Microsoft Shakes Up SharePoint Online to Increase Storage

September 2, 2014

In response to an ever-increasing need for storage, Microsoft has announced changes to the way SharePoint Online manages storage blocks. Read about the latest announcement in the PC World article, “Microsoft Tweaks SharePoint Online to Free Up Site Storage.”

The article begins:

“Microsoft has tweaked the controls in SharePoint Online to let administrators make better use of storage resources allocated to SharePoint websites. The changes seek to make processes more automated, and to add some flexibility in how storage for SharePoint Online is managed within the Office 365 suite. Until now, SharePoint site collections, which are groups of related SharePoint websites, had to be assigned a set amount of storage, and that storage space couldn’t be used for anything else even if some of it went unused.”

Users and administrators will benefit from the increased flexibility. It also shows some effort on the part of Microsoft to improve the SharePoint user experience by taking care of some “no-brainer” flaws in the system. Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and continues to keep an eye on the latest news in his SharePoint feed on ArnoldIT.com. Staying on top of these announcements is a great way for organizations to keep increasingly their SharePoint efficiency.

Emily Rae Aldridge, September 02, 2014

Hackers Leverage Elasticsearch Flaw in the Cloud

August 25, 2014

Just as Elasticsearch is reveling in its recent successes, CloudPro informs us that “Hackers Target Elasticsearch to Set Up DDoS Botnet on AWS.” Writer Rene Millman reports that cloud providers besides Amazon Web Services could be affected by the attacks, which leverage a vulnerability in the older Elasticsearch 1.1 versions. Because of its ability to run on multiple nodes, Elasticsearch’s open source, Java-based full-text-search application is a popular choice for use with cloud environments. The article describes the vulnerability hackers are now exploiting:

“Researchers at Kaspersky Labs have found that cybercriminals have exploited a flaw in the software to install DDoS malware on various clouds. The flaw was found in Elasticsearch v. 1.1x and a scripting exploit. The software has default support for active scripting, but does not use authentication and also does not sandbox the script code. Criminals can use the flaw to hack into EC2 VMs and then use a use a new variant of Linux DDoS Trojan Mayday – Backdoor.Linux.Mayday.g – to launch their attack, according to Kaspersky Lab principal security researcher Kurt Baumgartner.”

Millman goes on to quote a blog post by Kurt Baumgartner, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. Baumgartner states:

“The [Mayday variants] in use on compromised EC2 instances oddly enough were flooding sites with UDP traffic only. The flow is strong enough that the DDoS’d victims were forced to move from their normal hosting operations IP addresses to those of an anti-DDoS solution.

“The flow is also strong enough that Amazon is now notifying their customers, probably because of potential for unexpected accumulation of excessive resource charges for their customers. The situation is probably similar at other cloud providers.”

Unsurprisingly, the goal of these attacks seems to be financial. Baumgertner notes that among those affected by this attacks are a large regional U.S. bank, a large electronics maker, and a Japanese service provider. For its part, Amazon is urging users to upgrade asap to the latest version of Elasticsearch, which is free from this vulnerability.

Cynthia Murrell, August 25, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Forrester and Physical Storage: HP Autonomy May Like This Mid Tier Prognostication

August 23, 2014

I recommend reading “Forrester Says It’s Time to Give Up on Physical Storage Arrays.” The position of the mid tier consulting firm is clear: Local storage bad, cloud storage good. What’s missing is nuance. The comments point out a couple of issues with this Promethean assertion; for example:

  • The time has therefore come to recognize that arrays are expensive and inflexible, Baltazar says, and make the jump to virtual arrays for future storage purchases. Fancy words for outsource and off site.—from Ole Juul
  • Until workmen outside cut through your comms cable …… It can and does happen (Power cable for one company I worked for, water mains for another). We hear all about the resilience built up at the other end to near guaranty your data, but there’s always single points of failure much closer to home.—from Dappman
  • Data needs to be local. How can you move 1000TB of data around? The storage needs to be local to where it’s being used. Increasingly, the data is coming in from the cloud. What happens in the cloud stays in the cloud(R).—from Anonymous Coward

But for me the article tips Forrester’s hand with regard to HP Autonomy. HP is reporting record revenues from sales of PCs. HP is emphasizing the value of HP Autonomy IDOL as an enterprise app. Against this background, I noted this passage in the source article:

Forrester knows this, too: one of its analysts, Henry Baltazar, just declared you should “make your next storage array an app”.

I look forward to HP’s picking up on this “expert” opinion and giving the hobby horse a whack. Content marketing? Yep yep.

