Tag Archives: Microsoft

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.

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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?

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Mesosphere Open-Sources Its Containers Management System

The containers movement received major news yesterday when Mesosphere announced it has open-sourced  its Data Center Operating System (DC/OS). The core will be released under Apache 2.0 open source license, with enterprise-grade tools and features such as security, performance, compliance, and monitoring, kept for the paid enterprise version. The new DC/OS community already has more than 60 partner companies, including major names such as Microsoft, HPE, Cisco, Accenture and Verizon. There are also important names from the DevOps automation including Chef and Puppet.

Mesosphere’s open source strategy is primarily rooted in the fact it is the commercial backer of Apache Mesos open source project. But Mesosphere took additional steps and joined the founding team of the Open Container Initiative (OCI) and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) which were founded in the past year by big names such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and HPE to standardize on containers. In fact, on its announcement yesterday Mesosphere said it was considering hosting DC/OS externally under CNCF (among other alternatives).

Mesosphere’s open source move yesterday comes a month after Mesosphere joined the prestigious unicorn club when it finished its round C funding with $73.5 million funding at reportedly over $1 billion valuation. Not surprisingly, Mesosphere’s investors Microsoft and HPE, which also collaborate with Mesosphere at the Open Container Initiative, joined as founding members to the DC/OS project. In fact, Microsoft announced yesterday adding support for DC/OS in its Azure cloud, after it added support for Docker on Azure a year ago. This is part of the fierce cloud competition on containers (so fierce that it drove HP out of the race last year).

Google, a competitor of Microsoft in the public cloud, used a similar open source strategy last year when it decided to open-source its Kubernetes container management system and contribute it to CNCF on its foundation. Kubernetes powers Google’s Container Engine, Google’s own response in the cloud wars. While some consider Kubernetes a competitor for Mesosphere, Mesosphere took a collaborative strategy, providing support (namely package) for Kubernetes alongside its own Marathon product, as well as contributing code to the Kubernetes open source project.

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IBM, Microsoft Offer Blockchain In Their Cloud Services

Recently blockchain fans got major news, with two giants IBM and Microsoft announcing their support for Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) in their cloud services. Are we going to see some cloud-based blockchain developments soon? sounds like it.

Blockchain emerged from Bitcoin cryptocurrency hype as the innovative distributed ledger technology behind Bitcoin. But while cryptocurrencies are well past Gartner’s peak of inflated expectations, blockchain is gaining growing interest from startups and enterprises alike. The interest in blockchain isn’t limited to just cryptocurrencies but also extends into other financial use cases, and even transcends FinTech realm into non-financial use cases such as electronic voting, smart contracts and ownership verification for art and diamonds.

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The interest that blockchain drove the creation of different “flavors” of the distributed ledger notion, beyond the initial one used for Bitcoin. One interesting initiative recently launched is the hyperledger project, a community-backed open-source standard for distributed ledger. It was launched December 2015 under the Linux Foundation by big financial services names such as J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, London Stock Exchange Group and Deutsche Börse, as well as equally big IT players such as IBM, Intel, Cisco and VMware. As part of joining Hyperledger, IBM has open sourced a significant chunk of the blockchain code it has been working on.

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IBM launched its blockchain-as-a-service in production February. In order to encourage adoption of its new cloud service, IBM also opens garages for blockchain app design and implementation in London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo.

Microsoft was first to move in on blockchain. Last November ETH-BaaSMicrosoft launched a Blockchain-as-a-Service on its Azure cloud based on Ethereum in partnership with ConsenSys. But while IBM bet on hyperledger project, Microsoft took a different approach and spread its bet across multiple projects and partnerships. During last month Microsoft added to its blockchain partnerships Augur, Lisk, BitShares, Syscoin and Slock.it, and this month also added Storj.

I estimate IBM and Microsoft would not remain alone in this game. Other vendors will join in to offer platforms and cloud services to accelerate the development of blockchain-based applications. This will be a serious enabler for innovation around this fascinating technology, whether for young innovative startups bootstrapping on low budget, or for financial institutions (and other enterprises) lacking in-house skills in this cutting-edge technology.

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Will Banks Soon Run In The Cloud?

Cloud computing has become prevalent in many industries. A glimpse at the figures Amazon and Microsoft, the two biggest public cloud providers, reveals a multi-billion dollar market which grows rapidly. Starting with online startups, the public cloud has grown to become mainstream within enterprises. And now they’re having their eyes on the financial jackpot – the banks.

Amazon is pitching its cloud-computing service to big U.S. banks, hoping to break into one of the last major strongholds of old-line technology companies. According to a new article by The Wall Street Journal, the public cloud giant has approached Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and others to show the value of its Amazon Web Services (AWS).

