Category Archives: Amazon

Green America hits out at Amazon for its dirty cloud

Amazon has committed to bolstering its use of renewables, but Green America thinks it needs to go further

Amazon has committed to bolstering its use of renewables, but Green America thinks it needs to go further

Notforprofit environmental advocacy group Green America is launched a campaign to try and convince Amazon to reduce its carbon footprint and catch up with other large cloud incumbents’ green credentials.

Green America said Amazon is behind other datacentre operators – including some of its large competitors like Google, Apple and Facebook – in terms of its renewable energy use and reporting practices.

“Every day, tens of millions of consumers are watching movies, reading news articles, and posting to social media sites that all use Amazon Web Services.  What they don’t realize is that by using Amazon Web Services they are contributing to climate change,” said Green america’s campaigns director Elizabeth O’Connell.

“Amazon needs to take action now to increase its use of renewables to 100 percent by 2020, so that consumers won’t have to choose between using the internet and protecting the planet,” O’Connell said.

Executive co-director Todd Larsen also commented on Amazon’s green cred: “Amazon lags behind its competitors, such as Google and Microsoft, in using renewable energy for its cloud-based computer servers.  Unlike most of its competitors, it also fails to publish a corporate responsibility or sustainability reporting, and it fails to disclose its emissions and impacts to the Carbon Disclosure Project.”

Amazon has recently taken strides towards making its datacentres greener. In November last year the company committed to using 100 per cent renewable energy for its global infrastructure, bowing to pressure from organisations like Greenpeace which have previously criticised the company’s reporting practices around its carbon footprint. But organisations like Green America still believe the company is way off the mark on its commitment.

Green America’s campaign is calling on Amazon to commit to full use of renewables for its datacentres by 2020; submit accurate and complete data to the Carbon Disclosure Project; and issue and annual sustainability report.

An Amazon spokesperson told BCN that the company and its customers are already showing environmental leadership by adopting cloud services in the first place.

“AWS customers have already shown environmental leadership by moving to cloud computing, which is inherently more environmentally friendly than traditional computing. Any analysis on the climate impact of a datacentre should take into consideration resource utilization and energy efficiency, in addition to power mix,” the spokesperson said.

“On average, AWS customers use 77 per cent fewer servers, 84 per cent less power, and utilize a 28 per cent cleaner power mix, for a total reduction in carbon emissions of 88 per cent from using the AWS Cloud instead of operating their own datacentres. We believe that our focus on resource utilization and energy efficiency, combined with our increasing use of renewable energy, will help our customers achieve their carbon reduction and sustainability goals. We will continue to provide updates of our progress on our AWS & Sustainable Energy page,” she added.

Hedvig bags $18m for software-defined storage

Hedvig secured $18m this week which will help fuel expansion of its software-defined storage offering

Hedvig secured $18m this week which will help fuel expansion of its software-defined storage offering

Distributed storage platform provider Hedvig has secured $18m in a round of funding the company said will be used to double down on development and expansion.

In the cloud space storage heterogeneity can cause big performance bottlenecks – particularly in tightly integrated systems, which many applications and services are quite clearly becoming – and legacy datacentres are struggling to keep pace.

Hedvig, which came out of stealth earlier this year and was founded by former Facebook and Amazon NoSQL and storage specialist Avinash Lakshman (also the brains behind Cassandra), offers a highly scalable storage platform (block, file and object) that the company says provides fully programmable, highly granular storage provisioning – software-defined storage in other words.

The platform supports pretty much every hypervisor or Linux container service above it, and uses REST-based APIs so cloud users can tap into the platform in a fairly straightforward way.

The investment round, which brings the total amount raised by the firm to just over $30m, was led by Vertex Ventures with participation from existing investors True Ventures and Atlantic Bridge. As part of the deal Vertex Ventures General Partner In Sik Rhee will be joining Hedvig’s board of directors.

“We’ve identified the potential in a broken and fragmented storage market, and are not only looking to bring software-defined storage mainstream, but fundamentally change how companies store and manage data,” Lakshman said.

“Riding the wave of momentum from our recent company launch, this new investment round further validates our technology and approach, and will fuel our unwavering commitment to be the leading force of innovation in software-defined storage.”

Hedvig’s success comes at a time of rising popularity of the concept of the software-defined datacentre, which sees the orchestration of almost everything – storage, compute, networking – through software.

