Tag Archives: Internet

The Internet, Then And Now

The World Wide Web has come a long way since 400 Arpanet users received the first spam message in May 1978. Journey back to 1969, when the U.S. military-funded research network Arpanet connected four computers, to take a look at the Internet, then and now.

Renamed “the Internet” in 1984, the service reached a milestone moment when it linked 1,000 hosts at university and corporate labs. Almost 15 years later, the Web began making commercial strides, reaching 50 million users in 1998, and later topping 1 billion in 2009.

Today, more than 2.7 billion people — 47 percent of the world’s population — use the Internet in 750 million households across the globe.


Source: http://www.whoishostingthis.com

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Color Commentary: The End of the Friend

Whoever said there’s not much new on the Web should have been around last week for the much-ballyhooed launch of Color – celebrated as one of the most exciting Web concepts to appear this year. If it lives up to its initial promise, Color represents a fundamentally new type of mobile social network that, in many ways, is almost the polar opposite of Facebook.

So what’s so radical about Color? For one, Color has done away entirely with the notion of the Friend – one of the most closely held pillars of the social networking crowd. In the Color world, the “Social Graph” has been replaced by something far different – a constantly changing social network that dynamically changes in relation to your geographic location. Not only that, in the Color world, your social relationships with others are based almost entirely on your photos: you are able to see the photos of people around you, as well as take photos and share them with users around you.

Instead of “Friends,” then, you have like-minded individuals sharing the same experience at the same time and relating to each other through images. Color does not even require a profile like a typical social networking site – once you launch the app on your iPhone, you’re asked to supply a name and then to take a picture of yourself. That’s it – then the Color app starts to populate your phone with the photos of others near you who are also using the Color app. Notice that you do not have any say in the matter – there are no privacy settings to toggle on/off – as soon as you open the app, any photos you take are instantly shared with the crowd.

To test out Color for the first time, I randomly spent an early morning at Grand Central Terminal, exploring Color on a scale large enough to find at least a few users of the Color app in real-time. Note that I said “users” and not “friends.” Sure enough, my iPhone immediately populated with the photos of users – not as many as I had expected, but certainly enough to give a sense of the potential power of Color as a real-time, mobile social network.

Certainly, Color explodes several of the fundamental underpinnings of traditional social networks – that you have a personalized profile page that acts as a centralized location for reading news about your friends and submitting status updates; that you develop a “social graph” of acquaintances; and that you have the ability to adjust your privacy settings to show different sides of yourself to different people.

Facebook already began the process of devaluing the notion of “Friend” until it came to represent something quite different than the traditional notion of a friend. What is the meaning of “friendship,” after all, when people collect thousands of friends at one time, a number that is almost an order of magnitude greater than your individual Dunbar’s Number? According to the founders of Color, the goal of the new social network is to develop an entirely new way of communicating with each other online.

In the Color world, there are no status updates, no profiles and no friends – only photographs that update where you are in the world, what you are doing, and who you are doing it with. At first, this is a terribly disorienting experience and it’s understandable why so many early reviews of Color have been negative.

I’ve been reading Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget, and I’m now convinced that Color represents a subtle but profound shift on what’s happening on the Internet. Individuals – and the relationships they have with each other — are being re-thought, re-shaped and re-worked so that the collective consciousness is becoming more important than the person. Your memories of events are only valuable if they are shared with others who also experience the event.

Lanier, no doubt, would point to Color as evidence of the new depersonalization of the Web, and the celebration of the “hive mind” at the expense of the individual. I prefer to see Color in a different way – as symbolic of an evolution of the Internet to a new level of highly-contextual relationships and new ways of communicating. Even if Color does not live up to its early promise, the genie is already out of the bottle.


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Cloud Set For Promising Future: Vint Cerf

Google vice president and chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf today delivered the keynote address to open source enthusiasts at Linux.conf.au 2011 in Brisbane, saying that cloud computing is on the verge of becoming as big a concept as the internet itself.

“I feel we are at the state in the cloud world now that we were in the internet world back in 1973,” Cerf said.

The Google VP and evangelist also said, however, that a lack of interconnected standards for cloud computing was holding it back.

“We have many different cloud implementations for different sources. Whether it’s Amazon or Google or Microsoft or IBM and so on, they aren’t built the same way, they don’t have all the same functionality,” he said, adding that there aren’t any standards for getting different to talk to each other in a co-operative way like the internet does.

He said that a standard cloud language should be drawn up to enable this cross-cloud collaboration.

