Egypt Court Bans YouTube For 30 Days

A Cairo court ordered the Egyptian government to block access to YouTube for 30 days because it provided access to “Innocence of Muslims,” a 14 minute movie trailer that led to protests last summer that resulted in over 50 deaths across 20 countries. The court, presided over by Judge Hassouna Tawfiq, ruled that the film was “offensive to Islam” because of its characterization of Muhammad as a pedophile, womanizer and fraud. Egypt’s new constitution prohibits insults against “religious messengers and prophets.” The injunction against the film was filed by Mohammed Hamid Salim, who argued that “Innocence of Muslims” posed a threat to Egyptian security. Although Google, YouTube’s parent company, has previously declined to remove the video entirely, it did restrict access to the video in Egypt, Libya and Indonesia on the premise that the video broke laws specific to those countries. As of Sunday afternoon, the ban against the entire YouTube file sharing platforms had not been enacted. Judge Hassouna Tawfiq reportedly threatened to ban other social media websites that shared the video as well. It remains unclear when the ban will be imposed or whether it will be repealed based on precedent involving related rulings.

Can Google’s Compute Engine Dethrone Amazon Web Services?

In June 2012, Google introduced its IaaS offering, Google Compute Engine (GCE). GCE allows users to deploy Linux Virtual Machines on the same infrastructure that powers Google’s world-class data centers and IT infrastructure. GCE complements Google’s related cloud offerings such as Google App Engine, Google Cloud Storage, and Google BigQuery and represents a significant competitive play to grab market share from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the undisputed market leader in the IaaS space. GCE’s value proposition rests upon Google’s reputation for scalability, performance, ability to compete in price and the allure that Google’s global technical infrastructure may prove itself virtually immune to the service disruptions that have affected both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure over the last year.

Upon its launch in June, GCE offered users instances in four sizes constituted by 1,2,4 and 8 virtual cores with 3.75GB of memory per virtual core. Since then, GCE has added a constellation of additional instance options that include high memory and high CPU instances in addition to a diskless option for users that do not need dedicated disk storage attacked to their server. Pricing is competitive with AWS: the AWS medium Linux instance featuring 3.75GB costs $.130/hour in comparison to GCE’s $.138/hour. Similarly, AWS’s extra large, 15 GB instance runs at $.520/hour in comparison to GCE’s $.552/hour.

Cloud Computing Today spoke with Floyd Strimling, Technical Evangelist and the Senior Director of Marketing & Community at Zenoss, about the positioning of Google and its Google Compute Engine IaaS platform in relation to AWS:

Cloud Computing Today:
Which vendor poses the biggest threat to the market share leadership had by Amazon Web Services?

Floyd Strimling:
The reality is Amazon’s biggest threat comes from themselves as they must keep innovating while improving performance, availability, and reliability. Surprisingly, Microsoft has both the technical implementation and pricing structure to threaten Amazon. However, they have a perception problem that could be the subject of another article. Finally, Google has all the pieces to compete but must answer questions about their privacy, customer support, and long term commitment to the enterprise.

One last thought, Rackspace is really the wild card as they have all their bases covered. The main threat for Rackspace is the maturity of OpenStack and the effort it will take to get their cloud offerings to match Amazon’s solutions. Given how fast Amazon is innovating, this is not an easy feat.

Cloud Computing Today:
What advantages does Google have over other vendors, or even over Amazon Web Services?

Floyd Strimling:
Google is simply an overwhelming powerhouse that has great admiration and respect within the industry. They own/lease their own fiber connections, are building out Google Fiber in Kansas City, have the dominant search engine and mobile platform, are threatening Microsoft/OpenOffice with Google Docs, and maintain everything from file sharing to email and everything in between. Yet their greatest strength may lie within their ability to monetize their services via advertising.

Cloud Computing Today:
What are the most significant challenges Google faces as it gears up to pose a competitive, IaaS challenge to Amazon Web Services?

Floyd Strimling:
Privacy – Google must prove to the Enterprise that they will safe guard and not abuse the information they are collecting.
Customer Support – Google must understand that customer support is the key to Enterprise market. Customer support is more than simply posting questions on a forum and waiting for answers. If I was Google, I’d take a trip out to San Antonio and learn from the best, Rackspace.
Long-Term Commitment – Google has a history of endless betas and, now, shutting down services. They must prove to the Enterprise that they are in this for the long haul and will work with their customers to refine any and all solutions.

Analysis

Market Mobility Within The IaaS Space Remains Significant

Although Amazon Web Services has clearly differentiated itself from the pack of IaaS vendors by way of its pricing and breathtaking track record of innovation, its rate of innovation represents a double-edged sword insofar as the industry expects AWS to roll out feature after feature and relentlessly redefine the meaning of the much maligned phrase “cloud computing”. That said, AWS’s record of innovation generates a converse pressure on potential rivals such as Rackspace and the commercial OpenStack community to similarly innovate at a rate faster than currently permitted by OpenStack’s six month release cycle. Nevertheless, Rackspace’s experience in the IaaS space and impeccable customer support pedigree renders it a key player that could well leverage OpenStack’s inter-operability to good measure.