AWS unveils programme to train, attract students to cloud

Amazon has launched a programme to help attract students to its cloud services

Amazon has launched a programme to help attract students to its cloud services

Amazon has launched the AWS Educate in a bid to help educators and student cultivate cloud-centric development and operations skills, and attract the next generation of users to its cloud services ecosystem.

The company plans to offer students and educators credits for AWS cloud services and make available cloud-related educational content for teachers to use as course materials. Amazon said the move is intended to help train up students on cloud, which it said it becoming the default environment for developing and deploying greenfield applications.

“For years, the AWS educational grants program has put cloud technology in the hands of educators and students, giving them the ability to put big ideas into action. We’ve seen students develop assistive computer vision technology in collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind, and aspiring entrepreneurs take a web startup from conception to launch within 60 hours,” said Teresa Carlson, vice president, worldwide public sector, AWS.

“Based on the feedback and success of our grant recipients and the global need for cloud-skilled workers, we developed AWS Educate to help even more students learn cloud technology firsthand in the classroom. We’re pleased to offer AWS Educate to educators, students and educational institutions around the world,” Carlson said.

Students and educators at any educational institution can join the programme and can apply to redeem AWS credits for a range of its services including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon CloudFront, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR), Amazon Redshift, and Amazon Glacier.

Programme participants will also get access to online training materials and app testing labs, collaboration forums and materials uploaded from other educators.

NetSuite ditches AWS in Microsoft partnership

NetSuite and Microsoft are linking their cloud services, and NetSuite is moving its services onto Azure

NetSuite and Microsoft are linking their cloud services, and NetSuite is moving its services onto Azure

NetSuite has inked a deal with Microsoft in a move that will see the two companies link up the cloud-based financial and ERP platform with Microsoft Office, Windows and Azure.

As part of the deal the two companies have already integrated NetSuite and Azure Active Directory to enable single sign-on (SSO) for customers using NetSuite together with Azure AD, and in the coming months plan to drive further integration between NetSuite and Office 365 – for instance, to be able to do things like connect NetSuite data to Microsoft Excel and PowerBI in a more seamless way.

The partnership will also see NetSuite move its service off Amazon Web Services, a long-time partner of the firm, as well as take its on-premise deployments and move them into Azure, now its “preferred cloud” provider, by the end of the year.

“We’re at the ‘end of the beginning’ of the cloud, in that the cloud business model that NetSuite pioneered in 1998 is becoming the de facto standard for how fast-growth businesses are run,” said Zach Nelson, NetSuite chief executive.

“We’re thrilled to work with Microsoft to deliver a fluid cloud environment across the key NetSuite and Microsoft applications that companies and their employees rely on to continually improve their day-to-day operations and run their business better and more efficiently,” Nelson said.

Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of developer platform & evangelism and chief evangelist for Microsoft also commented on the deal: “I’m excited about NetSuite’s support for Azure Active Directory for single sign-on, cloud-to-cloud integration and increasing our collaboration across mobile and cloud solutions. Our joint vision is all about giving people the freedom to get more done through the broadening set of devices they interact with that in turn helps businesses innovate and grow.”

Amazon buys ClusterK to reduce AWS deployment costs

Amazon has acquired ClusterK, which offers software that optimses deployments on AWS spot instances

Amazon has acquired ClusterK, which offers software that optimses deployments on AWS spot instances

Amazon has acquired ClusterK, a provider of software that optimises deployment on AWS spot instances for cost and availability.

Amazon confirmed the acquisition to BCN but declined to offer any details about how the technology would be integrated in AWS, or the financial terms of the acquisition.

One of the challenges with EC2 spot instances is that cost and availability can vary dramatically depending on overall demand.

At the same time when these instances are used for long jobs (say, running batch jobs on large databases) and those jobs are interrupted, those instances can actually disappear from right under you – unless failovers on reserved instances or similar techniques are deployed.

Those are some of the things ClusterK aims to solve. It offers an orchestration and scaling service that uses the AWS spot market in conjunction with on-demand or reserved instances to optimise workload deployments for cost and availability – an automated way of keeping workload cost and availability in check (the company claims it can reduce cloud costs by up to 90 per cent).

While it’s not clear exactly how Amazon intends to integrate the technology it is clear the company is keen to do what it takes to keep the price of its services dropping, which is where ClusterK could certainly add value. While disclosing its cloud revenues for the first time last week the company said it has dropped the prices of its services about 50 times since AWS launched ten years ago.

