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July 19, 2010
Volume XXXI, Issue 7

BitTorrent Releases uTorrent SDK 

Excerpted from NewTeeVee Report by Janko Roettgers

BitTorrent is releasing an SDK for its popular uTorrent client, making it possible for publishers and app programmers alike to develop web applications that can be accessed through the peer-to-peer (P2P) client. The company also announced a developers' challenge to promote its new offering and it published uTorrent 3.0 alpha with a number of new apps late last week.

BitTorrent has been working on a closer integration of uTorrent and web services for a while now. The company integrated secure web access into its client in February and unveiled a web application framework called Project Griffin in May. Some of the early applications were revenue-focused bundled software, including a virus scanner. However, users can also use apps to browse free and legal torrent downloads from VODO and Clearbits as well as monitor and process torrent downloads.

uTorrent apps are based on HTML and Javascript, which should appeal to web app developers, and can be distributed as files ending with the extension .btapp. The company said in a blog post that the uTorrent app platform will be "completely open," meaning that anyone will be able to develop and distribute apps for the client.

The fact that BitTorrent won't have any editorial control over apps will likely mean that torrent sites and search engines will develop their own apps to get a more prominent placement in the uTorrent client, which had 52 million monthly users at the end of last year.

However, the app SDK should also give content owners that aren't afraid to embrace P2P a significant uptake.

And finally, it will be really interesting to see whether developers come up with new ideas to integrate third-party services like Twitter or Dropbox into uTorrent. BitTorrent wants to foster some of this innovation with a month-long developers' challenge, which promises the winner $1,000 as well as a prominent placement within the uTorrent app itself.

Cloud Computing Will Surpass the Internet in Importance

Excerpted from PC World Report by Fred O'Connor

While those who developed the Internet had a clear vision and the power to make choices about the road it would take - factors that helped shape the web - Georgetown University Professor Mike Nelson wondered during a World Future Society panel discussion whether the current group of developers possesses the foresight to continue growing the Internet.

"In the mid-90s there was a clear consensus about what the Internet was going to be," he said. "We don't have as good a consensus as we did in the '90s, so we may not get there."

While a vision of the Internet's future may appear murky, Nelson said that cloud computing will be pivotal. "The cloud is even more important than the web," he said.

Cloud computing will allow developing nations to access software once reserved for affluent countries. Small businesses will save money on capital expenditures by using services such as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud to store and compute their data instead of purchasing servers.

Sensors will start to appear in items such as lights, handheld devicesm and agriculture tools, transmitting data across the web and into the cloud.

If survey results from the Pew Internet and American Life Project accurately reflect the US' attitude toward the Internet, Nelson's cloud computing prediction could prove true.

In 2000, when the organization conducted its first survey and asked people if they used the cloud for computing, less than 10% of respondents replied yes. When asked the same question this May, that figure reached 66%, said Lee Rainie, the project's director, who also spoke on the panel.

Further emphasizing the role of cloud computing's future, the survey also revealed an increased use of mobile devices connecting to data stored at offsite servers.

However, cloud computing faces development and regulatory challenges, Nelson cautioned.

"There are lots of forces that could push us away from the cloud of clouds," he said.

He advocated that companies develop cloud computing services that allow users to transfer data among systems and do not lock businesses into one provider. The possibility remains that cloud computing providers will use proprietary technology that forces users into their systems or that creates clouds that are only partially open.

"I think there is a chance that if we push hard ... we can get to this universal cloud," he said.

Cloud computing must also contend with other challenges, he said. Other threats include government privacy regulations, entertainment companies that look to clamp down on digital infringement, and nations that fear domination from US companies in the cloud computing space and develop their own systems.

Beyond the role of cloud computing and the Internet, the Pew Research Center also examined how the web possibly decreased intelligence, redefined social connections, and raised the question of whether people share too much personal information online, among other issues.

On the question of the web lowering society's intelligence, the center found that people's inherent traits will determine whether they use the web as a tool to seek out new information and learn or simply accept the first answer that Google delivers. The technology is not the problem, said Janna Anderson, Director of the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University, who also spoke on the panel.

People responded that the Internet has not negatively impacted their social interactions. Respondents answered that they realize social networking does not necessarily lead to deep friendships. The Internet affords people tools that allow them to continue being introverted or extroverted, Anderson said.

Young adults face criticism for posting too much personal information to sites like Facebook. Research indicates that the extreme sharing of information is unlikely to change. Lee said that young adults have embraced social networking and will continue to do so because online sharing builds relationships. He also said that the survey showed a new view on privacy that advocated disclosing more personal details.

Mainstream Media Needs to Digitally Reboot

Excerpted from Media Daily News Report by Diane Mermigas

While uncertainties about regulation, the economy, and the new digital realities are impeding deals, media moguls at Allen & Co.'s annual summit this week also appear chronically stumped about how to radically transform or purge their legacy assets while effectively integrating new digital businesses.

Rubbing elbows with fellow moguls can spark ideas, but implementing them back home is a formidable task. So-called new media acquisitions are usually layered atop existing operations, making for challenging integration. Comprehending the nuisances of digital interactivity and what it means in the vast media spectrum is equally challenging.

