Entries tagged as cloud
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Tuesday, October 30. 2012
Via Slash Gear
It isn’t exactly a secret that authorities and entertainment groups don’t like The Pirate Bay, but today the infamous site made it a little bit harder for them to bring it down. The Pirate Bay announced today that it has move its servers to the cloud. This works in a couple different ways: it helps the people who run The Pirate Bay save money, while it makes it more difficult for police to carry out a raid on the site.
“All attempts to attack The Pirate Bay from now on is an attack on everything and nothing,” a Pirate Bay blog post reads. “The site that you’re at will still be here, for as long as we want it to. Only in a higher form of being. A reality to us. A ghost to those who wish to harm us.” The site told TorrentFreak after the switch that its currently being hosted by two different cloud providers in two different countries, and what little actual hardware it still needs to use is being kept in different countries as well. The idea is not only to make it harder for authorities to bring The Pirate Bay down, but also to make it easier to bring the site back up should that ever happen.
Even if authorities do manage to get their hands on The Pirate Bay’s remaining hardware, they’ll only be taking its transit router and its load balancer – the servers are stored in several Virtual Machine instances, along with all of TPB’s vital data. The kicker is that these cloud hosting companies aren’t aware that they’re hosting The Pirate Bay, and if they discovered the site was using their service, they’d have a hard time digging up any dirt on users since the communication between the VMs and the load balancer is encrypted.
In short, it sounds like The Pirate Bay has taken a huge step in not only protecting its own rear end, but those of users as well. If all of this works out the way The Pirate Bay is claiming it will, then don’t expect to hear about the site going down anytime soon. Still, there’s nothing stopping authorities from trying to bring it down, or from putting in the work to try and figure out who the people behind The Pirate Bay are. Stay tuned
Tuesday, September 25. 2012
Via New York Times
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jeff Rothschild’s machines at Facebook had a problem he knew he had to solve immediately. They were about to melt.
The company had been packing a 40-by-60-foot rental space here with racks of computer servers that were needed to store and process information from members’ accounts. The electricity pouring into the computers was overheating Ethernet sockets and other crucial components.
Thinking fast, Mr. Rothschild, the company’s engineering chief, took some employees on an expedition to buy every fan they could find — “We cleaned out all of the Walgreens in the area,” he said — to blast cool air at the equipment and prevent the Web site from going down.
That was in early 2006, when Facebook had a quaint 10 million or so users and the one main server site. Today, the information generated by nearly one billion people requires outsize versions of these facilities, called data centers, with rows and rows of servers spread over hundreds of thousands of square feet, and all with industrial cooling systems.
They are a mere fraction of the tens of thousands of data centers that now exist to support the overall explosion of digital information. Stupendous amounts of data are set in motion each day as, with an innocuous click or tap, people download movies on iTunes, check credit card balances through Visa’s Web site, send Yahoo e-mail with files attached, buy products on Amazon, post on Twitter or read newspapers online.
A yearlong examination by The New York Times has revealed that this foundation of the information industry is sharply at odds with its image of sleek efficiency and environmental friendliness.
Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner, interviews and documents show. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid, The Times found.
To guard against a power failure, they further rely on banks of generators that emit diesel exhaust. The pollution from data centers has increasingly been cited by the authorities for violating clean air regulations, documents show. In Silicon Valley, many data centers appear on the state government’s Toxic Air Contaminant Inventory, a roster of the area’s top stationary diesel polluters.
Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times. Data centers in the United States account for one-quarter to one-third of that load, the estimates show.
“It’s staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems,” said Peter Gross, who helped design hundreds of data centers. “A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.”
Energy efficiency varies widely from company to company. But at the request of The Times, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed energy use by data centers and found that, on average, they were using only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations. The rest was essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations.
A server is a sort of bulked-up desktop computer, minus a screen and keyboard, that contains chips to process data. The study sampled about 20,000 servers in about 70 large data centers spanning the commercial gamut: drug companies, military contractors, banks, media companies and government agencies.
“This is an industry dirty secret, and no one wants to be the first to say mea culpa,” said a senior industry executive who asked not to be identified to protect his company’s reputation. “If we were a manufacturing industry, we’d be out of business straightaway.”
These physical realities of data are far from the mythology of the Internet: where lives are lived in the “virtual” world and all manner of memory is stored in “the cloud.”
The inefficient use of power is largely driven by a symbiotic relationship between users who demand an instantaneous response to the click of a mouse and companies that put their business at risk if they fail to meet that expectation.