“None of the vocabulary which has grown up around the internet for this remote peer-to-peer interaction has been developed for clouds yet. If you’re looking for a dissertation topic, this is one of them! This exploration of how to get clouds to interact with each other.”

Cerf, considered one of the fathers of the internet, said that cloud was unlike the internet in that it was one grand collaboration, adding that the notion of interconnection is just as important as it was in the days of the early design.

Faults of our fathers

While delivering his keynote address, Cerf openly admitted the mistakes he and his colleagues made in the design of early internet infrastructure, including a frank admission that he thought the design of IPv4 left enough addresses for the whole internet.

Cerf said that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority were likely to run out of addresses by early February, with regional internet registries set to feel the pinch by 2012.

“The time for just talking about [IPv6] is over. We need to now just get down and busy with implementing it,” Cerf said.

Cerf also said that one of the biggest challenges for the future of the internet will be solving the problem of mobility.

“There are probably something like a billion, a billion and a half more devices that are connected at one time on the net and something on the order of two billion users, which is kind of small considering there’s about seven billion people on the planet,” he said. Cerf joked that he and his team could be forgiven for designing TCP/IP in the way they did in 1977, because back then, computers couldn’t be moved around with the user.

“Back then they were all [giant] and needed air conditioning and cables all over everywhere,” Cerf joked.

“As we [now] move around and our computing goes with us, the way we use the internet has changed,” he said, adding that traditional TCP/IP and phone number tracking standards were no longer valid in the new mobile space.


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The Internet of Things and the Cloud CIO of the Future

Forbes this week published an interesting article written by Ed Sperling titled “CIOs: Be Careful What You Wish For.” In it, Sperling posits that virtualization will cause a shift for IT leadership from technology to data. He writes:

“The virtualization being implemented everywhere will give way to cloud computing, and cloud computing will unclutter technology to the point where the focus will migrate from technology to data.”

He goes on to say:

“IT is still a facilitator of the business, but increasingly the CIO will be responsible for generating ideas by understanding the value of the data and how it can be used to boost revenue.”

I think Sperling is right on the trend, but underestimates its effect — though the underestimation is completely understandable. The fact is that two trends are converging to create a deluge of data well beyond what most observers can comprehend, and that these trends will shape a very different CIO of the future.

The first trend is, as Sperling notes, cloud computing itself. One dimension of cloud computing is the abstraction of computing service from underlying hardware — the uncluttering of technology. Just the reduced friction of obtaining computing resources will increase the use of computing technology — enormously. Most of the current discussion about cloud computing fails to understand the gigantic deluge of computing demand that will be unleashed when the convenience factor of this computing mode begins to be comprehended.

Today’s backlog is but a fraction of the true unmet desire for computing. Given the hassle and expense of getting an application implemented, only the most attractive opportunities even get into the discussion and competition for IT resources. In the near future, much — much — more demand for applications will surface, made overt by the recognition of the reduced barriers to IT resources made possible by cloud computing. One might say that our understanding of the likely size of computing, based on today’s practices, is the tip of the iceberg. In the next few years, we will see the current unseen remainder of the iceberg.

It goes without saying that every one of the those applications will generate and consume data.

The second factor that will cause IT organizations to be inundated by data is the growth of the “Internet of Things.” This catchphrase describes the fact that computing, based on the exponential dropping in the cost of computing, is increasingly being moved into non-traditional devices. The most obvious is the rise of smartphones — though a better way to describe them would be as voice-enabled computers. But smartphones — as powerful and widespread as they are — are only the latest beachhead for computing. And, as the saying goes, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The fact is, the history of computing has inexorably been in one direction — the movement of processing power into smaller devices. Every generation of computing has represented the then-current best balance of small practical form factor and economic viability. The rise of minicomputers came because the cost of processing dropped to the point that it could be economically delivered in standalone cabinets that didn’t require raised flooring. Personal computers took advantage of the reduced cost of processors and peripherals to create a package that could be easily carried in two hands. Later, the notebook form factor extended the computing framework of the PC to a highly portable device. Tablets, are, of course, the latest development in this trend. Today, we have the smartphone. A commonality among all of this type of computing device is they are designed for human interaction.

Tomorrow, however, computing will move into devices that no human interacts with — and, increasingly, the devices will interact with one another. One category of these devices will be sensors — devices that monitor and report on a process or state. Another category will be actuators — devices that operate on something, based on inputs (think drapes that automatically are raised and lowered in response to the sun’s movement through the skies. Unlike the general purpose, human-focused computing devices described above, these will be specialized devices, designed to implement a single purpose.