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2014

The Cloud: Flecked with Scattered Twinkie-Like Information

August 4, 2014

I read “Cloud Revenue Jumps, Led by Old Computing Titans.” If you have a hard copy of the “real” journalism Mt. Parnassus, you can find this story in the August 4, 2014 version delivered to Kentucky. Online, the story carries an August 3, 2014 date and, if you are quick, you may be able to locate it at http://nyti.ms/1xUXLw9.

I found the write up fascinating because the guts of the story pivot on three firms engaged in selling consulting services: Synergy, Gartner, and IDC. The facts of the article appear to come from the financial reports and other public statements of Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft. As real news goes, relying on “experts” and somewhat broad groupings of financial information continues to make the wheels of commerce go round. I like it. The confection is an excellent Twinkie-like approach to a diaphanous, hard to define topic—the cloud.

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This cookbook does not explain how to whip up interest in consultant reports, the activities of large companies, or the specifics of some ingredients. An oversight it seems.

There were a couple of passages in the write up that I found thought starters.

Here’s the first item, a quote from a Synergy expert:

It’s not just talk—they are backing it up with a lot of investment.

I presume this is a reference to Amazon’s spending which seems to have put the company in the company of bears, IBM’s bet the farm approach to its tactics to keep the company an investment my grandmother would love, and Microsoft which is fresh from its knock-it-out-of-the-park mobile phone and Windows 8 initiatives.

A second passage begins “The so called magic quadrant…” and ends with the paragraph beginning “Amazon is still the star.” In between this atta boy for Gartner’s work is an interesting grammatical construction:

This year, helped by the [IBM] acquisition of Soft Layer, a cloud start up, and its own internal investment, it [IBM] has moved sharply to the right and higher thought it is not yet in the leaders area—the vision is strong, according to Gartner, but the executive still lags a bit.”

I am not trained in poetry, although I think some of the search analysts are, indeed, English majors. But I find these points remarkable:

  1. In a report by experts, IBM has moved. Now did IBM move or did an expert move IBM. The suggestion that IBM can move its $100 billion hulk around a “magic quadrant” drew a yellow highlight from me. I suppose I could have written, my yellow highlighted moved from the table to the paper and marked a yellow line, but that leaves out the who doesn’t it?
  2. I like the idea that an acquisition and internal development trigger the movement of IBM.
  3. In a moment of hedging, the New York Times’ writer added that Gartner analyzed IBM and found that its execution lagged. Okay, so IBM cannot deliver cloud whatever very well.

Third, I noted the disclaimer paragraph:

Measurements in the cloud marketplace are tricky. Companies define their cloud businesses differently. And the big companies do not report their cloud revenue or profit separately, although they do occasionally make statements.

High fives all around because no one knows much about what “cloud” means and the companies are not particularly generous with facts. The flow of baloney, however, appears to have caught the attention of the “experts” and the real journalists.

Please, read the original because it is a tribute to the public relations folks who labored to create this cloud stuff.

My interest is, as you may know, search. Now search has moved to the cloud, and there are some examples. The problem is that hard data about the ease with which the services can be deployed, the costs of the system over time, and the amount of customization required to deliver an acceptable service are sparse, not available, or made up.

Two observations:

Search from the cloud seems to be small potatoes. Sure, there are search services available from Amazon, and I suppose one can assume that the billion dollar bet on Watson will be cloud friendly someday. Microsoft cloud search is best experienced first hand. Fire up Windows 8.1 and run a query. You can see how the system deals with local, SkyDrive (once OneDrive), and Web content. A money maker for sure I assume.

I like certain time sharing services. However, I do not like Hollywood style naming and I do not like unsubstantiated assertions presented as fact. If you find this type of Twinkie satisfying, gorge yourself on the mid tier consulting firms’ outputs. Let me know how reality matches up to a sector where measurements are tricky and facts are not available.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2014

IDG: Another Unexpected Action

August 4, 2014

I received an email from IDG, owner of the mid tier consulting outfit IDC.

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The most remarkable item in this marketing email was the offer for information about “Web Hosting: How to Break Free from Servers.” I clicked on the link and saw this title:

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The information is a “white paper” with the title “Hosting Is Dead.” Now if I go to a car dealer with an ad for a car at a special price and the salesman says, “Oh, we don’t have that auto. I can sell you this higher priced auto” I get annoyed. Some folks would call this bait and switch. But the IDG “white paper” is offered for free, presumably by a company keen to get sales leads.

Well, I filled in the information, using one of my special accounts, and this is what I received after accepting the cookie from IDG:

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So what’s the white paper after jumping through these hoops?