Even running electricity at full throttle has not been enough to satisfy the industry. In addition to generators, most large data centers contain banks of huge, spinning flywheels or thousands of lead-acid batteries — many of them similar to automobile batteries — to power the computers in case of a grid failure as brief as a few hundredths of a second, an interruption that could crash the servers.
“It’s a waste,” said Dennis P. Symanski, a senior researcher at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit industry group. “It’s too many insurance policies.”
Friday, May 11. 2012
The cloud storage scene has heated up recently, with a long-awaited entry by Google and a revamped SkyDrive from Microsoft. Dropbox has gone unchallenged by the major players for a long time, but that’s changed – both Google and Microsoft are now challenging Dropbox on its own turf, and all three services have their own compelling features. One thing’s for sure – Dropbox is no longer the one-size-fits-all solution.
These three aren’t the only cloud storage services – the cloud storage arena is full of services with different features and priorities, including privacy-protecting encryption and the ability to synchronize any folder on your system.
Dropbox introduced cloud storage to the masses, with its simple approach to cloud storage and synchronization – a single magic folder that follows you everywhere. Dropbox deserves credit for being a pioneer in this space and the new Google Drive and SkyDrive both build on the foundation that Dropbox laid.
Dropbox doesn’t have strong integration with any ecosystems – which can be a good thing, as it is an ecosystem-agnostic approach that isn’t tied to Google, Microsoft, Apple, or any other company’s platform.
Dropbox today is a compelling and mature offering supporting a wide variety of platforms. Dropbox offers less free storage than the other services (unless you get involved in their referral scheme) and its prices are significantly higher than those of competing services – for example, an extra 100GB is four times more expensive with Dropbox compared to Google Drive.
Google Drive is the evolution of Google Docs, which already allowed you to upload any file – Google Drive bumps the storage space up from 1 GB to 5 GB, offers desktop sync clients, and provides a new web interface and APIs for web app developers.
Google Drive is a serious entry from Google, not just an afterthought like the upload-any-file option was in Google Docs.
Its integration with third-party web apps – you can install apps and associate them with file types in Google Drive – shows Google’s vision of Google Drive being a web-based hard drive that eventually replaces the need for desktop sync clients entirely.
You can actually purchase up to 16 TB of storage space with Google Drive – for $800/month!
Microsoft released a revamped SkyDrive the day before Google Drive launched, but Google Drive stole its thunder. Nevertheless, SkyDrive is now a compelling product, particularly for people into Microsoft’s ecosystem of Office web apps, Windows Phone, and Windows 8, where it’s built into Metro by default.
Like Google with Google Drive, Microsoft’s new SkyDrive product imitates the magic folder pioneered by Dropbox.
Microsoft offers the most free storage space at 7 GB – although this is down from the original 25 GB. Microsoft also offers good prices for additional storage.
SugarSync is a popular alternative to Dropbox. It offers a free 5 GB of storage and it lets you choose the folders you want to synchronize – a feature missing in the above services, although you can use some tricks to synchronize other folders. SugarSync also has clients for mobile platforms that don’t get a lot of love, including Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry (Dropbox also has a Blackberry client).
Amazon also offers their own cloud storage service, known as Amazon Cloud Drive. There’s one big problem, though – there’s no official desktop sync client. Expect Amazon to launch their own desktop sync program if they’re serious about competing in this space. If you really want to use Amazon Cloud Drive, you can use a third-party application to access it from your desktop.
Box is popular, but its 25 MB file size limit is extremely low. It also offers no desktop sync client (except for businesses). While Box may be a good fit for the enterprise, it can’t stand toe-to-toe with the other services here for consumer cloud storage and syncing.
If you’re worried about the privacy of your data, you can use an encrypted service, such as SpiderOak or Wuala, instead. Or, if you prefer one of these services, use an app like BoxCryptor to encrypt files and store them on any cloud storage service.
Tuesday, April 03. 2012
Via ars technica
It's nice to imagine the cloud as an idyllic server room—with faux grass, no less!—but there's actually far more going on than you'd think.
Maybe you're a Dropbox devotee. Or perhaps you really like streaming Sherlock on Netflix. For that, you can thank the cloud.
In fact, it's safe to say that Amazon Web Services (AWS) has become synonymous with cloud computing; it's the platform on which some of the Internet's most popular sites and services are built. But just as cloud computing is used as a simplistic catchall term for a variety of online services, the same can be said for AWS—there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than you might think.
