The Solution to Too Much Facebook Isn’t More Facebook

The moment I first realized that everything had changed for Facebook was right after the 2016 US presidential election with one of the first of many Zuckerbergian mea culpas. Not that first post-election post, his horribly disingenuous dodge that improbably asserted that Facebook could not have influenced the election. This, despite a Facebook political advertising sales force, now numbering probably in the hundreds, that had spent the past year claiming the contrary to every candidate with a marketing budget. No, it was Zuck’s second post, more circumspect and clearly more scripted, that described a concrete series of steps to counteract the influence he’d previously declared nonexistent. There, buried in the reassuring lingo of corporate comms-speak (“easy reporting”, “disrupting fake news economics”), lay some hidden bombs, or perhaps for the company, land mines. Not only would Facebook deign to rely on outside third-party sources, a sort of Snopes.com-ification of Facebook. It would consult with newspapers (!) on how to fact-check content itself.

To anyone (like this former Facebook employee) steeped in the company’s usual MO, this was astonishing. For the past two decades of consumer internet life, the great media intermediators had hidden behind what I’ll call the Algorithmic Pass. This was the not-altogether-wrong assertion that their companies merely optimized around user demand—providing the needy user whatever they wanted, by whatever metric—and were completely agnostic to truth, aesthetics, or political virtue. To every public clamor or brouhaha (and there were many), the answer was always, “It’s just math,” and they’d point at the roomful of geeks, replete with Nerf guns and beanbag chairs, as proof.

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ABOUT

Antonio García Martínez (@antoniogm) was the first ads targeting product manager on the Facebook Ads team, and author of the memoir Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley. He wrote about the internet in Cuba in WIRED’s July issue.

More than a mere corporate cover-your-ass maneuver, the Algorithmic Pass heralded a monumental shift in how modern, media-saturated humans learned about the world. No longer would handpicked mandarins at recognized media establishments—the editors and curators of our literary and political world—anoint one or another piece of content with the always malleable imprimatur of “true” or even “good.” No. Whatever piece of content, however brilliant or vile, that received an escalating chain reaction of user engagement would receive instantaneous, worldwide distribution. Having “gone viral” became a greater trophy than appearing “above the fold” (now a ludicrous concept). Vox populi, vox culturae.

And then the 2016 election happened.

Suddenly we’re all rescinding Facebook’s Algorithmic Pass, hounding the uncharacteristically beleaguered company to take some responsibility for what appears on its blue-framed pages. What’s most ironic about the hubbub is this: people fear Facebook’s power, so they ask Facebook to take on even more power by taking a very direct hand in what appears there, rather than a very second-order mathematical one. As Facebook’s power grows and our trust erodes, we somehow overcompensate by rushing to entrust them with even more.

Contemplate this unsettling vision: Mark Zuckerberg, or more likely one of his deputies, sitting in the equivalent of the afternoon editorial meeting at The New York Times, where the day’s news—which stories will appear, and which won’t—are decided: this news source discarded as fake or spammy, this one included and effectively boosted in the newsfeed. As much as I grew to admire some of the company’s culture as an employee, I realize as much as anyone how they can (and do) descend into groupthink and biases of various flavors. Do we really want Zuck as global news editor versus a disinterested algorithm that merely optimizes toward some objective and picks the day’s news winners and losers? The editor is dead; long live the editor, only now with editor-in-chief Zuckerberg.

Oddly enough, it’s a job he and the company don’t want. “We’re a technology company, not a media company,” has been the constant refrain, along with invocations of the Algorithmic Pass, for engineering-centric companies like Facebook. MOVE FAST AND BREAK THINGS and DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT were the Facebook mantras (as immortalized on their many in-office posters), not ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT and DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS.

And it shows.

