Dec 16

That roughly translates to: Bring your data mining to us.

This was originally posted at ZDNet’s Between the Lines.

In its statement, Amazon said:

The service, called Amazon Elastic MapReduce, is designed for businesses, researchers and analysts trying to conduct data intensive number crunching (statement). Hadoop, which is used by companies like Yahoo, is trying to be pushed into the enterprise data center by start-ups like Cloudera.

A correction has been made to this story. See details below.

Correction, 7:15 a.m. PDT:
This story initially miscast Google’s connection to Hadoop. Google invented and uses the MapReduce technology, but it doesn’t use Hadoop, an open-source implementation of MapReduce. At least it doesn’t use it broadly. It has its own in-house version.

Amazon’s Hadoop framework runs on the company’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3). The general idea is that customers can use MapReduce to pay by the sip as they do things like index the Web, mine data, conduct financial analysis, simulation and bioinformatics research.

Larry Dignan/ZDNet)

Amazon on Thursday announced a new cloud computing service that uses Hadoop, a free software framework, to crunch tons of data.

MapReduce is a separate service and here’s the pricing in the U.S.:

Amazon Elastic MapReduce creates data processing job flows that are executed by Hadoop software on the web-scale infrastructure of Amazon EC2. The service automatically launches and configures the number and type of Amazon EC2 instances specified by customers. It then kicks off a Hadoop implementation of the MapReduce programming model, which loads large amounts of user input data from Amazon S3 and then subdivides it for parallel processing using Amazon EC2 instances. As processing completes, data is re-combined and reduced into a final solution, and the results deposited back into Amazon S3. Users can configure, manipulate, and monitor job flows through web service APIs or via the AWS Management Console.

Dec 16

They don’t have the “patience or resources to go through the hoops” required in committee sales. Translation: they don’t want to fund the direct sales force/field engineers for the traditional six-month sales cycle, where they have to commit the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars upfront before a decision is made. Moreover, if the decision is positive, it’s normal to wait a few more quarters for implementation to move forward.

I put the question to you: Is enterprise sales dead? Has your organization stopped looking at the multimillion-dollar licensing or hardware deal? If you are a commissioned sales representative, are you nervous about your profession’s future?

Geva established his case by relating the observations of venture capitalist Charlie Federman:

On top of this we have the private cloud in which companies use software and infrastructures to provide public cloud-type features available in-house. Make no mistake that the majority of this will be enterprise software with some major enterprise players in this space such as VMWare with VCloud and Citrix with C3, as well as companies such as GigaSpaces, who in many cases will partner with such companies and provide additional innovation. There will of course be room for innovative open-source software, such as Eucalyptus.

There is some truth to this. I worked for six months at open-source enterprise content management vendor Alfresco, and their model was fascinating: with the exception of a single direct sales representative, the entire business was run over the phone, Adobe Connect, and Skype. Deals were small, but numerous. “Try then buy” was the norm, and it worked–at least at that scale.

Jim Liddle doesn’t seem to think so. The architect-turned-sales-representative made his rebuttal on his wonderfully titled “Liddle Thoughts” blog:

Could an indirect-only model work at a much larger scale, though?

I’m not sure where I stand in this debate, but I have to agree that enterprise sales is a huge, difficult, expensive pain right now, and that cloud computing has the potential to bypass much of this pain. Then again, I know most enterprise IT organizations want accountability and responsiveness from the vendors on which they build their business. Direct sales puts a name and a face to that in a way that indirect sales or “do-it-yourself” never will.

Geva then goes on to break down the decline of the enterprise sales empire:

Most of the enterprises I am dealing with are looking at public cloud infrastructures as being an enabler for outsourcing suitable applications or services. What is key for them in doing this is using software that they can use in-house as well as being able to be used on the cloud. Same skill sets, in some cases the same code, so that the transition to the public cloud is seamless. To get companies to engage on public cloud infrastructures right now requires a direct sales model, certainly until some form of tipping point is reached, and even then I believe that for certain classes of public cloud software, direct sales will always be needed.

Another possibility, I suppose, is that enterprise sales shifts from software to services, just like everything else.