Just look at the disastrous results of media players trying to embrace social networking. AOL is practically giving away Bebo after paying $850 million for it in 2008. News Corp. is dogged by speculation that it must jettison MySpace, which it hasn't known what to do with since CEO Rupert Murdoch acquired it for $580 million. Murdoch's primary focus now is creating paid-content streams.

The truth is: media players have yet to make the most of the digital sea change.

Even Facebook, Twitter, and other new billion-dollar players at the heart of social networking are still trying to determine how to develop revenue streams without violating user privacy and exchange. These relative newcomers are looking over their shoulders at the next new way to combine social networking, location, commerce and entertainment as exhibited by Foursquare, Groupon, and Liberty Media's Lockerz. The landscape is littered with missed and failed new media deals because of integration misfires.

Newfangled media doesn't come with directions.

There is no owner's manual on how to transform established media companies into digital paragons. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, whose closed ecosystem of iPads, iPhones, iTunes, and iAds has been the catalyst for mobile connectivity, was as relevant to the Sun Valley conversation as if he was there. Jobs, one of the few media moguls to have successfully reinvented his company for the new media age, once again avoided the event.

The gaggle of press mulling outside the Sun Valley resort - hanging on every innocuous mogul move or passing comment - was fixed on headlining the latest "deals" without exhibiting much insight into what that really means in the chaotic media environment.

Deals will largely be smaller tuck-in acquisitions, distressed asset sales, and consolidation, such as Cablevision's acquisition of Bresnan Communications cable systems for $1.37 billion and News Corp. trying to buy the remainder of BSkyB. The mega deals involving traditional media generally don't work out because so many of conglomerates' moving parts need radical fixing.

Even Comcast's controlling ownership of NBC Universal set for next year is a gradual takeover from General Electric, allowing for the reconciliation of cultures and economics over five years. Even so, there are no guarantees that Comcast can restructure NBC's challenged broadcasting business or reconcile its content with Internet challenges to core cable operations.

Walt Disney, which has had a better track record than most, is unloading its Miramax Films and is wrestling with a strained ABC TV Network, intricately tied to owned and affiliated TV stations and program production undergoing their own reinvention challenges. It continues to successfully fold in strategic upstarts, such as games maker Tapulous.

If content is king, then it shouldn't be a struggle for the storied MGM to deal with its $4 billion in debt, with expanded sales or a strategic alliance with Spyglass or another independent studio in a structured bankruptcy. All video and text content companies are vexed by securing what Iger calls "limited exclusivity" - code for getting paid something on some media devices. So far, the paid vs. free content brawl has only alienated consumers.

As long as the values of content, assets, and business models remain in flux, deals will be sparse and unnerving. Technology is as much challenge as opportunity as power shifts; it destroys wealth in one place and creates it somewhere else. Evidence that companies are at least investing in mobile media and technology: 188% growth in related deals from a year ago, according to Jordan Edmiston. That has put scores of Internet companies on the radar, including the digital content site Joost, social network builder Ning, content distributor Slingbox and online gamer Zynga.

$3 trillion of sideline cash held by banks, private equity and public companies underscores just how petrified investors are of getting burned.

The dilemma for media players is compounded by not knowing what the new digital norm looks like on a balance sheet. It will be a mix of refined historical and new. But interacting with consumers rather than pushing out content, goods, and services is a completely different media dynamic, and it's not easily mastered - even after a fancy Idaho huddle.

Report from CEO Marty Lafferty

Photo of CEO Marty LaffertyDespite the fact that a US ban on Internet taxes has been repeatedly extended since 1998, as we noted last week, Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA) is seeking to capitalize on recessionary pressures by reintroducing this idea, in part, in a bill euphemistically entitled the Main Street Fairness Act.

Under this misguided and potentially harmful measure, as soon as ten states, comprising at least 20% of the total population of all states imposing a sales tax, have become member states under the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA), all states that implement SSUTA would be authorized to require remote sellers to collect and remit sales and use taxes.

Start-up Internet retailers with no physical presence except in their home states would be required to collect and remit sales tax in those states, even if they had no physical presence there. And this would be just the beginning of more pervasive taxes on web-based services and Internet access itself.

With state governments facing significant budget deficiencies as a result of a weakened economy, we are very concerned that a bill like this may become law and pave the way for additional Internet taxation. The DCIA asks all DCINFO readers to contact your Congressional leaders now and urge them to take action to continue to keep all such taxes off the Internet.

In 2007, we strongly supported the call-to-action of then Chairman Gordon Smith (R-OR) of the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force who, along with Senators John McCain (R-AZ), John Sununu (R-NH), Trent Lott (R-MS), and Wayne Allard (R-CO), sought to enact a permanent moratorium on taxes like this.

Broadening access to the Internet, expanding consumer choice, promoting confidence and growth in our economy's information technology (IT) sector, and encouraging the deployment of broadband services at lower prices can all be the beneficial results of this effort.

