Industry Standardizing on Containers with Open Container Project

“Open” is not just providing open source software. It’s also, and perhaps more importantly, about open standards, enabling the community to converge on one single path and work together on improving it. The absence of such agreement drives the community to wars for domination, especially in emerging fields. We see that with the Internet of Things, with cloud computing and network virtualization.

The containers community, headed by Docker, was no different. Docker’s success drew the attention of every major player, including every major player in the cloud and DevOps world, and created competing standards which threatened to draw everyone into battles for domination. But there’s good news. This week at DockerCon 2015 these players joined forces to form the Open Container Project (OCP).  The new governance body, formed under The Linux Foundation, aims to create standards around container format and runtime. And though under Linux Foundation governance, it certainly targets other operating systems, with Microsoft pushing Windows.

The Open Container Project has all major cloud players, including Amazon, Google (which promotes Kubernetes), Microsoft, HP, IBM. It also has players in the DevOps scene such as Docker itself and CoreOS (which offers a prominent competing container called appc), Mesosphere, Rancher Labs, Red Hat and VMware/EMC.

Seems Docker will be leading the path, writing the first draft of the format specification and using Docker’s implementation as baseline. Docker’s first contribution is runC, which is already available on the project’s GitHub page. But that’s only the beginning. The true test will be the adoption within enterprises, which have been struggling in adopting the technology.

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Samsung Launches IoT Open Cloud and Artik IoT Platform

On last year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Samsung announced its new Smart Home Service, which was followed by the acquisition of SmartThings for smart home hub (you can read my coverage on both in this post). Then on this year’s CES conference Samsung reinforced the statements, stating that within five years all of its hardware will be able to connect to the Internet, and putting great emphasis on openness and vendor collaboration as the way to fulfill the IoT promise. On his keynote at CES2015, Samsung President and CEO Boo-Keun Yoon said that

Without this kind of openness, there won’t be an Internet of Things because the things will not fit together

Samsung has been pursuing openness by actively collaborating in several open standardization groups in the IoT field, such as Google’s Thread Group and the Open Interconnect Consortium, as well as investing in an open developer community. Samsung’s aforementioned acquisition SmartThings is also an open platform, compatible with several different smart home standards.

Now Samsung is taking it another step forward, with the recent announcement of SmartThings Open Cloud, a new open software and data aggregation cloud for the Internet of Things (IoT), which is coupled with Samsung’s SAMI architecture. The new platform promises to ease the lives of device manufacturers and developers when coming to innovate with connected devices and related applications.

In attempt to make it easier for developers to build IoT solutions, Samsung also recently launched Artik platform, with an initial suite of modules optimized for performance, battery life and small form-factor, to meet the typical range of IoT use cases. The modules come in different specs, with built-in sensors and hardware security, and supporting various communication protocols such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the popular IoT protocol ZigBee. The Artik platform comes with development tools and open APIs that aim to ease the development. Samsung is initially opening the platform only to a limited group of developers as alpha users.

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Google’s Secret Android OS To Rule The Internet Of Things

See updates fresh from Google I/O conf added at the bottom

Google is reportedly developing a new operating system (OS) under the Android brand, aimed at running low-powered devices (as low as 64 or even 32 MB RAM), which are very common in today’s connected world. If the new operating system, code-named ‘Brillo’, gains similar traction as the Android brand, it may become the engine running the multitude of connected devices now looking for a common platform. Google may also offer it free of charge for OEMs to increase penetration.

This is not the first indication that Google wants to be the framework that drives the Internet of Things (IoT). Last year Google initiated the Thread Group, an open consortium of industry leaders which by now has over 80 members, with the goal of defining the communications protocol for the Internet of Things. Last month the Thread Group also partnered with the ZigBee Alliance, the alliance behind the popular ZigBee open wireless standard for IoT, to support interoperability and enable the ZigBee Cluster Library to run over Thread networks.

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Google also promotes IoT on the research front. Last December Google launched an open IoT research program called the “Open Web of Things”, to encourage research around burning topics in IoT such as security, privacy and protocols.

Another interesting angle that I bet Google will explore is the integration with its latest big data cloud offering to enable processing, storage and analytics of the massive amounts of data generated by the IoT, enhancing its cloud’s IoT solutions.

What exactly is the new ‘Brillo’ OS? How does it relate to the Thread Group’s protocol? How will that integrate with Google’s cloud offering? We’ll probably get more information in a couple of days at Google I/O conference.

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Update: Today at Google I/O conference we got the official announcement of Brillo OS. There wasn’t much more detail than the above, but one note was made on developer tools for voice commands, so people could “order” their devices with natural language. And here’s the developer website for Project Brillo.

More importantly, together with Brillo Google announced Weave, which seems like yet another standard for the common language of the Internet of Things. With Weave communications protocol, events can be defined by one device and followed by others to trigger custom actions. We’ll have to wait for the full detail on that, to understand how Weave is different from the multitude of other standards.

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The Community Needs Quality Tech News. Don’t Let TechCrunch Go Down Like Gigaom

Only fast-paced hi-tech industry can produce such drama: TechCrunch just reported its own acquisition, together with the parent company AOL, by Verizon. Verizon will buy AOL for $4.4 Billion. However, it is still unclear what Verizon is going to do with AOL’s different activities, including TechCrunch. As TechCrunch writer and editor Ingrid Lunden wrote

There are lingering questions about whether it’s an all-in deal for the longer term, or whether certain operations that are not as central to Verizon’s bigger strategy may eventually get offloaded.

