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News in brief: AWS adds new instance, IBM earnings beat expectations

In this week's cloud provider news roundup, Amazon adds a new instance type to its arsenal of AWS tools and IBM earnings surpass analyst expectations.

AWS expands offerings with new, supersize instance type

IT departments have one less excuse for delaying the virtualization of their more resource-hungry systems, thanks to the availability of a new instance type from Amazon Web Services (AWS). As TechTarget's Beth Pariseau explained, the new High Memory Cluster Eight Extra Large offers expansive hosting capabilities that will help meet the increased compute, memory and bandwidth needs of customers with analytics and distributed node requirements.

Major targets of the new instance include customers with heavy-duty engineering applications and businesses looking to support large, single-instance workloads. At the moment, the instances are available only in AWS' U.S. East service area, but Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stated on the AWS blog that he plans to expand the service to additional regions in the future.

HP looks to simplify and refine SLAs

Hewlett-Packard Co. is taking criticism of its public cloud service-level agreements (SLAs) in stride, with HP executives pledging to improve and simplify Infrastructure as a Service uptime contracts. Confusion about the terms of HP's contracts compelled the company to launch a private beta service, scheduled to debut in February, that will monitor and notify users of instance failures.

HP's plan to improve the accuracy of internal reporting and customer notifications is also a response to accusations that the SLAs have placed too much of a burden on users to respond to failures. Blake Yeager, product manager for HP Cloud Services, told that the company plans to progressively refine its SLA focus to emphasize the performance of specific, individual resources.

Cisco draws Parallels to its investments

Purchasing a 1% stake in the Seattle-based software company Parallels, Cisco has secured a place on the company's board of directors, Reuters reports. Launched in 1999 and known for its desktop virtualization software -- and increasingly, its cloud delivery platforms for providers -- Parallels remains privately held, but has not ruled out a possible initial public offering.

The companies did not disclose the financial details of the agreement, but Talkin' Cloud blogger Joe Panettieri noted their relationship will involve joint development, marketing and industry initiatives. The agreement shows an effort on Cisco's part to enhance its cloud offerings and, as InfoWorld notes, a potential drifting apart of Cisco and its longtime virtualization partner VMware.

Opaque cloud revenue numbers shade IBM's bright forecast

As the world's largest computer services provider shifts its focus from hardware to the brighter horizons of cloud computing, IBM earnings are rising at the fastest rate in a year, according to Bloomberg. IBM has forecasted profits that exceed experts' estimates, predicting 2013 earnings of $16.70 per share compared to the average analyst expectation of $16.64.

While Big Blue's annual revenue has shown minimal growth, Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge announced last week that cloud-computing sales rose 80% in 2012. But some are calling IBM out for not defining this revenue with concrete figures. Like other IT providers, IBM lumped revenue from cloud services with other types of sales, making the true status of cloud revenue far from clear.

Google demands warrants from authorities looking to access cloud data

Google announced last week that U.S. government agencies must obtain court-issued warrants in order to access older content stored in its Gmail and cloud services -- a requirement not stipulated by federal law.

The 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act does not require authorities to obtain warrants to access customer data stored in servers for more than 180 days. But, as a Google spokesman told Wired, the Fourth Amendment -- which protects against unreasonable search and seizure -- serves as the basis for a warrant being required to access information stored in email and other services.

In its most recent Transparency Report, Google for the first time provided figures on whether data was released to officials with or without a warrant. The report showed that as use of services has expanded, so has the number of government requests for such data as emails, text messages, cloud-stored documents, browsing activity and the IP addresses used to create accounts.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Madelyn Stone, editorial assistant.

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