Protecting consumers' interests and reducing costs through increased market competition in the retail sector as well as Internet-based subsets including consumer video, voice, and data services and other areas to ensure lower prices and help achieve broadband access for all can also be achieved with such a measure.

This ban is essential to the continued growth and success of the distributed computing industry. Taxation of the Internet, starting with retail e-commerce transactions, would slow its advancement and restrict its benefit to consumers. Such taxes would also discourage investments that are essential to expand broadband access in rural and underserved areas and increase broadband speeds.

According to Senator Smith, "Congress has very little time to act before Internet access becomes vulnerable to burdensome taxation. Internet access helps children in school, bolsters local businesses, and encourages innovation. We must extend this moratorium and keep the Internet free of taxes."

Senator McCain added, "It's important for Congress to pass a permanent ban soon, before state and local governments begin to tax Internet access. Those who wonder what impact Internet taxes could have should look to US telephone and mobile phone bills, where taxes are up to 20% of the cost. We cannot allow that to happen to the Internet - likely the most popular invention since the light bulb."

Senator Sununu noted, "A permanent ban is needed. The Internet is critically important to interstate and global commerce. It makes no sense to have a national and global communications and business network subject to taxes by every state, city, and county in the country."

And Senator Lott concluded, "If it's the right thing to do, we ought to make it permanent."

Since the moratorium was first adopted in 1998, tremendous investment, growth, and innovation in the scope and use of the Internet have occurred. By preventing unnecessary taxation of the Internet, Congress has promoted the continued expansion of technology and e-commerce, including cloud computing, P2P, social networks, peer-assisted CDNs, and more.

In 2003, when this ban was initially extended, the House of Representatives championed legislation that would have made it permanent.

In 2007, two bills, the Permanent Internet Tax Moratorium Act - S 156 and HR 743, could have finally accomplished that. Although interest in passage ultimately flagged, these excellent measures were reintroduced last year as S 43 - Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act of 2009 and HR 1560.

State and local Internet taxes could add 20-to-25% to the average consumer's web access bill - a tax hike of $150 or more per year - relegating millions of Americans to the wrong side of the digital divide. What's more, this would be duplicative taxation, since the primary means of Internet access is via telephone and cable lines, and these services are already taxed at many levels.

Internet taxation would also hinder small businesses from gaining access to the technologies they need to compete. Educational and research institutions with limited budgets would also suffer. America still lags behind our economic competitors when it comes to wiring homes and businesses with high-speed Internet access and broadband.

Widespread broadband deployment is the key to unleashing a new round of distributed computing gains in productivity and entrepreneurial activity. More than a million new jobs stand to be generated as a result of the broadband build-out, enough growth to generate more in taxes than states and localities could hope to raise by taxing online retail transactions, Internet access, e-mail, P2P, VoIP, cloud computing, and other online services.

So why not just extend the moratorium for a few more years? Because making broadband available on a near-universal basis and expanding capacity for promising new services will require billions of dollars in private sector investment. Telecommunications companies are hesitant to put such capital at risk as long as the tax man keeps lurking around the corner, threatening to dampen the market for broadband.

Congress has a choice to make. It can allow state and local governments to saddle Internet users with new taxes and fees. Or it can promote investment in infrastructure, technology, and broadband applications to help reduce costs and expand the deployment of Internet-based technologies. Contact your Congressional leaders now and let them know the right choice to make. Share wisely, and take care.

Today's Four Favorite Cloud Computing Flavors Explained

Excerpted from IT World Report by Kevin Fogarty

Cloud computing is famous for being a metaphor instead of a technology, but that metaphor is increasingly hard for non-techies to understand. Many variations of cloud have emerged that have little to do with the initial vision that sparked interest - a public cloud with burst-up capability on demand.

"Public cloud is not what most of our clients are talking about right now," according to Chris Wolf, Analyst for Gartner Group's Burton Group consultancy. "Pretty much everything's hybrid."

Public cloud (pay-for-play) services such as Amazon's EC2 and Microsoft's Azure were the proof-of-concept for cloud technology. Rather than shift the majority of their own IT to professionally maintained shared-resource services such as those, however, most companies are today using cloud to build on their internal virtual infrastructures, analysts say.

The greatest benefit of cloud is its ability to connect otherwise incompatible infrastructures, not just one or two applications at a time, and its ability to let customers dial up more compute power when they need it, says International Data Corp. (IDC) analyst Ian Song. Nevertheless, IDC's market surveys predict that spending on cloud will rise from $17 billion in 2009 to $44 billion in 2013.

"It's not real clear in most people's minds what virtualization or cloud will get them," according to Roger Johnson, who evangelized both in his previous job as a senior IT manager at audio-systems reseller Crutchfield, and does so now as a senior systems engineer at Richmond, VA based integrator SyCom Technologies.

"Most people seem like they're interested in cloud but they don't want to touch it until there's more adoption and a better track record," says Johnson.

Most companies take a roll-your-own approach to cloud, adding cloudlike interfaces to existing systems, building new systems on virtualized, highly interoperable systems, or hiring co-location, server hosting or online services to meet specific needs or east particular points of pain, Wolf says.