Microsoft and Google both have the capital and wherewithal to compete with Amazon Web Services in price, but both struggle with “perception problems” of different flavors. The bottom line is that the IaaS race still remains wide open, particularly given the commitments made by tech giants and startups alike to platforms with similar functionality and visions. Strimling makes no mention of CloudStack, here, but one can assume they constitute a major player as well.

Google Will Need To Overcome Multiple Perception Problems To Compete With AWS

Even though Google has the technological infrastructure to pose a significant threat to AWS, it will need to shed its reputation for lack of dedication to enterprise customers. Admittedly, Google Docs has done some of the work of orienting Google towards the enterprise, but there is still much work to be done if Google wants to be perceived as less than fickle with respect to its history of rolling out products in Beta that it subsequently retracts. Moreover, given Google’s virtually unparalleled capability for searching through machine data, customers are likely to be wary of placing sensitive information in an infrastructure that permits Google to indulge its penchant for data mining. Google will need to appease customer concerns about privacy and security with strong, unequivocal customer agreements and licensing terms that guarantee the safety of its data from prying eyes qua search algorithms. Finally, Google will need a thought leader in the form of an outward facing CTO that can explain its technology and infrastructure to the enterprise in terms that CIOs, CTOs and the blogosphere understands and trusts. Just as Werner Vogels became the face of Amazon Web Services, Google will need to brand another cloud visionary with the ability to build trust amongst enterprise customers, developers and the “cloud computing” community more generally.

Google Launches Google Compute Engine (GCE) IaaS Offering To Compete With Amazon Web Services

On Thursday, Google announced the availability of the Google Compute Engine (GCE), an Infrastructure as a Service offering that allows users to provision Linux Virtual Machines from the same technical infrastructure that powers Google’s fleet of servers. GCE was created in response to requests by Google customers for an IaaS offering that can be leveraged alongside parallel Google products such as the Google App Engine, Google Cloud Storage and Google BigQuery. In a blog post, Craig McLuckie, Google Compute Engine’s Product Manager, noted that GCE is differentiated from other IaaS offerings by way of its scalability, performance and pricing. Given that GCE is built from the same cloth as the infrastructure that indexes billions of web pages a day, its architecture takes advantage of Google’s years of experience delivering computing capability at a high degree of performance, in environments requiring the ability to scale.

Key features of the Google Compute Engine (GCE) include the following:

• The ability to provision virtual machines based on the Ubuntu 12.04 or CentOS 6.2 distributions of Linux. In other words, GCE does not currently support virtualization on Windows machines in addition to Linux boxes the way Amazon Web Services does, for example.
• Virtualization is achieved by means of the KVM hypervisor. For the time being, Google’s decision to support only the KVM hypervisor means that other hypervisors from Microsoft, Citrix and VMware will not be available to customers with such hypervisor preferences.
• Integration with RightScale, PuppetLabs,OpsCode, Numerate, Cliqr and MapR.
Pricing starts at $0.145/hour for a 1 core, 3.75 GB RAM virtual machine.
• The Google APIs Console project provides a one stop shopping ground for the management of a customer’s projects in GCE. A project is defined by Google products and services, resources, team members and billing details.

Some preliminary benchmarks and user experience stories speak highly of GCE, both in terms of its raw computing performance but in regard to its user interface as well. Joe Masters Emison, VP of BuildFax, reflected on the user friendliness of the GCE ssh line as follows:

GCE provides a very nice command-line utility for interacting with its API. Both the utility and the GCE API highlight annoyances that exist with Amazon’s variety of different command-line programs. GCE’s “ssh” command is fabulous: after launching a virtual machine, you can call the GCE API and have it create a user, private key, and related authorized_keys entry for that VM with a single, easy command-line call. In contrast, AWS requires specifying one private key for root at launch, and then requires that you keep that key safe and remember where it is to log into the VM.

After noting how GCE enables users to “create a user, private key, and related authorized_keys entry for that VM with a single, easy command-line call,” Emison commented on GCE’s performance in a private Beta as follows:

In real-world benchmarks, using full copies of my company’s production database and replicas of our application servers, we found that VMs on GCE—in this private beta period—had more consistent performance than comparable servers on AWS.

Similarly, Invite Media tested GCE against a well known IaaS provider, with the following results:

An early user, Hamza Kaya, software engineer of Invite Media, said his firm must process 400,000 ad requests a second and was doing so on a well-known IaaS provider. Tests indicated it could run its operation more efficiently on Compute Engine. In two weeks, it was able to move its operations into the Google cloud, where it found each server was processing an average of 650 ad queries per second instead of the previous 350. In each case it commissioned eight-CPU servers, but found it needed 140 in Compute Engine compared to 284 from its previous supplier.