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The white paper is 17 pages in length. The basic idea in the rather colorful white paper is that I should not purchase do it yourself hosting. The choice, the authors argue, is buy Pantheon.

There are “real” numbers backing up this assertion:

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Well, sort of real numbers. There is not pricing for the Pantheon solution. I did some poking around and found this Web page on the Pantheon Web site at https://www.getpantheon.com/pricing:

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I don’t want to misread this information so check it out yourself. I would point out that these questions flashed through my mind:

  1. Why not put the prices in the white paper? Why didn’t IDG present some “real” analysis in their email to me? Why did I come away from this clumsy marketing thinking, “Isn’t this a variation on the Schubmehl affair?”
  2. Isn’t it possible to use a similar service at a far lower price point via SquareSpace?
  3. What are the benefits of Drupal compared to Hippo CMS or a similar solution?

There is one important take away for me from this reading, clicking, and exploring. The notion that IDG and its units are delivering McKinsey- or Bain-grade information has been put to rest.

IDG is, in my mind, closer to the content marketing outfits trying to outguess Google.

This would be amusing if it were not such a large window into the ways in which IDG and its units are pursuing revenue by presenting sales silliness as high value information.

Oh, not a peep about the search functionality in Pantheon solution. Not surprising because I don’t see the difference among the hosting outfits that are “dead” and the approach suggested by Pantheon.

Stephen E Arnold, August 1, 2014

Microsoft Puts Machine Learning in the Cloud

July 25, 2014

Machine learning is ascending to the cloud. The Register asks, “Do Data Centers Dream of Electric Sheep? Microsoft Announces Machine Learning Cloud.” As competition in the world of SaaS and remote hosting continues to escalate, this move may set Microsoft ahead of Amazon and Google (for now). Our question—will this progress rub off on Bing? One can hope.

Writer Jack Clark tells us:

“The company’s new ‘Azure ML’ service was announced on Monday and means developers can access machine learning systems hosted in the Azure cloud and even link their applications directly to them. The tech gives developers a directory of machine learning and associated technologies, including deep learning systems, that they can apply to their applications…

“Azure ML also has ‘a number of tools to help clean data,’ explained Microsoft exec Joseph Sirosh in a chat with El Reg, and has compatibility with popular mathematical software R. The service also gives users a way to drag-and-drop various machine learning technologies together so that they can build an application in a visually striking and understandable way.”

It is interesting to note that Sirosh spent nearly ten years working with (among other things) Amazon’s internal machine learning systems during his stint at that company. Though machine learning itself is nothing new, Microsoft hopes Azure ML will make it more accessible, and tempting, to developers. Likening this advance to the birth of the cloud itself, Sirosh enthuses, “Machine learning is an incredibly underutilized capability—every app around us could be becoming intelligent. I would love to have the excitement around machine learning be unleashed.”

Cynthia Murrell, July 25, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Discord in the Clouds

July 24, 2014

As a business strategy, Amazon Web Service’s total cost of ownership (TCO) calculator is a smart device. However, competitor VMware strives to poke holes in the calculator’s conclusions about the cost of its wares. The Register brings the challenge to our attention in, “VMware: Amazon’s Cloud Calculator a Load of Flatulant FUD.” (For those unfamiliar with the term, FUD stands for “fear, uncertainty, and doubt.”) VMware contends that, despite Amazon’s claims that it compares apples to apples, the calculator begins with “biased assumptions” about VMware’s offerings. Writer Jack Clark explains:

“Amazon’s calculator makes some strange assumptions, such as reckoning that a customer has no existing on-premises investment, chooses rather high server prices, and assumes that all IT shops are refreshing their hardware every three years, VMware says in its blog post. It also compares VMware’s feature-packed ‘VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus’ software against its infrastructure, which VMware feels is unfair as the tech has some features that Amazon lacks, so the cost comparison is not accurate. Naturally, VMware has tried to right these apparent wrongs and has performed its own cost calculation.”

And, naturally, VMware’s calculations shows their system as cheaper than Amazon’s—a good reminder to rely on third-party reviews for this sort of thing. VMware’s calculations reportedly factor in discounts from heavy cloud usage and the advantages of its Operations Management optimization package. Founded in 1998 and gone public in 2008, VMware is based in Palo Alto, California, and maintains offices around the world. They also happen to be hiring.

Cynthia Murrell, July 24, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

SoftLayer Provides IBM a Lift: Can It Hoist Watson and Chip Bets?