Around 2015, as Facebook’s Trending Topics product dithered in embarrassing irrelevance (a shameless rip of Twitter’s Trending feature, it appears on the right-hand side during most Facebook sessions), the company stooped to hiring humans—HUMANS!—to fix its deficient software product. Within 18 months or so, all had been fired and the human effort shuttered, but not before, in an absolute and unusual violation of Facebook’s typically ironclad OPSEC, some of them spilled the beans about how horrible working at Facebook had been, with some even suggesting they’d been pushed to bias the news. A half-trillion-dollar company armed with some of the best technical minds in the world couldn’t manage a dozen or so wet-behind-the-ears journalism grads, something the Sacramento Bee manages annually without much ado. That’s how good Facebook is at being a media company.

But if there’s anything I grew to respect while working at Facebook, it was the company’s unnatural ability to pivot in a completely new direction and iterate rapidly toward excellence there, no matter how originally foreign the territory. With the feds breathing down their neck (Facebook is testifying before Congress this week) and Zuckerberg issuing public apologies during the Jewish Day of Atonement, the company has been shaken like nothing I’ve ever seen as employee or outside observer. If the world wants Facebook as editor, they’ll sure get it, for better or worse.

What’s that mean in practice? From the company’s hints, it will involve the aforementioned third-party fact-checking services, a sort of Snopes-ification of the Facebook experience. Based on both that and user input, content will first be conspicuously flagged as false and then effectively disappeared from newsfeed distribution, as porn or other terms-of-service-violating content is now. In addition, based on its short-lived experiments in human editing around Trending Topics, Facebook will almost certainly draw up a list of acceptable news outlets of passable truthiness, boosting their distribution at the expense of second-tier (or no-tier) content producers.

There’ll be some clear downsides though.

The death-by-algorithm of the media gatekeepers meant that many new voices rose to the fore that would never have jumped through the arbitrary hoops of conventional publication. XKCD, The Oatmeal, Stratechery, Slate Star Codex, Ribbonfarm, Wait But Why—all those weird but clever bloggers or cartoonists who joked, scribbled, or illustrated their way to online fame, viral post after viral post—the new crop of those will find it very hard to hustle themselves an audience. The lone, nonconforming online genius may just be muted along with that Russian political ad farm. Your byline isn’t on Slate or The Washington Post? Too bad, lone content creator.

Which brings us to the other ironic thing about all of this: In order to preserve our political democracy, which elevates the most popular among us (though perhaps not the finest) to power, we’ll seemingly abandon a total democracy of thought, which does the same for ideas. You can judge a people by how much freedom they can tolerate without destroying themselves. It seems the power for anyone to go viral and attain a global audience, through articulate reasoning or just clickbait-y libel, was a just bit too much freedom for us to bear.

Tech

Famed Architect’s Lawsuit Against Google Just Got Much More Serious

Eli Attia alleges he wasn’t the only one mistreated by the search giant.

A long-running lawsuit filed against Google by a prominent architect has just gotten much broader.

Last week, the Superior Court of California granted a motion adding racketeering charges to the civil case being pursued against Google by Eli Attia, an expert in high-rise construction. Attia claims Google stole his idea for an innovative building design method – and now he wants to prove that it does the same thing frequently.

Attia’s suit was originally filed in 2014, four years after he began discussions with Google (prior to its reorganization as Alphabet) about developing software based on a set of concepts he called Engineered Architecture. Attia has said Engineered Architecture, broadly described as a modular approach to building, would revolutionize the design and construction of large buildings. Attia developed the concepts based on insights gleaned from his high-profile architecture career, and has called them his life’s work.

Google executives including Google X cofounder Astro Teller came to share his enthusiasm, and championed developing software based on Engineered Architecture as one of the company’s “moonshots.” But Attia claims the company later used his ideas without fulfilling an agreement to pay to license them.

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Attia’s suit names not just Google, but individual executives including founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It also names Flux Factory, the unit Attia’s suit alleges was spun off specifically to capitalize on his ideas.

Speaking to the San Jose Mercury News, Attia’s lawyer claims Google told Attia his project had been cancelled, “when in fact they were going full blast on it.” Flux Factory is now known as Flux, and touts itself as “the first company launched by Google X.”

Attia’s suit will now also seek to prove that his case is representative of a much broader pattern of behavior by Alphabet. According to court documents, the motion to add racketeering charges hinged on six similar incidents. Those incidents aren’t specified in the latest court proceedings, but Alphabet has faced a similar trade-secrets battle this summer over X’s Project Loon, which has already led to Loon being stripped of some patents.

