Cloud Computing To Reduce Carbon Footprint

A new cloud based tool is to be implemented in order to help councils and energy companies reduce their carbon emissions. Cloud service provider, Assimil8, has partnered up with Energy Saving Trust (EST) with a view to providing support for its Home Analytics service. EST has seemingly seen a number of advantages that cloud hosting can bring.

EST has provided impartial advice to people, businesses and communities on how to save energy and over a period of 20 years it has collated more than 250 million data points that relate to 25 million domestic properties. For example, this includes information regarding wall, insulation and boiler types.

By making use of IBM Business Analytics software, EST will be able to make this data available to energy suppliers, green deal providers and local government via Home Analytics. It has been reported that one local council is already using Home Analytics in order to understand more about its housing stock. The use of Home Analytics also enables them to work out exactly what needs to be done in order to reduce its carbon footprint.

Furthermore, the service has been deployed on IBM SmartCloud Enterprise. EST claims this service will dramatically reduce IT management costs while also satisfying its own criteria for energy efficient solutions.

The housing data manager at EST, Will Rivers, has been quoted saying: “We are now able to put accurate data at the heart of the planning of delivery, drive immediate and repeatable results with fewer resources...What used to take several days now only takes a few minutes.”

Meanwhile, Karl Mullins, a principal consultant at Assimil8, has further added the following: “With the increased scrutiny on government and private sector costs, having an analytics solution which can mitigate risks associated with identifying and planning energy efficiency initiatives in the optimum catchment areas, is incredibly powerful and critical to ensure cost effective operations.”

Cloud solutions are therefore being adopted in a variety of industries and it is interesting to see another way in which cloud computing can assist, not only companies, but the environment too.


Global e-commerce sales a wake up call to traditional ISVs


China’s e-commerce sales grew more than 130% in 2011 alone, confirming a broad worldwide growth in business-to-consumer e-commerce sales that will pass the 1 trillion euro ($1.25 trillion) mark by 2013 according to new industry reports.

This has profound implications for international ISVs who have not yet deployed a SaaS version of their on-premise software.

By 2013, there will be close to 3.5 billion Internet users, an increase over nearly 1.3 billion over 2012 levels (which number 2.2 billion). By 2013, web usage over a mobile phone is set to overtake activity on a laptop or desktop. Plus, new incoming HTML5 standards promise to turn a web browser into something resembling a operating system, which will open the door to a new flood of web applications. If an ISV has not yet internet-enabled one of its core products it may open the door to competitors even if the rival product is inferior to the on-premise version of the offline ISV.

The reports mentioned earlier indicated that the United States remains the world’s single biggest e-commerce market followed by the UK and Japan. But with datacenter growth exploding in places like Singapore, expect to see Asian markets becoming more prominent in these worldwide statistics.

“In terms of regions, Europe is currently the largest e-commerce market in the world, according to a separate report released recently by the European Multi-channel and Online Trade Association, which said European online business-to-consumer sales posted 19% growth in 2011 to reach an estimated $307 billion, surpassing North America at $297 billion,” said Internet Retailer.

The growth in Internet Usage and online shopping thus represents both a threat and an opportunity for traditional ISVs who are adopting a wait and see attitude to the cloud. With application development now spreading around the world, there is now more competition than ever to release products more quickly and efficiently to a global audience.

“The future of e-retail is global and with the inevitable slowing of growth in several major markets in the likes of North America and Europe, it is important for businesses to understand where the future opportunities will be,” said Internet Retailer.

“Worldwide, we are increasingly seeing trust and confidence in purchasing online growing and government and private initiatives brought in to support the development of the global digital economy.” Online is now becoming an integral part of any country’s economy and should be considered so.”