As the cost of computing, driven by Moore’s Law, continues to plummet, this mode of computing will explode. How big an explosion?

Well, the CEO of Ericsson believes that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. But that pales in comparison to the estimate of Cisco’s CTO, Padmasree Warrior, who believes there will be 1 trillion Internet-connected devices by 2013. Warrior may be overly optimistic in terms of timeframe, but if one were to make a bet on accuracy, it’s likely that Warrior’s number will be closer to the truth when we get to 2020.

The simple fact is that everyone — and that includes (perhaps especially includes) those of us in the technology industry — underestimates the growth of ever-cheaper computing devices. To quote one industry luminary, later hoisted on his own petard, Ken Olsen, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Olsen now is laughed at for such an attitude, but the fact is, for the reality of the market as he saw it at the time, it was completely appropriate. But he completely missed how the market exploded once the reduced cost of personal computing enabled entire new uses for computers — I mean, after all, who could have imagined collaborating with people spread around the world in competing with other teams in a role-based graphical online game?

So I’m not trying to criticize Sperling as much as acknowledge that all of us fail to understand the implications cloud computing will bring to IT. He is dead on with respect to the looming cascade of data IT organizations will confront. I do disagree with him, however, in his prescription for how CIOs should respond to that data cascade.

I don’t believe the role of a CIO is to design business initiatives that leverage that data. It’s unlikely that a CIO can have anywhere near the daily interaction with the market that people placed in sales, marketing, and product development can. They’re the ones who can create new business initiatives that leverage data — once they comprehend the possibilities that data offers.

Rather than design business initiatives, what the CIO should do is to make that data available and help those other organizations understand what can be done with it. While it is difficult for CIOs to have the market sensitivity that those organizations have, it is near impossible for their members to appreciate, without assistance, what can be done with the data resources becoming available. What are some ways that CIOs can assist their colleagues in understanding and leveraging that data?

Make the data available. The Open Government Data movement illustrates the power of making data available via open interfaces and different types of feeds. One can’t possibly know the ways data can be leveraged, so rather than trying to figure it out, make the data available and let others figure it out. Yes, yes, there are security and privacy issues to sort out, but if the Department of Defense (see the “Search raw data by single/multiple agency” checkbox) can sort through this, it’s not an impossible task.

Build scalable architectures. Easy data availability that enables end-user applications means that it’s much harder to forecast load. Make sure that the applications that support data availability can handle at least 10X forecast (which, since this is cloud-based, should be much easier, right?).

Look to new storage paradigms. As wonderful as storage vendors are, at some point, the economics of the traditional storage array become untenable. Amazon’s S3 is increasingly becoming a standard mode of large-scale storage and, with the company’s announcement that it now supports 5 TB objects, will become even more so in the future. Netflix uses S3 for its video streaming, so it should be robust enough for you. In the future, other storage offerings from other cloud providers will also be available, providing other options for cloud storage.

Find success stories.
While the three previous recommendations are focused on traditional IT responsibilities, this one is more about the relationship between the CIO and business units. Instead of advocating that business units leverage all this wonderful data, present case studies. Nothing is more powerful than a real-world example in getting people’s imagination going, so prime the pump with some case studies. Even more powerful, find some examples from outside your company and have people involved with those projects come and present to a joint IT/business unit gathering. A joint viewing of what other people are accomplishing is often the most powerful goad to focused collaboration.

The ease of cloud computing and the explosion of computing devices means that the nature of IT is going to change dramatically. One can try and mash the new computing format into the traditional box of enterprise IT, or one can recognize the need for new tools and practices. Ken Olsen’s example indicates that one is better served in keeping one’s eyes on the horizon rather than the well-trod ground at one’s feet.


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Small Companies Look to Cloud for Savings in 2011

A growing number of small-business owners are expected to try cloud computing services next year, hoping to trim costs and stay up and running if disaster strikes.

Cloud computing refers to any service that operates over an Internet connection, allowing immediate access from any computer or mobile device with Web access. Business owners can access software or store information—such as customer contacts, accounting data and presentations—and leave the technical maintenance to the cloud provider.

As of April 2010, only about 7% of small-business owners were using cloud services, but that number is expected to grow to more than 10% by mid-2011, according to a survey by technology-research firm IDC. “Moving the trend forward in the smallest companies is the affordability and flexibility,” says Raymond Boggs, vice president of small and mid-sized business research at IDC.