The idea of racketeering charges entering the picture will surprise many who associate them with violent organized criminals. But under RICO statutes, civil racketeering suits can be brought by private litigants against organizations and individuals alleged to have engaged in ongoing misdeeds. The broader use of racketeering charges has slowly gained ground since the introduction of RICO laws in the 1960s, with some famous instances including suits against Major League Baseball and even the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tech

IDG Contributor Network: SIP trunks are more reliable than a PRI T1

Are SIP trunks as reliable as an ISDN PRI T1?

I’m asked this question a lot, so I thought it’d be a great blog topic.

I don’t think you are as concerned with this as the amber lights in the server room… But if you are making any changes to your company’s phone system, I’m assuming this question is on your mind.

The simple answer is… no. SIP trunks are not as reliable. They are more reliable than a Primary Rate Interface (PRI). But it has nothing to do with the public Internet.

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

Focusing on the cheapest cloud price could cost you more

Amazon Web Services really leads the way in determining market price for cloud services, and the second-, third-, and lower-tier cloud providers try to price their cloud services below that of AWS to steal its business. That is, until AWS drops prices—again.

Enterprises that focus only on cloud usage prices are missing the big—and more important—picture.

For example, say that you move 100 applications and their linked data to a public cloud provider. It charges you a certain usage price for compute and storage, which is set at the time you provision those resources. 

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Google machine learning gains Kaggle and more

Google has already carved out a niche for itself in machine learning with projects like TensorFlow and Google Brain. Now, it’s adding data science provider Kaggle, which runs contests related to machine learning and provides services for data discovery and analysis, to the fold. The company also is moving ahead with other machine learning projects, including an API providing intelligence for video.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Amazon Chime goes after WebEx, Skype for Business and more

Companies looking for a new video- and teleconferencing system have a fresh face to turn to in the market: Amazon Web Services.

On Monday, the public cloud provider announced the launch of Amazon Chime, a new service that’s designed to compete with the likes of WebEx, Skype for Business and GoToMeeting. It’s a powerful swing at some very entrenched enterprise software players by the public cloud provider.

AWS launched the service with native applications for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. Chime’s infrastructure is based in the U.S., but Gene Farrell, AWS’s vice president of enterprise applications, said that the service can be accessed worldwide.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Microsoft puts more team into Visual Studio Team Services

Microsoft’s Visual Studio Team Services cloud-based application lifecycle management service is being fitted with improvements in team alignment and deployment, mobile access, Git repos, and Node.js capabilities.

The enterprise agile Delivery Plans feature previewed this week helps align teams by overlaying several backlogs onto a delivery schedule, or iterations. Users can tailor plans to include the backlogs, teams, and work items they want to view, and interactive plans allow for adjustments as projects proceed. Featured as part of sprint 112 of Team Services, the Delivery Plans extension is available at the Visual Studio Marketplace.

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CIO Cloud Computing

IDG Contributor Network: 3 steps CIOs can take to lead more strategically in 2017

It’s time to rethink the CIO title. Are you responsible for keeping the trains running on time and the lights on, or are you providing the thought leadership and guidance within your own organization to maximize value and business agility?

Most C-level executives run the risk of doing the perp walk in handcuffs out of the office and ultimately wearing an orange jumpsuit if their subordinates break the rules or screw up – and while you serve a valuable function, this is not true for the CIO. 2017 needs to be the year where you go from “serving” to “leading.”

To earn your keep, you need to show both value and accountability at a minimum. A-grade CIOs identify opportunities to drive business growth – and A+ ones do it with fewer resources, not more.

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CIO Cloud Computing

2016’s top trends in enterprise computing: Containers, bots, AI, and more

It’s been a year of change in the enterprise software market. SaaS providers are fighting to compete with one another, machine learning is becoming a reality for businesses at a larger scale, and containers are growing in popularity.

Here are some of the top trends from 2016 that we’ll likely still be talking about next year.

