IBM Opens SoftLayer Datacenter In Hong Kong As Part of Global Cloud Expansion Strategy

On Monday, IBM opened a new SoftLayer datacenter in Hong Kong as part of a $1.2 billion investment to strengthen its cloud services in Asia and all over the world. The Hong datacenter represents the first of 15 datacenters that IBM plans to open worldwide this year, bringing its total fleet of centers to 40 by the end of the year. Separate from the Hong Kong datacenter, IBM currently has 13 SoftLayer data centers and 12 from IBM. The Hong Kong data center has capacity for over 15,000 servers and complements IBM’s presence in Asia by way of the Singapore datacenter and “network points of presence” in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Moreover, it positions SoftLayer to serve the entrepreneurial community’s cloud services needs in Hong Kong. IBM intends to deploy data centers in all major geographic regions and financial centers worldwide, including plans to extend its cloud services presence to Africa and the Middle East in 2015.

Metacloud Raises $15M In Series B Funding For OpenStack-Based Private Cloud Solutions

Metacloud recently announced the finalization of $15M in Series B funding in a round led by Pelion Venture Partners, Silicon Valley Bank, and UMC Capital, with additional participation from existing investors AME Cloud Ventures, Canaan Partners, and Storm Ventures. The funding will be used to accelerate the company’s product development as well as to expand its team. Currently, Metacloud offers two OpenStack-based private cloud products in the form of Metacloud OnPrem and Metacloud Hosted. Metacloud OnPrem represents an enterprise-grade on premise private cloud solution whereas Metacloud Hosted constitutes a private cloud solution hosted by Metacloud that absolves customers of the hassles of maintaining a datacenter. The Series B funding testifies to Metacloud’s increasing traction in the commercial OpenStack space and the conviction of its investors that it can carve out a niche in the highly competitive, OpenStack-based private cloud market. Metacloud’s total funding now stands at $27M.

ActiveState Stackato 3.2 Delivers An Enterprise Hardened PaaS With Enhanced Security And Ease Of Management

This week, polyglot private PaaS vendor ActiveState announced the release of ActiveState Stackato 3.2, which features an array of enhancements that collectively focus on improving the security, scalability and ease of management of the platform. Version 3.2 delivers single sign-on functionality to ensure that access to the application complies with the identity management protocols of customers. In addition, this release upgrades the granularity of application-related permissions in order to give system administrators expanded control over who has access to specific components of the Stackato PaaS in conjunction with the ability to tweak their rights and permissions. Version 3.2 also offers placement zones and availability zones that allow customers to deploy their applications across multiple data centers or specific spheres of hardware in order to ensure the availability of applications in the event of infrastructure failover specific to one data center or set of infrastructure. Moreover, Stackato 3.2 supports application auto-scaling to maximize application availability during peak usage periods while concurrently scaling down the application during periods of diminished usage. Stackato’s auto-scaling functionality extends to Stackato on CloudStack or the Citrix CloudPlatform. Version 3.2 also features enhancements to Stackato’s management console in the form of additional dashboards that provide administrators with visual representations of the status of usage across placement and availability zones as well as memory availability and allocations across a cluster.

Stackato version 3.2 goes a long way toward rendering the Stackato platform fit for production usage amongst enterprise customers that demand granular permissions, single sign-on functionality, auto-scaling and the ability to deploy applications in multiple placement and availability zones. As such, the release constitutes yet another example of an enterprise-grade PaaS at a historical moment when PaaS technologies have been overshadowed by price wars in the IaaS space and industry innovations specific to Big Data analytics and management. Stackato, recall, is built on technology from the Cloud Foundry initiative and supports development languages such as, but not limited to, Java, Perl, Python, PHP, Ruby, Node.js, Erlang, Scala, Clojure and Mono. This week’s release illustrates the depth of innovation originating from one of the industry’s key PaaS players at a time when IaaS continues to overshadow PaaS despite the uniqueness of PaaS technology and its clear differentiation from IaaS.

Given The General Availability Of Google Compute Engine, Is Amazon Web Services Destined To Meet Its Match?

On Monday, Google announced the general availability of Google Compute Engine, the Infrastructure as a Service public cloud platform that Google first announced in June 2012. Unlike many of Google’s product offerings, which are not targeted toward enterprise customers, Google Compute Engine comes with 24/7 customer support and a 99.95% SLA. Moreover, the platform boasts encryption of data at rest in an effort to respond to customer concerns about data security, particularly given Google’s vaunted reputation for mining every piece of data touched by its hardware and range of software applications. Monday’s general availability release features a 10% price reduction on standard, server instances and a 60% price reduction in storage pricing per gigabyte for its persistent disk service.

At the level of functionality, the GA release of Google Compute Engine claims the following three notable features:

Expanded Support for Operating Systems

Whereas Google Compute Engine supported the Linux distributions Debian and Centos in preview mode, the GA version supports a range of Linux distributions including SELinux, CoreOS, SUSE and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (limited preview). This release also features support for Docker containers that enable users to spin up containers instead of virtual machines to accelerate automated testing, continuous integration and deployment.