The history of the trend away from the enterprise sale is easily traceable. It starts with free-trial CDs; it really picks up steam with downloadable enterprise software (salute to the WebLogic folks). It becomes downright mainstream with open source: Linux/RedHat, Jboss, MySQL, and the rest. And now, we come to cloud computing: the final nail in the enterprise sale coffin.

Liddle concludes with his belief that “enterprise license models, for certain vendors, are changing; for others, existing models have a new buddy, but I see this as evolution rather than revolution.”

I met today separately with two successful CEOs who, unprompted, told me they were de-emphasizing their marketing/sales efforts to enterprise accounts; one company is in the application arena, and the other is in the infrastructure space.

In many ways, cloud licensing is an evolution of licensing models that include single user/single license, multiple users/shared license, temporary or fixed period licenses, pay-per-use licensing, subscription licensing, perpetual licensing, etc.

Each told a similar story:

My co-host on the Overcast podcast, Geva Perry, has published a very compelling post arguing for the demise of the traditional enterprise sale–the deal brokered by the highly extroverted, commissioned sales rep with the help of a team of sales engineers, marketers, consultants, and so on over the course of 6 to 18 months.

Each stressed that the opportunity cost is simply too high when many alternative channels are present that are open to a “fast test/fast purchase” decision cycle. Today, their biggest issue is prioritizing their time/resources in an environment where they receive near-instant market feedback from traffic, trial, and conversion statistics. Direct enterprise sales (as opposed to business development) is being extracted from their company DNA.

Nov 25

Red Hat is on its way to being the first billion-dollar open-source software company. (Sun Microsystems is over that mark, but most of its sales come from hardware, not software.) But even Red Hat is not really a pure-play open-source company, and it’s going to need to accelerate and drive growth by selling solutions, which will require more tweaks to its licensing model–tweaks that will almost certainly make it look a bit more like the companies with which it currently competes.

But that’s the hitch. There must be some commercial value that a customer can’t get (easily) anywhere else to drive open-source monetization. There are not enough support dollars out there to fund a multibillion-dollar open-source industry, just as there are not enough advertising dollars to fund the Web 2.0 industry.

The same is true of open source. The ability to distribute software at roughly zero cost and acquire customers at much lower sales and marketing costs is a hallmark of open source. It’s why a host of proprietary software companies are likely toying with the idea of buying open-source companies or seeding open-source projects: cheap complements make nice on-ramps to their proprietary businesses.

Ultimately, though, every business needs revenues–and advertising, it transpires, is not going to provide enough. Free content and services were a beguiling idea. But the lesson of two internet bubbles is that somebody somewhere is going to have to pick up the tab for lunch.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.

The Economist highlights the quandary plaguing the “free”-dom of the Internet, but the lesson also applies to open source:

This is healthy. So long as open-source companies ensure that freedom permeates their core offerings, they’ll be able to maintain customer benefits from open source while maximizing commercial benefits to themselves.

When will we learn that there is no free lunch?

Open source’s free lunch is over. A new pragmatism is rising. That’s a Very Good Thing.


The idea that you can give things away online, and hope that advertising revenue will somehow materialise later on, undoubtedly appeals to users, who enjoy free services as a result. There is business logic to it, too. The nature of the Internet means that the barrier to entry for new companies is very low….

The last big technology recession of 2001 made it clear that you can’t give away a product for free and hope to make up the losses on volume. Nearly a decade later, we’re re-learning the same mistake, both in Web 2.0-style businesses and open source.

For the long-term health of open source, we need there to be billion-dollar open-source businesses. McKesson wants to buy from a peer. Accenture wants to deploy software from peers.

Nov 25

Ning puts the handcuffs on porno networks

Ford acclerates electric-vehicle plans

Yahoo stock rises on new acquisition report

As if we didn’t know it already, the National Bureau of Economic Research has officially confirmed that the economy is in a recession. So heading into the new year, how will technology fare in what is an increasingly uncertain era? CNET News on Tuesday begins the first of a multipart series on how the recession is affecting the industry and its people. Jim Kerstetter kicks off the series with an overview.

