News briefs: Microsoft heats up IaaS market, Google wants to go greener

In this week's cloud news, Microsoft heats up competition in the IaaS market while Google petitions local utilities for more clean energy options.

Microsoft ramps up IaaS market competition

The announcement of the general availability of Microsoft Windows Azure Infrastructure Services signaled an uptick of the competition in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market, as SearchWindowsServer reported. Amazon Web Services (AWS) dominates the space, though the landscape is also crowded with offerings from Rackspace, Terremark, CSC and others, including Google and VMware. New features in Microsoft's IaaS offering include high-memory virtual machine (VM) instances and improved VM image templates, along with enterprise service-level agreements (SLAs) and price cuts, making Azure a notable competitor in the large IaaS market, analysts said.

Google appears ready to pay up for more clean energy options

Going green often means going directly to the source -- at least that's what Google's recent data center decisions would indicate, according to a GigaOM report. With its new "renewable energy tariffs" program, Google is publicly asking utilities in North Carolina to sell clean power directly to large companies like itself, and is offering to pay for the extra costs of delivering cleaner energy. The six-year-old, $1.2 billion Lenoir, N.C. data center that runs Google services like search, Gmail, Google+ and YouTube operates on a grid dominated by coal and nuclear power. Rumors have circulated indicating Google will look to build its own clean power sources, potentially similar to the solar panel and fuel cell farms Apple has constructed to fuel its data centers in the area.

HP continues its OpenStack pitch to enterprises

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is hoping to poach some Amazon customers with its business-grade OpenStack-based cloud services for enterprise customers, as a GigaOM report pointed out this week. Speaking at the spring 2013 OpenStack Summit in Portland last week, HP Chief Technology Officer and Vice President Saar Gillai emphasized that HP cloud customers are loyal, but he acknowledged they do need some reassurance in moving to the cloud. By backing its OpenStack-based private, public and hybrid services with enterprise-grade SLAs, HP hopes to attract customers that have dabbled in using AWS for non-critical workloads. HP also announced it will make its 3PAR StoreServ and StoreVirtual storage products compatible with OpenStack, bridging a gap that will allow organizations with high-performance, Fibre Channel-based storage to support OpenStack, CRN reported. "Channel partners can use our APIs [application programming interfaces] to provide different customization capabilities to customers that can only be done using open source," Craig Nunes, vice president of marketing for HP storage, told CRN.

Citrix expands cloud collaboration suite with GoToWebcast

Stretching out further into the webcasting market, Citrix has launched the self-service GoToWebcast in North America and Europe, as InfoWorld reported. The cloud-based webcast tool lets users handle up to 5,000 attendees from desktop or mobile devices, and allows for broadcasts of unlimited audio and video presentations. Subscribers pay a monthly fee for the service, which includes options to conduct polls, upload presentation documents and link to social media channels. As part of its ongoing push to support high-definition video conferencing across more of its GoTo services suite, Citrix also released a beta version of GoToWebinar with HDFaces for subscribers of its 500- and 1,000-attendee plans.

CDNify rides OnApp wave of federated CDN

Content-delivery network (CDN) and cloud services provider OnApp's recent move to release an open source version of its federated CDN platform already has a taker: Manchester, U.K.-based startup CDNify. Like other service providers in OnApp's network of federated partners, CDNify can extend its service footprint by tapping the extra capacity and geographic reach of other providers offering CDN services through OnApp's platform -- including OnApp itself. CDNify is starting out with 40 points of presence, and plans to market itself by playing up the simplicity and price of its services, GigaOM reported. Subscriber options begin with a free account and move up to $0.05 per gigabyte per month, less than half of what competitors like Amazon charge -- and that's without factoring in the fees Amazon collects based on traffic. As founder James Mulvany told GigaOM, CDNify stands out from other CDNs in terms of its target market. Rather than going head-to-head with CDN giants like Akamai and Limelight that pursue big enterprise customers, the company "decided to build CDNify for people like us: Web companies, startups and mobile app developers."

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