerings and basically launch that up to the market as EMR in a box," Karlin said.

MSPs and ISVs also benefit, Karlin said, in that they can immediately convert their customers to a subscription model or take on customers that were otherwise out of reach. "They get access to an online software catalog and from that catalog they are able to create their own offers, they can put together different bundles, wrap their services around it and essentially now create valuable offerings out to their small business customers," she said. "And they get the benefit of a preconfigured server that gets deployed on-site at the customer location that they can conveniently and in a trusted manner remotely manage."

And of course, she added, the OEMs and white-box server vendors benefit because they have the opportunity to deliver their hardware in this new hybrid cloud model.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/24/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Will Outages Affect Your Appetite for Office 365?

Last week's Exchange Online outages provided a healthy reminder that chances are, if you sign on for Microsoft's Office 365, at some point you may be destined to experience service interruptions, if not a full-blown loss of service.

Some angry Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) customers reported they were down for many hours last week. And yesterday, Microsoft confirmed more problems in the form of delays in messages going through (most were by 15 minutes to an hour, All About Microsoft's Mary Jo Foley reported).

Those affected by the outages have expressed frustration and even raised questions as to whether moving off an in-house system to Microsoft's Office 365 is a prudent thing to do.

"If really bad delays continue, there is little doubt we will be migrating back to internal Exchange or maybe corporate Gmail. Business cannot function like this and I would have very little confidence in MS's ability to support its SLA in either this or Office [365]," said one poster to the Microsoft Online Services Forum.

Microsoft acknowledges that service problems are inevitable but expressed confidence that they will be minimal and will be addressed expeditiously. "Any time you run a service for someone else there may be hiccups and we do our best to remove those hiccups," said Tom Rizzo, senior director of Microsoft's Online Services, business in an interview this week.

"We are continuously learning. It's no different than if customers ran the software themselves, where you can continuously learn to run the software better or run your services better or support better, or communications better," Rizzo said. "It's going to be a little bit of a learning process for both us and our customers and our partners, but we're committed a thousand percent to try to make the service as seamless as possible and make sure it's meeting the SLAs that we promised."

Indeed, others were more sanguine about the notion that outages are inevitable regardless whether Exchange, SharePoint and other applications are hosted internally or externally. Case in point is the city of San Francisco, which this week announced it is converting its in-house farm of messaging systems (a mixture of Lotus Notes and Exchange) to Microsoft's Exchange Online.

The city said it will spend $1.2 million a year to convert 23,000 mailboxes to Exchange Online, which is now part of BPOS but will transition to Office 365 over the next year.

San Francisco's CIO Jon Walton said while he was concerned about the outages, it did not affect his decision to go with Exchange Online. He suggested the city has experienced outages with its in-house systems and if there has to be an outage, he'd rather it be Microsoft's problem and not his to deal with.

"In the past when we've had outages, it was a complex problem to solve. You had seven systems. If the outage happened in the evening, you were calling workers back in," Walton said. "With the Microsoft solution, they are available 24x7 to us."

Others I've chatted with this week had similar feelings. What's your take? Have recent outages by Microsoft and other providers affected your willingness to turn your messaging and collaboration infrastructure over to Microsoft even with their financially-backed service-level agreements? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/20/2011 at 1:14 PM1 comments


San Francisco Moves E-Mail to Microsoft's Cloud

The city of San Francisco plans to migrate from its farms of Lotus Notes and Exchange servers to the cloud with Microsoft's Exchange Online service.

Some 23,000 users across 60 departments and agencies in San Francisco will move to Exchange Online over the next 12 months, Microsoft and the city announced on Wednesday at a press teleconference held in San Francisco. Also considered were Google Apps and LotusLive.

The deal is valued at $1.2 million per year, amounting to $6.50 per user per month, San Francisco CIO Jon Walton said. "That is a significant savings to the city, and as a matter of fact was one of the key ways that the Department of Technology was able to achieve its 20 percent budget reduction target for this fiscal year, which was directed from the mayor's office," Walton said.

The city is currently operating seven e-mail systems, and the cost of administering them was a key factor in its decision to move e-mail to the cloud. The fact that the city is a heavy user of Microsoft Office and SharePoint and has started to use Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud service weighed heavily in choosing Exchange Online, according to Walton.

Walton was well aware of last week's Exchange Online outage, which left many customers fuming, though Walton wasn't one of them. "The reality of it for us is e-mail outages unfortunately are not something that haven't happened to us before," he said, noting the outage in San Francisco's case only led to a delay in delivery of messages of four hours.

"We actually see what happened last week with the Microsoft outage as really demonstrating why we think we made the right decision," Walton said. "We were able to have a single point of contact. Microsoft kept us very up to speed. We were in close contact with them. We lost no messages."

As for Office 365, Walton isn't ruling that out for the future, but it's not in the current plan. "We are certainly interested in [Office] 365, because we have budget challenges here in the city. I think it will come down to a conversation about cost," he said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/19/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


SAP Ties to Amazon, Microsoft Clouds

SAP is looking to make it easier for its solutions to work in the cloud. Toward that end, the company has announced separate pacts with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft.

The announcements were made at the company's annual Sapphire Now conference, taking place this week in Orlando.