Vietnamese security firm: Your face is easy to fake

IBM to start-up: Industry vet responds to recession

Listen now:

Download today’s podcast

Today’s stories:

Gawker Media’s rolling layoffs continue

Nov 12

Those types of targets don’t move, so the ability to track and zap a small aircraft in flight is clearly a step forward for directed-energy weapons. But testing on a missile range is still a far cry from effective use on the battlefield, where military units may have to fire on the move against multiple targets approaching through cluttered airspace.

Updated 2:40 p.m. with details on how the laser damaged the UAV and on the Laser Avenger’s targeting system.

The laser system is completely integrated to the Avenger turret and works independently of on-board wide field of view camera/FLIR systems. The laser system can work together with on-board wide field of view camera/FLIR systems and slew-to-cue fire control system of the Avenger turret.

In tests in 2007, the Laser Avenger “neutralized” improvised explosive devices (IEDs) like those that have been a deadly threat in Iraq, along with other unexploded munitions.

The defense industry giant on Monday said tests of its Laser Avenger system in December marked “the first time a combat vehicle has used a laser to shoot down a UAV,” or unmanned aerial vehicle. In the testing, the Humvee-mounted Laser Avenger located and tracked three small UAVs in flight over the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and knocked one of the drone aircraft out of the sky.

It’s not clear how long the laser beam has to be locked on a target such as a UAV before it can cause sufficient damage, or how well the beam can be corrected to deal with dust and other atmospheric disturbances.


The Boeing-funded Laser Avenger is based on the existing Avenger platform, which carries more traditional “kinetic” weapons, including Stinger antiaircraft missiles and a .50-caliber machine gun.

Here’s how the targeting system works, according to the company (FLIR stands for “forward-looking infrared”):

Once a target has been sighted, the laser system will “zoom in” on the target and use advanced UAV tracking algorithms to acquire and track the target even in heavy background clutter. Only after positive identification will it fire the high energy laser.

Boeing is seeing a glimmer of progress in its work toward fielding laser weapons.

While decades of Hollywood imagery may conjure up a vision of a target disintegrating in a sparkle of light, the actual workings of the laser beam are probably more prosaic. For instance, the beam from Boeing’s much, much larger Airborne Laser, which is intended to disable long-range missiles in flight, uses heat to create a weak spot on the skin of the missile, causing it to rupture in flight. Boeing hopes to conduct the first aerial shoot-down test with the much-delayed 747-based Airborne Laser later this year.

There's still a lot of blue sky in Boeing's plans for directed-energy weapons like the Laser Avenger.

Boeing is pitching the Laser Avenger–and these are Boeing’s own words–as a defense against UAVs “like those that increasingly threaten U.S. troops deployed in war zones.” In the near term, of course, it’s exactly the opposite–UAVs such as the Predator from General Atomics and Boeing’s ScanEagle are a boon to U.S. troops and represent a distinct tactical advantage for U.S. forces against al-Qaeda and other foes. The MQ-1 Predator, in particular, has been very successful as both a reconnaissance tool and a weapons platform.

Boeing didn’t go into much detail about the shoot-down. In response to a query by CNET News, it did say this much about the strike by the the kilowatt-class laser: “A hole was burned in a critical flight control element of the UAV, rendering the aircraft unflyable.”

Nov 12

Finally, if the real galaxy doesn’t appeal to you, check out the collaborative work of fiction called Galaxiki. Be advised that it was named one of the “Five stupidest start-ups of the summer” by Valleywag.

There are also Web-based online planetaria. They have good data, but they don’t give you the smooth visual controls that the downloadable applications do. See, WikiSky (review), and YourSky. You can control a powerful stargazing telescope yourself via the Web at the pay site Slooh (review). There are also astronomy gadgets covered over on our gadget blog, Crave.

Stellarium (download) is a gorgeous planetarium for your computer. Its sky and star visuals are a lot more compelling then either Google’s or Celestia’s, although Stellarium does not have detailed Hubble overlays. Like Google, it’s Earth-bound (you can’t move your point of reference), but like Celestia, it gives you good control over time so you can see the heavens wheel about. My favorite feature is that it will also overlay constellation lines from other cultures (Chinese, Inuit, and so on); Google only shows the Western constellations.

