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The emergence of datacenter-as-a-service

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The emergence of datacenter-as-a-service

Futuristic data center

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In my role as an investor, I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter lately about datacenter-as-a-service (DCaaS), the notion that datacenters should move towards a cloud-native architecture delivered as a service and that enterprises should no longer need their own IT ops teams. DCaaS promises to separate a company not only from its physical infrastructure but from the notion of physical infrastructure itself.

It’s an appealing idea. Two decades ago, Amazon, with the massive compute infrastructure it had built for its ecommerce operations, realized it was sitting on a gold mine: It could “rent” out its unused capacity for companies that would rather create a server with a few commands (or mouse clicks) than by “racking and stacking” physical hardware. Amazon Web Services was born. But as front-end apps become even more accessible — and commonplace — it’s more important for the back-end infrastructure to become as agile as those front-end apps. What good does it do to be able to build your company on rented hardware if your entire business goes down in an AWS outage?

DCaaS is a bid to solve that dependency. But while it’s tempting to think that moving to DCaaS is as simple as moving your infrastructure to a public cloud provider, it’s more complex than that.

Datacenter-as-a-service involves treating the entire datacenter with the same cloud native care with which you treat your applications. With an application, you assume that the container, or even the server on which an instance is running can go away at any time, and you architect your application to survive that using an orchestrator such as Kubernetes, which maintains multiple instances and moves them to other resources as required.

Datacenter-as-service takes that way of thinking all the way up to the datacenter level, providing multiple options so that if one datacenter or computing resource goes down, you can move not just your front end, but your back end applications to another datacenter or computing resource.

But as important as it is to keep applications running, having the option to use multiple data centers on command offers additional advantages, such as:

  • The ability to make use of private cloud resources in a truly hybrid way, such as keeping sensitive back-end data on private cloud servers while using public cloud for less sensitive front end applications
  • Strategically locating data centers inside (or outside) of countries with specific regulatory requirements
  • Following the notion of “data gravity,” in which applications that process data are deployed close to the data itself
  • Enabling the dynamic creation of edge computing clusters in data centers that are most appropriate, including on non-traditional devices.

While a public cloud like AWS can certainly act as the base datacenter behind this functionality, true DCaaS provides an additional level of orchestration. Combining that coordination with the advantages of the cloud-native datacenter creates a powerful combination of agility and cloud that can serve developer and architect needs in a way we haven’t seen before, enabling innovation we can only begin to imagine.

The extent to which a company provides DCaaS varies. For example, some companies, such as the major hyperscalers (AWS and Azure) and smaller players such as vXchnge and CoLocation America provide what is essentially managed hosting, enabling the remote creation of data centers, but limiting those data centers to a single provider.

On the other end of the spectrum, DCaaS provides a combination of software and services to provide a seamless managed service. Mirantis, for example, provides a fairly complete implementation for this with its Mirantis Flow offering. The company provides a dashboard from which to manage new clusters for bare metal, virtualized, and containerized applications on both private and public clouds, as well as 24x7x365 support and a pay-as-you-go model. It promises an unprecedented level of elasticity for computing resources.

Datacenter provider Equinix takes a middle ground stance, providing managed hosting and other similar DCaaS services, but also partnering with Mirantis so that customers can deploy bare-metal clusters on its infrastructure. (Full disclosure: I have no investments in any of the companies mentioned in this story.)

We’ve moved from a world in which humans came to applications to one in which applications come to humans. They come in the form of embedded devices such as medical equipment, appliances, and cars, and in the form of almost constant connectedness. It is said that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day, but that number has been floating around since at least 2018 — and we’ve added more than 600 million new users to the internet since then. To keep up with that kind of demand, the datacenter needs to be as agile as possible, and DCaaS is one way — and perhaps the only way — to make that happen.

Sanjit Singh Dang is Chairman and Co-Founder at U First Capital. He is also a member of the Cognitive World Think Tank on enterprise AI.

