24 October 2012

Faster Chips 'Cut Cloud-Computing Bills'

BBC News (10/23/12)

Researchers at Deutsch Telekom Laboratories and Aalto University have found that customers of Amazon's EC2 cloud service do not receive the same level of performance. Amazon says it uses generic hardware, but the team used tools to examine the software that controls the groups of servers customers rent, and was able to identify the chip at the heart of each server in a group or instance of computers. Measurements taken over the course of a year revealed instances running newer, faster chips, and they were much faster than clusters that used older hardware. "In general, the variation between the fast instances and slow instances can reach 40 percent," the researchers wrote in a paper, noting that for some applications the newer clusters worked about 60 percent faster. The faster instances would enable users to reduce their server bills by up to 30 percent because the newer machines are able to crunch data faster. The team is now working on tools that can determine the performance characteristics of particular clusters and push work to more powerful groups.

23 October 2012

How to Get Your First Cloud Computing Job

InfoWorld, October 12
As the cloud computing field continues to expand rapidly, there is an accompanying need for top IT talent to develop and implement this technology. That translates into many new jobs chasing very few qualified candidates. As a result, many IT professionals are attempting to figure out how they can adapt for a career in the cloud. For now, there are two basic types of cloud jobs: cloud technology specialists, who focus on a specific cloud technology and how to develop or implement it; and cloud planners, who configure new systems in the cloud or lead the migration of existing systems to the cloud. The article takes a closer look at how jobseekers can land both of these cloud jobs.
In most instances, the listings for the cloud planner positions are filled by existing IT staffers who understand full well that having cloud computing experience on their CV translates into larger paychecks going forward. Those looking to break into cloud computing will have the best luck by learning a specific technology, then taking a cloud technology specialist job. The trick is getting the initial experience. The most ambitious candidates will begin their own "shadow IT" projects using a hot cloud computing technology, then soon find their way to a formal and high-paying cloud gig. Cloud computing is filled with stories about self-taught successes, due to the lack of formal training offered.
Those seeking higher-level jobs such as cloud planners and architects won't entertain as many options, but they can be found. The best way to prepare for these jobs is to understand all you can about the technology, including use cases and existing architectural best practices and approaches. If there's an upside to the emergence of cloud computing, it's the number of job opportunities it's creating, much like any hyped technology trend we've seen in the past. Cloud computing, however, is a further-reaching, more systemic change in the way we consume technology. Thus, the job growth around this change will last for many years.

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Internet Anti-Censorship Tools Are Being Overwhelmed by Demand

Washington Post (10/22/12) James Ball

The overwhelming popularity of U.S.-backed programs to thwart online censorship is limiting access to the tools in repressive countries because demand is creating bottlenecks and there is insufficient funding to expand capacity.  The United States invests about $30 million annually in Internet freedom, with the government funding nonprofits and other developers of software that can be downloaded by users in nations where censorship is rampant.  But China, Iran, and other countries are stepping up their efforts to stifle Internet freedom, prompting proponents to urge the Obama administration to ratchet up its own initiatives.  Calls for the Broadcasting Board of Governors to boost Internet freedom spending are being weighed against congressional pressures for the agency to reduce its budget significantly.  Officials privately say the funding issues are mired in security and political concerns.  Internet freedom activists say the development of online censorship bypassing tools is partly challenged by the need to determine the amount to invest now to help users avoid detection, versus how much to invest on more complex future projects that could keep up with censorship technology.

12 October 2012

IETF Starts Work on Next-Generation HTTP Standard

IDG News Service (10/03/12) Joab Jackson

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is working on the next generation of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), says Mark Nottingham, chairman of the IETF HTTP working group. The IETF standard SPDY protocol will serve as the basis for the updated protocol underlying the Web. HTTP version 2.0 will accommodate the evolving use of the Web as a platform for delivering applications and bandwidth-intensive, real-time multimedia content. The working group will look to reduce latency and streamline the process of how servers transmit content to browsers, but the protocol also must be backward compatible with HTTP 1.1 and remain open to be extended for future uses as well. HTTP 2.0 will primarily use TCP, but other transport mechanisms may be substituted. A proposed standard is scheduled to be submitted to the Internet Engineering Steering Group by 2014. The working group also will continue to refine HTTP 1.1. "Having a real, stable, solid, mature standard would be key to further improvements of HTTP protocol," says NGINX's Andrew Alexeev. "There's definitely the need for a modern Web protocol that is well suited for today's and tomorrow's Internet infrastructure, Web architectures, applications, server, and client software."

