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Rath of God Type Stuff: Microsoft and Oracle working together

Courtesy Barb Darrow, Gigaom



Starting now Oracle customers can run their databases and applications on Microsoft Hyper-V and Windows Azure, not only with Oracle’s blessing but its certification.

Get ready for the skies to rain frogs: As of now, Oracle will certify and support Oracle databases, along with its applications, Oracle Linux, and Java to run on Microsoft Hyper-V and Windows Azure platforms. And Oracle customers can run their existing Oracle-licensed software on Azure as of now. The news was announced Monday by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Windows and Tools group president Satya Nadellaand Oracle co-president Mark Hurd.

The two companies, which are long-time rivals in the database and middleware world, will work together to certify those applications on those platforms and execs on both sides said the pact was driven by joint customers of the companies.

It also represents a dramatic step for Oracle, which in the past has strongly discouraged customers from running anything but Oracle VM virtualization. In fact, it often would push back on support calls and ask customers to prove that their problem was related to Oracle and not to any third-party virtualization. That tactic typically went over like a lead balloon. Now, Hyper-V is clearly a near-first class citizen in Oracle’s world and that alone is worth a headline.

Azure already supported Java but via the Open JDK, an open source iteration of Java, Nadella said. “With this we have the official versions, licensed and supported from Oracle directly as part of their middleware stack as well as applications,” he said.

This deal is both bigger than and less than what had been anticipated. Last week, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison indicated on the company’s earnings call that third parties “like Microsoft” would utilize new multitenancy and other goodies in the upcoming Oracle 12C database, in their cloud offerings. No mention of that was made on Monday, although it is still possible. But folks (ahem, that would be me) expected today’s news to be about Oracle’s databases running on Windows Azure – and the fact that its WebLogic application server and applications would run there too was a surprise — even though it shouldn’t have been.

As should be expected, execs on both sides of the deal touted hybrid cloud as the model most enterprises will embrace, because it will let them keep some of their data and IP in-house while taking advantage of public cloud resources when needed. Hurd also said Oracle would continue to build its own “open cloud” efforts.

But to me this looks like an alliance designed to fend off further poaching of enterprise workloads by Amazon Web Services, the world’s largest public cloud and could also be seen as a counterweight to VMware which is trying to parlay its lead in server virtualization within company data centers to the cloud with its new vCloud Hybrid service.

As 451 Group Analyst Carl Brooks pointed out, companies have been able to run Oracle databases on AWS for some time. The hindrance to adoption, however, has been that Oracle and Microsoft licensing makes it more attractive for users to opt for other, lower priced options — Ubuntu or other Linux instead of Windows on the OS side or MySQL not Oracle for database. The companies did say they will offer pay-per-use options as well as the ability to move existing licenses to Azure, so we’ll have to see just how competitive those options are.

Until these enterprise software companies make it both price competitive and easy to run their software in the cloud, they will continue to struggle with this deployment model and could see more enterprise workloads flow to Amazon’s public cloud.

This story was updated throughout the conference call with additional information.


Microsoft Lowers Azure Pricing for Developers

Courtesy Keith Ward, VisualStudioMagazine

Commencing today, Microsoft is making it cheaper — much cheaper — to develop on its Windows Azure cloud. A host of new pricing options was announced at its TechEd conference in New Orleans, and they add up to a strong push from Redmond to get developers over their cloud fears.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie outlined the changes on his blog. He also discussed them at TechEd today. Using Windows Azure for development and testing, Guthrie said during a TechEd Q & A, "…is a no-brainer… storage and backup are likewise no-brainers."

A number of changes deal with how developers are charged for using Azure. One of the major ones is that there’s no longer a charge for a suspended virtual machine (VM). Previously, if a dev stopped a VM on Azure, but didn’t delete it, they were charged for the entire time the VM remained on the cluster. Starting today, there’s no charge if the VM is stopped, and the reserved space on the cluster is maintained, along with the deployment state and configuration. "This makes it incredibly easy to stop VMs when you aren’t actively using them to avoid billing charges, and then restart them when you want to use them again," Guthrie said.

He added that it’s common for developers to spin down a VM for an evening or weekend, and pick it up again the next workday. Now, when a developer does that, they’re not charged for keeping the VM on the compute cluster.

In addition, Azure billing has been made more granular, now charging by the minute instead of by the hour. In the past, i.e. yesterday, if a developer used a VM for 10 minutes, they were charged for an hour of time. Now that developer will only pay for the 10 minutes of VM use. Guthrie pointed out that typical test/dev work often involves "cycling up/down resources in a very elastic way," and per-minute pricing could save a lot of money in those situations.

