Piston Cloud Computing Launches pentOS, Enterprise Grade OpenStack Based Cloud Offering

Open source cloud computing took another giant leap forward with Piston Cloud Computing’s September 27 announcement of the launch of pentOS™. pentOS marks one of the first enterprise grade versions of OpenStack, the open source cloud computing infrastructure that has gained the backing of 110 companies including AMD, Canonical, Cisco, Dell, Intel and Citrix. The deployment of pentOS underscores the emerging power of OpenStack as an increasingly competitive option to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) vendors such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace. With pentOS, Piston joins Citrix Systems, Nebula and Dell in an elite group of vendors that commercialize the OpenStack platform. Piston marks one of the first live deployments of an enterprise grade level of OpenStack because Nebula’s OpenStack-based appliance and Citrix’s Project Olympus anticipate shipping in Q4 of this year.

With pentOS, Piston Cloud Computing leverages OpenStack’s IaaS software and additionally provides enterprise-level security, scaling and customer support. Some of the key features of pentOS involve the following:

• Ease of scalability: patent pending Null-tier architecture allows enterprises to scale their cloud architecture by replicating individual servers, one at a time, instead of upgrading an entire ecosystem of different machines.

• An enterprise installation of CloudAudit, a tool that enables cloud providers such as Piston to provide details of security and performance to potential customers.

• Enterprise customers can use pentOS to build private clouds and inter-operate with public clouds built upon an OpenStack infrastructure.

Piston’s announcement comes head on the heels of OpenStack’s launch of Diablo, its latest software release since the Cactus release in April 2011. Diablo, the first upgrade to OpenStack released on a 6 month schedule, upgrades its existing Nova, Object Storage and Glance components. The Diablo release additionally features OpenStack Dashboard and KeyStone. OpenStack Dashboard gives users access to an interface to understand performance within their cloud deployments. OpenStack Keystone provides enhanced authentication and identity management functionality.

Founded by CEO Joshua McKenty, chief technical architect of the NASA Nebula Cloud Computing Platform, and Christopher MacGown in early 2011, San Francisco based Piston Cloud Computing is funded by Hummer Winblad and True Ventures. The company’s deployment of an enterprise version of OpenStack significantly alters the horizon of cloud computing options available to enterprises that have particular concerns about vendor lock-in. Once deployed in General Availability mode, pentOS, Nebula and Project Olympus collectively promise to reconfigure the balance of cloud computing market share away from Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and Joyent, toward commercialized offerings of OpenStack that can deliver the portability increasingly demanded by enterprise CIOs.


Michael Arrington Publishes First Major Post On New Tech Blog “Uncrunched”

Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, posted his first substantial article on his new WordPress blog Uncrunched on Sunday evening. Titled “What Exactly Am I Doing Here At Uncrunched,” the blog post clarified Arrington’s personal investment in his new blog, after moving on from AOL acquisition TechCrunch earlier in September. In the post, Arrington confesses that he was finding his feet at TechCrunch for several years, never really clear on the blog’s mission or his own aspirations for the site: “I never really did know what I was doing at TechCrunch. I was writing about startups while building a startup and investing in others. It never occurred to me that as the site became, almost immediately, an important part of the tech news scene, to figure out exactly what my plans were.”

With Uncrunched, on the other hand, Arrington claims to have a clearer vision of the site’s purpose and his own investment in the newly launched blog. On one hand, Arrington claims he is going to do exactly what he was doing at TechCrunch since 2005:

I’m going to do the same thing I’ve been doing since 2005. I’m going to write about startups, and the people who build them, and the people who fund them, and the people who use them. I’m going to break stories and I’m going to write my opinion, and I’m to write whatever the hell else I feel like in between. If people want to read what I write, yay. If they don’t, I can live with that too.

Having noted he intends to continue passionately writing about start-ups, Arrington elaborates that readers should expect transparency, truth and bias from him in his reporting. By transparency he means the disclosure of personal investments and conflicts of interest in stories and situations; by truth he refers to a commitment to finding “the unvarnished, pure nugget of truth at the core of every issue that I write about,”; and by bias, Arrington cites the unavoidability of a personal slant or investment in the topics about which he writes, though admittedly much of that bias should be revealed by way of his commitment to transparency. Arrington characterizes his bias fundamentally in the form of a passion for “entrepreneurs and the startups they build” because they are his “rock stars.”

With this post, Arrington defines the lay of the land for his new blog and addresses many of the criticisms he encountered while at TechCrunch involving claims about the conflict of his interest between his practice of investing in start-ups and TechCrunch’s journalistic mission. Arrington was never able to successfully dispel claims about journalistic bias, even though he disclosed an investment policy to continue investing in start-ups, while revealing their details as considered appropriate. With “What Exactly Am I Doing Here At Uncrunched,” however, Arrington appears to be mapping the foundation anew for his blog at the outset, particularly by way of the explicit commitments to transparency, truth and bias at the same time. In a nutshell, he argues that he will continue investing in start-ups and covering them as a journalist, regardless of how people may feel about it.