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Apple takes Russia to court over App Store ruling

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Apple takes Russia to court over App Store ruling

Apple is still fighting Russia over alleged App Store abuse. Both 9to5Mac and RT report Apple is asking for a judicial review of a Federal Antimonopoly Service warning from August that allows developers to mention alternatives to the App Store’s in-app payment system. FAS gave Apple until September 30th to alter its policies, but the company declined to change its rules despite the threat of a fine.

The opposition parallels Apple’s legal battles in the US. The judge in Epic’s lawsuit against Apple ordered the tech firm to let App Store developers point to other payment systems, but Apple appealed the injunction in hopes of a delay. The court denied Apple’s request, and the company will have until December 9th to let app makers point to other options. Apple will make exceptions to its policy for some media apps in 2022.

Pushbacks like those in the US and Russia aren’t surprising. Apple still makes most of its money through hardware sales, but its services business is growing. Easier third-party alternatives could theoretically hurt App Store revenues, not to mention increase the chances of rogue apps pointing users to malicious sites. The iPhone maker might not have much choice, however. Regulators are concerned Apple’s approach stifles choice and competition, and they’re unlikely to let the matter slide.

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Report: Phishing campaign is actively targeting U.S. military families

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Returning soldier hugging children at door

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New research from Lookout Threat Lab has found a long-running phishing campaign that is actively targeting families of United States military personnel, as well as individuals interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with a soldier. The scammers impersonate military support organizations and personnel to steal sensitive personal and financial information for monetary gain.

Based on Lookout’s analysis, it’s clear that the threat actor is looking to steal sensitive data from victims such as their photo identification, bank account information, name, address, and phone number. With this information, the actor could easily steal the victim’s identity, empty their bank account, and impersonate the individual online.

A number of infrastructure indicators and open-sourced intelligence findings lead the Lookout Threat Lab to believe that the threat actor operates out of Nigeria. The websites were primarily hosted by Nigerian providers that are offshore or ignore the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) — in both cases, these sites were fairly protected from takedowns. Researchers were able to further confirm the operator’s location from a phone number one of the web developers accidentally left on the draft version of the site. The country code of the number is from Nigeria.

Likely for economic reasons, the threat actors chose cheap, shared hosting services for the scam websites. This can present an obstacle to research, as hundreds or even thousands of domains may share the same virtual resources and resolve to the same IP address. To uncover additional sites from this campaign, Lookout researchers were able to reference the contact numbers on these sites, which happened to be reused.

When the Lookout Threat Lab dove into the registration information for various sites, they found that the actors practiced fairly poor operational security, often reusing phone numbers, email addresses, and other registrant information, which made the campaign easier to track. In addition to the shared resources and contact information on the actual websites, this information enabled Lookout researchers to identify 50 military scam sites tied to this campaign. They were also able to link this group to numerous other scams advertising fake delivery services, cryptocurrency trading, banks, and even online pet sales.

As compromised accounts are one of the most difficult threats to combat, the Lookout Threat Lab recommends all organizations deploy a dedicated phishing solution that works regardless whether the employee is working inside corporate perimeters or not.

See the full report by Lookout Threat Lab.

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eBay banned some users by mistake

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eBay banned some users by mistake

Twitter isn’t the only big-name internet company to have accidentally banned users this week. As The Verge reports, eBay has confirmed it suspended a “small number” of users by mistake on December 3rd. The company didn’t provide a cause or reveal the extent of the problem, but said it had fixed the slip-up and notified those affected.

There may have been a significant number of victims. Reddit users devoted a large thread to the bans, noting that there weren’t any potential red flags for at least some of the accounts. People were suspended even if they had excellent buyer and seller histories or hadn’t used eBay for years. Those who contacted eBay were denied appeals and, at least once, told they put eBay users “at risk.”

While it’s not always clear what prompts unintentional bans, incidents like these underscore the limits of moderating internet services. Companies often have to lean on automated moderation to handle the sheer scale of content, and those human moderators that are available can still make mistakes. Gaffes like this are rare, but might be difficult to avoid without double-checking decisions.

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