July 14, 2014

I read “SoftLayer Cloud Business Thriving Inside IBM.” Thrive is not the word I would use to describe how iPhrase and Vivisimo have fared. A number of IBM acquisitions have just disappeared into the tummy of the gentle giant, Big Blue. Here’s how the “real” news outfit InformationWeek views the SoftLayer information:

Over the last 12 months, SoftLayer has gained 6,000 new customers. IBM purchased SoftLayer for $2 billion in July 2013. Kandis says SoftLayer’s customer base was composed primarily of small and midsized companies, with some verging on becoming much larger companies. The thing they had in common was they did not have big IT departments, but were looking to expand infrastructure rapidly, Kandis told InformationWeek.

There are some questions.

  1. Will SoftLayer be able to compete with the WalMart-like tactics of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft for cloud happiness?
  2. Will SoftLayer deploy a version of Watson that makes sense to potential licensees? (Recipes for Bon Appétit do not count. Sorry.)
  3. Will SoftLayer pump out enough cash to cover the money IBM wants to invest in next generation computing chips?

My view is that SoftLayer may not be up to the task. Amazon can cut prices quickly. Google, when it gets focused, is still sprightly, just not as zippy as it was in the 2002-2006 era. Microsoft may surprise even the anti Redmond contingent. There is a new, although somewhat muddled, CEO after all.

But SoftLayer has to content with bureaucracy, wild and crazy marketing, and the IBMness of its new work environment. The IDC “experts” don’t trouble themselves with some of the realities I notice. That’s for the best. More sophisticated analyses may shine in comparison.

One plus for the write up, was a reference to Watson as a “general purpose big data analytical engine.” That’s an improvement over a recipe generation system or a sluggish medical diagnostic system. Progress.

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2014

Docker and Juicing the Google

June 10, 2014

The revolution is here…almost. Navigate to “Google Embraces Docker, the Next Big Thing in Cloud Computing” or “Docker Launches A 1.0 Product And Gains An Opportunity To Monetize.” Forbes cheerleads for the automation crowd. Wired pumps up Google’s enthusiasm for the open source technology.

Automation is a magical way to reduce costs as long as the pesky humans do not have to code widgets, connectors, and shims. If these software gadgets are not ready for prime time, some of the automation benefits will be more Silicon Valley mumbo jumbo.

For the GOOG, a bit of a computational crisis exists. Google surfed on innovations that other companies were slow to adopt in the 1996 to 2000 time frame. Despite spending bundles on optimization, the GOOG, like other computationally constrained outfits, needs to find shortcuts.

Enter Docker. The technology is one of those “if only” innovations. Here’s what I mean. “If only everyone adopted Docker and if only developers would create the software gadgets to make snap in operation a reality.” Also, “If only the Amazon approach were not so darned popular.”

You get the idea.

Docker is characterized by Wired as something Google has been doing for a long time. Er, okay. Forbes sees Docker as another open source commercialization play with services being the donkey delivering the gold and silver to the stakeholders.

My view is that like many open source plays, the technology is pretty good. Making the technology deliver on the promises “real” journalists report is a different kettle of fish (actually, software gizmos to hook A to B without more coding and tweaking.

The real problem is that existing computer systems are pretty snappy and much easier to use in a timesharing environment than IBM and other mainframe iron from the 1970s. But—and this is a significant concern to me—we are really getting hyperbole for optimization.

What’s needed is a computational platform that makes more sophisticated operations practical. Instead of known methods running faster or deploying with less craziness, we are making the 1985 Corvette perform via add ons.

Short cuts are not breakthroughs that leapfrog the decades old methods. Going faster and cheaper is fun. Better is not part of the calculus of optimization.

Stephen E Arnold, June 10, 2014

Essential Steps for Migrating SharePoint to the Cloud

May 2, 2014

Many organizations are interested in migrating their SharePoint installation to the cloud, but most also feel it’s easier said than done. In light of the trend and the confusion, CMS Wire gives their advice in the article, “5 Key Steps for Migrating SharePoint to the Cloud.”

The article says:

“Migrating to the cloud can be somewhat complex since SharePoint migration tools are limited in functionality or non-existent. So while the cloud can certainly reduce administrative burden, getting there requires having a plan that takes into consideration your overall business goals, your existing infrastructure and content, and your user’s needs. Here are five key steps we advise our clients follow when migrating their content.”

Stephen E. Arnold has made a career out of reporting on all things search, including SharePoint, on ArnoldIT.com. And while cloud migration is a trendy topic for SharePoint, Arnold has found that the actual process can be clunky and intimidating. So until the cloud is less of a novelty and more mainstream, stay tuned to Arnold and his SharePoint feed for more tips and tricks.

Emily Rae Aldridge, May 2, 2014

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