There is no single model for how best to mix all the various cloud service permutations, but a few consistent models have emerged:

1. Internal Clouds

In what's turning out to be the most common form of cloud computing (and convenient for virtual-server vendor VMware) internal, private clouds allow a company to weave layers of virtualization and management software around existing infrastructure to tie servers, storage, networks, data and applications. The goal: Once they're interconnected and virtualized, IT can shift storage, compute power or other resources invisibly from one place to another to give all the end-user divisions all the resources they need at any time, but no more than that.

What's the difference between a highly virtualized environment and an internal cloud? VMware says an internal cloud should also have a high degree of management automation and offer chargeback capabilities for business units. Private clouds should make managing both information and technology easier, but will blow apart the silos into which most IT organizations have been built over decades, Wolf says. "Right now the server people talk to the server people, not networks or support or anything else," he says. "If everything's virtualized, everything's on every box, so your job can't be defined according to where the box you're responsible for sits."

2. External Cloud Hosting

External cloud - any IT service maintained by an external service provider and accessed through the Internet - is the best source for both cost-effective IT extensibility and of insecurity, mistrust, confusion, and the potential for disaster. Among the best known US providers of external cloud services are Rackspace, Terramark, Equinix, AT&T, and IBM. The big worry: In a recent Portio Research survey, 68% of respondents say worries about security are holding them back from cloud projects; 58% say performance is also a drawback.

"In the public cloud a lot of the fear factor is that your data is sitting on someone else's infrastructure," says Vince DiMemmo, General Manager of Cloud and IT Services at data-center hosting and services company Equinix. "When you hire someone else your expectations for security are much higher, so most customers aren't comparing what a service provider offers compared to what they do in their own systems. They tend to be nervous about cloud, too, not for co-location and server-hosting that they've been doing for a long time."

There's not a lot of difference between co-location or hosting and cloud services in the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market, which means any IT organization with external providers has already done most of the vetting needed for a cloud provider, says Jim Levesque, Systems Programmer and Supervisor of the cloud-based disaster-recovery and back-up system built by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for its 600-server business-application network.

"You check the security, make sure about their finances so they're not going to disappear right away, talk to their references and make sure they've got good provisioning on the things that are important - plenty of I/O and network access, redundant connections and power supplies, emergency plans, all that stuff," Levesque says.

But many customers are also worried they'll get locked in to a single service company if the APIs, systems and interfaces their cloud provider uses don't allow them to pick up and move back to internal servers or to a different provider's infrastructure, according to Karl MacDonald, chief evangelist for cloud service provider Cloud.com.

3. Hybrid or Modular Approach

It's pretty clear that the near future of IT is the hybrid cloud model, Wolf says. Hybrid cloud computing can include a mix on internal clouds, external cloud services and traditional SaaS options. The mix of pieces that hybrid should include for a specific business will end up being as unique as the IT organizations that provide it, he says.

Some small- and mid-sized companies face the same dilemma as that guy who insists he can wear the same jeans he did in high school, despite their 32-inch waist and his 42-inch belly. The CEO keeps cinching the budget a little tighter every quarter.

Smaller-scale workspace on demand services can fit the bill here. Originally conceived for applications such as on-demand test and development environments (where the need for 100 virtual workstations on which to test a software distribution script wouldn't be unusual) workspace on demand companies such as CloudShare, Soonr, or Microsoft Azure offer mini versions of the macro cloud.

Rather than buy large-scale services with a lot of configuration and management from Amazon or other hosting companies, it makes sense to have a service you can use to get IT-on-demand for workgroups rather than enterprises, according to Steve Peltzman, CIO of New York's Museum of Modern Art.

"We, like a lot of companies, have only one set of staging servers for anything, and you don't want to add a feature because you don't want to mess with the staging, so you have to put that off," Peltzman says. "There are lots of needs, strategic or tactical, we have to meet during the day without having a rack of servers to pull out to do it. We look at where it makes sense to outsource SaaS providers, SalesForce, outsourcing e-mail to Gmail, Amazon or Cloudshare for platform. Sometimes I don't know what we're going to use a specific service or function for, but I know we're going to need it. That's what I'm looking to the cloud for."

4. Traditional SaaS

For those looking for an even smaller slice of additional functionality or capacity, plain-jane SaaS may be the way to go. The quickest way to get into "cloud computing" is to sign up for free e-mail at Yahoo or Google, or for productivity apps from Zoho, 37Signals, or a host of other services aimed at businesses or individuals.

Google's corporate e-mail is popular among small companies that put managing their own Exchange servers somewhere down below housekeeping and maintenance. Productivity apps are available online from Microsoft, Zoho, and others who'd rather not pay for bulk upgrades of feature-heavy desktop applications.

Companies that don't even want to have to maintain Windows can go to Desktone, ThinkGrid, and a few other VDI-on-demand providers.

