IoT, Big Data and Machine Learning Push Cloud Computing To The Edge

“The End Of Cloud Computing” – that’s the dramatic title for a talk given by Peter Levine at a16z Summit last month. Levine, a partner at Anderssen Horowitz (a16z) VC fund, worked out his investor foresight and tried to imagine the world beyond cloud computing. The result was an insightful and fluent talk, stating that the centralized cloud computing as we know it is about to be superseded by a distributed cloud inherent in a multitude of edge devices. Levine highlights the rising forces driving this change:

The Internet of Things (IoT). Though the notion of IoT has been around for a few decades it seems it’s really taking place now, and that our world will soon be inhabited by a multitude of smart cars, smart homes and smart everything, each with embedded compute, storage and networking. Levine gives a great example of a computer card found in current day’s luxury cars, containing around 100 CPUs in it. having several such cards in a car would make it a mini data center on wheels. Having thousands of such cars on the roads makes it a massive distributed data center.

smart-car-card

Big Data Analytics. The growing amount of connected devices and sensors around us constantly collecting real world input generates massive amount of data of different types, from temperature and pressure to images and videos. And that unstructured and highly variable data stream needs to be processed and analyzed in real time in order to extract insights and make decisions by the little brains of the smart devices. Just imagine your smart car approaching a stop sign, and the need to process the image input, realize the sign and make the decision to stop – all in a matter of a second or less- would you send it over to the remote cloud for the answer?

Machine Learning. While traditional computer algorithms are well suited for dealing with well-defined problem spaces, the real world has a complex, diverse and unstructured nature of data. Levine believes that endpoints will need to execute Machine Learning algorithms to decipher the data effectively and make intelligent insights and decisions to the countless number and permutations of situations that can occur in the real world.

So should Amazon, Microsoft and Google start worrying? Not really. The central cloud services will still be there, but with different focus. Levine sees the central cloud role in curating data from the edge, performing central non-real-time learning which can then be pushed back to the edge, and long-term storage and archiving of the data. In its new incarnation, the entire world becomes the domain of IT.

You can watch the recording of Levine’s full talk here.

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Cisco Is Shutting Down Its Public Cloud, Exploring Hybrid IT Strategy

Cisco just confirmed it’ll shut down its Intercloud by March 2017. Intercloud was supposed to be Cisco’s move in public cloud, addressing both businesses and service providers. But Cisco learned the painful lesson of the cloud, same lesson learned by HPE which shut down its Helion public cloud a year ago and Verizon which shut down its cloud earlier this year. On its statement, Cisco explained:

Cisco has evolved its cloud strategy from federating clouds to helping customers build and manage hybrid IT environments.

It appears Cisco realized that hybrid cloud may be its answer to Amazon, Microsoft and Google. It may have learned from Rackspace, which abandoned its cloud product and turned to partnering with Amazon, a strategy shift which paid off big time a few months ago. VMware is another datacenter giant that realized it’d better off partnering with Amazon for cloud services, and announced partnership a couple of months ago.

With open source taking over networking, Cisco foresees rough times also on traditional networking side. The big guys go as far as building their own datacenters from the ground up from simple hardware, skipping Cisco’s expansive purpose-built high-end boxes.

While many abandon their public cloud aspirations, it’s interesting to see that last month Oracle launched bare metal cloud services, which is in fact just the first step of its new cloud strategy announced back in September. Will it succeed where the others have failed?

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Oracle Launches Bare Metal Cloud Services, Challenges Amazon AWS

Oracle threw some big announcement back in September at Oracle OpenWorld conference about its plan to add Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to its Oracle Cloud Solutions. And now the first piece of that IaaS is announced: Oracle Bare Metal Cloud Services. Oracle’s service offers integrated network block storage, object storage, identity and access management, VPN connectivity, and a software-defined Virtual Cloud Network (VCN) – their implementation of Software Defined Networking (SDN). The new service is launched in Oracle’s new Phoenix Region (Arizona, USA), with the promise of growing to additional regions. The Phoenix region has 3 Availability Domains (similar to Availability Zones in Amazon Web Services).

oracle-iaas-logoOracle has been exploring cloud for a while and has made several startup acquisitions in that direction. With this move Oracle is going jumping heads-on to the ruthless cloud IaaS wars. In fact, it seems Oracle lured in some cloud experts from Amazon, Microsoft and Google to build its new IaaS.

One amazing thing that Oracle did with its IaaS, is that it designed its entire data center, up to the hardware stack, on its own! Oracle learned well the lesson from Amazon, Google et al. Thank to that design it claims to provide competitive pricing that will challenge the legendary AWS pricing.

For more information on Oracle Bare Metal Cloud Services see here.

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Google’s Self-Driving Cars To Become A Stand-Alone Business

Google is shifting gear with its self-driving car project. The project, which has been run as part of Google X research lab, has spun out into its own business unit under Google’s parent company Alphabet. According to Wall Street Journal, the car group would likely be expected to soon begin generating revenue, though not necessarily a profit at first. X chief Astro Teller told WSJ that Alphabet will likely roll out its self-driving cars incrementally over the next several years as they improve with more time on the road.

This is another move in the race to the holy grail of a fully operational autonomous car. Google keeps a special watch over Uber’s aggressive self-driving car plans, with its plans to disrupt transportation. While Google’s cars have been driving around Google’s home town in Mountain View CA and other US cities, Uber has been swinging through Pittsburgh. And they’re not alone in this race. In fact, you find surprising newcomers each day: Just today Samsung acquired U.S. auto-parts supplier Harman for $8 Billion to get onboard with connected cars, probably as part of Samsung’s Internet of Things (IoT) strategy. When the lines blur between cars, mobile and online services, when transportation is up for disruption, everyone is out for the take.