Transparent, automated maintenance and live migration

Google Compute Engine is now the beneficiary of ongoing, transparent maintenance routines and processes in order to ensure the effective functioning of the GCE infrastructure. Transparent maintenance operates by working on “only a small piece of the infrastructure in a given zone” such that “Google Compute Engine automatically moves your instances elsewhere in the zone, out of the way of the maintenance work” with the help of live migration technology. Customer instances continue to operate as usual while maintenance is performed.

Three New 16 Core Instances

In order to serve the needs of customers that require greater computational power, Google Compute Engine now boasts three 16 core instances for the standard, high memory and high CPU instance types. Use cases for the computing power delivered by these instances include advanced simulations and NoSQL platforms that require high degrees of scalability and performance.

Gartner analyst Lydia Leong reflected on a comparison between GCE and Amazon Web Services in a blog post and concluded:

GCE still lags AWS tremendously in terms of breadth and depth of feature set, of course, but it also has aspects that are immediately more attractive for some workloads. However, it’s now at the point where it’s a viable alternative to AWS for organizations who are looking to do cloud-native applications, whether they’re start-ups or long-established companies. I think the GA of GCE is a demarcation of market eras — we’re now moving into a second phase of this market, and things only get more interesting from here onwards.

Leong sees the general availability of Google Compute Engine as the “second phase” of the IaaS market, whereby Google and AWS stand poised to out-innovate each other and subsequently push each other to new technological heights. The challenge for Google, however, as Leong rightly suggests elsewhere in her blog post, is that it will need to earn the trust of enterprise customers. The industry will not expect Google to deliver the “fanatical support” which became the hallmark and differentiator of Rackspace, for example, but it will expect degrees of white glove support and professional services that are not familiar parts of the Google apparatus, just yet.

Moreover, as part of the project of gaining the support of the enterprise, Google will need to deliver more explicit guarantees of the safety of data hosted within its IaaS platform from the prying eyes of its repertoire of tools for analyzing structured and unstructured data stored in every conceivable format and structure. Finally, Google will ultimately need an outward facing CTO comparable to Amazon’s Werner Vogels that can evangelize the platform and sell customers on a roadmap that ultimately achieves feature parity, if not superiority, as compared to Amazon Web Services. Technology and innovation has never been Google’s problem. Capturing the confidence of the enterprise, however, has been a different story entirely for Google, although as Leong notes, Monday’s announcement may signal a fork in the road for the IaaS space and the Mountain View-based, search engine and technology behemoth. Current GCE customers include Snapchat, Evite and Wix.

CloudSigma Expands U.S. Presence To Equinix IBX In D.C. In Addition To Las Vegas

CloudSigma today announced the addition of another IaaS, public cloud deployment within the U.S. In addition to its Las Vegas based cloud at SwitchNAP, CloudSigma will now have a public cloud deployment at the Equinix’s DC6 International Business Exchange (IBX) in Washington D.C. The addition of a secondary public cloud deployment will provide customers with greater failover and replication capabilities in addition to reduced latency times. CloudSigma CEO Robert Jenkins remarked on the company’s expansion within the U.S. as follows:

The combination of increasing customer demand and our growing partnership with Equinix made this an ideal time to grow our public cloud to a second U.S. data center location. This expansion shows further validation for our uniquely flexible and customer-centric public cloud model – something we expect to build out in additional regions, including Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, in the near future.

According to the company’s press release, web-based applications that take advantage of the additional public cloud location in DC in addition to Las Vegas are likely to see end-user performance improvements on the order of 100% in select geographic locales. Today’s announcement additionally underscores the popularity of the Equinix’s DC6 International Business Exchange (IBX) data center in Ashburn as a key internet hub because of its direct connection to Amazon Web Services, and home to nine of the top ten CDNs as well as nine prominent ad exchanges. The larger point illustrated by CloudSigma’s expansion, however, is that enterprise customers in the U.S. have an increasingly wide range of cloud options and are likely to benefit from supplementary education and consulting services regarding how to sift through the dizzying array of cloud products and platforms.

IBM Surpasses $1 Billion In Quarterly Cloud Revenue For First Time

IBM today announced that it exceeded $1 billion in quarterly cloud computing-related revenue for the first time in the company’s history. Of the $1 billion in cloud revenue, “$460 million is delivered as a cloud service” according to Mark Loughridge, IBM’s Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Enterprise Transformation. IBM’s cloud-related revenue for 2013 was up 70% in comparison to the same time period last year. A large part of IBM’s growth in the cloud segment of its revenues is presumably attributable to its July acquisition of SoftLayer, an IaaS public cloud solution that additionally features dedicated server and managed hosting solutions. IBM’s Smarter Planet and Analytics solutions delivered similarly impressive results with its Smarter Planet platform reporting earnings up 20% through September and its Analytics solutions up 8% through 2013. Cloud revenue represented a bright spot in an otherwise mixed earnings report for IBM marked by a 4% decline in overall Q3 revenue to $23.7 billion.