Another source of developer frustration was eased with the announcement that test/dev server licenses for those with MSDN subscriptions will transfer to Azure. "This allows you to install and use your MSDN dev/test server images for SQL Server, SharePoint, BizTalk, etc. at no extra charge within Windows Azure VMs," Guthrie said. More than a few developers have wondered why their MSDN licenses didn’t carry over to cloud environments, forcing them to buy more licenses after already paying for often-expensive MSDN subscriptions. Many avoided Azure for that reason alone.

The news gets even better for MSDN subscribers, as they will now get discounted test/dev rates on Azure. VMs for the most popular platforms — Windows Server, SQL Standard and Enterprise, and BizTalk Standard and Enterprise — will cost just $.06 per hour of use (and, as before, it’s being charged in per-minute increments, so using a SQL Enterprise VM for 10 minutes would cost just a penny).

Normally, the per-hour costs for those platforms are higher — in many cases, much higher. For instance, SQL Standard is typically $.64 per hour, and SQL Enterprise is $2.19 per hour.

Microsoft is going even further than that, actually giving developers a monthly credit for Azure test/dev usage. Depending on the level of MSDN subscription, a developer will get between $50 – $150 toward Azure usage.

At TechEd, Guthrie also said that not all scenarios currently make sense for public clouds. "I wouldn’t start by putting your mission-critical SAP systems, your first deployment in the cloud," Guthrie added. But he said that, according to customer feedback, it’s not a question of whether or not to move to the cloud, but what areas are best to start with. For example, he said, "Adopting Saas (Software-as-a-Service) is something more and more companies want to do." With the new pricing structure, Microsoft hopes developers will do just that.

Mobile, Cloud Top In-Demand Dev Skills

Courtesy John K. Waters, VisualStudioMagazine

Mobile development, cloud development and front-end skills are the most desirable for programmers to have at present, and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue into at least the near future.

That’s the conclusion of worldwide recruiting firm CyberCoders, which just published a list of the 10 most sought-after skills of 2013. The firm compiled the list from an analysis of the hiring requirements of more than 10,000 tech companies.

Demand for mobile dev skills is currently outstripping supply, said CyberCoders CTO Matt Miller. Proficiency with iOS and Android in particular continue to be among the most in-demand skills, because of the growing awareness that companies need to have a presence on native mobile apps. "Anyone looking to have a presence on these devices, or distribution in Apple’s AppStore," the company concluded, "needs to be able to develop for iOS." Cloud capabilities came in second, with a particular demand for AWS and Azure proficiency.

But front-end development for mobile applications and Web sites also continues to be a top priority for potential employers. Especially appealing: devs who know CSS3, HTML5, and JavaScript. Why? More and more companies are looking to build content-rich pages with relatively light code, which requires familiarity with these and other mobile optimized languages.

Among other things, the CyberCoders list reflects an increasing complexity in the front end, which generates demand for increasing specialization among the software tiers, Miller said.

"A few years ago you could have a great software engineer who could do the back end and work with the database and business logic in the middle tier, and also the front end," Miller said. "But the front end has become so complex that it has become a specific skillset that people want."

The CyberCoders analysis also revealed a strong demand for UX/UI designers, because "companies appreciate the importance of creating compelling and engaging user experiences – these experiences result in an engaged and returning user base."

Big Data skills (Hadoop, MongoDB, NoSQL) came in fifth on the list, followed by C#, Ruby on Rails, Java, PHP and Linux.

The demand for C# dev skills edged Java because the language is "a bit more efficient" for the kind of development coders are being called upon to do, Miller said. Another reason, however, is that Microsoft has provided a great set of development tools in Visual Studio.

"Every day we see the engineers with these skills getting an average of four to five job offers," said CyberCoders CEO Heidi Golledge in a statement. "…"This is an incredible time for those who have tech skills or are willing to learn them. Unlike the dotcom bubble of the last decade, our need for continually improving technology is constant due to our improved processes and every day enjoyment of our smart phones and big data."

This is the second year the company has released a Top-10 skill list. No new trends emerged this year, Miller said, but the demand for mobile development skills continues to surge. "And we don’t see that slowing down," he said.

CyberCoders Top 10 Tech Skills for 2013

  1. Mobile Development (iOS, Android) 
  2. Cloud Computing (AWS, Azure)
  3. Front End Development (HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript)
  4. UX/UI Design
  5. Big Data (Hadoop, MongoDB, NoSQL)
  6. C#
  7. Ruby on Rails
  8. Java
  9. PHP
  10. Linux

Build-your-own-Dropbox service – AeroFS

Courtesy Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica

AeroFS has left its invite-only beta.


If you want access to the best features of Dropbox or one of its many competitors—automated file syncing between computers, a way to automatically keep old versions of your synced files, etc.—but you don’t want to keep your stuff in someone else’s cloud, AeroFS is a promising service. It can provide file syncing for many clients using your own local server (or, for businesses, Amazon S3 storage that you have more direct control over). When we last wrote about the service, it was still in an invite-only beta, but a message that went out to users last night declared that this beta is over and that the service is now open to anyone.