An Operating System in the Cloud

PhysOrg.com (10/09/12)

Tsinghua University researchers have developed TransOS, a cloud computing operating system that stores its code in the cloud, which enables a connection from a bare terminal computer. The terminal has a minimal amount of code that dynamically connects it to the Internet, after which TransOS downloads specific pieces of code that offer users options as if they were running a conventional operating system via a graphical user interface. Applications call on TransOS only as needed so that memory is not used by inactive operating system code as it is by a conventional desktop computer operating system. "The TransOS manages all the networked and virtualized hardware and software resources, including traditional OS, physical and virtualized underlying hardware resources, and enables users to select and run any service on demand," according to the Tsinghua researchers. They note TransOS also could be implemented on other devices, such as refrigerators and washing machines, and factory equipment. The researchers say it is essential that a cloud operating system architecture and relevant interface standards be established to enable TransOS to be developed for a vast range of applications.

06 October 2012

University of Minnesota Engineers Invent New Device That Could Increase Internet Download Speeds

UMNews (10/02/12) Matt Hodson

A device that controls light could lead to faster Internet downloading speeds, more affordable Internet transmission costs, and lower power consumption.  Scientists and engineers at the University of Minnesota developed the microscale device, which uses force generated by light to flip a mechanical switch of light on and off at a very high speed.  "This device is similar to electromechanical relays but operates completely with light," says professor Mo Li.  In the device, the force of light is so strong that its mechanical property can be dominated completely by the optical effect rather than its own mechanical structure.  The effect is amplified to control additional colored light signals at a much higher power level.  "This is the first time that this novel optomechanical effect is used to amplify optical signals without converting them into electrical ones," Li notes.  Glass optical fibers carry multiple communication channels using different colors of light assigned to different channels.  In optical cables, these multi-hued channels do not interfere with each other, ensuring the efficiency of a single optical fiber to transmit more information over very long distances.  The new optical relay device operates 1 million times per second, but researchers expect to improve it to several billion times per second.

Wireless Data at Top Speed

Fraunhofer Institute (10/12)

Fraunhofer Institute researchers have developed an infrared module that transfers data at a rate of 1 Gbps.  The multi-gigabit communication module is six times faster than a USB2 cable, 46 times faster than conventional Wi-Fi, and 1,430 times faster than a Bluetooth connection.  The challenge for the researchers was to build a small infrared module with fast-working hardware and software.  "We achieved this ultimately through a clever combination of different technical solutions," says Fraunhofer researcher Frank Deicke.  One of the solutions is a transceiver that can simultaneously send and receive light signals.  The transceiver fits in a laser diode to send light pulses and a photo detector to detect them, while the decoders that receive and translate the encoded data also are critical.  "Our current infrared module has already demonstrated that infrared technology is able to go far beyond established standards," Deicke says.  His participation in the Infrared Data Association reflects his dedication to improving on 1 Gbps, and Deicke has already been able to demonstrate that the transfer rate of his current model can be upgraded to 3 Gbps.

04 October 2012

Digital Agenda: EU-Funded Research to Make the 'Cloud' Greener

EUROPA (09/26/12)

The Eurocloud project aims to develop a three-dimensional (3D) microchip that can drastically cut the electricity and the installation costs of servers in cloud computing data centers.  The Eurocloud project has adapted low-power microprocessor technologies, which are normally used in mobile phones, to work on a much larger scale.  Initial testing shows that the new technology could reduce power needs by as much as 90 percent compared to conventional servers.  The researchers say the results could make data center investment affordable to more companies, while saving the cloud computing customers of data centers billions of dollars.  Eurocloud is targeting the development of server chips that cost 10 times less to buy and consume 10 times less energy when they operate compared to current cutting-edge servers.  The project is focusing on virtual prototype specialization of 3D servers, characterization of cloud applications, scalable 3D architecture specifications, on-chip hierarchies, and reliability, availability, and fault tolerance.  "Today's power-hungry cloud data centers are not sustainable in the long run," says the European Commission's Neelie Kroes.  "The Eurocloud chip addresses the core of this energy consumption problem."