Software that is accessed through the cloud is often free or pay-per-use—a more affordable model than paying big, upfront licensing fees. Half of small firms that use “the cloud” say it has improved their bottom line, according to a survey this fall by Microsoft Corp., which provides cloud services.

A number of surveys show that some business owners are hesitant to try cloud computing because they don’t want to stray from familiar systems or invest in new ones. Some owners that have made the switch, however, say it has been a boon to their cash-strapped firms.

Garey Willbanks, owner of Boiler Management Ltd. in Houston, says he pays about $600 a month to store information in the cloud. He estimates that is less than a tenth of what he would pay if he hired technology personnel to run an in-house storage server.

Mr. Willbanks made the switch to cloud computing after Hurricane Ike cut power to his area in late 2008. At the time, he had in-house servers to channel and store vital information about the water-heating systems his firm had installed. Without access to the servers, his business was at a standstill. “We had no connectivity in our office for 24 hours,” he says. “I said, ‘We can’t be this vulnerable.’ ”

Mr. Willbanks hired Rackspace Hosting Inc., a San Antonio cloud provider, which assumed responsibility for the storage of Boiler Management’s information—from the heater monitoring to email contacts. Since then, Mr. Willbanks hasn’t needed anyone to trouble-shoot server issues, and he is connected all the time, accessing information from his BlackBerry, iPad, or laptop.

Some owners, like Mr. Willbanks, use the cloud simply to back up information. Others use it to access software programs through the Web, known as “software as a service,” rather than from a local computer.

Cloud services often make expensive software affordable to small firms, says Rob Enderle, technology consultant and founder of Enderle Group Inc., in San Jose, Calif.

In June, Michael Tracy, a private law practitioner in Irvine, Calif., decided to try Nextpoint, a cloud-based program for attorneys. He had previously spent $10,000 to $12,000 a year licensing software that would organize materials before a trial. The problem was he needed it just a few times a year. By contrast, Mr. Tracy pays for Nextpoint only when he uses it, and he anticipates spending just $4,000 to $6,000 a year on the service.

The actual savings of using the cloud will vary, says Mr. Enderle. Cloud software is inexpensive upfront and can cut costs by streamlining processes. For example, accounting software helps business owners manage finances. But when that software is in the cloud, the business owner’s accountant may also access it. By seeing those finances in real time, the accountant can trouble-shoot cash-flow issues before they arise and can more easily file tax returns.

“If you already have tight control over your company, your expenses may drop 10% to 20%,” says Mr. Enderle. Companies that use cloud services to improve inefficiencies might see an even greater return, he says.

Despite the savings, there are risks. Security breaches, for instance, can happen if the cloud provider isn’t reliable. “If they make money directly from you, then they will want to secure [your information],” Mr. Enderle says. “If they make it through advertising,” they may be more likely to sell the information to advertisers, he says.

And while in-house software can often be customized, cloud software often can’t. Mr. Tracy says that when he uses Nextpoint, “some of the documents are case-specific,” and he can’t use a general software program like Nextpoint to organize and search them.

Others fear that they might lose their information, or have to spend a lot of time transferring data, if they want out. Kirby Allison, founder of Hanger Project LLC, a garment-hanger company in Dallas, has been using a cloud-based marketing software, Campaigner, for two years. “We’d lose access to so much information if we stop using Campaigner,” says Mr. Allison, referring to historical data, such as reams of marketing analytics, which he says would require “several days’ worth of work” to transfer to another system.

“As with any information you gather over time, if you are relying on the provider to store it then it can be very painful to move it over,” says Melanie Attia, project marketing manager at Campaigner. “So make sure it’s the right provider and that you’re ready to be in it for the long haul.”

Mr. Allison plans to continue using Campaigner, as he estimates that the $25 a month he pays to send email promotions to thousands of customers is a fraction of what he’d pay a marketing firm. “It really isn’t much money at all,” he says. “And it works great.”


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Chasing the Definition of Cloud Computing for the Channel

Cloud computing is a transformative delivery model that is changing the way technology vendors, distributors, resellers, and consumers think about, approach, and implement IT systems. What exactly “the cloud” is remains a matter of debate, because there are more than two dozen definitions for cloud computing. Further, how the cloud is applied to the conventional IT channel is relatively uncharted and may ultimately prove difficult to pin down.