If you've ever wanted to drop terms like EC2 and S3 into casual conversation (and really, who doesn't?) we're going to demystify the most important parts of AWS and show you how Amazon's cloud really works.
Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2)
Think of EC2 as the computational brain behind an online application or service. EC2 is made up of myriad instances, which is really just Amazon's way of saying virtual machines. Each server can run multiple instances at a time, in either Linux or Windows configurations, and developers can harness multiple instances—hundreds, even thousands—to handle computational tasks of varying degrees. This is what the elastic in Elastic Cloud Compute refers to; EC2 will scale based on a user's unique needs.
Instances can be configured as either Windows machines, or with various flavors of Linux. Again, each instance comes in different sizes, depending on a developer's needs. Micro instances, for example, only come with 613 MB of RAM, while Extra Large instances can go up to 15GB. There are also other configurations for various CPU or GPU processing needs.
Finally, EC2 instances can be deployed across multiple regions—which is really just a fancy way of referring to the geographic location of Amazon's data centers. Multiple instances can be deployed within the same region (on separate blocks of infrastructure called availability zones, such as US East-1, US East-2, etc.), or across more than one region if increased redundancy and reduced latency is desired
Elastic Load Balance (ELB)
Another reason why a developer might deploy EC2 instances across multiple availability zones and regions is for the purpose of load balancing. Netflix, for example, uses a number of EC2 instances across multiple geographic location. If there was a problem with Amazon's US East center, for example, users would hopefully be able to connect to Netflix via the service's US West instances instead.
But what if there is no problem, and a higher number of users are connecting via instances on the East Coast than on the West? Or what if something goes wrong with a particular instance in a given availability zone? Amazon's Elastic Load Balance allows developers to create multiple EC2 instances and set rules that allow traffic to be distributed between them. That way, no one instance is needlessly burdened while others idle—and when combined with the ability for EC2 to scale, more instances can also be added for balance where required.
Elastic Block Storage (EBS)
Think of EBS as a hard drive in your computer—it's where an EC2 instance stores persistent files and applications that can be accessed again over time. An EBS volume can only be attached to one EC2 instance at a time, but multiple volumes can be attached to the same instance. An EBS volume can range from 1GB to 1TB in size, but must be located in the same availability zone as the instance you'd like to attach to.
Because EC2 instances by default don't include a great deal of local storage, it's possible to boot from an EBS volume instead. That way, when you shut down an EC2 instance and want to re-launch it at a later date, it's not just files and application data that persist, but the operating system itself.
Simple Storage Service (S3)
Unlike EBS volumes, which are used to store operating system and application data for use with an EC2 instance, Amazon's Simple Storage Service is where publicly facing data is usually stored instead. In other words, when you upload a new profile picture to Twitter, it's not being stored on an EBS volume, but with S3.
S3 is often used for static content, such as videos, images or music, though virtually anything can be uploaded and stored. Files uploaded to S3 are referred to as objects, which are then stored in buckets. As with EC2, S3 storage is scalable, which means that the only limit on storage is the amount of money you have to pay for it.
Buckets are also stored in regions, and within that region “are redundantly stored on multiple devices across multiple facilities.” However, this can cause latency issues if a user in Europe is trying to access files stored in a bucket within the US West region, for example. As a result, Amazon also offers a service called CloudFront, which allows objects to be mirrored across other regions.
While these are the core features that make up Amazon Web Services, this is far from a comprehensive list. For example, on the AWS landing page alone, you'll find things such as DynamoDB, Route53, Elastic Beanstalk, and other features that would take much longer to detail here.
However, if you've ever been confused about how the basics of AWS work—specifically, how computational data and storage is provisioned and scaled—we hope this gives you a better sense of how Amazon's brand of cloud works.
Correction: Initially, we confused regions in AWS with availability zones. As Mhj.work explains in the comments of this article, "availability Zones are actually "discrete" blocks of infrastructure ... at a single geographical location, whereas the geographical units are called Regions. So for example, EU-West is the Region, whilst EU-West-1, EU-West-2, and EU-West-3 are Availability Zones in that Region." We have updated the text to make this point clearer.
Monday, February 06. 2012
Monday, January 23. 2012
Researchers have succeeded in combining the power of quantum computing with the security of quantum cryptography and have shown that perfectly secure cloud computing can be achieved using the principles of quantum mechanics. They have performed an experimental demonstration of quantum computation in which the input, the data processing, and the output remain unknown to the quantum computer. The international team of scientists will publish the results of the experiment, carried out at the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology (VCQ) at the University of Vienna and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI), in the forthcoming issue of Science.