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Amazon and VMware: Strange Allies In The Game Of Clouds

Before cloud there was datacenter virtualization. The king of virtualization was VMware, who had ruled enterprise datacenters for decades uninterruptedly. Then a new force arose – Public Cloud – ruled by the reincarnated online retailer Amazon, which swiftly won the hearts of startups and web apps alike. As enterprises started exploring the cloud, VMware adapted its offering in the form of Private Cloud in attempt to keep the lucrative enterprises under its dominion, while Amazon has been fighting to convert them to its public cloud, with relentless price cuts and innovative services. War was fierce.

But in the Game of Clouds strange alliances are formed…

Now VMware is striking an alliance with Amazon. The new strategic partnership announced this month brings forth a hybrid child: VMware Cloud on AWS, which promises to let enterprises have their cake and eat it too – keeping them working in their good-old VMware vSphere environment while letting VMware operate it for them as a managed service on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) bare metal infrastructure. The new service is currently in Technology Preview, with general availability expected mid-2017.

vmware-aws

What could bring together these bitter rivals? In the land of private cloud VMware has been suffering fierce competition from OpenStack open source community, so fierce that ultimately VMware jumped on the OpenStack bandwagon. Flanked by OpenStack from private cloud and by Amazon from public cloud, VMware came to realize what HP, Verizon and others learned the hard way – that hybrid cloud can be the alternative. A similar strategy change brought the got Rackspace acquired a couple of months ago.

And what’s Amazon’s angle with WMware you ask? Amazon has been eyeing the lucrative enterprises for a long time, but has largely failed to convert them to the public cloud. Microsoft, Amazon’s public cloud competitor, identified that and launched Azure Stack (currently in Technical Preview 2), a flavor of its Azure public cloud that can extends to the enterprise’s datacenter. Amazon so far has been dogmatic in its public cloud vision, preaching full migration to the public cloud and refusing to provide variants for private cloud. But market forces are stronger, and Amazon’s way off the proverbial tree was found in the form of VMware. With Microsoft’s Azure Stack expected in general availability mid-2017, Amazon had to prepare its counter move towards the same mark.

In the Game of Clouds great forces are at play. With private and public clouds, open source communities and vendor-locked solutions, incumbents and startups all at play. And everyone’s eyeing the holy grail of enterprises.

Who will win the Cloud Throne?

iron-throne

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Rackspace Cashes Out On Its Hybrid Cloud Strategy, Acquired by Private Equity

Cloud Computing company Rackspace will be acquired for $4.3 billion by private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Deal is expected to close in Q4 2016 and Rackspace stockholders to receive $32.00 per share in cash (a nice a premium of 38% on Rackspace’s stock price).

This acquisition is a clear sign of success for Rackspace’s change of strategy, whereby Rackspace eased off on its own cloud and managed services, and started offering third-party support for the public clouds of Amazon and Microsoft. This change of strategy started showing clear positive impact on its financial results earlier this year (see this post from 2 months ago), which sent the right investor signals and paved the way to this acquisition.

For more details on the acquisition see here.

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The Uber Plan To Disrupt Transportation

Uber has become the trademark for sharing economy. It’s the proverbial social win-win formula: You want to get somewhere, a driver is heading there, so he picks you up, and earns a friendly fee on the way.

But in fact Uber’s vision isn’t really about sharing economy. In fact, the “human factor” of the drivers is pretty messy for Uber: it involves costs, labor laws, contractual engagements, assault incidents, lawsuits… Uber would rather eliminate the “human factor” altogether. It has a whole other plan for us. And the plan goes through:

Autonomous cars!

UATC-CAR-BRIDGE-16x9.jpg

Which plan? Sit back and take a quick tour into our daily lives in the (not-so-distant) future:

You don’t own a car, you consume a service. car-as-a-service. Need a ride? Just tap your smart phone/watch/skin, and a ride will come and pick you up from your GPS-detected location, and you’ll be charged just for that ride. Just like electricity or water. no need for a large capital expense for purchasing a car, and extra cost for insurance, regular checkups and fixes for a car that sits idle most of the day. you’re not in the business of car fleets, you just need a ride.

This will also disrupt the automotive industry: the car design will no longer revolve around the driving experience. there simply is no driver now, remember? the car is now a ride service robot, and the focus is shifted to the passenger’s quality of experience. Now that the rider has his hands (and attention) free, focus will shift to making the ride more informative, more entertaining, more productive, with multimedia, games, work tools, with automated analytics learning the needs of the passenger, perhaps even offering some interesting goods… reminds you a bit of Google? Why isn’t that surprising…

google-autonomous-car-prototype_100494838_h.jpg

This is not Sci Fi. This is a concrete plan taking shape as we speak. Last Thursday Uber announced acquiring Otto, an Israeli startup less than a year old headed by ex-Googlers, which provides technology that turns regular trucks into driverless (autonomous) ones. In parallel Uber announced moving into commercial stage with its autonomous cars initiative, launching a pilot in the city of Pittsburgh.

Uber isn’t the only one setting eyes on this mark. Traditional car manufacturers such as GM, Ford and Fiat (jointly with Google) have also identified the upcoming disruption and are also racing to the commercial autonomous car. In fact, just a day before Uber’s acquisition Ford announced acquiring another Israeli startup, SAIPS, as well as investing $75 Million in startup Velodyne, both aimed to boost its autonomous car project.

We’re heading to a brave new world. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

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