Everybody’s a frenemy

As more and more companies adopt software-as-a-service products like Office 365, Slack, and Box, there is increasing pressure to collaborate for companies that compete with each another. After all, nobody wants to be stuck using a service that doesn’t work with the other critical systems they have.

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CIO Cloud Computing

New partner programs for AWS are aimed at growing Alexa, IoT, and more

While Amazon Web Services touts the self-service capabilities of its cloud, the company also works with a large number of channel partners to help companies migrate to and use its services.

The cloud provider announced a suite of updates to its partner programs at its Global Partner Summit keynote in Las Vegas on Tuesday. The updates are focused on helping customers get increased use of Amazon’s cloud services and getting partners to invest further in AWS.

The keynote was an opportunity for the cloud provider to make a hard sell to the companies that will help businesses adopt Amazon’s cloud services. Partners shouldn’t hedge their investment in the public cloud, but should instead commit to supporting one provider deeply and aggressively, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said.

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CIO Cloud Computing

VMware-AWS deal could push more companies into the cloud

The cloud partnership AWS and VMware announced Thursday makes Amazon’s public cloud even more attractive for enterprises by letting them take the popular virtualization platform with them.

The appropriately named VMware Cloud on AWS , announced at a press conference in San Francisco, will bring cloud-optimized versions of vSphere, VSAN and NSX software to the cloud platform. When users spin up a VMware environment on AWS, they’ll get a cluster running the entire Software-Defined Data Center stack in the public cloud.

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

Azure Roundup: New high-performance compute instances and more

August was a slow month for tech news, but Microsoft continued to update its Azure cloud platform with a variety of new features, including a new type of instance for high-performance computing. Here’s the breakdown of all the features you need to know about:

A new instance type powered by Nvidia Tesla GPUs

Microsoft announced the private beta of a set of new compute instance types to power applications that need a lot of parallel processing. The new N-series virtual machines are powered by Nvidia’s Tesla GPUs and built for high-performance computing.

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

IDG Contributor Network: Kubernetes becomes more scalable, gets support for hybrid clouds

Earlier this week, Google released version 1.3 of Kubernetes, the open source container orchestration software.

The release brings support for deploying services across “multiple clouds (including on-prem), support for multiple node types, integrated support for stateful services (such as key-value stores and databases), and greatly simplified cluster setup and deployment on your laptop. Now, developers at organizations of all sizes can build production scale apps more easily than ever before,” Aparna Sinha, a product manager at Google, wrote in a blog post announcing the release.

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CIO Cloud Computing

More Uber deliveries may be coming from your favorite online services

Uber wants to be the default delivery service for small businesses in the United States. The car-hailing service/budding transport company just announced that any business can now use its UberRush application program interface (API).

What that means for you is more deliveries from UberRush are likely headed your way from the online and mobile app-based services you use. If you live in one of UberRush’s delivery cities that is, which right now includes just Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.

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CIO Cloud Computing

IDG Contributor Network: How to make containers more secure

Matthew Garrett, principal security engineer at CoreOS, is one of the most respected names in the Linux world when it comes to security and cloud computing. I sat down with Garrett at CoreOS Fest to discuss the risks around containers and Linux in general. Here is an edited version of that discussion.

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about container security. What are the risks involved with containers and what are open source projects like CoreOS doing to mitigate them?

Security is of a special concern around containers because many people think of containers in the same way that they think of VMs (virtual machines). The degree of isolation between containers is somewhat weaker than the degree of isolation between virtual machines. From that perspective it’s very easy to get into the mindset of containers being something that reduces security. In reality this depends very much on what you’re trying to do with containers, and containers do improve isolation compared to process that are simply running on the same host.

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CIO Cloud Computing

Cloud will make U.S. immigration agency more agile

Improving the delivery of services to citizens has been one of the driving goals of government IT reform, in particular as consumers seek out more services through agency websites or applications.

At the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, CIO Mark Schwartz is helping lead an overhaul of the way the agency approaches software and application development

[ Related: Government wants to increase IT spending 13% in proposed budget ]

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Network World Cloud Computing

What will Google do to make its cloud appeal to more companies?