Arrington’s popular tech blog TechCrunch was acquired by AOL in September 2010. In September 2011, Arrington decided to “move on” from his position as Editor of TechCrunch because of a conflict of interest involving his decision to start CrunchFund, a venture capital firm dedicated to investing in technology start-ups. Arianna Huffington, President and editor-in-chief of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group, refuted claims that Arrington’s departure involved issues of a personality clash of any kind, noting instead that “the heart of the matter” came down to: “Can someone running a venture fund edit a site covering the tech startup scene?”

Joyent Fires Salvo At Amazon Web Services With Enhanced Joyent Cloud

On Thursday, Joyent announced the launch of a new public cloud computing platform that takes direct aim at Amazon Web Services in the increasingly competitive Infrastructure as a Service space. The newly improved Joyent Cloud offering from the San Francisco based company incorporates the company’s August 15 reconfiguration of its SmartOS operating system that allows users to deploy applications on Windows and Linux operating systems in addition to SmartOS. The new Joyent Cloud boasts four principal innovations to an upgraded infrastructure management system called SmartDataCenter:

Enhanced analytics
Customers will have increased visibility to the performance of their cloud infrastructure thanks to the deployment of DTrace, an open source analytics tool that Joyent had previously leveraged exclusively for corporate, troubleshooting purposes.

Safe storage, Increased speed, Data security
Joyent claims its Windows, Linux and SmartOS machines have superior processing speeds, data security standards and secure storage. SmartOS machines deliver even more granular analytics than their Windows and Linux counterparts.

Lower computational costs
Because Joyent’s servers are reportedly up to 14 times faster than comparable Amazon EC2 machines, computing costs for customers are amongst the lowest in the industry.

More predictable pricing
Joyent has shifted to a pay per use pricing model at a rate starting at $.085/hour, in contrast to their previous subscription model.

The enhanced analytics give Joyent a competitive advantage over Amazon Web Services, which has often been characterized as a black box when it comes to providing customers with visibility about the performance of their deployments. “Customers are going to get, in their user interface, the ability to measure real-time latency from the infrastructure all the way up through the application stack,” said Steve Tuck, General Manager for Joyent Cloud. Amazon Web Services customers frequently use third party applications such as RightScale in order to gain more insight into latency within a cloud stack.

Joyent customers can now deploy applications on Windows and Linux operating systems because of the company’s “porting” of the KVM hypervisor onto its SmartOS operating system. The integration of the KVM hypervisor onto SmartOS allows for hardware virtualization in addition to operating level system virtualization. Joyent founder and chief scientist Jason Hoffman hailed the new Joyent SmartOS as the “first hypervisor platform to emerge in five years” and the only cloud solution in the industry “that can manage both KVM hardware virtualization and operating system-level virtualization on a single OS.” After porting the KVM onto its hypervisor, Joyent open sourced its revamped cloud SmartOS cloud operating system. The outspoken Hoffman claimed that “this combination of virtualization options, data consistency through ZFS and access to DTrace for rapid troubleshooting, is the most powerful and efficient collection of technologies in cloud application development. I invite developers who use VMWare, Citrix, Red Hat or Microsoft hypervisor tools to try this open source package.”

Hardware virtualization refers to a scenario whereby a hypervisor enables one server to function as several servers operating independently of each other. For example, one server might thereby be virtualized into three servers, each of which runs a different operating system such as SmartOS, Windows and Linux simultaneously. Operating system-level virtualization, on the other hand, refers to a case where the operating system itself is virtualized. In this case, a virtualized operating system features discrete cases of the same operating system running independently. Speaking of the impetus for the company’s recognition of hardware virtualization in its August 15 KVM integration, Joyent’s Steve Tuck noted that “there are a lot of developers out there that say, ‘I just want Linux or I just want Windows. I don’t want to worry about a couple of small differences, even if they are minor, before I code.”

Joyent Cloud claims 13,000 customers including high profile names such as LinkedIn, Kabam, StackMob, and Gilt Groupe. The company’s aggressive push of its Infrastructure as a Service offering comes in the wake of competition from increasing OpenStack deployments, the enterprise oriented Direct Connect offering from Amazon Web Services, Dell’s announcement of a VMWare based cloud offering and HP’s forthcoming OpenStack based cloud. Joyent is a member of the Open Virtualization Alliance, an association dedicated to the adoption of the KVM hypervisor as a robust alternative to proprietary cloud solutions.

