ENTRIES TAGGED "cloud computing"

How did we end up with a centralized Internet for the NSA to mine?

The Internet is naturally decentralized, but it's distorted by business considerations.

I’m sure it was a Wired editor, and not the author Steven Levy, who assigned the title “How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet” to yesterday’s fine article about the pressures on large social networking sites. Whoever chose the title, it’s justifiably grandiose because to many people, yes, companies such as Facebook and Google constitute what they know as the Internet. (The article also discusses threats to divide the Internet infrastructure into national segments, which I’ll touch on later.)

So my question today is: How did we get such industry concentration? Why is a network famously based on distributed processing, routing, and peer connections characterized now by a few choke points that the NSA can skim at its leisure?
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Financial analytics as a service

Analytic services are tailoring their solutions for specific problems and domains

In relatively short order Amazon’s internal computing services has become the world’s most successful cloud computing platform. Conceived in 2003 and launched in 2006, AWS grew quickly and is now the largest web hosting company in the world. With the recent addition of Kinesis (for stream processing), AWS continues to add services and features that make it an attractive platform for many enterprises.

A few other companies have followed a similar playbook: technology investments that benefit a firm’s core business, is leased out to other companies, some of whom may operate in the same industry. An important (but not well-known) example comes from finance. A widely used service provides users with clean, curated data sets and sophisticated algorithms with which to analyze them. It turns out that the world’s largest asset manager makes its investment and risk management systems available to over 150 pension funds, banks, and other institutions. In addition to the $4 trillion managed by BlackRock, the company’s Aladdin Investment Management system is used to manage1 $11 trillion in additional assets from external managers.

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OpenStack release offers more flexibility and aids to performance

The Havana release features metering and orchestration

I talked this week to Jonathan Bryce and Mark Collier of OpenStack to look at the motivations behind the enhancements in the Havana release announced today. We focused on the main event–official support for the Ceilometer metering/monitoring project and the Heat orchestration project–but covered a few small bullet items as well.

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Survey on the Future of Open Source, and Lessons from the Past

Quality and security drive adoption, but community is rising fast

I recently talked to two managers of Black Duck, the first company formed to help organizations deal with the licensing issues involved in adopting open source software. With Tim Yeaton, President and CEO, and Peter Vescuso, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, I discussed the seventh Future of Open Source survey, from which I’ll post a few interesting insights later. But you can look at the slides for yourself, so this article will focus instead on some of the topics we talked about in our interview. While I cite some ideas from Yeaton and Vescuso, many of the observations below are purely my own.

The spur to collaboration

One theme in the slides is the formation of consortia that develop software for entire industries. One recent example everybody knows about is OpenStack, but many industries have their own impressive collaboration projects, such as GENIVI in the auto industry.

What brings competitors together to collaborate? In the case of GENIVI, it’s the impossibility of any single company meeting consumer demand through its own efforts. Car companies typically take five years to put a design out to market, but customers are used to product releases more like those of cell phones, where you can find something enticingly new every six months. In addition, the range of useful technologies—Bluetooth, etc.—is so big that a company has to become expert at everything at once. Meanwhile, according to Vescuso, the average high-end car contains more than 100 million lines of code. So the pace and complexity of progress is driving the auto industry to work together.

All too often, the main force uniting competitors is the fear of another vendor and the realization that they can never beat a dominant vendor on its own turf. Open source becomes a way of changing the rules out from under the dominant player. OpenStack, for instance, took on VMware in the virtualization space and Amazon.com in the IaaS space. Android attracted phone manufacturers and telephone companies as a reaction to the iPhone.

A valuable lesson can be learned from the history of the Open Software Foundation, which was formed in reaction to an agreement between Sun and AT&T. In the late 1980s, Sun had become the dominant vendor of Unix, which was still being maintained by AT&T. Their combination panicked vendors such as Digital Equipment Corporation and Apollo Computer (you can already get a sense of how much good OSF did them), who promised to create a single, unified standard that would give customers increased functionality and more competition.

The name Open Software Foundation was deceptive, because it was never open. Instead, it was a shared repository into which various companies dumped bad code so they could cynically claim to be interoperable while continuing to compete against each other in the usual way. It soon ceased to exist in its planned form, but did survive in a fashion by merging with X/Open to become the Open Group, an organization of some significance because it maintains the X Window System. Various flavors of BSD failed to dislodge the proprietary Unix vendors, probably because each BSD team did its work in a fairly traditional, closed fashion. It remained up to Linux, a truly open project, to unify the Unix community and ultimately replace the closed Sun/AT&T partnership.

Collaboration can be driven by many things, therefore, but it usually takes place in one of two fashions. In the first, somebody throws out into the field some open source code that everybody likes, as Rackspace and NASA did to launch OpenStack, or IBM did to launch Eclipse. Less common is the GENIVI model, in which companies realize they need to collaborate to compete and then start a project.