Celestia (download) is a 3D simulation of the galaxy. Its special power is not its imagery (Google’s is better, although Celestia does a good job with planets and asteroids in our solar system), but rather that you can zoom in on any object in the program’s database and see the galaxy from that perspective. You can also see the position of stars at any point in time and can control the rate of time’s passage to see how objects move over the millennia.

Google just launched a new version of Google Earth (news, download) from which you gaze up from the surface of the planet, not just down on it. It’s a good way to see which stars and planets are over your home, right now. You can also check out a rich database of Hubble Space Telescope images that is overlaid on the celestial map.

Google takes a gander at a galaxy.

If your curiosity about the universe bumps into Google Earth’s edges, I’d recommend also checking out these two applications:

The new Google Earth has a lot of additional education and reference material linked to it, pulled in from the Net as needed. The program is a great way to learn about the night sky. It has two big limitations, though: your point of view is limited to Earth (you can’t see the stars from other locations) and you have an extremely limited control of time. If you want to see where the planets were on your birthday, for example, you can’t.

Nov 12

Click here to see our photo gallery for the wind-up Trevor Baylis Eco Media Player.

Corinne Schulze / CNET Networks)

Whether you’re stocking your bomb shelter with postapocalyptic tech, or just feeling a little guilty about your USB power consumption, the Trevor Baylis Eco Media Player offers a wind-up solution for all your MP3 and portable video needs. We reported on this human-powered player back in August, but now we’ve finally got our hands on it and have a full review over on CNET.

The Eco Media Player has yet to be picked up by any U.S. stores, but you can always order direct.

Sep 13

For me, this sounds a little less authentic emerging from the elevated, if powerful, gutturals of a 12-year-old than “I Dreamed A Dream” coming from the lonely hopes of a 47-year-old (now 48).

“You’ve got it all wrong,” declares a deadpan Cowell. The audience gasps. The cameras cut to the audience gasping. The audience is about to weep. So is Shaheen’s mom. The world does not have enough buckets to collect their tears, nor enough tissues to wipe them away.

Shaheen Jafargholi. Age 12.

However, the Web’s insane insatiability, coupled with that of Simon Cowell, means that no sooner has she reached the quite strange figure of 100 million online views (and growing with every minute the world turns) than “Britain’s Got Talent” attempts to inject a rival.

This is a composition that features the stanzas: “Wheeeeeeen I had you (had you), I treated you baaaaaaad and wrong my dear. And girl since, since you went away, Don’t you know I sit around, With my head hanging down…”

Oh, entertainment. Pain is your father. Hope is your mother. And greed is daddy’s overly enthusiastic, attention-craving, highly neurotic lover.

Neatly, and remarkably conveniently, Mr. Cowell asks Shaheen if he sings something else. Shaheen, just as neatly and conveniently, has some music prepared from another song, Michael Jackson’s sweet, innocent ditty, “Who’s Loving You?”

In the YouTube clip that has already given Shaheen 1 million views since Sunday, you will see Shaheen begin to sing “Valerie,” a song Amy Winehouse made famous (originally a Zutons tune, but somebody killed them), only to be halted by Cowell’s right hand.

But wait.

So, in the interests of social science, may I present 12-year-old Welsh boy Shaheen Jafargholi? He and his single mom graced the show’s auditions last Saturday. (Well, in fact, the auditions were many months ago, but let’s not quibble to a dribble.)

If the Web didn’t exist, Susan Boyle would be, at best, a local hero. At least for a substantial amount of time.

(Credit: "Britain's Got Talent")

And just as Susan Boyle’s impact was based not merely on her talent but her overwhelming authenticity, you may feel that little Shaheen’s performance doesn’t quite leap the authenticity barrier quite so effortlessly.

Sep 4

Halvorson almost certainly explained the reasoning behind the shutdown because of questions raised by Brad Greenspan, the MySpace co-founder. Greenspan, who operates online entertainment network LiveUniverse, attempted to acquire Stage6’s assets last month. When he was rebuffed, he went public.

“Our previous indication regarding the cost of running Stage6 remained accurate,” Halvorson said in the conference call. “While the traffic to Stage6 did help generate some revenue…the continued operation of the site would take substantial financial investment.”