Escaping the cloud is almost impossible. Cloud computing is transforming the way technology vendors produce and distribute their products, as well as the way enterprises and SMB organizations consume technology. The cloud revolution is more than just “webifying” applications. It is a fundamental shift to a new IT architecture grounded in broad availability, multi-tenancy, shared resources, and dynamic capacity. It’s about changing the entire cost structure of technology from a capital expense to a recurring operational expense. And it’s making technology more accessible, productive, and affordable. These are the factors that are driving its rapid adoption.

Cloud computing has morphed from a relatively limited set of Web-based services to a full gamut of business products and models. According to the Gartner Group, the cloud computing marketplace will grow from $46.4 billion in 2008 to more than $150 billion by 2013. Gartner has also publicly predicted that, by 2012, 20 percent of all businesses will own no IT infrastructure because they will have been completely transformed into near-total cloud consumers. The hype around cloud computing continues to escalate, making it increasingly difficult to separate the marketing buzz from the true implementations of technology and services via the Internet. Nearly any application or service remotely attached to the Internet is now taking on ‘the cloud’ as both a descriptor and value proposition. My organization has found that 59 percent of end users and 64 percent of the channel say that cloud computing needs clearer definitions. This is not surprising.

Defining cloud computing is more than an academic exercise; it’s a matter of drafting parameters of understanding among marketplace constituents that produce, support, and consume cloud-based services. Creating this shared business and technical vocabulary helps promote effective commerce among all entities in the cloud computing supply chain. Through clear and concise definitions, producers and consumers of services can develop business strategies, implementation plans, business models, and performance metrics for maximizing the potential of a revolutionary delivery system.

Numerous, often competing definitions, for cloud computing exist. Most do a fine job of framing what many consider to be the core tenants of cloud computing, yet our recent survey found that only 24 percent of end users and 29 percent of the channel believe the existing definitions are sufficient. And even these constituents say that the existing definitions are not consistent.

Let’s turn to the leading and most generally accepted definition. It is the one developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which provides for the essential elements and characteristics of the medium.

Cloud Computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics (on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service), three service models (software as a service, platform as a service, and infrastructure as a service), and four deployment models (private cloud, community cloud, public cloud, and hybrid cloud).

As an addendum, NIST makes the following note about the nature of cloud computing:

Cloud software takes full advantage of the cloud paradigm by being service oriented with a focus on statelessness, low coupling, modularity, and semantic interoperability.

In other words, cloud computing isn’t necessarily proprietary and should have near universal interoperability and communications channels to ensure access to and usability of data. I agree, and add that cloud computing applications, platforms, and infrastructures should guarantee interoperability of solutions, openness in standards, accessibility to resources and data, and portability to different service providers. This openness is necessary for ensuring the sustained adoption and growth of cloud computing by assuring optimal business value to customers.

However, many vendors and solution providers believe there is an opportunity to extend the NIST definition by incorporating the unique needs of the IT reseller and services channel into the model. There is no doubt that the NIST definition of cloud computing is a good framework for general interpretation, particularly for enterprise consumers of Web-based services. But what it doesn’t do is take the realities of the conventional channel marketplace into consideration.

Given that it is such a dynamic medium and business model, defining cloud computing may prove as futile as chasing clouds. As such, current definitions are transient since innovations in technology and delivery will likely bring even more change.

The intent of those interested in extending the definition—and even the NIST effort before it—is to provide the channel industry with a foundational framework and understanding of cloud computing. It is our belief that this effort will spawn greater clarity about the forms and capabilities of cloud computing, the tools that measure its performance, optimized business models for delivery and support, and, ultimately, its return-on-investment rationale for consumers. But as such, we are only at the beginning for both defining and understanding the practical applications of cloud computing.


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Information Technology Managers Predict Widespread Private and Public Cloud Adoption

Cisco announced today the final installment of the Cisco® Connected World Report, an international study about the behavioral trends of workers in accessing information anywhere, with any device, and the ability of information technology (IT) professionals to address their needs. The latest results focus on data center, virtualization, and cloud computing trends, and evolving IT roles, in the context of increasingly mobile and distributed workforces. The study found that global IT professionals are creating new job opportunities by increasing collaboration among teams in the data center, and adopting new technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing, but they are also struggling to maintain security and data governance as employees demand more offsite access to networks and information.