Users Willing to Pay for TV Everywhere

Excerpted from Media Daily News Report by Wayne Friedman

Good news for those TV Everywhere (TVE) cable proponents: Not only do consumers seem to like the idea, they may even pay extra for it. A new study from The Diffusion Group says 60% of adult broadband users - 95 million consumers - are "enthusiastic" about TV Everywhere. More interesting: 34% - 54 million consumers -- are willing to pay at least $5 extra per month for those services.

The study went further, saying that about 33% of consumers would pay about $10 extra a month, and 20% would pay more than $15 per month.

"Current TV-Everywhere-type offerings remain relatively fledgling services with little in the way of compelling content," says Michael Greeson, founding partner of The Diffusion Group and author of the new report.

Greeson says that's expected of a new service, and probably feeds "operator belief that these services should be viewed as a free value-added service to existing residential TV subscribers as opposed to a new service capable of generating additional revenue."

The study says it expects that TV Everywhere providers will likely "pull a Hulu," meaning that they will provide free access to TV Everywhere offerings (through existing monthly cable deals), but eventually add a new charge once TV Everywhere content grows and consumer demand increases. Hulu recently announced it was adding a pay-component to its free premium TV programs.

Cable operators and TV content providers have been concerned about the free access of TV shows online - shows that could compete with traditional carriage through their monthly cable packages sold to consumers.

TV Everywhere is an attempt to keep consumers paying for those packages by demanding authentication of their cable or satellite programming deals, which would allow them to watch TV shows online.

Cloud Music: Apple Set to Clean Up 

Excerpted from The Register Report by Andrew Orlowski

Never underestimate the power of an incumbent. And never underestimate the willingness of Apple's user base to try new products bearing the fruit logo.

A poll of Cupertino, CA iPod fans by NPD has found a remarkably high willingness to pay for a "cloud" music service. The researchers extrapolate that up to 15 million fans would try a free, Apple ad-supported Spotify clone, and between seven and eight million would pay $10 a month for it.

That seems to be the sweet spot for subscriptions - although We7 and Spotify both offer an ad-free version for $5 a month, with the $10-a-month deal adding mobile access.

With Google and Microsoft trying to muscle in on this space and start-ups including Skype founders Rdio and Michael Robertson adding streaming to MP3Tunes, it's getting very crowded. Internet service providers (ISPs) are keen to offer cloud streaming - this includes the UK's TalkTalk.

Unfashionable Rhapsody plugged away at this for years, but the success of We7 and Spotify has caused a stampede. The web business, like the music business, moves like a herd.

Spotify, of course, is trying to knock iTunes off its perch - it can now swallow your local music library without so much as a burp. And if you don't have an iPod or iPhone, and have zero music to begin with, it could seem pretty attractive.

It continues to mystify me that people who on principle never bought a DRM-encrusted digital download, happily reach for their wallets to carry around Spotify's DRM-encrusted music - locked in a closed, proprietary system. Either they don't give two hoots, or haven't noticed yet.

AT&T Slams FCC's False Trichotomy

Excerpted from Daily Online Examiner Report by Wendy Davis

The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) so-called "third way" for broadband - a plan to reclassify broadband access, but not other components of the Internet, as a telecommunications service - drew a flurry of last-minute endorsements and opposition this week.

The plan, which is seen as the first step towards net neutrality regulations, was enthusiastically praised by Google. Of course, Google has always supported neutrality principles that would prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from degrading traffic to the site. But Google has an additional reason for backing the third way: the proposal squelches the idea that neutrality rules would apply to content providers such as itself.

"Such a tailored approach," Google said of the proposal, "would subject only the transmission component of broadband Internet service to a small but critical subset of the provisions of the Communications Act."

Google adds: "This approach also would clarify that Internet-based content, applications, and services remain unregulated by the FCC."

ISPs, on the other hand, said they disapprove of the plan. Comcast said the plan "would be contrary to both fact and law" as well as "dangerous public policy."

AT&T added that the proposed reclassification "would be a sledgehammer, not a scalpel." The telecom giant also took issue with the premise that the FCC has only three choices regarding broadband: continue to classify broadband as an "information" service, recategorize everything related to the Internet as a "telecommunications" service, or pursue a "third way" by reclassifying only broadband access as a telecommunications service.

"This false trichotomy overlooks the best way forward: maintaining the regulatory status quo while seizing this uniquely auspicious opportunity to work with Congress in updating the Communications Act for the broadband era," AT&T wrote.

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski proposed the "third way" after an appellate court ruled in April that the commission couldn't sanction Comcast for violating neutrality principles because broadband is classified as an information service.

The plan also includes a promise to avoid many of the regulations applicable to telephone companies, including ones related to pricing. That component of the proposal seemed to trouble advocacy group Public Knowledge, long a supporter of neutrality regulations. "It would be tragic if the Commission invested time and effort in properly reclassifying broadband in order to ensure an appropriate framework to protect the public only to find, when a crisis arose, that it had eliminated its authority through an imprudent forbearance," the group said.