AWS a $5bn business, Bezos claims, as Amazon sheds light on cloud revenue

Amazon publicly shed light on AWS revenues for the first time

Amazon publicly shed light on AWS revenues for the first time

Amazon reported first quarter 2015 sales revenues of $22.7bn, an increase of 15 per cent year on year from $19.7bn, and quarterly cloud revenues of $1.57bn. This is the first time the e-commerce giant has publicly disclosed AWS revenues.

North America saw the bulk of Amazon’s sales growth, with revenue swelling 24 per cent to $13.4bn and operating income increasing 79 per cent to $517m. Outside North America, revenues actually decreased 2 per cent to $7.7bn (excluding the $1.3 billion year-over-year unfavourable foreign exchange impact, revenue growth was 14 per cent).

The company was for the first time pleased to report AWS revenue grew close to 50 per cent to $1.57bn in Q1 2015, with operating income increasing 8 per cent to $26m and a 16.9 per cent operating margin.

“Amazon Web Services is a $5 billion business and still growing fast — in fact it’s accelerating,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.

“Born a decade ago, AWS is a good example of how we approach ideas and risk-taking at Amazon. We strive to focus relentlessly on the customer, innovate rapidly, and drive operational excellence. We manage by two seemingly contradictory traits: impatience to deliver faster and a willingness to think long term.”

Brian Olsavsky, vice president, chief financial officer of global consumer business said that excluding the favourable impact from foreign exchange, AWS segment operating income decreased 13 per cent. But speaking to journalists and analysts this week Olsavsky reiterated the company was very pleased with the results, and that it would “continue deploying more capital there” as it expands

AWS has dropped its prices nearly 50 times since it began selling cloud services nearly a decade ago, and this past quarter alone has seen the firm continue to add new services to the ecosystem – though intriguingly, Olsavsky refused to directly answer questions on the sustainability of the cloud margins moving forward. This quarter the company announced unlimited cloud storage plans, a marketplace for virtualised desktop apps, a machine learning service and a container service for EC2.

AWS bolsters GPU-accelerated instances

AWS is updating its GPU-accelerated cloud instances

AWS is updating its GPU-accelerated cloud instances

Amazon has updated its family of GPU-accelerated instances (G2) in a move that will see AWS offer up to times more GPU power at the top end.

Announced on the tail end of 2013, AWS teamed up with graphics processing specialist Nvidia to launch the Amazon EC2 G2 instance, a GPU-accelerated instance specifically designed for graphically intensive cloud-based services.

Each Nvidia Grid GPU offers up to 1,536 parallel processing cores and give software as a service developers access to higher-end graphics capabilities including fully-supported 3D visualization for games and professional services.

“The GPU-powered G2 instance family is home to molecular modeling,  rendering, machine learning, game streaming, and transcoding jobs that require massive amounts of parallel processing power. The Nvidia Grid GPU includes dedicated, hardware-accelerated video encoding; it generates an H.264 video stream that can be displayed on any client device that has a compatible video codec,” explained Jeff Barr, chief evangelist at AWS.

“This new instance size was designed to meet the needs of customers who are building and running high-performance CUDA, OpenCL, DirectX, and OpenGL applications.”

The new g2.8xlarge instance, available in US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Northern California), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Singapore), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo), offers four times the GPU power than standard G2 instances including: 4 GB of video memory and the ability to encode either four real-time HD video streams at 1080p or eight real-time HD video streams at 720P; 32 vCPUs; 60 GiB of memory; 240 GB (2 x 120) of SSD storage.

GPU virtualisation is still fairly early on in its development but the technology does open up opportunities for the cloudification of a number of niche applications in pharma and engineering, which have a blend of computational and graphical requirements that have so far been fairly difficult to replicate in the cloud (though bandwidth constraints could still create performance limitations).

AWS doubles down on DaaS with virtual desktop app marketplace

AWS is bolstering its ecosystem around desktops

AWS is bolstering its ecosystem around desktops

Amazon has launched an application marketplace for AWS WorkSpaces, the company’s public cloud-based desktop-as-a-service, which it said would help users deploy virtualised desktop apps more quickly while keeping costs and permissioning under control.

Last year AWS launched WorkSpaces to appeal to mobile enterprises and the thin-client crowd, and the company said the app marketplace will allow users to quickly provision and deploy software directly onto virtual desktops – with software subscriptions charged monthly, and Amazon handling all of the billing.

To complement the marketplace the company unveiled the WorkSpaces Application Manager, which will enable IT managers to track and manage application usage, cost, and permissions.