When Google executives take the stage Wednesday at the company’s conference for customers of its cloud platform, they’re going to have quite a task in front of them.

While the company’s cloud is the choice for some household names like Best Buy and Spotify, it hasn’t seen the same adoption as competing offerings from providers like Microsoft and Amazon Web Services.

These vendors are the market leaders in the public cloud race, with Amazon holding a dominant share of the overall market. That comes at the same time many developers are enamored with Google’s technical chops, along with some of the technical capabilities of its platform. 

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

Google adds two new cloud regions, plans 10 more

On the eve of its major user conference this week, Google announced ambitious plans to expand the geographic scope of its cloud platform around the globe today.

Google announced two new regions: US West in Oregon and East Asia in Tokyo, Japan, with plans to add 10 more regions at undisclosed locations by the end of 2017. Google’s cloud now has six regions including Eastern US (South Carolina), Central US (Iowa), Western Europe (Belgium) and East Asia (Taiwan) with more to come.

The announcement highlights how big IaaS public cloud providers like Google, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and IBM are in an arms race to build up data center capacity for their clouds around the globe.

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Network World Cloud Computing

IDG Contributor Network: How to do more with less in IT

Many companies are striving to be more agile, efficient and productive in response to uncertain economic conditions in 2016.  Capital projects have been cancelled while companies shift their attention to surviving in the current environment without hindering their ability to expand in the future. Functional areas are facing significant pressure to cut costs and “do more with less.” Successful cost reduction or right-sizing efforts result in organizational realignment, process improvement and system changes.

Cost reduction initiatives will have a significant impact on IT. Not only will IT be asked to do more with less, but IT will also face increased demand to make changes to existing systems in support of functional area realignment. Forward-looking CIOs and IT departments should proactively focus on:

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CIO Cloud Computing

Nervana’s cloud platform makes deep learning more widely available

Deep learning has usually been accessible to only the largest organizations, but that’s starting to change. On Monday, an AI startup called Nervana launched a cloud offering for what it calls deep learning on demand.

Nervana Cloud is a hosted platform designed to give organizations of all sizes the ability to quickly build and deploy deep-learning tools without having to invest in infrastructure equipment or a large team of experts. Based on neon, Nervana’s open-source deep-learning framework, the full-stack offering is optimized to handle complex machine-learning problems at scale.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Microsoft and HP reveal more details about cloud partnership

Hewlett Packard Enterprise outlined new details about its hybrid cloud partnership with Microsoft in an announcement Tuesday, saying it will provide a new hardware product that integrates with the Azure cloud platform and build its software to take advantage of Microsoft’s offerings.

Companies interested in integrating Microsoft’s Azure cloud with HPE’s on-premises systems can now purchase the new Hyper-Converged 250 for Microsoft Cloud Platform System Standard, an appliance that brings together HPE ProLiant technology and Microsoft’s Azure services. 

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CIO Cloud Computing

New AWS tools give developers high-powered instances, better container support and more

Developing apps and services to leverage the cloud is the new normal, Amazon Chief Technical Officer Werner Vogels told an audience at the company’s Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas Thursday.

To that end, Amazon announced a whole slew of new features for its cloud that should help developers take advantage of it in one form or another. 

AWS Lambda, which allows developers to just run blocks of code when necessary without worrying about provisioning resources, received a bunch of updates, including support for accessing resources running in a virtual private cloud. That’s key for businesses that make VPCs a cornerstone of their cloud strategy. The service now also lets them create functions using the popular Python programming language. 

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CIO Cloud Computing

Microsoft Azure welcomes R language, with more to come

Revolution R Enterprise (RRE), a version of the R statistics language produced by a company recently acquired by Microsoft, is making its way to Microsoft Azure in a technical preview.

Speculation has abounded regarding how Microsoft would handle Revolution and its associated products, post-acquisition. One likely scenario was to offer R as a service — a cloud-hosted resource for scientific and statistical number-crunching. Now both Microsoft and Revolution are a step closer to doing exactly that.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Why developers have more power than you think

Jeff Lawson is a walking, talking example of the rise of the developer.