For example, across the 13 countries in the global study, 52 percent of the IT professionals stated they use or plan to use cloud computing, while much higher cloud adoption rates are predicted in Brazil (70 percent), China (69 percent) and India (76 percent). Across the world, respondents rated the following as their top data center priorities for the next three years: improve agility and speed in deploying business applications (33 percent), better manage resource capacity to align demand and capacity (31 percent), increase data center resilience (19 percent), and reduce power and cooling costs (17 percent).

Today’s announcement adds to the initial survey results released in October, which revealed that workers want flexible access to corporate information from any mobile device, anywhere, anytime, and to the results released in November, which revealed disconnects in worker expectations around information access, IT policies and employee awareness of policies. The latest survey results examine how IT managers are evolving their data centers and taking advantage of new technologies, while working to accommodate trends in the workplace like social media, device proliferation, video and an increasingly mobile workforce.

Key Highlights

Cloud Computing Trends

* Cloud use today: Across the study’s 13 countries, only an average of 18 percent of respondents are using cloud computing today, while an additional 34 percent plan to use the cloud.
* Top cloud users today: Brazil (27 percent), Germany (27 percent), India (26 percent), U.S. (23 percent) and Mexico (22 percent) top the list of countries that are already taking advantage of cloud computing, exceeding the average (18 percent) across all countries.
* Future cloud use: A large majority (88 percent) of IT respondents predict that they will be storing some percentage of their company’s data and applications in private or public clouds within the next three years.
* Private clouds: One in three IT professionals said more than half of their company’s data and applications will be in private clouds within the next three years. Private cloud adoption was predicted to be higher in Mexico (71 percent), Brazil (53 percent) and the U.S. (46 percent).
* Timing for public clouds: Of those respondents that will use public clouds, one of every three (34 percent) plan to deploy within one year, and 44 percent predicted their companies would use public clouds within the next two years; 21 percent are expected to do so within two to three years.

Virtualization Trends

* Server virtualization is not yet widespread in production and nonproduction environments. Only 29 percent of the respondents worldwide have more than half their production servers virtualized, and only 28 percent have more than half of nonproduction servers virtualized.
* Top reasons to deploy virtualization: IT professionals cited an increase in IT agility (30 percent) as the top reason, followed by the ability to optimize resources to reduce costs (24 percent) and by faster application provisioning (18 percent).
* Virtualization inhibitors: The greatest hurdles to virtualization included Security (20 percent), stability concerns (18 percent), difficulty in building operational processes for a virtualized environment (16 percent) and management (16 percent).
* Virtualization on the rise: The picture changes over the next three years. Almost half of the IT respondents (46 percent) expect that 50 to 100 percent of their production environment servers will be virtualized.
* IT professionals see big savings from virtualization: Two of five (40 percent) respondents expect a data center cost reduction of between 25 and 49 percent, and another 30 percent expect up to 24 percent in cost savings.

Data Center Trends, Concerns, Priorities

* Top data center concerns: IT managers rated their top data center concerns as security, performance, reliability, and budget for maintenance and management.
* Top technologies and trends: One out of three IT managers cited mobile access to information as the trend that would most affect the data center, especially in China (47 percent), Brazil (40 percent) and Germany (39 percent). Rated nearly as high were virtualization (32 percent), unified data center fabric (29 percent), desktop virtualization (27 percent) and cloud computing (17 percent).
* Business trends that will most impact their data centers: IT managers were asked to select all those business trends that would most impact their data center over the next three years. Two out of five (40 percent) stated that increases in applications and data will be the top business trend for the next three years, followed closely by security and risk management (39 percent) and cost reduction (34 percent). Also high on the list were support for a distributed mobile or remote workforce, and a greater use of video and collaboration technologies.
* Role of the network: About seven of every 10 IT respondents (69 percent) predict an increasing role for the network due to its central position in the data center and its ability to unite and manage resources.
* Top data center priorities: Worldwide, the top data center priorities for the next three years were to improve agility and speed in deploying business applications (33 percent), better manage resource capacity to align demand and capacity (31 percent), increase data center resilience (19 percent), and reduce power and cooling costs (17 percent).
* Primary data center strategy: More than one in four IT respondents (28 percent) named a unified data center fabric to unite storage and local area network data traffic as the top technology strategy in their data centers, with 23 percent naming data center virtualization, followed by cloud computing (18 percent), unified computing (17 percent) and desktop virtualization (13 percent).
* Unified computing: Although unified computing is a very new technology, about one of five (19 percent) IT professionals had already tested or deployed it, while another 41 percent plan to test or deploy a unified computing solution in the next 12 months.
* Average number of data centers: IT managers indicate that the server capacity of their company is housed at an average of 14 data centers.