Quantum computers are expected to play an important role in future information processing since they can outperform classical computers at many tasks. Considering the challenges inherent in building quantum devices, it is conceivable that future quantum computing capabilities will exist only in a few specialized facilities around the world – much like today's supercomputers. Users would then interact with those specialized facilities in order to outsource their quantum computations. The scenario follows the current trend of cloud computing: central remote servers are used to store and process data – everything is done in the "cloud." The obvious challenge is to make globalized computing safe and ensure that users' data stays private.
The latest research, to appear in Science, reveals that quantum computers can provide an answer to that challenge. "Quantum physics solves one of the key challenges in distributed computing. It can preserve data privacy when users interact with remote computing centers," says Stefanie Barz, lead author of the study. This newly established fundamental advantage of quantum computers enables the delegation of a quantum computation from a user who does not hold any quantum computational power to a quantum server, while guaranteeing that the user's data remain perfectly private. The quantum server performs calculations, but has no means to find out what it is doing – a functionality not known to be achievable in the classical world.
The scientists in the Vienna research group have demonstrated the concept of "blind quantum computing" in an experiment: they performed the first known quantum computation during which the user's data stayed perfectly encrypted. The experimental demonstration uses photons, or "light particles" to encode the data. Photonic systems are well-suited to the task because quantum computation operations can be performed on them, and they can be transmitted over long distances.
The process works in the following manner. The user prepares qubits – the fundamental units of quantum computers – in a state known only to himself and sends these qubits to the quantum computer. The quantum computer entangles the qubits according to a standard scheme. The actual computation is measurement-based: the processing of quantum information is implemented by simple measurements on qubits. The user tailors measurement instructions to the particular state of each qubit and sends them to the quantum server. Finally, the results of the computation are sent back to the user who can interpret and utilize the results of the computation. Even if the quantum computer or an eavesdropper tries to read the qubits, they gain no useful information, without knowing the initial state; they are "blind."
The research at the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology (VCQ) at the University of Vienna and at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences was undertaken in collaboration with the scientists who originally invented the protocol, based at the University of Edinburgh, the Institute for Quantum Computing (University of Waterloo), the Centre for Quantum Technologies (National University of Singapore), and University College Dublin.
Publication: "Demonstration of Blind Quantum Computing" Stefanie Barz, Elham Kashefi, Anne Broadbent, Joseph Fitzsimons, Anton Zeilinger, Philip Walther. DOI: 10.1126/science.1214707
Tuesday, December 20. 2011
Everyone likes personal cloud services, like Apple’s iCloud, Google Music, and Dropbox. But, many of aren’t crazy about the fact that our files, music, and whatever are sitting on someone else’s servers without our control. That’s where ownCloud comes in.
OwnCloud is an open-source cloud program. You use it to set up your own cloud server for file-sharing, music-streaming, and calendar, contact, and bookmark sharing project. As a server program it’s not that easy to set up. OpenSUSE, with its Mirall installation program and desktop client makes it easier to set up your own personal ownCloud, but it’s still not a simple operation. That’s going to change.
According to ownCloud’s business crew, “OwnCloud offers the ease-of-use and cost effectiveness of Dropbox and box.net with a more secure, better managed offering that, because it’s open source, offers greater flexibility and no vendor lock in. This makes it perfect for business use. OwnCloud users can run file sync and share services on their own hardware and storage or use popular public hosting and storage offerings.” I’ve tried it myself and while setting it up is still mildly painful, once up ownCloud works well.
OwnCloud enables universal access to files through a Web browser or WebDAV. It also provides a platform to easily view and sync contacts, calendars and bookmarks across all devices and enables basic editing right on the Web. Programmers will be able to add features to it via its open application programming interface (API).
OwnCloud is going to become an easy to run and use personal, private cloud thanks to a new commercial company that’s going to take ownCloud from interesting open-source project to end-user friendly program. This new company will be headed by former SUSE/Novell executive Markus Rex. Rex, who I’ve known for years and is both a business and technology wizard, will serve as both CEO and CTO. Frank Karlitschek, founder of the ownCloud project, will be staying.
To make this happen, this popular–350,000 users-program’s commercial side is being funded by Boston-based General Catalyst, a high-tech. venture capital firm. In the past, General Catalyst has helped fund such companies as online travel company Kayak and online video platform leader Brightcove.
