Google vs AWS in the cloud: Telco 2.0 News Review

Posted on

Google goes after the cloud majors; AWS hits back with product suggestion API; learn from DTAG's Terastream

It's been said before that Google's cloud offerings seem disappointing coming from a company synonymous with the technologies that underly the cloud, as if they weren't fully committed to it. Google App Engine had a brief heyday among the developers until Google introduced a new billing scheme that hit some of them with huge bills, and they flocked away to Heroku, AWS, and others.

Last week, Google took the offensive.

Timing their announcement to spoil Amazon Web Services' customer conference, Google cut prices on some of its cloud products dramatically (as much as 85 per cent for the on-demand version of the BigQuery NewSQL tool) and re-organised the rate card to compete more directly with AWS. Pricing was also cut by lesser, although still impressive, amounts on storage and computing products.

Google also announced a new product, Managed VM, which packages resources from Compute Engine as a virtual machine controlled through an API, offering a greater degree of configurability than App Engine but less of an initial investment of time than Compute Engine on its own. This again makes Google's product more directly comparable to Amazon EC2, Heroku, Rackspace Cloud etc. TechCrunch has some more detail.

AWS, for its part, pushed some more features. What else? Amazon Virtual Private Cloud users can now peer, while CloudSearch has been completely rebuilt. Interestingly, AWS is now using the Apache Solr open-source search engine as the basis for CloudSearch. And even more interestingly, one of the search options in the new CloudSearch is "suggest_product", suggesting that Amazon is opening up some of its recommendations nous to its customers. There were also price cuts.

Cisco, meanwhile, announced its new cloud services business, Intercloud, which promises an "Internet of clouds" (or was it a cloud of Internets?)

After CEO John Chambers' keynote at MWC, we should expect a lot more of this. Chambers picked out Deutsche Telekom's Terastream network architecture for special praise, so here's a detailed presentation on exactly how it works from DTAG engineer Peter Lothberg, who is of course a Cisco luminary. The slides can be downloaded here, and here is Lothberg talking us through it.

Read our Cloud 2.0: Securing Trust to Survive the 'One-In-Five' CSP Shake-Out and Are Telefonica, AT&T, Ooredoo, SingTel, and Verizon aiming for the right goals? Executive Briefings for more on telcos and the cloud

Why Google doesn't have a Paris office; Netflix peering war is over; regulators want VoIP interconnect; FiOS; Optus ads

Remember when YouTube and Free had a peering war? Sure you do. A key point that arose in the dispute was that Google provides ample capacity for direct peering with YouTube in London, Manchester, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and elsewhere in Europe, but hardly at all in France. It was argued that Google was concerned that it might have to pay tax if it colocated equipment there, rather than just having a so-called "representative office". But here's an interesting sidelight on the affair.

Like a substantial number of other major tech companies, Google is in trouble over an agreement they had to refrain from poaching each others' engineers. They're being sued on the grounds that this constitutes a buyers' cartel designed to hold down wages. This week, it turns out that Google abandoned a plan to set up an engineering group in Paris, in order to accommodate a team of ex-Apple engineers, because Steve Jobs invoked the no-poaching agreement. So, no Apple exiles, no Paris group, and it seems no Google presence in France.

Cogent was deeply involved in the French YouTube ruckus. Last week, their CEO came out with his hands up and accepted that it was congestion on their network that led to the great Netflix/Comcast row. Like so:

However, Cogent said this move does not mean it is offering to enter into paid peering agreements with these providers or other players. Instead, Cogent maintains it will pay associated costs to augment its interconnections with these networks to address traffic congestion to deliver online video services, including those offered by its customer Netflix

So they're not signing paid peering, which implies instead that they are sticking with settlement-free peering and accepting that they need to add capacity. So, it was just another peering war in the end.

In a related issue, Michigan's state-level regulator has ordered AT&T to offer Sprint an interconnection agreement. The news here is that the agreement covers bulk VoIP interconnect, meaning that the regulator asserts power over voice interconnection however it is carried.

Verizon is again in tense negotiations with the state of New Jersey. Under agreements going back as far as 1991, VZ was permitted to raise its rates in exchange for a commitment to deliver 45Mbps broadband to (roughly) everyone. No-one will be surprised to learn that it didn't happen like that. VZ doesn't want to roll out any more FiOS, and does want to trim its copper network, and as a result, they would like the regulator to accept that DSL is almost like fibre.

Aussie operator Optus has been ordered to apologise for suggesting that it had 98% geographical coverage, rather than population coverage. Ironically, although Telstra filed the complaint, the Optus advert in question suggested that the ex-incumbent had even more, 99.3%, geographical coverage.

