GoCloud Hosted Desktop News Roundup #13

AOL Launch Alto Beta; Server chips cut cloud costs, Microsoft and Hortonworks develop Hadoop solutions, SMBs run on business clouds

AOL have launched a new, cloud-based email service called Alto which is designed to work with many of the popular email accounts such as Yahoo, .Mac accounts, Gmail and AO mail, all from a single interface.

The service is currently only available via invitation and was offered on a limited preview earlier this week. Alto is designed to “help combat inbox fatigue” and sorts the contents of inboxes automatically in tiles.

Users will be able to use multiple existing accounts from within Alto, so users won’t need to sign up to a new email address. The service can be used with up to five different email addresses, which are separated into “stacks” according to how important the service considers the mail.

The stacks appear to the left of the main inbox window and are sorted according to the type of message that Alto considers them to be, such as daily deals, newsletters, personal mail and so on. Once the user has been using the service for a while, it becomes smart to user preference and stacks accordingly.

This intuitive aspect to Alto also works by using the “skip the inbox” button and sorts social media messages and photos in tiles of their own. Photos can also be viewed chronologically or even as a slide show. Social media users will also be able to see the profiles and latest tweets of contacts in their address books.

It’s thought that the service will not be fully available until early next year, whilst AOL iron out “kinks” in Alto. It will be available as a free service and it’s thought that a premium version will also be available for business and an HTML5 version for the iPad.

Server chips could cut cloud bills

Researchers in Germany and Finland have found that cloud computing costs could be sliced by as much as 30%, depending on the kind of chips that they use in the servers. The research was carried out on Amazon’s EC2 cloud service and found that some server clusters are 40% faster than others, depending on the processor used.

This is especially good news for SMBs, who are already finding cloud cuts their IT costs considerably, allowing for growth as they invest in other areas such as marketing and product development.

According to the BBC, "Amazon promotes its service as using generic hardware that offers the same performance to every customer.”

The study was carried out over the course of a year and used special software that "can interrogate the software that controls the groups of servers” rented out to customers, enabling them to see which were running faster chips.

"Through a set of detailed micro-benchmark and application-level benchmark measurements, we observe that the performance variation within the same sub-type of instance is relatively small, whilst the variation between different sub-types can be up to 60%,” researchers said in the paper.

The cost cuttings come into effect because the newer, faster machines are able to process data much quicker than their older counterparts.

The full research paper can be found here as a PDF download.

Microsoft partner with Hortonworks

Microsoft and Hortonworks has announced free previews of their Apache Hadoop integration for Windows Server and Azure, after spending a year in partnership to develop the software.

Windows Azure HDInsight Service and Microsoft HDServer is a mixture of commercial and open source software and has been developed with the intention to make managing Hadoop in a Windows and Azure environment easier. Initial previews were shown at the Hadoop World Show, which was held on Wednesday in New York.

"It's about empowering analysts to use Excel and Power View to get insights out of a big data solution," Doug Leland, general manager of product management for SQL Server told The Register.

The software can be deployed as part of an onsite infrastructure, in the cloud or as a hybrid solution, with the latter being compatible to set up with Windows Server.

"HDInsight is the first family of products that allows you to seamlessly migrate between the environments based on your project requirements and complexity,” Hortonworks said in a statement.

The software is designed to allow companies to use business intelligence tools to pull “actionable insights” form Hadoop and all other enterprise date solutions, including Linux, and allows the movement of data from Hadoop and SQL Server 2012 so that users can better improve insights.

Hortonworks said in a statement that HDInsight simplifies Hadoop alongside Windows Azure HDInsight Service, as it can implement a 16-node Hadoop cluster within 10 minutes and is easier to manage.

"It demystifies the Hadoop distribution so you don’t need to choose and test the right combination of Hadoop projects to deploy,” Hortonworks explained.

The integration of Apache Ambari with Microsoft System centre also improves security as IT managers can manage Hadoop clusters alongside data, applications and other assets within a single interface.

The partnership between the two companies agrees that all of the code will be contributed back into the open source community.

Strategy Analytics: SMBs Run on Business Clouds

The Strategy Analytics Business Cloud Strategies say that SMBs should keep cloud adoption simple, scalable and secure in its report “SMBs Run on Business Clouds According to 2012 Global Survey.”

The survey highlights how many small businesses have embraced cloud, especially when it comes to SaaS, which has seen a larger take up than other cloud models. SMBs have adopted this as it is easy to manage and integrate with existing infrastructures and integrations.

However, security still remains a significant concern for many companies, especially larger enterprises.

“Many SMBs have moved nearly all of the applications that they can to public SaaS clouds,” commented Mark Levitt, Director of Business Cloud Strategies research at Strategy Analytics. “In the next 12-24 months, SMBs will explore how to move their remaining applications to run on public Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) clouds.”

“To compete with larger competitors, SMBs recognize that they must tap the vast resources available in business clouds to act nimbly and quickly in response to business and market needs,” said Andrew Brown, Director of Enterprise Research at Strategy Analytics.