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Christian Steiger

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August 2010

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Coalitions and Communities – 3 Cloud Initiatives from the Summer of 2010 – ReadWriteCloud

Thumbnail image for above_cloud_july10.jpgAs we wrote yesterday, the summer of 2010 has been marked in the cloud computing world by open-sourcing technologies and multi-vendor agreements.

We started the summer with OpenStack, the Rackspace and NASA open-cloud initiative. Earlier this week, Red Hat open-sourced its Deltacloud API.

Also this week, newScale, rPath, Eucalyptus Systems and Momentum SI teamed up to begin offering a self-service cloud.

We thought it might be a good time to take a brief look at the offerings, especially as more efforts like this are bound to unfold.

Deltacloud API

Red Hat announced this week that it is open-sourcing its Deltacloud API and has contributed it to the Apache Software Foundation. The API is compatible with all the major cloud service providers. The move is significant. Red Hat is a company associated with open-source. By offering Deltacloud as a standard, it provides a window for RedHat to market its stack more effectively to the enterprise.

DeltacloudDocumentation.jpg

It also breathes new life into Deltacloud. Red Hat had announced Deltacloud last year as an ecosystem that can work across public and private clouds. It was touted for its portability but customers did not buy it. It seemed like a lock-in. Now it is really out in the open where it can be used by any service provider. And that plays to Red Hat and its core value as a service provider.

newScale, rPath, Eucalyptus Systems and Momentum SI

The companies announced a coalition this week that offers the enterprise an „on-ramp“ to private and hybrid cloud computing. Eucalyptus provides the infrastructure, newScale serves as a portal environment and rPath automates the software and systems deployment and maintenance. MomentumSI will handle the implementation.

Mike Vizard makes the point that IT departments and end users never really learned how to share. Historically, companies have allocated resources to applications. Sharing resources is a new behavior that an on-ramp may help encourage.

OpenStack

OpenStack may have the best shot of all the open cloud initiatives. It is supported by NASA and Rackspace. About 30 companies have joined the effort.

Rackspace is making a huge bet on OpenStack. Cloudkick CEO Alex Polvi wrote on GigaOm that Rackspace has overnight transformed itself from a hosting company to a development shop. That’s a gamble but the early signs show promise in the bet.

The code is there to attract developers. The software is licensed under Apache. Rackspace says that at any one time there are 130 to 140 developers are in the IRC channel. Patches are being made to the code which is encouraging as it shows that there is community participation in the project.

Community is driving the OpenStack effort. Companies joining OpenStack include Citrix and new services such as Opscode, which developed Chef. Rackspace has developed an iPad app, which is based on an app Racskpace developed earlier this year. According to Mike Mayo, „the app uses the OpenStack compute and storage APIs to help you manage your cloud resources, and offers a few features outside of the scope of the APIs, such as viewing RSS system status feeds, pinging your compute nodes from several locations around the world, and emailing files from OpenStack Object Storage.“

Further, it integrate with Opscode and Chef, automating the manual process of configuration that is required when setting up a node on the iPad.

The community is what sets OpenStack apart from the other efforts. It has the code base but more so there is an excitement about developing an open cloud infrastructure.

Deltacloud is an open API that has deep integration capabilities but we will have to see what kind of community involvement develops.

Eucalyptus and its partners have a compelling offering but these kinds of coalitions will pop up more frequently. They are effective but not unique.

Our bet is on OpenStack. The summer has passed and it continues to gain momentum. It may stall but our bet is the community will keep this effort ongoing for quite some time.

Free Wireframing Kits, UI Design Kits, PDFs and Resources – Smashing Magazine

To mock-up the user interface of a website, software or any other product, you’ll need some basic UI elements. And this is where wireframing kits and UI design kits come in handy. When you want to create a low-fidelity prototype for your projects, you can use these kits to give your idea a certain shape, keeping it abstract and not losing yourself in details.

In this post, we’ve prepared an overview of useful web and mobile user interface kits, handy PDFs and resources that you can use in your projects. We’ve carefully selected the most useful kits and resources to get you going in the early stages of a project.

The Answer to: How do We Compete with Amazon?

The Silicon Valley Cloud Computing Group had a meetup Wednesday on OpenStack, whose tag line is the open source, open standards cloud. I was shocked at the large turnout. 287 people registered and it looked like a large percentage of them actually showed up. I wonder, was it the gourmet pizza, the free t-shirts, or are people really that interested in OpenStack? And if they are really interested, why are they that interested? On the surface an open cloud doesn’t seem all that sexy a topic, but with contributions from NASA, from Rackspace, and from a very avid user community, a lot of interest there seems to be. 

The brief intro blurb to OpenStack is:

OpenStack allows any organization to create and offer cloud computing capabilities using open source software running on standard hardware. OpenStack Compute is software for automatically creating and managing large groups of virtual private servers. OpenStack Storage is software for creating redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of commodity servers to store terabytes or even petabytes of data.

This meeting seemed eerily familiar because oh so long ago, like just a few months ago, NASA presented on their internal cloud platform Nebula. And in that short a time everything changed. OpenStack was born, an active development community formed, and OpenStack is near its first official release. How quickly they grow up.

At the time I remember thinking about Nebula: wow, the government is really screwed up, good on these guys for trying to fix it, what a great job they are doing, not sure it would work for anyone else; going with an Amazon API compatibility strategy makes sense; and what a hodgepodge of different components, I bet it will be an operations nightmare.  

I learned yesterday that the biggest change is that they are dumping Amazon compatibility mode. Since Amazon hasn’t said it’s OK to use their APIs it’s risky legally to clone them. But I suspect the most important reason is the entrance of Rackspace into the mix. Instead of Amazon APIs they are moving to Rackspace APIs. This makes perfect sense and argues for the result actually working in a real-life cloud since Rackspace is a real-life cloud vendor. Rackspace is also very active in the open source movement, so this is a great match and should solidify adoption.