“With just a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, Amazon WorkSpaces customers are able to provision a high-quality, cloud-based desktop experience for their end users at half the cost of other virtual desktop infrastructure solutions,” said Gene Farrell, general manager of AWS Enterprise Applications.

“By introducing the AWS Marketplace for Desktop Apps and Amazon WAM, AWS is adding even more value to the Amazon WorkSpaces experience by helping organizations reduce the complexity of selecting, provisioning, and deploying applications. With pay-as-you-go monthly pricing and end-user self-provisioning of applications, customers will lower the costs associated with provisioning and maintaining applications for their workforce,” Farrell said.

AWS has spent the better part of the last 9 years building up a fairly vibrant ecosystem of third-party services around its core set of infrastructure offerings, and it will be interesting to see whether the company can replicate that success on the desktop. Amazon says many companies, particularly the larger ones, deploy a mix of upwards of 200 software titles to their desktops, which would suggest a huge opportunity for the cloud giant and its partners.

Amazon, Google: a Battle to Dominate the Cloud

The cloud is just a vast mass of computers connected to the internet, on which people or companies can rent processing power or data storage as they need it.

All the warehouses of servers that run the whole of the internet, all the software used by companies the world over, and all the other IT services companies hire others to provide, or which they provide internally, will be worth some $1.4 trillion in 2014, according to Gartner Research—some six times Google and Amazon’s combined annual revenue last year.

When that time comes, all the world’s business IT needs will be delivered as a service, like electricity; you won’t much care where it was generated, as long as the supply is reliable.

Way back in 2006, Amazon had the foresight to start renting out portions of its own, already substantial cloud—the data centers on which it was running—to startups that wanted to pay for servers by the hour, instead of renting them individually, as was typical at the time. Because Amazon was so early, and so aggressive—it has lowered prices for its cloud services 42 times since first unveiling them, according to the company—it first defined and then swallowed whole the market for cloud computing and storage.

Even though Amazon’s external cloud business is much bigger than Google’s, Google still has the biggest total cloud infrastructure—the most servers and data centers. Tests of Amazon’s and Google’s clouds show that by one measure at least—how fast data is transferred from one virtual computer to another inside the cloud—Google’s cloud is seven to nine times faster than Amazon’s.

The question is, is Amazon’s lead insurmountable?


Google & Amazon Cut Prices & Microsoft is Next. Why Not Take Advantage of Them All?

By Ben Stephenson, Journey to the Cloud


There’s been a lot of talk this week about price cuts coming from cloud providers. First Google announced several price reductions for most of its cloud services. In response, Amazon announced a round of price cuts as well. This marked the 42nd time AWS has reduced prices since 2006. This means that Microsoft Azure will most likely get in on the action as well. Last April, Microsoft pledged that it would match any price drops from AWS. In early 2014, Microsoft did just that when it lowered prices to match a reduction made by Amazon. TechCrunch has nice write-ups on the specifics of the Google & Amazon  price reductions.

Obviously price cuts are beneficial to organizations using these platforms, but wouldn’t it make sense to take advantage of price cuts from multiple providers at the same time to maximize cost savings and performance? What if you moved different applications to different clouds – or even different parts of an application to different clouds?

Let’s say you have some applications for your database that require high-end performance, and you’re willing to pay more for performance.  But if you use a more expensive provider exclusively, you may be overspending in other areas that do not require as high performance. So, instead of running all your apps on the same provider, you could move some, say, commodity web-based applications that don’t require as much performance to the cheapest provider. You also have to keep in mind that the best option could be to keep the application on premise. This is only one example. John Dixon wrote a great ebook about the evolution of the corporate IT department and gives a more in depth look at the “which app, which cloud” philosophy that I highly recommend downloading.

So why don’t more companies split applications across multiple cloud providers? It’s simple; it’s complex and painful to manage. Furthermore, price cuts can happen at the spur of the moment so you need to be able to take advantage in real time to maximize savings.

This is where you need a management platform like GreenPages’ Cloud Management as a Service (CMaaS) Brokerage and Governance offering. CMaaS gives you the ability to match the right applications to the right cloud providers and compare the true cost of running your resources at a CSP before even placing an order. The platform eliminates cloud sourcing complexity with a central portal where business and IT users can quickly and easily aggregate, procure, and pay for cloud solutions. It answers the “which app, which cloud?” question across both internal private and public cloud environments.

Has your organization looked into spreading different applications across different clouds? What are your thoughts?


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