Reading this, I could not help remembering what happened with the successful tech blog Gigaom just a couple of months ago. Back then, Gigaom publisher fired all of its employees in quite a surprising announcement. In that case, it turned out financial debts were accumulating quietly. The drama was big, from the first dripping tweets to the following network flood, with rumors, guesses, protests, bits shared by Gigaom employees, best wishes by the community members, and one touching statement by Gigaom founder Om Malik, confessing

It is not how you want the story of a company you founded to end.

But beyond the financial details and drama, the bigger picture is that the websites and blogs serve as a vital voice for the tech community, and a place for the community to get together, both virtually and physically in their impressive conferences. We need these channels up, running, quality and objective.

Good Luck to all TechCrunch team!

Read the TechCrunch coverage of the acquisition here.

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Microsoft Brings Azure Cloud To The Enterprise Datacenter

Cloud computing is a market with huge potential, as the financial reports from Amazon and Microsoft earlier this month showed. But the really big potential yet vastly untapped is the enterprise cloud. Enterprises find it difficult to transition their IT to the cloud with their large array of existing applications, datacenters and security requirements. This is the holy grail for the cloud providers.

While big cloud providers Amazon and Google come from the consumers and are now trying to make their way to the enterprises, for Microsoft enterprises are the traditional playground, and Microsoft is trying to build on that and position its Azure public cloud as the enterprise preferred cloud. When hearing Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group, the man and the red shirt, lay out his vision this week, it was clear Microsoft is pushing it harder than ever.

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Now Microsoft wants to put Azure also in the enterprises’ data center, with its new service announced this week – Azure Stack. Built on the same core technology as Azure, the new service takes the compute, networking, storage and security solutions and brings them on-premise in a consistent way. Existing Microsoft-based customers will have the advantage of keeping their existing Microsoft assets in their data center, such as SQL Server, SharePoint, and Exchange, and connect them to modern distributed applications and services while maintaining centralized oversight.

The new Azure Stack will enable hybrid cloud strategy for the enterprises, so that the customer can create applications once and then decide where to deploy them later. This will give Microsoft the desired agent for transitioning enterprises to the public cloud in a gradual, controlled and smooth path.

A preview of Azure Stack will become available this summer. At first stage Azure Stack will focus on Linux and Windows virtual machines. But seeing how cloud and containers grow closer and Microsoft integrating Docker into Azure, I expect we’d be seeing container support pretty soon as well.

Check out the full details from Microsoft’s official site.

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OpenStack Kilo Is Out, Major Updates on Bare Metal, Containers, NFV And More

OpenStack’s latest release, code-named Kilo, is out. And it brings some interesting updates. The most prominent part is by far Ironic, OpenStack’s bare-metal provisioning support, which is officially released. It will enable provisioning of VM-based as well as container-based deployments on top of bare metal machines using same familiar APIs and conventions. The community keeps on promoting containers and make them available as first citizens on the new features.

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On the networking side Network Virtualization gets attention, with port security for OpenVSwitch, VLAN transparency and MTU API extensions. IPv6 is now also supported, allowing the extended address space to fit current demand and proliferation of connected devices which come with the Internet of Things (IoT).

On the storage front, Swift now supports, in addition to replicas, also erasure-coded storage, so users can choose the right tradeoffs per case. Kilo also brings container-level temporary URLs which allow time-limited access to a set of objects in a container. Kilo also offers improvements to global cluster replication, storage policy metrics and full Chinese translation.

Other aspects addressed are support for hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud models in Keystone Identity management, and automated provisioning and orchestration of entire application environments in a single template, much similar to Amazon’s CloudFormation.

Not less important is the great emphasis given to maturity, stability, scalability and usability of OpenStack, subjects of much debate and major barriers of adoption by organizations. We are yet to see if that brings smoother adoption of OpenStack in the industry for production use cases.

Read the full details here.

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Insight on Cloud Market from Amazon, Microsoft Latest Reports

Amazon owns the biggest public cloud to date, Amazon Web Services (AWS). It is the most veteran, reportedly running about a third of the world’s public cloud infrastructure, and some even say it’s bigger than the sum of all of its major competitors, including major players such as Google and Microsoft.

But how big is it actually? Up till now Amazon hasn’t disclosed its figures on its AWS business, reporting it under “Other” on the financial reports. But that’s now changed.

On its financial reports yesterday Amazon for the first time disclosed the explicit portion of its AWS unit, which shows a yearly run rate of $5 billion, and growing fast! The quarterly results of $1.6 billion show 50% increase year-to-year. On its statement, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said

Amazon Web Services is a $5 billion business and still growing fast — in fact it’s accelerating

Those who were debating how profitable it could be, with the aggressive price cuts Amazon has been employing, would be surprised to see Amazon reports an operating margin of nearly 17%. Quite impressive I’d say. And putting the rest of Amazon’s business in the shadow. If AWS were its own company, that would make a very strong player…

Microsoft also reported its cloud business, quoting $6.3 billion yearly. However, careful examination shows that this category doesn’t only include the Azure cloud business (which would be the equivalent of Amazon’s AWS) but also its other hosted services such as Office 365, and CRM. Microsoft hasn’t released figures around its operating margins to see how profitable the business is there.

These impressive figures show the size and growth of the cloud services business, and a glimpse at what’s we’re expected to see in coming years. Cloud is not only here to stay, it’s hear to take over IT, especially with the adoption of popular DevOps tools such as Docker.

And cloud doesn’t end with providing mere infrastructure (IaaS, Infrastructure-as-a-Service). On one of my last posts I covered the fierce fight between the cloud vendors on big data & analytics, a hot topic these days. Another hot is the Internet of Things (IoT), which Amazon, Microsoft and others are targeting. These higher-level services, commonly known as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), will ultimately enable constructing full offerings organically in the cloud, will free IT companies to focus on their core business value, and will enable lean start-up companies to jump in and bring innovation without need for major up-front investments.

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