Amazon Goes from Cloud to Grid with New Cluster Product

Excerpted from Ars Technica Report by Jon Stokes

Amazon has announced a new cloud product aimed at bringing cloud-style scaling and flexibility to high-performance computing (HPC) applications. In short, the company has released a classic grid computing product that's based on its cloud offerings - it's a kind of the reverse of the normal grid-to-cloud evolutionary development that we described in our Introduction to Cloud Computing. A quick look at the contrast between a cloud and an HPC-style grid will make it clear what Amazon has done and why.

The cloud model that Amazon uses for EC2 consists of multiple compute nodes, loosely coupled, with each node running a collection of tasks from different clients. Here's a depiction of this model, drawn from the aforementioned introduction.

Cloud tasks are short-lived, lightweight with respect to compute intensity, and agnostic about the underlying node hardware. Clients bring up multiple tasks on different nodes, and multiple clients often share each node.

The cloud model described above works well for a large range of workloads, especially web applications. But it's not the only way to use the underlying infrastructure. Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, in his blog post announcing CCI, says that some larger clients have been using EC2 in a grid-like manner for high-performance computing since it first launched. Specifically, companies in financial services, pharmaceuticals, and a few other sectors have been running large, multinode tasks on EC2, even though the underlying infrastructure is better suited to the inverse (i.e., multitask nodes).

The grid model contrasts with the cloud model.

Grid tasks are very large and utilize multiple nodes, ganged together. Where cloud tasks are short-lived, lightweight, and hardware-agnostic, grid tasks have the opposite characteristics - they're longer-lived (often running as batch processes), heavy with respect to compute intensity, and benefit greatly from being optimized for the underlying node hardware.

To make a grid work really well, the nodes need to be much more tightly coupled than they are in a cloud model, which means that they need higher-bandwidth links between them. This is why Amazon's CCI nodes have 10Gbps non-blocking I/O links connecting them. Amazon is also guaranteeing that CCI nodes will consist of a pair of Xeon X5570s, so that HPC developers can optimize for that specific hardware.

Amazon is pitching this CCI for EC2 product as a kind of "mid-range HPC" platform, for companies that are currently running dedicated HPC clusters in-house but would like to cut down on their overhead costs by getting those cycles from a service provider. Not only can the companies migrate to EC2 from their in-house hardware, but if they're already using EC2, they'll benefit from the fact that CCI instances are managed exactly like regular EC2 instances.

What Is Microsoft Cloud Computing?

Excerpted from DABCC Report

Azure, Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), and Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) make up the Microsoft Cloud. Blue-Cyan and alphabet soup? Is that what the Cloud is?

Quite the contrary, these three "black boxes" are a comprehensive set of offerings from the world's largest purveyor of software.

Microsoft's newest slogan is "The Cloud - We're all in!"

At its Worldwide Partner conference this year it is proving that this is much more than a slogan.

In one of the keynotes at this year's event, Kevin Turner, COO, said to a packed house at the Verizon Center in Washington DC, "Lead your customers to the Cloud. They are going there anyway, so lead them."

This bet isn't new for Microsoft. It started work in earnest about three years ago on the Azure platform, a cloud-based data center to be used by applications developers around the world. To be sure the platform has been morphing over the past three years, but this week, it has begun to take on a more defined form.

To learn more and to read the entire article at its source, please visit What is Microsoft Cloud Computing?- The Citrix Blogs.

Ustream Adds Protection to Video Streaming Platform

Excerpted from Digital Media Wire Report by Mark Hefflinger

Live video streaming platform Ustream has added new copyright protection technology from Vobile, BayTSP and TVAura, Billboard reports.

The systems will help prevent users from offering streams of copyrighted videos, such as pay-per-view events.

Grooveshark for Android Takes a Bite out of Spotify 

Excerpted from Recombu Report by Thomas Newton

Grooveshark, the music streaming service, has released an app for Android that looks like it'll be giving Spotify a run for its money. The app itself is free to download and there's a 14-day trial period after which you have to sign up for a VIP account.

To get full access to Grooveshark on your Android phone you'll have to pay $3 per month for the VIP service. That's one fifth the monthly cost of Spotify Premium.

Similar to Spotify, playlists can be synced to your phone - perfect for signal no-go zones such as the subway or long stretches of the railroad system.

You can also post links to playlists you've created to Facebook or Twitter and or text/e-mail them to friends if you need to show the world how achingly cool your painstakingly crafted playlists are.

The app has been available for a while now but when we first checked it out we found that the music library wasn't anywhere near as comprehensive as Spotify's one and the app itself was slow and a bit buggy. Since then more tracks have been added, the interface has been redesigned and the app now runs a lot better than it did.

Spotify subscribers might be tempted over the cheaper price but we'd advise you to check out the free trial first before committing yourself

$64 Million in Piracy Lawsuits Recovers Just $1.4 Million

Excerpted from Electronista Report

Ray Beckerman, the New York lawyer famous for fighting the recording industry's many lawsuits against what it alleges are unauthorized downloaders, has exposed what he says is a major financial flaw in the RIAA's business plan.