Today, he’s the CEO of API economy darling Twilio, a cloud platform that offers API-accessible telecom services to marquee customers like Home Depot and Uber. But 20 years ago, he was another computer science student who saw the power of the Internet and wanted to try his hand at building Web applications.

Back then, says Lawson, he did what every other young developer with a wicked Web obsession did: He downloaded a bootleg copy of the popular ColdFusion application server and started building. Five years later, when he became the founding CTO of the ticket exchange service StubHub, Lawson chose ColdFusion again because he knew it inside out.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

VMware gets help to build and deploy cloud apps more easily

VMware gets help to build and deploy cloud apps more easily
Working to make its public cloud more competitive, VMware has partnered with Bitnami to make using open source apps and development environments on vCloud Air easy. The Bitnami Launchpad for VMware vCloud Air OnDemand website lists …
Read more on PCWorld

Joyent Adds Non-Docker Services to Triton Container Cloud
Joyent announced the ability to run container-native Linux images directly on bare metal with Joyent Triton, its bare metal container cloud. While running Docker is a focus of Triton, Joyent is extending its capabilities beyond Docker, its first major …
Read more on Data Center Knowledge

Why aren't we sharing more cloud applications?
According to Sheridan, who spoke at the June 17 MeriTalk Cloud Brainstorm Event, it's “maddening” that government agencies use similar cloud applications — like data intake systems and workflow management systems — that are rebuilt for each agency.
Read more on GCN.com

RightScale: More than 3 million servers launched

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ubuntu 9.10 cloud server cds

RightScale: More than 3 million servers launched
20, 2011, 12:01am PT No Comments RightScale, which gives companies a good look into the innards of their cloud computing workloads, just surpassed the 3-million-server mark. RightScale's cloud management platform launched in 2007.
Read more on GigaOm

RI set to see robust growth in cloud computing: EMC
Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server. EMC's country manager for Indonesia Adi Rusli, who also attended the interview session,
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How to Configure Your DNS to Use Cloud Apps
In this way, you can still use your local mail server at a lower priority if you need it. Whether or not your cloud provider offers domain services depends on the arrangement you have with them, and prices may vary. If you are unsure if you can use
Read more on TheHostingNews.com (press release)

Is a Cloud Computing World Flatter, Faster, and More Fun? Lanham Napier of

Is a Cloud Computing World Flatter, Faster, and More Fun? Lanham Napier of
Napier, CEO of the $ 780 million hosting company Rackspace, spoke with Techonomy's Adam Ludwig about the present and future of cloud computing. When I was a kid, my first computer was an Apple I. Every application ran locally.
Read more on Forbes

SDSC Cloud Supports New NSF Mandate for Data Management
Norman said this revised policy was one of the key drivers that shaped SDSC's planning for a new Web-based, 100 percent disk data storage system called the SDSC Cloud, which was announced late last month. Believed to be the largest academic-based cloud
Read more on HPCwire

VMworld Roundup: Project Octopus, MokaFive, Arkeia, and More

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ubuntu 9.10 cloud server cds

VMworld Roundup: Project Octopus, MokaFive, Arkeia, and More
This release also allows customers to migrate to Microsoft SQL server from the embedded (Derby) database, adds Mac OS X Lion support, and improves the BareMetal Player with support for Intel's SandyBridge CPUs. The BareMetal solution is probably one of
Read more on ReadWriteWeb

Trend Micro Teams With VMware
A pioneer in server security with over 20 years' experience, we deliver top-ranked client, server and cloud-based security that fits our customers' and partners' needs, stops new threats faster, and protects data in physical, virtualized and cloud
Read more on Dark Reading

Uniserve Now Accepting Users for Its Free Uniserve Cloud Beta Offering
(TSX VENTURE:USS) is pleased to announce that it is now accepting users for its Free Uniserve Cloud Beta offering. Targeted at anyone who runs a computer for a server, the Uniserve Cloud Beta will give users two free months of access to one of the top
Read more on Marketwire (press release)