General Catalyst came on board, said John Simon, Managing Director at General Catalyst in a statement, because, “With the explosion of unstructured data in the enterprise and increasingly mobile (and insecure) ways to access it, many companies have been forced to lock down their data–sometimes forcing employees to find less than secure means of access, or, if security is too restrictive, risk having all that unavailable When we saw the ease-of-use, security and flexibility of ownCloud, we were sold.”
“In a cloud-oriented world, ownCloud is the only tool based on a ubiquitous open-source platform,” said Rex, in a statement. “This differentiator enables businesses complete, transparent, compliant control over their data and data storage costs, while also allowing employees simple and easy data access from anywhere.”
As a Linux geek, I already liked ownCloud. At the company releases
mass-market ownCloud products and service in 2012, I think many of you
are going to like it as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing where
this program goes from here.
Friday, September 09. 2011
We’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of energy our services use. In fact, to provide you with Google products for a month—not just search, but Google+, Gmail, YouTube and everything else we have to offer—our servers use less energy per user than a light left on for three hours. And, because we’ve been a carbon-neutral company since 2007, even that small amount of energy is offset completely, so the carbon footprint of your life on Google is zero.
Thursday, July 14. 2011
Over the past few months, there have been a number of notable service quality incidents and security breaches of online services, including Sony’s PlayStation network, Amazon’s cloud service, Dropbox’s storage in the cloud, and countless others. The bar talk around “cloud” computing and online services would have you think that businesses and consumers are shying away from using hosted services, using Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, from storing their data “in the cloud,” or from migrating some or all of their computing infrastructure to virtual machines hosted by cloud service providers. However, there’s actually an uptick in the uptake of cloud computing in all of its various incarnations.
We (consumers and businesses) are using “cloud” services for all of the following kinds of activities:
1. Accessing and downloading media.
2. Accessing and downloading mobile apps.
3. Accessing and running business applications (CRM, hiring, ecommerce, logistics, provisioning, etc.).
4. Collaborating with colleagues, clients, and customers (project management, online communities, email, meeting scheduling).
5. Analyzing large amounts of data.
6. Storing large amounts of data (much of it unstructured, like video, images, text files, etc.).
7. Developing and testing new applications and online services.
8. Running distributed applications that need high performance around the globe. (All of the social media apps we use are essentially “cloud” applications—they run on virtual machines hosted in mostly 3rd-party data centers all over the world.)
9. Scaling our operations to handle seasonal and other peaking requirements—where we can take advantage of buying computing capabilities by the hour, rather than pre-paying for capacity we rarely need.
10. Back up and Disaster Recovery—keeping copies of our systems and data in remote locations, ready to run if a natural disaster impacts our normal operations.
In short, “cloud computing” in all of its instantiations—Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, Cloud Storage, Cloud Computing, etc.—is here to stay. Taking advantage of the cloud (virtual computers running software in data centers distributed around the globe) is the most scalable and the most cost-effective way to provide computing resources and services to anyone who has reliable access to high bandwidth networking via the Internet.
What About Security and Back Up?
SaaS and cloud providers have had a lot of experience helping IT organizations migrate some or all of their computing and/or storage to the cloud. And most of them report that most IT organizations’ data security practices leave quite a bit to be desired before they migrate to the cloud. Their customers’ data security and integrity typically improves dramatically as a result of re-thinking their requirements and implementing better policies and practices as they migrated some or all of their computing. (Just because data is in your own physical data center doesn’t mean it’s safe!)
It’s Time to Run Around in Front of the Cloud Parade
Tuesday, June 14. 2011
The iTunes store continues to grow. The data that Apple published in the last event included the following:
As this data is added to the existing data and cross-referenced additional insight into the economics of iTunes is emerging.
Since we know something about the average price of songs and apps, and we know the split between developers and Apple (and roughly between music labels and Apple) we can get a rough estimate of the amount Apple retains to run its store.
The following chart shows iTunes “content margin” by month. This margin is what Apple “keeps” after paying content owners but before paying for other costs like payment processing and delivery/fulfillment which should be accounted as variable costs. Strictly speaking this margin is not “gross margin”.
If we add the content margins from music and apps and assume the store runs at break even we can get an idea of what it costs to operate the store. The latest number is $113 million per month (from a total income of $313 million/mo.). It implies over $1.3 billion per year.
Much of that cost does go into serving the content (traffic and payment processing). Some of it goes to curation and support. But it’s very likely that there is much left over to be invested in capacity increases.I would like to hear alternative opinions, but my guess is that much of the capex that went into the new data centers Apple built came from the iTunes operating margin.
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