Data Center Career Opportunities: New Job Roles and Team Collaboration

* Top career benefits: The trend toward unified data center infrastructure has fostered greater collaboration among formerly separated IT teams and given rise to new training programs, new certifications and new job roles and titles.
* IT career opportunities: Approximately 50 percent of IT professionals predicted the development of new IT career opportunities over the next three years as a result of cross-training and collaboration among formerly separate teams. More than a quarter (27 percent) cited greater efficiency as the reason for collaboration among IT teams, and 25 percent rated the deployment of new technologies as necessitating closer IT team integration.
* Career growth: Countries that predicted the greatest development of new IT careers due to cross-training and collaboration were India (59 percent), China (56 percent), Spain (53 percent) and Mexico (53 percent).
* Job opportunities: Across all countries, 43 percent expect new IT job opportunities opening up due to the latest training and certification programs for data center managers. This was the case especially in China (64 percent) and the U.S. (52 percent).
* Overall, 41 percent see new career opportunities opening up, with job descriptions and titles such as data center architect and data center manager; leading this trend are China (75 percent) and India (51 percent).

About the Study

* The study was commissioned by Cisco and conducted by InsightExpress, a third-party market-research firm based in the United States.
* Cisco commissioned the study to sharpen its understanding of present-day challenges that companies face as they strive to address employee and business needs amid increasing mobility capabilities, security risks and technologies that can deliver applications and information more ubiquitously, from virtualized data centers and cloud computing to traditional wired and wireless networks.
* The global study includes two surveys: one on employees, the other on IT professionals. Each survey included 100 respondents in each of the 13 countries, resulting in a survey pool of 2,600 people.
* The 13 countries: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States.

Supporting Quotes

“The data center is evolving to meet employee expectations for accessing networks, applications and information anywhere at any time with any device,” said Lew Tucker, Cisco’s chief technology officer, cloud computing. “The third installment of the Cisco Connected World Report demonstrates that IT professionals worldwide are embracing new technologies such as virtualization, cloud computing, desktop virtualization, and unified data center infrastructure to meet employee expectations while helping their companies meet their businesses goals.”

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Are Hybrid Clouds the Path to Cloud-Computing Nirvana?

The New York Times has an interesting article about hybrid clouds:

If you’re tackling your company’s computing needs, you’re going to have to get your head in the clouds. But which ones?

You’ve likely heard of cloud computing – shared computing resources available over the “cloud,” or the Internet. But it turns out there’s more than one way to cloud.

When most people talk about the cloud, they mean a public cloud — big server farms maintained by companies like Rackspace and Amazon.com available to and shared by a wide range of customers. They typically sell storage, bandwidth, and computing power at rates cheaper than most businesses could obtain on their own by maintaining their own computing infrastructure.

There are also cloud applications, like Salesforce.com’s customer-relationship management service, which provide both the software and the computing power needed to run it as a package deal. These, too, are a specialized form of public cloud.

The cost savings are compelling: Why own when you can rent? But cloud computing requires a shift in how programmers design and develop applications, however. That’s a burden for businesses both large and small. Add to that lingering concerns over security and availability, and it’s easy to understand why not everyone’s rushing to the public cloud.

Security concerns with the public cloud are mostly a myth, said Jason Hoffman, founder and chief technology officer of cloud-computing provider Joyent. But most major companies will probably still always have security standards that will prevent them from moving their business into the public cloud. Many businesses don’t want to ship sensitive information off to public cloud servers, especially if they’re in regulated industries. And for time-sensitive tasks like, say, computerized trading, firms may not want to give up the edge they get from running their own servers.

That doesn’t mean companies can’t embrace cloud computing. The notion that the cloud is “all or nothing” is a myth, Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels, a big public-cloud proponent, said earlier this year.

Some businesses are beginning to set up their own cloud-like pools of computing resources, called private clouds. They use the same kind of over-the-Internet architectures as public clouds, but they’re reserved for the use of the organization and can be firewalled off from the public Internet for a higher level of security and performance.

The best-of-both-worlds mix, where businesses use private clouds for their most important computing tasks and public clouds for occasional peaks of demand or less-sensitive tasks, like serving up images on a website, is the hybrid cloud. And it could be the way forward for businesses that aren’t ready to sail all the way to the cloud.

