Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, at Structure 2014 conference, disputes notion that holders of sensitive data will reject cloud after Snowden revelations.
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Business, governments, and consumers are nervous about storing their data in the cloud due to the revelations of NSA snooping by Edward Snowden. This is especially true for Europeans, who have little appetite for making their data subject to US laws.
Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon Web Services and a native of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, agreed with that assessment by Om Malik, chairman of technology news service GigaOm, on Wednesday. Malik interviewed Vogels at GigaOm's seventh annual Structure conference, held Wednesday and Thursday in San Francisco. But Vogels said the Snowden revelations hadn't dampened interest in Amazon's infrastructure-as-a-service.
"Our growth outside the US is as strong as ever," he told close to a thousand attendees at the conference. Amazon offers European customers the option of keeping their data in an Amazon cloud center based in Europe. It's also bringing increasingly sophisticated encryption and other ways of securing data.
Instead of trying to maintain their own security, people should turn to the cloud to store their most private and confidential data, including their private encryption keys, because it can be made secure there, he said in an unusual assertion of EC2's capabilities. In the past, companies have moved development and testing to the cloud for the agility provided there, he said. "AWS should be the place where you put the data you want to protect," he said.
"I see most of this as an opportunity, not as something that is really bad. It's an opportunity to give customers tools to protect themselves," assured Vogels.
Vogels has been emboldened in his claims for cloud security since Amazon won a $600 million contract to build a cloud operation to be run privately by the CIA -- "cloud for members only," Vogels obliquely referred to it during his Structure appearance. The contract runs over a 10-year period, and Amazon's win survived an IBM protest and court challenge, decided in Amazon's favor last November.
"I've not yet seen a privacy requirement that can't be addressed by good architecture," he told the Structure conference.
Vogels said customer data integrity, privacy, and confidentiality was an area where cloud vendors could work more cooperatively to reduce fears that the cloud will always be insecure. "It's not a winner-take-all market," he insisted. "We can all work together to get more customers into the cloud," he said.
On a different issue, Diane Bryant, Intel's general manager of its data center group, told attendees that Intel was moving away from its orientation toward consumer parts -- chips for PCs and other consumer devices -- and beginning to produce custom chips for companies that need them by the thousands for servers in a specially designed cloud.
Intel has customized processors from its Xeon family for both eBay and Facebook and is willing to continue the practice for buyers who have large-volume orders to build out cloud data centers, she said. Intel doesn't start from scratch and design a processor to meet a customer's needs. Rather, it combines a Xeon with a field programmable gate array (FPGA), an integrated circuit that can be given instructions to perform algorithms desired by a particular customer.
Bryant said Intel has been working with cloud data center builders as a market segment since 2007, but she didn't say how long the specialized chip sets of Xeons and FPGAs have been produced. The FPGA is placed alongside a Xeon E5 processor, such as Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge, and embedded in a shared package. "The FPGA is married to a Xeon E5 chip ... The FPGA has direct access to the cache hierarchy and system memory of the Xeon CPU," said Bryant. The FPGA chip can then work in tandem with the Xeon, executing special algorithms "to deliver on-demand performance," she added.
The combination allows cloud builders to redesign their server racks, creating "pools of compute, memory, and storage" that can allocated and dynamically re-allocated to an application, depending on the traffic it's experiencing.
Increasingly sophisticated use of the specialized processors will give the cloud "its next big pop in efficiency," she predicted.
Telcos have many functions that they repeat millions of times a day that would benefit from being executed in silicon instead of software. Facebook might use such a specialized processor to tear down photos and store them in parallel data streams, or call them out of storage the same way.
Bryant conceded there was little role for such chips in the general-purpose data center. The "hybrid" chips are best used in Web-scale operations where a single application or a set of functions shared across a few applications is being used at very large scale.
The event also saw Jay Parikh, Facebook's VP of infrastructure, show off a "blue switch" built to Facebook's specifications and now being employed in Facebook data centers. The top-of-rack switch is designed to optimize
Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, having joined the publication in 2003. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse ... View Full Bio
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