On his blog, Beckerman found that the actual damages paid back were well below the actual legal expenses. Between 2006 and 2008, over $64 million was spent tracking customers but only extracted $1.36 million in successful lawsuits or settlements

In 2008 alone, law firms were paid a total of $17.61 million to pursue copyright infringement claims. This returned just $391,000. The situation was worse the year before, as the music association paid $21 million in lawyer fees and $3.5 million on investigative operations, which he believes was the MediaSentry project. This resulted in just $515,929 in recoveries. In 2006, the RIAA spent over $19 million on lawyers and more than $3.6 million in investigative operations, all for an income of $455,000.

The disproportionate amount was proof to Beckerman that the RIAA is not in the business of making money but rather is on a mission to dissuade users from downloading files under the threat of legal action. Since the lawsuits, the organization has backed away from significant new legal action and has tried to press Internet providers for anti-piracy warnings. Some suits are still ongoing but have often hurt the RIAA as it has had some of its levied penalties ruled as excessive.

Judge Guts Whopping File-Sharing Verdict

Excerpted from Wired News Report by David Kravets

A federal judge on Friday slashed by 90% the damages a jury awarded the recording industry in a lawsuit against a university student caught file sharing. The judge declared the original $675,000 award as "unconstitutionally excessive."

US District Judge Nancy Gertner reduced last year's verdict to $67,500, or $2,250 for each of the 30 tracks defendant Joel Tenenbaum unlawfully downloaded and shared on Kazaa.

The Obama administration argued in support of the original award.

"There is no question that this reduced award is still severe, even harsh," the judge added. "It not only compensates the plaintiffs for the relatively minor harm that Tenenbaum caused them; it sends a strong message that those who exploit file-sharing networks to unlawfully download and distribute copyrighted works run the risk of incurring substantial damages awards."

The RIAA opposed Gertner's move, arguing that judges do not have the discretion to tinker with the amount of statutory damages a jury awards in copyright infringement cases. The Copyright Act leaves to a jury's discretion a damage award from $750 to $150,000.

"With this decision, the court has substituted its judgment for that of 10 jurors as well as Congress," the RIAA, which vowed an appeal, said in a statement.

The RIAA has sued thousands of individuals for file sharing the past five years. Most defendants have settled out of court for a few thousand dollars. Only two cases have gone to trial, and now in both, monstrous jury verdicts were reduced by the presiding judges for the same reasons.

The significance of Friday's decision appears to be minimal in the music-sharing context. The RIAA has abandoned its litigation campaign and instead is working with Internet service providers (ISPs) to warn file sharers or kick them off the Internet if they repeatedly engage in online copyright infringement.

But where the RIAA litigation campaign left off, independent movie makers have picked up. They have just begun suing thousands of BitTorrent users for downloading and sharing low-budget movies.

Tenenbaum's reduced payment of $67,500 is still sizable. And neither Tenenbaum nor Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the other defendant who went to trial, are poster children for whom Congress would likely alter copyright law.

A jury twice found Thomas-Rasset liable for file sharing 24 songs. The latest verdict, which is to be retried for a third time, demanded she pay the RIAA $1.92 million. The judge in that case also reduced the award to $2,250 a song. Tenenbaum, for his part, conceded from the stand that he was liable.

Prince Really Doesn't Understand the Internet

Excerpted from The Telegraph Report by Milo Yiannopoulos

Fancy picking up a copy of Prince's new album, "20Ten," which came out this weekend? Well, you can't, because it was released as a CD giveaway on the cover of Saturday's Mirror - and absolutely nowhere else.

Prince has refused to sell "20Ten" via iTunes, seeing no reason for his new material to be available on the Internet at all.

If you want to buy it now, or at any time in the future, you'll either have to scour eBay - which, like the second-hand book trade, earns the artist nothing - or turn to means such as BitTorrent. Sound like a huge commercial blunder to you? Yup, me too.

The giveaway was hyped last week with an interview in which Prince made some telling remarks: "The Internet's like MTV," he said. "At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."

It's difficult to believe that statement was intended to be taken at face value, until you dig a bit deeper into Prince's troubled history with the Internet: a complicated relationship that began with utopian enthusiasm, back when Prince saw the web as the key to liberating himself from the "tyranny" of record companies, but which has ended with contemptuous dismissal.

There's something odd about a teetotalling, vegan artist - particularly one with a history of warring with record labels - hating the Internet. Other music icons, like Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, have embraced the net and experimented very successfully with new distribution and revenue models, discovering armies of new admirers in the process - many of whom are more than happy to stump up for gig tickets after getting a few free MP3s.

Prince, on the other hand, has been struggling to get to grips with it for more than a decade. In 2007, he had to back down after reportedly trying to ban any images of himself or his album covers from being posted on the Internet. At the time, his lawyers cited copyright infringement, but fans were confused and angry, and eventually AEG, Prince's promoter, was forced to issue a clarification. It was only a couple of pictures from a recent live performance they were going after, they said.

That's not the only example of the artist's robust attitude toward online copyright: earlier the same year, he announced he was suing YouTube and eBay for not filtering his copyrighted content before it appeared online. But wiping anything off the face of the Internet is impossible, and often spectacularly counterproductive. Barbra Streisand once tried to censor an aerial photograph of her home by sending out intimidating cease-and-desist letters; in defiance, Internet users replicated the picture far-and-wide, so the picture reached many millions more than if Streisand had done nothing. That phenomenon is now called "the Streisand effect."