Now that the service is out of beta, though, it will start to cost money for larger groups of users. The "free" tier can support up to three "team members" (members who can be given full access to every synced folder in your AeroFS setup) and one "external collaborator" (an external user who can only view and edit the contents of a single user) per folder. Starting at four team members and going up to 50, the service costs $10 per member per month, and this also buys you unlimited access for your external collaborators. Finally, for teams larger than 50 members and teams that need integration with existing Active Directory or LDAP setups, you need to call AeroFS to get pricing, which will likely vary based on the size of your organization.

Existing beta users will be grandfathered in without being asked to pay for anything, but adding additional team members or external collaborators to your folders will be subject to the same pricing options outlined above.

I haven’t checked in on AeroFS since writing about it back in September, but a quick look at the release notes suggests that the product has made significant progress since then. Our two main complaints—that resolving conflicts was a bit clunky and that there was no Web interface—appear to have been addressed, among many other performance improvements and bug fixes. If you’re interested in giving it a try, you can register here.

Netflix kicks off $100K Cloud Prize competition

Developers, Netflix wants you to come up with new ways to improve the video service’s features, usability, quality, reliability, and security.

Courtesy CNET

Netflix (Credit: Netflix)

Netflix wants to make the cloud a sunnier place for its members.

The video distribution powerhouse today unveiled the Netflix Cloud Prize, a competition with a total of $100,000 to award to developers who come up with better ways to deliver computing resources over the Internet. Those "resources," of course, would include streaming video from the likes of Netflix itself.

As the company points out, "every piece of the Netflix experience" for its 33 million worldwide members is delivered over the cloud, from browsing TV shows to watching movies on a variety of devices to the service’s personalization and bookmark features. The new Cloud Prize aims to elicit ways to improve the service’s features, usability, quality, reliability, and security.

Broadly speaking, cloud computing encompasses any digital product and service that doesn’t reside solely on a person’s desktop PC, laptop, or tablet but rather relies heavily — or entirely, really — on a server elsewhere. That can include shared Google documents, Dropbox storage, Hulu or YouTube videos, and gabbing on Facebook.

Just yesterday, Netflix announced a long-delayed social networking tie-up with Facebook through which its U.S. members can share details on what they’re watching and how much they like it. Members outside the U.S. got access to that capability some months back.

"Cloud computing has become a hot topic recently, but the technology is still just emerging," Neil Hunt , chief product officer at Netflix, said in a statement. "No doubt many of the key ideas that will take it to the next level have yet to be conceived, explored, and developed. The Netflix Cloud Prize is designed to attract and focus the attention of the most innovative minds to create the advances that will take cloud to the next level."

There are 10 categories in the Netflix Cloud Prize stakes, each of which carries a $10,000 award. Contestants have until September 15 to submit their entries, and the winners will be announced in October.

This isn’t Netflix’s first foray into this sort of contest. In 2009, the $1 million Netflix Prize went to a team called Pragmatic Chaos that improved the accuracy of Netflix’s recommendation engine by 10 percent.

Microsoft Cloud Hit by Major Outages

I can understand a small outage but 6+ hours!!! Where’s your fail-over??? How can you preach the cloud and expect everyone to follow when situations like this keep  happening.


The MS Services Dashboard Page


There's a problem with Outlook right now.
There’s a problem with Outlook right now.


                        Problem We’re having a problem accessing email. You might not be able to see all your email messages. We’re working to restore service right now.                          Mar 12 4:35 PM
                        Updates We’re still working on the problem and will provide an update by Mar 13 12:12 AM. We apologize for the delay and thank you for your patience.                        Mar 12 10:11 PM


There's a problem with Hotmail right now.
There’s a problem with Hotmail right now.


                        Problem We’re having a problem accessing email. You might not be able to see all your email messages. We’re working to restore service right now.                          Mar 12 4:35 PM
                        Updates We’re still working on the problem and will provide an update by Mar 13 12:12 AM. We apologize for the delay and thank you for your patience.                        Mar 12 10:11 PM
We’re working on the problem and will provide an update by Mar 12 10:12 PM. Thank you for your patience.                        Mar 12 8:12 PM
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Evernote Hacked

LONDON — Online note-taking service Evernote Corp. says it has been hacked and is resetting all its 50 million users’ passwords as a precaution.

The Redwood City, California-based company said in a post published late Saturday that an attacker had been able to access sensitive customer information and that every user would have their account reset “in an abundance of caution.”

Evernote says the attacker was able to access an unspecified number of customers’ encrypted passwords. Decoding such passwords can be difficult but is far from impossible.

The company says it has seen no evidence that any customer data had been tampered with or that any payment information had been compromised.

A phone message left with Evernote on Sunday was not immediately returned.