I imagine what Rackspace gets out of this is, that if successful, they will at least have some sort of leverage with Amazon. Amazon is a machine. Amazon executes to perfection and they release new features at a relentless pace with no signs of slowing down. They don’t leave much of a door open for others to get into the game. With a real open cloud alternative it might allow a lot of people to play in the cloud space that would have been squeezed out before.

What Amazon can’t match is the open cloud’s capability of simultaneous supporting applications that can run seamlessly in a private cloud hosted in a corporate datacenter, in local development and test clouds, and in a full featured public cloud.

What I’ve heard is that this is a move by public cloud vendors to commoditize the cloud infrastructure, which then allows the concentration on selling managed services. This strategy can only work if the infrastructure is a true commodity. Amazon has the ability to keep adding high-end features that can potentially nullify the commodity argument. Can an open source cloud move fast enough to compete?

Every framework and every API is a form of lock-in, but this feels a lot less like a strangle-hold. Amazon is concerned enough at least to bother condemning private clouds as unworkable and completely unnecessary with Amazon around. It at least means they care.

Eucalyptus, an Amazon compatible clone, was once part of Nebula but was dropped in favor of building their own software and using Rackspace’s work. Their reasoning was they had scaling problems with Eucalyptus and source code changes weren’t being merged into the main release so they had to maintain a separate code base, which isn’t a viable working relationship. So they opted for more control and are going their own way. Eucalyptus hasn’t stayed single long. They are forming a new self-service private cloud along with newScale and rPath.

A key design point emphasized in the meeting is that the design is componentized. They want you to be able swap in and out different implementations so it can be customized for your needs. It should be able to work on your network topology and on your disks. If you want a different authentication system then that should be possible. It’s still early though and their philosophy is make it work and then make it good, so it may be a while before they reach component nirvana, but that’s the vision. Part of the win of partnering with Rackspace is they’ve been through these wars before and understand how to build this sort of architecture.

The other point they really really wanted you to take home from the meeting is that this is the most openest open source project you’ve ever seen. An Apache style license is used so the entire source base is open for use and abuse. They rejected an open core model, so all the source is available and all the features are available. You are without limits.

The other sense that the project is open is that it has a very active development community. Have you been frustrated by other open source projects that give you a big rejection notice when you try to contribute code because you haven’t yet attained inner sanctum level 32? OpenStack promises to be different. They will actually merge your code in. How long this can last once real releases start happening, who knows, but it’s something.

Sebastion Stadl, founder of both the cloud meetup and Scalr, said he will talk to the OpenStack folks about making Scalr the RightScale equivalent for OpenStack. This would be great. The feeling I got from the talk is that OpenStack will primarily work on the framework, not operations, monitoring, etc., which is a mistake IMHO, but having Scalr on the job would help patch that hole in the offering.

The vibe from the meeting was excited and enthusiastic, like something was happening. There wasn’t a lot of technical detail in the presentations. This was much more of a coming-out party, the purpose of which is to inform society that there’s a new force in the market. We’ll see how many hearts get broken.

YouTube Debuts New Movies Section With 400 Free, Full-Length Films

YouTube has launched a new Movies category on its website, gathering about 400 full-length films for your on-demand viewing pleasure, all free of charge.

The new section, which is actually more like the next step in previously announced projects, comes courtesy of deals the Google company struck with U.S. studios like Lionsgate, MGM and Sony Pictures and UK service Blinkbox.

What can you find there? Loads of Bollywood flicks, a bunch of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan films, obscure horror movies and cartoons, among many other sections.

“This is one of many efforts to ensure that people can find all the different kinds of video they want to see, from bedroom vlogs and citizen journalism reports to full-length films and TV shows,” YouTube head of video partnerships Donagh O’Malley told The Guardian.

“We hope film lovers enjoy the range of titles in this free library, whether catching up on a mainstream hit or delving into the vast archive of classic films from decades past.”

Google Acquisitions

Tracking Google’s Acquisitions

Google Voice Integrated Into Gmail. Make And Receive Calls From The Browser

We were excited when we got our hands on an unlaunched version of Google Voice for the desktop, which let users make and receive calls via a soft phone on their computer. We hear that software is still on ice, though, and won’t be launched any time soon. But it probably doesn’t matter – today Google Voice is being integrated right into the browser via Gmail. It’s amazingly good – I know because I’ve been testing it for the last few days.

Just download the Google Talk plugin for your browser and you can then make calls to any U.S. or Canadian phone number directly from Gmail. And if you already use Google Voice you can make those calls anywhere else, too, for a very low per minute charge. The feature is fully integrated into Google Voice, which means you can set Google Voice to receive calls in Gmail, and use your Google Voice contact book. Dialing a phone number works just like a normal phone. Just click “Call phone” at the top of your chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.

This is great news if you’ve got bad cell reception in your home or workplace, because you can make and receive calls anywhere you have Wifi reception. Some other very cool features: if you’re on Google Voice and take a call from within Gmail, you switch a call over to your mobile phone and continue it on the go without having to drop the call and reconnect.

Call quality is very, very good – comparable to Skype. See video below of test calls we performed. (Play fullscreen for best viewing, and make sure to check out the screenshots below).

Pricing:
Calls to US and Canada for free at least through the end of the year. Google PM Real Time Communications Craig Walker says they hope to keep these calls free indefinitely, provided the margins on international calls can cover the free US/Canada calls.
2 cents/minute landline rates to dozens of countries, with no connection fee on calls.
Mobile rates are often less expensive than competitors.


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