Greenspan suggested in a press release that DixX managers failed to look out for shareholder interests by choosing to close Stage6 instead of selling.

“DivX could have bought its way out of the mess. Universal Music offered the company a chance to license its content for $30 million. The offer was turned down.”

Not surprisingly, a month after DivX filed suit against Universal Music, the label responded by filing against DivX. That copyright case still hangs over DivX’s head. One interesting side note is that DivX could have bought its way out of the mess. Universal Music offered DivX a chance to license its content for $30 million, according to papers filed with the court. The offer was turned down.

“Potential copyright litigation” was one of management’s top considerations leading up to the shuttering of Stage6, Dan Halvorson, DivX’s chief financial officer, said during a conference call to announce the public company’s fourth-quarter earnings. There was reason for concern. Turns out DivX, a maker of Internet-video technologies, had lost a bid to avoid fighting costly copyright suits just a few weeks before Stage6 was closed, records show.

On February 5, just three weeks before Stage6 went dark, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw (PDF) dismissed DivX’s action against Universal Music, according to court records. (Blogger Davis Freeberg was first to report the judge’s decision.)

It didn’t work.

DivX, parent company of defunct video-sharing site Stage6, on Tuesday disclosed how it came to the decision to shutter the service rather than to sell.

DivX’s problems started this way: last fall, Universal Music Group, the largest of the top four labels was making noise about unauthorized copies of its content posted to Stage6. In a bid to head off a lawsuit from the record company, DivX filed first. In September, DivX sued Universal Music to try to win a favorable ruling that Stage6 was not responsible for illegal acts committed by users under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Beyond the legal questions, DivX also said the “significant costs” of running Stage6 was a factor in its closing.

The controversy illustrates some of the financial and legal risks involved in operating a video-sharing site. YouTube, buoyed by Google cash, can afford to challenge entertainment conglomerates in court. Not everybody else can.

Aug 30

As for Vista, she was a bit taken aback by its new interface, but seemed reasonably able to navigate through things.

To make sure I had the right impression, I gave my top-secret source a call on Tuesday.

“I was calling because I’m writing a blog on the one year anniversary of Windows Vista.”

There were a couple things she explained. Sometimes she gets a message from Windows Live OneCare. “I don’t get what they want me to do.”


But, overall, she said, she’s been pleasantly surprised. “The things I’ve wanted to do on the computer, I really haven’t had a problem with,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve had any true glitches or problems that I didn’t have on the old computer.”


The real test, I knew, would come in the ensuing days and months. I waited for the phone to ring with news of a problem. It didn’t. In fact, I’ve had zero support calls so far.

Note: This is one of a series of blogs being published Wednesday, the first anniversary of
Windows Vista’s consumer launch.

Last spring, my mom got a new computer. She really, really wanted an XP machine because that’s what she knew and loved. Well, that’s what she knew anyway.

Perhaps the best indicator I have on Windows Vista is what I scientifically call “the Mom test.”

“Hi Mom.”

After I set the machine up, she got to working on her new Toshiba laptop. Most of the things she liked had nothing to do with Vista and everything to do with the fairly standard keyboard I got her. I programmed a few function keys to open each of the handful of programs she actually uses–a big hit.

“So I wanted to see how it’s going.”

“The operating system on your computer.”

“I’m actually doing well,” she said.

She was initially skeptical. She was worried it wouldn’t work with her Palm handheld and also that it wouldn’t work with a specific program she needed for her job as a geriatric case manager. After doing some research and assuring her that both would work with Vista, she grudgingly agreed to get a Vista machine.

And there’s this other message, she explained, that keeps asking her if she is at home or work. (That’s actually Vista trying to automatically apply security policy based on the type of network). “I don’t see why they need to know, so I just close the window.”

But my mom also decided she wanted to buy it at retail on the weekend I was home visiting. I think it had something to do with having her own personal “geek squad” to set it up. I tried to assure her that only a few XP models were around, meaning, to get the other things she wanted, she really needed to go with Vista.

So that’s the “mom” test. I’ll be posting a few other looks Wednesday at how Vista is shaping up, a year after its consumer launch. Feel free to drop me an e-mail with your experiences at ina dot fried at, or sound off below.

“Of what?”

« Previous Entries