Samurai Son battles the giant robots; US regionals, Sprin-T to share spectrum; more AT&T SDN

It was CCA this week, the meetup for "competitive" carriers in the US. Masayoshi Son took the opportunity to denounce the "duopoly taking over America", pointing out that between AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, they have 73% of postpaid users and 84% of EBITDA. Five years ago, the numbers were 56% and 67% respectively.

We think it might look a bit like this (from Genevieve Bell's twitter feed):

robot.jpg

The CCA's response is to encourage roaming and spectrum sharing between the rural operators on one hand, and Sprint, T-Mobile, and the remaining regionals on the other via something called a Data Hub.

Sprint, for its part, is getting ready for this by adding the 700MHz band to its phones. Sprint doesn't own any 700MHz spectrum but its potential partners do. The CCA effort is also looking at similar models to Verizon Wireless' LTE for Rural America project, under which Sprint and T-Mo would lease unused spectrum to rural operators, who would in exchange agree to national roaming.

AT&T, meanwhile, gets more fascinated by software-defined networks every day. Here's their technology chief, John Donovan, speaking at the Open Networking Foundation's event earlier this month.

Our new Software-Defined Operator Executive Briefing and the AT&T In Depth section from the Telco 2.0 Transformation Index cover these issues

Snowden puts us off the cloud - survey; Turkey goes censorious; dodgy app from EE; MS Office horrorbug

Another survey suggests that substantial numbers of businesses are rethinking their use of cloud computing in the light of the Snowden revelations. It is probably worth pointing out that NTT Europe, which paid for the survey, isn't exactly a disinterested party here.

Snowden, for his part, produced another document from his capacious hat. 122 chiefs of state are listed in a handy database, while GCHQ specifically targeted two German companies who provide satellite broadband to oil rigs, army bases, and the like, plus a security shop.

In Turkey, it turns out the prime minister wasn't joking when he announced that Twitter was "the scourge of humanity" a while ago. After sensational revelations about corruption and a plan to invade Syria, the Turkish government has started chopping bits off the Internet, like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. To begin with, rebels spray-painted the Google DNS server addresses on walls, but now, TTnet has started intercepting traffic to well-known DNS providers and forcing it to their own name servers.

Interestingly, Microsoft reckons that malware is five times more common in the Middle East than the world average.

EE, meanwhile, has deployed a "free games" app that gets bundled with Android updates and which asks you to turn off some of your security settings. It then runs in background and refuses to be uninstalled.

Turn off previewing RTF e-mail in Microsoft Office. No, really, do it.

Huawei "maintained calm" over NSA - the 34% surge in net profits helped

Last week's Snowden revelation was of course that the NSA hacked Huawei. Huawei's acting CEO, Eric Xu, says the company "maintained calm" and operated "business as usual" after the news.

They might well have done. Revenues for 2013 were up 8.5% at $38.5bn and net profits were up 34% at $3.3bn. The core of the business, the carrier division, was the slowest growing, but 4% growth in sales is still nothing to be scorned. Enterprise, though, grew 32% and consumer 18%.

The European Commission, meanwhile, has dropped its anti-dumping investigation into Huawei and ZTE.

As if on cue, China Mobile ordered €750 million worth of Alcatel-Lucent gear, adding more optical and IP networking equipment to the existing deal for small cells and EPC.

Meanwhile, data traffic in India is growing at 87% a year, with 3G users growing at 146%. In the cities, usage is beginning to push 1GB/user/month.

Telenor, meanwhile, has turned up the first independent Internet link into Myanmar.

Vodafone launches M-PESA in Romania, its first European deployment. Ironically, the Financial Times thought this was an argument for cuts to UK international aid - M-PESA was originally a DFID project.

Samsung Mobile boss earns more than Tim Cook; SKT jumps the Galaxy S5 gun; more lawsuits, BlackBerry results in "not totally awful" shock; Office on your iPad

The boss of Samsung Mobile, J. K. Shin, was paid $5.8m this year - substantially more than Apple CEO Tim Cook, on a paltry $4.25m. Interestingly, out of Sammy's three joint CEOs, Shin was paid the least - the biggest earner was Kwon Oh-hyun, who runs the components business.

Shin also had an embarrassing moment this week, when SK Telecom jumped the gun and launched the Galaxy S5 early. SKT has to sit out a time-out imposed by the regulator later this month, so they were afraid that their rivals would steal a march in the meantime unless they went first. Not surprisingly, once SKT ripped open the big Christmas box, the other kids did too.