Under the agreement with Amazon, a number of SAP solutions are now available on the Amazon cloud service, including SAP Rapid Deployment solutions and SAP Business Objects offerings running on Linux instances. Within a few months, the two companies will deliver support for ERP solutions running on Windows instances, as well.

The two companies have completed testing and said that SAP solution deployments on Amazon meet the requirements of on-premises SAP solutions.

"As a pioneer in cloud computing, Amazon Web Services has a proven model that provides the combination of low cost -- along with stability, reliability and security that is now certified and available to our customers," said Sanjay Poonen, SAP's president of Global Solutions, in a statement.

Under the Microsoft deal, the two companies have agreed to provide tighter integration between SAP's software and Redmond's virtualization and cloud computing offerings. Among other things, SAP is going to make it easier for .NET developers to work with SAP solutions. Moreover, the two companies plan to link SAP's forthcoming landscape management software with Microsoft's System Center and Hyper-V virtualization technology.

"Through these connected offerings, SAP and Microsoft customers will be able to easily scale their deployments in their own data centers or through private clouds," said Ted Kummert, senior vice president of Microsoft's Business Platform Division, in a blog post.

The plan also calls for enabling hybrid cloud deployments using Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud service in the future.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/18/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Autonomy Grabs Iron Mountain Digital Assets

Autonomy is acquiring pieces of Iron Mountain's digital division including its archiving, eDiscovery and online backup offerings, the company announced this week.

The deal is valued at $380 million in cash, Autonomy said. The acquisition of Iron Mountain's assets will extend Autonomy's own information governance business.

"Processing customer data in the cloud continues to be a strategic part of Autonomy's information governance business," said Mike Lynch, Group CEO of Autonomy, in a statement. "We look forward to extending regulatory compliance, legal discovery and analytics to a host of new customers as well as enabling the intelligent collection and processing of non-regulatory data from distributed servers, PCs and especially tens of millions of mobile devices."

The acquisition of the Iron Mountain digital asset adds more than 6 petabytes of data under management and more than 6,000 customers to Autonomy. That will bring Autonomy's private cloud data to more than 25 petabytes with a total customer base exceeding 25,000, the company said. Some other points, according to Autonomy's announcement:

  • Assets acquired include digital archiving, eDiscovery and online backup and recovery solutions of Iron Mountain Digital, but not the technology escrow service and a medical records archive service and other smaller operations which were recently shut down.

  • Active Iron Mountain Digital customers will continue to be supported without disruption.

  • Autonomy to offer Connected, the digital data protection product, to existing Autonomy customers across enterprise server, PC and mobile devices. The addition of this product drives non-regulatory and structured data into our cloud-based information processing platform.

The deal is pending regulatory clearance and other closing conditions. Autonomy predicts the deal will close within 60 days.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/18/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Quest Readies Azure Admin Tools

Tools vendor Quest Software is looking to make it easier to manage applications running in Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud service.

The company is at Tech-Ed this week in Atlanta showing three new tools: Cloud Subscription Manager, Cloud Storage Manager and Spotlight on Azure.

When it comes to the cloud, "The largest challenge that we come across in talking to our customers seems to be around cost and cost management, particularly in understanding whether you're under-deployed or over-deployed with your cloud assets," said Quest's chief architect Douglas Chrystall.

Cloud Subscription Manager pulls in all the objects that you've got running in Azure. It will analyze those objects, look for objects which are not being used and notify the administrator. It could be a database, additional work or server roles that have been created, storage created that's just not getting used or perhaps being under-utilized, Chrystall explained.

It may recognize, for example, that a database hasn't been used for six weeks, and perhaps it should be decommissioned from the cloud. "It will actually give you an analysis where we report back," he said.  "We've found organizations that have literally managed to decide to [lower] their cloud costs pretty much overnight just by running the product for the first time."

Cloud Storage Manager helps manage the cost of storing data in Azure. Storing data in the cloud can become costly, especially if it's data that isn't being used. Cloud Storage Manager allows you to browse, search and basically analyze your storage accounts in Azure.

"What we've done with the Cloud Storage Manager is give you a Windows Explorer way of examining cloud storage," Chrystall said. "We allow you to browse through your cloud storage just as if it was directories and subfolders." That's important, he noted, because cloud storage is flat. There's no such thing as a physical directory or subdirectory -- it's all managed from the root node, he pointed out.

"We give you a way of managing that storage basically like a virtual directory structure, and we allow you to copy files from your on-premise storage systems through to the cloud-based storage systems and vice versa," he said. Cloud Storage manager also lets you synchronize an on-premise directory with a cloud directory.

Spotlight on Azure provides performance and diagnostics for apps running in the Microsoft cloud. With the tools Microsoft provides, you can monitor and look at the performance of individual roles and see how they're performing, but there's no way to see how a fully deployed application is performing as a whole, Chrystall said. 

"From running Spotlight on Azure, within seconds you can tell exactly how your Azure application is performing," he said.

All three of these tools consist of software that is installed and runs on desktops. They are now in beta and are slated for release this summer. The company hasn't disclosed pricing yet but indicated the Cloud Storage Manager will be offered as a freebie.

Asked if this software will be offered for other cloud services, Chrystall indicated that is the plan for later this year, though he declined to elaborate other than to say Quest is looking at the top three or four cloud providers.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/17/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


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