A bigger pie for all

The first thing on most companies’ minds when they adopt open source is to improve interoperability and defend themselves against lock-in by vendors. The Future of Open Source survey indicates that the top reasons for choosing open source is its quality (slide 13) and security (slide 15). This is excellent news because it shows that the misconceptions of open source are shattering, and the arguments by proprietary vendors that they can ensure better quality and security will increasingly be seen as hollow.
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U.S. Senate to consider long overdue reforms on electronic privacy

The silver lining in the role of cloud-based email in the CIA Director's resignation is a renewed focus on digital privacy.

In 2010, electronic privacy needed digital due process. In 2012, it’s worth defending your vanishing rights online.

This week, there’s an important issue before Washington that affects everyone who sends email, stores files in Dropbox or sends private messages on social media. In January, O’Reilly Media went dark in opposition to anti-piracy bills. Personally, I believe our right to digital due process for government to access private electronic are just as important.

Why? Here’s the context for my interest. The silver lining in the way former CIA Director David Petraeus’ affair was discovered may be its effect on the national debate around email and electronic privacy, and our rights in a surveillance state. The courts and Congress have failed to fully address the constitutionality of warrantless wiretapping of cellphones and the location of “persons of interest.” Phones themselves, however, are a red herring. What’s at stake is the Fourth Amendment in the 21st century, with respect to the personal user data that telecommunications and technology firms hold that government is requesting without digital due process.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the landmark 1986 legislation that governs the protections citizens have when they communicate using the Internet or cellphones. (It’s the small item on the bottom of this meeting page.)

UPDATE: Senator Leahy’s manager’s amendment to ECPA passed but Politico’s Tony Romm reports that the full Congress is unlikely to pass ECPA reform in this session.

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OpenStack Foundation boosts vendor participation

Firming up the organization is good for everyone

Organizational stabilization has been more of an urgent task for OpenStack than most community, open-source projects because it has grown to fast and so much is at stake in the computer industry. I reported on the creation of OpenStack a little more than two years ago and on the announcement that a foundation would be set up a little less than one year ago. This past Wednesday, the OpenStack Foundation came officially into existence.

Up until the creation of the foundation, the myriad technical and organizational components of OpenStack were coordinated by Rackspace, one of the contributors of the original software (the other contributor was NASA). I imagine that Rackspace’s management was as eager as anyone to hand over official control to a neutral body, because they had to take a lot of the heat for decisions and directions that sometimes verged on the chaotic. Read more…

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Recombinant Research: Breaking open rewards and incentives

Can open data dominate biological science as open source has in software?

To move from a hothouse environment of experimentation to the mainstream of one of the world's most lucrative and tradition-bound industries, Sage Bionetworks must aim for its nucleus: rewards and incentives. Comparisons to open source software and a summary of tasks for Sage Congress.

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Recombinant Research: Sage Congress plans for patient engagement

The Vioxx problem is just one instance of the wider malaise afflicting the drug industry. Managers from major pharma companies expressed confidence that they could expand public or "pre-competitive" research in the direction Sage Congress proposed. The sector left to engage is the one that's central to all this work–the public.

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Four short links: 23 April 2012

Four short links: 23 April 2012

Three Strikes, Cloud Sovereignty, Flipped Classroom, and Open Tactical Playbook

  1. How’s That Three Strikes Thing Working Out? (Paul Brislen) — The rights holders in New Zealand put together an ad campaign based on the destruction of value of New Zealand content, yet it hasn’t defended a single New Zealand artist.
  2. USTR Telling You Where To Stick Your DataA number of US companies had expressed concerns that various departments in the Australian Government, namely, the Department of Defence, The National Archives of Australia, the Department of Finance and Deregulation, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and the State of Victoria’s Privacy Commissioner had been sending negative messages about cloud providers based outside the country, implying that “hosting data overseas, including in the United States, by definition entails greater risk and unduly exposes consumers to their data being scrutinised by foreign governments”. Negative message, but a true one. (via Slashdot)
  3. On Flipping the Classroom (Wired) — Moving a lecture online changes where that information is consumed, not necessarily the degree of student engagement or its effectiveness. Curricula provider Mathalicious critiqued Khan Academy as “one of the most dangerous phenomena in education today.” Hear, hear. Praise Khan for the feedback it provides teachers on where their kids are at, but even in Stanford’s trials in schools they find kids use the videos as absolute last resort for learning something.
  4. What Simon Wardley Is Up To (Google Plus) — I’m researching and writing a tactical playbook for competition in an open world based upon concepts of evolution, value chain and ecosystems using techniques such as choke points, barriers, tower and moat, ILC, inertia, economic phases (build, peace, war), new organisational methods etc etc. WANT. (Apologies, don’t know if O’Reilly is publishing this or not–I’m arm’s length from the publishing side of things)
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MySQL in 2012: Report from Percona Live

Checking in on the state of MySQL.

Contrasting deployments at craigslit and Pinterest, trends, commercial offerings, and more

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