As everyone knows, however, benchmarks are notoriously difficult to appraise, so the IaaS world will need to wait for customer feedback on a larger scale as it trickles in over the next few months. For now, though, IaaS computing has a new, significant player in the form of Google and the allure presented by streamlined access to its other products such as Google App Engine and Google BigQuery. Rest assured, however, that the IaaS market share dominance had by Amazon Web Services is likely to continue, although its second outage in less than a month on Friday, June 29 is almost certain to set alarm bells ringing across the enterprise. In the latest Amazon Web Services outage, affected customers included such high profile names as such as Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix and Heroku, all of which suffered downtime due to thunderstorms that caused a “power event” in the Northern Virginia data center. The timing of the outage could not be better for Google, which will hope to capitalize on the outage by onboarding customers eager to experiment with another credible IaaS service provider alternative to Amazon Web Services.

Cloud Sherpas and GlobalOne Merge To Form More Powerful Cloud Service Provider

Google Enterprise 2011 Partner of the Year Cloud Sherpas has merged with Salesforce.com Platinum Consulting Partner GlobalOne to form a combined entity under the Cloud Sherpas name. Cloud Sherpas helps enterprises migrate to cloud-based Google applications such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Documents. GlobalOne, meanwhile, helps businesses unlock maximal business value out of Salesforce.com’s CRM applications. The union of the two companies will create an even more powerful cloud service provider organization that will drive the transformation from legacy applications to cloud-based software in verticals such as government, education and business. To top things off, Cloud Sherpas recently announced the finalization of an additional $20 million round of funding from Columbia Capital, a leading venture capital firm focused on enterprises.

The newly formed Cloud Sherpas organization boasts attributes such as the successful migration of 1.5 million employees to the cloud, over 1500 clients, more than $40 million in venture capital and year over year growth of roughly 300%. The infusion of $20 million in venture capital is expected to enable Cloud Sherpas to expand its geographic positioning, develop vertical market software solutions and increase its portfolio of inter-operable applications. GlobalOne CEO David Northington will assume the CEO role for the newly formed Cloud Sherpas organization. All 261 employees from both companies will continue with the new Cloud Sherpas organization, which is based in Atlanta.

Puppet Labs Secures $8.5 Million in Series C Funding With New Investors Cisco, Google Ventures and VMware

Puppet Labs announced the closure of a Series C funding round valued at $8.5 million. As a result of the funding raise, new investors Cisco, Google Ventures and VMware join existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, True Ventures, and Radar Partners. Since its formation in 2005, the company has now raised a total of $15.75 million. The new round of funding is intended to support a market in which “demand for our products is outstripping our ability to satisfy it through organic growth alone,” according to Puppet’s CEO Luke Kanies. Kanies further noted that VMware, Google and Cisco represented ideal partners to accelerate the adoption of its IT automation and management software because of their deep relationships in the virtualization, cloud computing and IT vendor landscape.

Puppet Labs provides software that enables system administrators to effectively manage increasingly heterogeneous IT environments featuring legacy systems, private clouds, virtual machines and public clouds, all of which collectively serve the needs of multiple constituencies with varying application needs and role-based access privileges. Puppet Enterprise 2.0 delivers a visually intuitive graphical interface that enables system administrators to discover existing resources, benchmark resource utilization against a desired baseline, configure and deploy new resources to increase scale, and launch critical updates, all within a matter of seconds, without adding headcount. Puppet Enterprise 2.0 also features provisioning capability for Amazon EC2 and VMware instances as well as unauthorized access and change of setting tracking for compliance purposes.

The Series C funding raise marks the culmination of a momentous year for the company. Puppet Labs outgrew its open source roots in January with the launch of the first commercial edition of its product, Puppet Enterprise. In September, the company launched Puppet Enterprise 2.0 and now claims over 250 customers including Twitter, Zynga, Oracle/Sun, Match.com and Constant Contact.

Karim Faris, partner at Google Ventures, remarked on the promise of Puppet Labs and its recent investment as follows:

“Global companies need efficient solutions to manage their on-premise and cloud infrastructures. The Puppet Labs team has demonstrated the market traction and leadership to capitalize on this tremendous opportunity, and we’re looking forward to working with them to grow the business.”

The widespread commercial interest in Puppet Labs underscores the need for technology to manage increasingly complex IT environments that feature a combination of traditional and cloud based applications. The success of Puppet Labs over the past year suggests that, alongside cloud security and mobile device management, Puppet’s specialization in technology orchestration and management increasingly ranks as one of the auxiliary technologies likely to mushroom alongside the proliferation of virtualization and cloud computing in contemporary enterprise IT environments.

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.