Samsung now has to make a decision whether or not to punish SKT by restricting their supply of S5s. Clearly, SKT finds Samsung less scary than the regulators, and Samsung likes to control the marketing of its products closely, as after all it mostly pays for it. But SKT is also one of Samsung's biggest customers worldwide. Many galaxy. Such awkward.

Meanwhile, the next round of patent litigation between Apple and Samsung is due to kick off today with jury selection, always assuming that a peace agreement isn't reached at the last minute.

BlackBerry's results are in. The big news is that the quarterly losses are down to $423m, although quarterly revenue is under $1bn, while the company's business model has become dramatically more services-focused and it has drastically cut its costs, as the following chart shows, from the new Bare Figures site:

Created with Highcharts 3.0.7$ in billionsCost and operating expensesImpairment of long-lived assetsCost of salesResearch and developmentSelling, marketing and administrationAmortizationQ1/05Q2/05Q3/05Q4/05Q1/06Q2/06Q3/06Q4/06Q1/07Q2/07Q3/07Q4/07Q1/08Q2/08Q3/08Q4/08Q1/09Q2/09Q3/09Q4/09Q1/10Q2/10Q3/10Q4/10Q1/11Q2/11Q3/11Q4/11Q1/12Q2/12Q3/12Q4/12Q1/13Q2/13Q3/13Q4/13Q1/14Q2/14Q3/14Q4/1402468

CEO John Chen says that the next lot of phones will be "very keyboard centric" and will bring back the command keys, starting with the Q20. The company will be focusing intensely on the enterprise market.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has launched the Office apps for the iPad, and they are getting rave reviews.

European DSL typically 63% of advertised speed; Altice, Bouygues warned over SFR; BT in the magic quadrant; churches, the new public WiFi hubs

SamKnows reckons that European broadband subscribers face prices that vary up to 400% within comparable categories, and on average get 63% of the advertised speed if they're on DSL. It's a bit better (89%) on cable.

The French financial markets regulator has warned the parties to the SFR deal that they need to be more honest with the stock exchange and the wider public.

BT, a leader in the global magic quadrant or a monopoly that doesn't do tech any more? It depends which bit you're talking to. This ISP is in the habit of setting up dial tone on all its lines, including the broadband-only ones, to stop BT staff accidentally installing their own service on them.

In Norfolk, meanwhile, village churches are becoming the hubs for a new community WISP, which places its antennas on the spires.

Sprint: VoWLAN > VoLTE; Telenor WebRTC; Sigfox M2M; banking apps double in a year; OpenBTS 4.0

Sprint isn't doing VoLTE for some time yet, its VP of technology says. He argues that there is little gain in terms of spectral efficiency over their existing CDMA network, and they are more interested in VoWLAN for extra capacity.

Telenor has an WebRTC conferencing app that uses Chrome's browser notifications.

SigFox's specialised low-power M2M network has scored another €15m of investment.

British banks say the usage of their mobile apps has doubled in a year, and they are already observing a reduction in footfall in their branches.

The shareholders in YouView have agreed to fund it for another 5 years, although much more funding is now coming from BT and TalkTalk as opposed to the broadcasters.

Range Networks has released OpenBTS 4.0, including better encryption, many bug fixes, and a JSON API for the configuration and management aspects.

The original Shoreditch start-up, Last.fm, is closing its subscription radio service.

Facebook buys Oculus Rift, thanks to its dual-class shares; sleep deprivation; acoustic permissions; social network for dogs

Facebook has acquired Oculus Rift, the Kickstarter-funded project to create a virtual reality helmet that wasn't awful. The bill is $2bn, of which $1.6bn is in Facebook shares (what else).

The point is made over here that Facebook's two-class share structure is ideal for this sort of thing. Mark Zuckerberg and a few others hold class B shares, which carry ten times as many votes as the class As that are on offer to the public. As a result, although he owns about 20% of the company, he still gets to control it and the A-shareholders just have to suck up the dilution when he issues a few billion more As to buy something shiny.

Sleep deprivation, the secret sauce of failure in the Valley.

Why does a London Tube map app want to record audio? Perhaps because real-time acoustics for machine learning is cool?

Google Bus is less unpopular than sometimes suggested.

Google Coder is a tiny web development kit for the RaspberryPi.

Whistle is a quantified self social network for dogs.

And finally, an unnamed bidder wants 800MHz spectrum on the island of Svalbard, halfway from Norway to the North Pole. It's got to be either Santa or a James Bond villain.