In fact, Amazon already got an early adopter on board: Capital One. Last October at Amazon’s re:Invent conference the bank’s CIO Rob Alexander gave an enthusiastic keynote, describing how they started experimenting with AWS back in 2014 in different areas such as online banking and stream data processing and with use cases such as cloud bursting during Black Friday shopping, and late 2015 launched its new mobile banking app in production on AWS. By “outsourcing” its IT to Amazon’s cloud, the bank aims to reduce its datacenter footprint from 8 to 3 by 2018.

Amazon is not alone in this quest: Microsoft and Google, Amazon’s leading competitors in the public cloud, are also looking to penetrate this challenging niche. According to WSJ, JP Morgan has been examining Google’s cloud platform in addition to Amazon’s. Yet still missing such high-profile early adopter reference.

While the operational benefits are great, public cloud vendors need to address the bank’s strict security needs: concerns such as compliance, regulation, access control and encryption need to be met at the highest standards. According to Capital One’s CIO, the bank has been working closely with Amazon’s team to develop the security model. Alexander went as much as saying it now operates “more securely in the public cloud than we can on our own data centers“. Amazon’s CIA reference also serves it well in proving its security case.

This sort of close collaboration with the industry and regulatory bodies will ultimately bring public cloud infrastructure to the levels of the banks’ data centers, and pave the banks’ path to the cloud.

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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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Microsoft Launches New Big Data Stream Analytics Cloud Service

In the last couple of weeks we saw the fight heating up between Google and Amazon over big data in the cloud. Now Microsoft is calling the bet, announcing the general availability of its Azure Stream Analytics (ASA). The new cloud service, which was launched in public preview late last year, enables real-time stream processing of data from various sources, such as applications, devices, sensors, mobile phones or connected cars. In fact, Microsoft places strong emphasis on the use cases of the Internet of Things, a hot topic these days which Microsoft pioneered back in the 1990 but somehow managed to miss the wave, and is now trying to get back on it.

Earlier this year Microsoft bought Revolution Analytics, the company behind the open source R programming language that has become popular for statistical analysis on big data, as part of Microsoft’s effort to develop its suite of advanced analytics.

Microsoft puts emphasis, same as its competitors, on making its stream analytics service easy for development and operations, so small companies and even start-ups can get into this hot field without massive up-front investment. That while leveraging the power of the cloud to ensure transparent resilience and scalability, security and multi-tenancy.

Another interesting aspect is the built-in integration of Azure Stream Analytics with Microsoft’s Event Hubs, Microsoft’s Publish-Subscribe messaging service, which was made generally availability late last year, and is said to be able to log millions of events per second. Microsoft also targets this service for Internet of Things and telemetry ingestion use cases. This part of Microsoft’s offering is similar to Google’s Pub/Sub and Amazon’s Kinesis.

In a blog post by Joseph Sirosh, Corporate Vice President of Information Management & Machine Learning at Microsoft, he shares customer use cases by Fujitsu, NEC and Aerocrine. Quoting Allen Ganz, Director of Business Development at NEC:

NEC has found that using the Azure IoT Services has enabled us to quickly build compelling intelligent digital signage solutions that meet our customer’s needs and help them transform their business processes

Microsoft, same as its competitors, is aiming at providing a full and organic suite to cover the full cycle of big data ingestion, processing and analytics, to cater for the proliferation of big data use cases and ventures, and especially around the Internet of Things.

You can read more on the new Azure Stream Analytics here.

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Microsoft Expands Open Source and Big Data Involvement, acquires Revolution Analytics

When you think about Microsoft, you probably think the very opposite of Open Source Software (OSS). Some would even go as far as picturing it as Dr. Evil of OSS. But recent moves show Microsoft begs the differ. This week Microsoft announced acquisition of Revolution Analytics, the company behind the open source R programming language that has become popular for statistical analysis on big data. As Joseph Sirosh, Corporate Vice President, Machine Learning as Microsoft writes in his blog post:

We are making this acquisition to help more companies use the power of R and data science to unlock big data insights with advanced analytics

Microsoft’s acquisition comes after showing interest in the language, both using it internally by Microsoft’s data scientists and frameworks, and actively contributing to open source R projects such as ParallelR, and RHadoop.

This joins other contributions by Microsoft to open source, such as Linux kernel contributions (yes, Microsoft, the father of Windows, contributing to Linux). Microsoft also released some of its core assets as open source, such as the .NET Core programming language and the REEF big-data analytics framework for YARN, and other open-source projects.

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Microsoft’s recent moves also shows its recognition that Big Data Analytics is where the world is heading. Organizations accumulated data, and are now looking for ways to monetize on that data and leverage the most advanced technologies and languages for that. Microsoft got a painful reality check a couple of months ago, when Facebook decided to dump Microsoft’s Bing and develop its own revamped big data search framework. Facebook, Twitter, Google and the likes have long realized the potential of their big data and have been developing advanced big data analytics technology to address that.

Microsoft opened 2015 with an impressive acquisition, marking important realization around open source software and big data analytics. Such statement hints for more to come down the year.

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Update: Microsoft released its big data Azure Stream Analytics cloud service. check out the details in this post.

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