Cloud computing, mobile computing and the requirement to track customer usage is forcing many CIOs to consider a cloud-delivery model from a remote web hosting provider, including the recent release of the Virtual Datacentre from Virtual Internet


One example of a how a SaaS product shook the foundations of its on-premise rival


What’s an example of on-premise software being threatened by the emergence of a SaaS upstart operating in the cloud?  Answer: Mint Vs. Quicken

Quicken, for years, had cultivated a devoted base of users who waited for each new version of the software to appear from Intuit.   This nifty little personal finance tool is easier to use than QuickBooks albeit it more limited in scope.   Then came along this amazingly simple and intuitive online offering called Mint, which promised to integrate all your personal finance into one single web interface, with no requirement to download software. And, it was free!

In 2009 TechCrunch reported that Mint claimed it gained 3000 users per day jumping from 600,000 to 850,000 in just a few short months.    The numbers were disputed by Intuit, who suddenly understood how the cloud could reshape a landscape it had for years dominated.

This led intuit to purchase Mint for around $170 million, stating in a Press Release that “With this transaction, Intuit will gain another fast-growing consumer brand and a highly successful Software as a Service (SaaS) offering that helps people save and make money. This move will enhance Intuit’s position as a leading provider of consumer SaaS offerings that connect customers across desktop, online and mobile.”

Intuit had of course tried to defend itself prior to the acquisition of Mint, by implementing Quicken Online. However, it perhaps suffered from being too close to the product and did not get the creative user interface right that made Mint so popular. It was also more of an extension of its existing product, which failed to integrate the core concepts of web 2.0 and the additional features offered by the cloud.

After the purchase of Mint, Intuit said it intended keeping both the Mint.com and Quicken Online offerings, with each serving separate and equally important purposes.

“Mint.com will become the primary online personal finance management service that is offered directly to consumers by Intuit. Quicken Online will connect Quicken customers across desktop, online and mobile to deliver easy, anytime-anywhere access. This will help accelerate Intuit’s ability to create products and services that make managing money easier for all Intuit customers.”

And therein lies a valuable example of how traditional ISVs (who have not yet embraced the cloud) should consider the future landscape.  Not many will have the deep pockets of Intuit to purchase the competition (and thereby absorb developer brainpower) that could drive a new way of application innovation.   Further, failure to deploy a SaaS version opens the door to the competition, which can have a number of adverse consequences that are difficult to predict, but sure to transpire.

This is a major reason why Virtual Internet has released a new dedicated Virtual Datacentre aimed at SMEs, web professionals and traditional ISVs. It allows the rapid deployment of new cloud services using a utility pricing model.  It offers a simple, cloud-delivery mechanism for ISVs to get their feet wet and explore new options for both testing and deploying a SaaS version of their product.


Windows Azure Experiences Outage

Yesterday the Windows Azure cloud computing service was unavailable to users throughout Europe for two and a half hours. The outage left many bewildered and frustrated. The service in the Western Europe region is provided by servers in Microsoft’s Ireland data centre in Dublin and in a Dutch facility in Amsterdam.

Reluctant to Comment

Spokesmen from Microsoft were reluctant to comment on why the service was unavailable whilst the downtime led to a surge of Twitter activity all discussing the outage. Azure storage services continued to be available and running workloads stayed up, even though many users couldn’t access them.

According to Chris Leigh-Currill, CTO of Ospero, the fact that during the outage there was the constant availability of power and a lack of a software culprit, the cause of the downtime points to “more of an infrastructure issue”. That is to say that there was an undetected single point of failure in a network switch, or other device, that temporarily disrupted availability.

Problem Solved

Once the issue had been solved, and Azure cloud services had been restored, a restoration announcement was released by Microsoft: “The recent Windows Azure service interruption in the Western Europe sub-region has been resolved... The duration of the service interruption was approximately 2.5 hours. Customers who have questions regarding this incident are encouraged to contact Customer Service and Support.”

A spokesman then went on to add the following: “We apologise for any inconvenience this outage may have caused our customers. We will follow up as soon as we know more.”