Prince's most recent Internet gaffe, a promotion for his 2009 album "LotusFlow3r," saw fans' credit cards charged recurrent $77 subscription fees for a website that had been taken offline. It seems as though Prince, having had his fingers burned one too many times, is now heaping opprobrium - and lawyers - on a medium he was once wildly enthusiastic about.

Perhaps Prince hasn't been paying attention, but the recording and motion picture industries have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last few years discovering that there are much more sophisticated and effective ways of combating infringement, and that heavy-handed legal tactics simply don't work.

File sharing is a fact of life. There was no need for fans to slink up to their local newsagent counter on Saturday, mumbling apologetically about their choice of newspaper, because high-quality copies of his new album were already being heavily seeded on BitTorrent networks, having been uploaded directly from the CDs given away by the Mirror.

I suppose the giveaway of "20Ten" might one day be seen as a canny strategy if it bolsters ticket sales for Prince's very lucrative live shows. But it's hard to imagine the strategy being replicated by bands whose tour revenues can't make up for the loss in future royalties that Prince has just cost himself by ruling out online sales.

Prince's attitude seems an unfortunate echo from another decade - somewhat like his music. I mean, seriously: did you know he was 52 last month? He'll soon be old enough to attend one of those "silver surfer" afternoon classes. Perhaps then he'll finally get the hang of the Internet.

Top Manager: Anti-Piracy Clearly a Waste of Time

Excerpted from Digital Music News Report

Forget about disagreements with fans and artists. Many of the top executives in the music industry are at loggerheads with one another. It's the perfect storm of disagreement over disruption, and the latest example comes from top manager Peter Jenner (best known for his days with Pink Floyd).

Label groups worldwide are still fighting a war against piracy, across several fronts. That includes courtroom battles with companies, individuals, and ISPs, as well as legislative efforts to force three-strike-style enforcement initiatives. But all of that is a big "waste of time," according to outspoken International Music Managers' Forum (IMMF) president Jenner. "Attempts to stop people copying are clearly a waste of time," said Jenner. "They are comparable to prohibition in the US in the 1920s."

Suddenly, Jenner is another member of the 'copyleft' brigade, at least according to ASCAP sensibilities. Jenner excoriated the music establishment for fighting against the "economic reality" of abundance, which is now driving the cost of digital files to zero. "Copyright is about the right to copy," Jenner continued. "We cannot control people's right to copy if they have computers."

Okay, solutions please? Actually, Jenner is advocating a total rewrite of copyright law, and has a few monetization ideas as well. Jenner pointed to a 1-pound-a-month payment model from Rapidshare, a premium that gives users access to perks like faster downloads. "If we can get 1 pound a month from every [British person] for music... this is getting very close to the current level of revenue for recorded music," Jenner claimed.

Coming Events of Interest

Managed File Transfer (MFT) Offerings - July 20th online. MFT is one service area that smart information technology (IT) organizations are increasingly turning to as the businesses they support become more complex and dispersed, data volumes increase, and existing infrastructures are pushed to its limits. Join this lively eSeminar.

NY Games Conference - September 21st in New York, NY.The most influential decision-makers in the digital media industry gather to network, do deals, and share ideas about the future of games and connected entertainment. Now in its 3rd year – this show features lively debate on timely cutting-edge business topics.

M2M Evolution Conference - October 4th-6th in Los Angeles, CA. Machine-to-machine (M2M) embraces the any-to-any strategy of the Internet today. "M2M: Transformers on the Net" showcases the solutions, and examines the data strategies and technological requirements that enterprises and carriers need to capitalize on a market segment that is estimated to grow to $300 Billion in the year ahead.

Digital Content Monetization 2010 - October 4th-7th in New York, NY. DCM 2010 is a rights-holder focused event exploring how media and entertainment owners can develop sustainable digital content monetization strategies.

Digital Music Forum West - October 6th-7th in Los Angeles, CA. Over 300 of the most influential decision-makers in the music industry gather in Los Angeles each year for this incredible 2-day deal-makers forum to network, do deals, and share ideas about the business.

Digital Hollywood Fall - October 18th-21st in Santa Monica, CA. Digital Hollywood Spring (DHS) is the premier entertainment and technology conference in the country covering the convergence of entertainment, the web, television, and technology.

P2P Streaming Workshop - October 29th in Firenze, Italy. ACM Multimedia presents this workshop on advanced video streaming techniques for P2P networks and social networking. The focus will be on novel contributions on all aspects of P2P-based video coding, streaming, and content distribution, which is informed by social networks.

Fifth International Conference on P2P, Parallel, Grid, Cloud, and Internet Computing – November 4th–6th in Fukuoka, Japan. The aim of this conference is to present innovative research results, methods and development techniques from both theoretical and practical perspectives related to P2P, grid, cloud and Internet computing. A number of workshops will take place.

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This page last updated July 16, 2010
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