Startups and big software companies are gearing up for the hybrid-cloud opportunity. Eucalyptus Systems, a startup which recently raised $20 million, is making tools that help businesses adapt their applications to run on hybrid clouds. Microsoft and SAP are increasingly talking about hybrid clouds, where their software is available for installation on customer-owned servers and also provided as a service over the Internet.

Odds are that the public cloud will be the infrastructure that inevitably wins out, especially as the strength of their security gets tested and proven to the satisfaction of customers and regulators. But hybrid clouds could win in the short term, as a way to get businesses started on cloud architectures. And in some ways they live up to the ultimate promise of cloud computing — that it doesn’t matter where our servers are physically located. Public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud — as long as it’s in the cloud, and we’re getting more efficient, we’re headed in the right direction.

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Cloud computing can help call centers cut costs

As the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is expected to grow strongly this year, a software company encouraged call centers to cut capital and operational costs by using cloud computing.

“There’s a new call center model in town. At the very least, you should do your due diligence to decide if it’s right for you,” inContact executive vice president Jim Tanner said in a statement issued Monday.

Call centers — expected to grow by 28 percent this year — rake in more revenues and profits by using cloud-based systems where the software is hosted, secured, and maintained by a vendor, inContact said.

“Instead of installing costly equipment like phone switches and automatic call distributors, all of the necessary technology services [may be] managed by an off-site provider and delivered over a broadband connection,” Tanner said.

“These cloud-based call centers [deployed over the Internet to cut costs] are not only far less expensive than traditional premises-based versions but also far more versatile,” Tanner added.

“You pay a fixed monthly subscription fee based on the number of seats or users, eliminating the capital outlay and ongoing overhead of installing and managing call center equipment,” Tanner explained.

With this system in place, call center agents can work from anywhere using a standard telephone and computer, he said.

According to www.techtarget.com, cloud computing is “a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet.”

These services include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

Working away from the office

Call center agents can particularly work away from the office, Tanner pointed out.

“Agents working at home or at flexible time are more efficient, creating a so-called group of happy agents, which, in turn, gives companies higher productivity,” Tanner said.

“Home-based agents tend to be more mature, better educated, and more satisfied with their jobs, leading to increased efficiency and lower attrition rates,” he added.

The market for cloud-based call center infrastructure is booming, Tanner said, noting that it will grow by 35 percent in 2010 and 20 percent in 2011.

The market grew by 30 percent in 2009, he noted.

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Federal Government Moves Forward With ‘Cloud-First’ Plan

According to a story in The Washington Post, the General Services Administration’s decision last week to move its e-mail program to a Web-based system modeled on Google’s popular Gmail program is part of a major government drive to increase federal use of cloud computing.

The GSA is the first federal agency to make the Internet switch, and its decision follows the Office of Management and Budget’s declaration last month that the government is now operating under a “cloud-first” policy, meaning agencies must give priority to Web-based applications and services.

Government information-technology contractors, many of them based in the Washington area, have been anticipating the shift for months, trying to position themselves for future work.

The Obama administration has said that cloud computing will allow more people to share a common infrastructure, cutting technology and support costs. But some technologists have warned that Web-based software may not be as secure as systems built for a dedicated purpose. And the programs often depend on stable network connections.

The push for Web-based computing is part of a broader government effort to consolidate its 2,100 data centers by at least 40 percent by 2015.

Last week, GSA announced its decision to adopt Google’s e-mail system as part of its decision to award a $6.7 million, five-year task order to Unisys, a Pennsylvania-based contractor that has an extensive local presence. Unisys is partnering with Google, Tempus Nova and Acumen Solutions to deploy and manage the system.

Casey Coleman, GSA’s chief information officer, said the urgency to shift to cloud-based e-mail was because its in-house program depended on servers that were six years old, making it hard to find replacement parts.

“We have experienced some situations where it has come close to an outage that we could not afford to have,” she said.

Under the contract, GSA will migrate 17,000 e-mail accounts to the cloud. The new system is projected to cost about half as much as the existing one to manage, Coleman said. In addition, the new system will be easier to upgrade.

Michael Bradshaw, director of Google Federal, said GSA users will see some similarities between their federal e-mail and Google’s consumer Gmail, which should shorten the learning curve when the new software is introduced.

Federal officials said they hope that GSA’s shift will encourage more federal organizations to embrace cloud computing for e-mail and other applications. Cloud-focused contractors, whose numbers continue to grow, are also hoping that the move results in more business.

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