Canonical Founder Endorses Amazon Web Services APIs As Standard Cloud API

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth’s ringing endorsement of Amazon Web Services APIs last week gave Amazon Web Services yet another boost as it consolidates its position in the enterprise space. Having launched its Amazon Direct Connect service in yet another region last week, Amazon Web Services continues to gain industry momentum that builds upon its deployment of GovCloud, the recently launched AWS region that enables government agencies to embrace cloud computing while complying with government level security regulations about the handling of sensitive data.

In a blog post last Thursday, Canonical’s founder Mark Shuttleworth advocated that OpenStack, the open source cloud computing platform backed by 110 companies, adopt Amazon APIs as their standard API for enabling transfers of data between OpenStack and other cloud environments. Shuttleworth referenced the HTTP standard for the World Wide Web as the protocol for data transfer and noted that Amazon’s API constitutes the analogue of HTTP for cloud computing:

Today, cloud infrastructure is looking for its HTTP. I think that standard already exists in de facto form today at AWS, with EC2, S3 and some of the credential mechanisms being essentially the core primitives of cloud infrastructure management.

Shuttleworth goes on to claim that, despite the existence of an effective standard for cloud computing APIs from Amazon, ample opportunities remain for advances in the area of cloud computing implementations:

There is enormous room for innovation in cloud infrastructure *implementations*, even within the constraints of that minimalist API. The hackers and funders and leaders and advocates of OpenStack, and any number of other cloud infrastructure projects both open source and proprietary, would be better off figuring out how to leverage that standardisation than trying to compete with it, simply because no other API is likely to gain the sort of ecosystem we see around AWS today.

Shuttleworth’s post was prompted by speculation that OpenStack should innovate at the level of an API in addition to its core IaaS infrastructure. Rather than innovating at the level of the API, the former Canonical CEO argues for adopting the AWS API as a standard and innovating around or with respect to that API. Shuttleworth believes OpenStack’s mission should be to serve as “the reference public cloud provider scale implementation of cloud infrastructure compatible with AWS core APIs.”

Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu Linux, joined the OpenStack community in February of 2011 and subsequently switched the core of its Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud to OpenStack instead of Eucalyptus in May. Shuttleworth’s endorsement of Amazon EC2 APIs comes as the battle for cloud inter-operability take shape, even though the relative immaturity of the industry means that a clear inter-operability standard analogous to healthcare’s HL7 protocol is months or even years away. AWS APIs compete with Apache’s Libcloud and Red Hat’s Deltacloud in a space that is gaining momentum as more and more companies consider switching from one cloud infrastructure to another.

AWS Direct Connect Now Available In US West Region

Amazon Web Services announced the general availability of AWS Direct Connect in its US West Region on Thursday. AWS Direct will be available in all US West Northern California Availability Zones through Equinix’s San Jose facility. Launched in early August, AWS Direct Connect provides a dedicated connection between a company’s datacenter or colocation environment and the Amazon Web Services technical infrastructure. The dedicated connection to AWS enables subscribers to bypass the internet and thereby enhance the security of their inbound and outbound data transfers. AWS is also expected to enable more predictable rates of data transfer, increase bandwidth and cut costs. The service is primarily intended for subscribers with large “data transfer requirements or are looking for more consistent network performance when accessing the cloud.” Amazon plans additional AWS Direct connections in Los Angeles, London, Tokyo and Singapore over the next few months.

Google Warns Users In Iran To Change Gmail Passwords

Google warned Iranian users to change their Gmail passwords and take other precautionary measures to ensure the integrity of their Google products after the security systems of DigiNotar, a company that provides SSL certificates, was hacked.
DigiNotar, a Dutch subsidiary of Data Security International Inc., issues certificates that guarantee the security of the interchange between a website and a user’s browser. DigiNotar’s hacking in mid-July resulted in the release of 531 fraudulent security websites for companies such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook and Twitter across 344 domains.

According to a report by FOX-IT, an independent firm hired by DigiNotar to investigate its security breach, a fraudulent .google.com security certificate was not revoked by DigiNotar until August 29. The certificate in question was issued on July 10. Between August 4 and August 29, 300,000 IP addresses requested access to that fraudulent Google security certificate, over 99% of which were from Iran.

In a September 8 blog post, Google pledged to contact affected users. The post also outlined five security precautions such as changing passwords, verifying account recovery options and ensuring the correctness of any email forwarding. Although the attack appeared not to affect the Google Chrome browser because of a security setting, Google suggested the precautionary measures wholesale to all users of its products in Iran.

Because the IP addresses that were rendered vulnerable to the fake google.com security certificate were almost entirely in Iran, speculation has been widespread that the Iranian government was responsible for the hacking. Meanwhile, a hacker by the name ComodoHacker, who hacked into a reseller for CA Comodo earlier this summer, has claimed responsibility for the DigiNotar attack. The hacker’s statement of responsibility targeted the Dutch government for its alleged involvement in killing Muslims in Serbia.