This isn’t the first time Windows Azure has experienced downtime. At the end of February this year, the service went down as a result of a bug in the system that didn’t recognise the Leap Day and as a result set invalid expiration dates for security certificates.


Google Compute and Virtual Datacentre shake up IaaS world for ISVs


In the last two months, two big announcements have rippled through the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) sector on both sides of the Atlantic, signaling a shifting new IaaS topology that threatens Amazon’s reputation as the leader of the pack.

What are they? The launch of Google Compute IaaS and Virtual Internet’s new Virtual Datacentre for web professionals.

Google Compute and Private Virtual Networks

Google’s announced recently that it had listened to its huge global base of power users and kick started a new IaaS offering called Google Compute Engine which leverages the Linux KVM and cgroups to handle virtualization and resource allocation, respectively.  Using the genius of their Linux Kernel engineering team, Google now offers a platform that apparently can run virtualized and non-virtualized workloads on the same Linux kernel (and probably same machine).

Each new project started using the Command Line Interface or Web App Engine gets its own Private Virtual Network or PVN, which spreads across all virtual machines in the Google network no matter where they reside, even if the distance between them is the Atlantic ocean.  This geographical flattening of regions, uses the Google internal global network to offer consistent and fast relay of data packets between virtual machines on a PVN.    Other interesting features include an Internal Facing DNS feature, which maps the name given to a virtual machine with a DNS overlay so that virtual machines can use those host names to find each other.

Every VM can be assigned an IP address and gets full use of that IP when connecting to the public Internet backbone.  According to Google this means that you can detach an IP address from a VM running in one region and re-attach it to another VM running in a different region that may be 100,000 miles away. Google automatically takes care of making sure traffic gets to right destination.    Other heavyweight features include persistent disk storage, which builds on Google's knowledge of storage infrastructure and provides a virtual hard drive that outlives the lifetime of a VM instance.   All data is encrypted before its gets written anywhere persistently. Google says that it’s able to do with this little performance overhead due to the latest processing power from Intel chips. Intriguingly, Google Drive / Cloud is not directly part of this IaaS service. Instead, it’s seen as a sister project that integrates well with Google Compute. A global API allows developers to access an Internet Object Store and move data in and out of the Google cloud.

For a full insight into Google Compute, watch this developer video at the recent Google I/O conference.

Virtual Internet's Virtual Datacenter

The second big tremor came from the Virtual Internet engineering and marketing team who unwrapped details of a new Virtual Dedicated Center for ISVs, SaaS providers, web hosts, developers and designers which allows them to use an online control panel to launch virtual dedicated servers in a matter of minutes, without any need to understand the underlying datacentre infrastructure.   Using sophisticated APIs and network automation orchestration at the infrastructural level, VI engineers have seamlessly constructed a new on-demand deployment platform for all those wishing to launch virtual servers quickly at low price points.

While Google Compute is limited to only deploying Linux images, The VI VDC allows developers to choose from hundreds of images including a full range of Windows and Linux configurations.   Should one virtual machine fail, another will start up automatically, bypassing any hardware jitter.  Servers feature storage units containing redundant RAID 10 arrays faster speeds and reliability.  Plus, there are no minimum contracts.

Both Google Compute and Virtual Datacentre, indicate a growing boutique of new options for web professionals seeking an alternative to Amazon’s stranglehold on the industry.    New statistics are surfacing, for instance, that Google Compute may already be challenging Amazon in terms of specific features such as price and technical areas such as boot time.

Virtual Internet, on the other hand, was one of the first UK providers to offer both VMware and OnApp Xen enterprise cloud solutions to the European and United States markets, giving it leading status as one of the most cloud-diverse players in the global marketplace.   The new VDC offers a non-technical Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for ISVs and others to exploit over 15 datacenter locations across United Kingdom, Europe, USA and the Far East.

For a full insight into the Virtual Datacenter take a look at this quick video primer:

Virtual Datacentre - Create and deploy servers worldwide instantly from Virtual Internet on Vimeo.