Facebook and Microsoft Leased More Data Center Space Than Anyone in 2018

DCK Investor Edge: Annual report by North American Data Centers lifts the curtain on the largest cloud platforms’ server farm leasing activity.

Non-disclosure agreements between data center landlords and their largest customers make the job of discerning what exactly the biggest data center users are up to in the market difficult. North American Data Centers’ annual report on the largest leases, authored by the commercial real estate brokerage’s principal and co-founder Jim Kerrigan, unmasks most if not all of the previous year’s biggest deals.

If you follow the data center industry, you know that Northern Virginia continues to rack up new leasing records year after year. The latest NADC report confirms that the six largest data center leases of 2018 were all signed in Northern Virginia. It reveals that leasing activity for deals of 2MW-plus in Virginia totaled a whopping 232MW – more than two and a half times the leasing volume in all other US markets combined last year. And, these “net-absorption” estimates do not include a significant number of powered shells being developed in the region on behalf of Amazon Web Services.

The unprecedented level of activity in Northern Virginia “to some degree has sucked the air out of other top-tier data center markets,” Kerrigan said in an interview with Data Center Knowledge.

Atlanta, for example, was a market where demand in 2018 did not appear to keep pace with all the big data center developments announced there over the last 18 months or so, he said. Many of those projects, however (proposed by CyrusOne, Switch, and others), have progressed slowly, limiting the amount of new supply, he said.

Facebook Signs Largest Data Center Lease of All Time

Facebook and Microsoft were by far the year’s largest customers in Northern Virginia, accounting for 97MW and 74MW, respectively. Salesforce provided 38MW of additional demand in the region.

Facebook last year signed what appears to be the largest data center lease of all time – a whopping 72MW – in Ashburn, Virginia, with privately-held operator CloudHQ. This single lease appears to be larger than any aggregate leasing by one company during 2018 in any other North American data center market. Facebook also signed a 25MW lease in Northern Virginia with Digital Realty Trust.

CloudHQ landed another big lease in 2018: a 25MW commitment from Microsoft, which also signed a 20MW lease with CyrusOne and a 14MW lease with RagingWire; QTS Realty got Salesforce to sign a 26MW lease; and Digital leased an additional 20MW to a customer the report did not name.

Here are the year’s biggest data center leases in the US and Canada. Data and chart courtesy of North American Data Centers:

M&A Activity in 2018

There were a few large deals that made up the lion’s share of the $3.84 billion of acquisition activity outlined in the NADA report. Brookfield Infrastructure’s $1.1 billion purchase of the AT&T data center portfolio led the way. The Equinix purchase of the Dallas Infomart for $800 million was a close second.

(Notably, the NADC report does not include some of the bigger international deals, including Digital Realty’s joint venture with Brookfield to purchase Ascenty in Brazil and the CyrusOne purchase of Zenium in Europe).

Trends to Watch in 2019

In Kerrigan’s hometown of Chicago, leasing demand was relatively anemic during the year. The largest leases were just 2.4MW and 2MW, signed by Equinix and QTS, respectively. The high cost of doing business in the area (utilities, land, labor, taxes) may have contributed to the slowdown.

It remains to be seen if Chicago wholesale leasing is cyclical and will bounce back. EdgeCore CEO Tom Ray, for example, told us last year that his company no longer had the land parcel in the Chicago market it used to have under contract to build a new wholesale data center campus.

The explosion of hyperscale leasing in Northern Virginia is only part of the hyperscale buildout story. In addition to leasing, hyperscale cloud platforms are all building massive data center campuses of their own.

Kerrigan said he believes a shortage of critical electrical and mechanical equipment from major suppliers may impact where new leases will be signed in the future. Many of the large publicly traded data center REITs and deep-pocketed private firms have negotiated multi-year supply chain agreements that lock in prices and delivery schedules. This may give these large players a crucial advantage when it comes to de-risking a move-in date for a large customer, Kerrigan said.

Investor Edge

Savvy investors are always looking for an information advantage. Having a greater sense of which companies are doing business with each other can help connect the dots, especially when combined with other publicly available information contained in SEC filings and investor and industry presentations.

After publicly traded REITs reported bookings for the first half of 2018 it became evident that net-absorption of space in Ashburn’s “Data Center Alley” and the surrounding counties would blow away the previous year’s 115MW leasing record reported by international consulting and brokerage firms such as Jones Lang LaSalle and CBRE. Those detailed market reports are long on statistics but usually light on transaction details due to global client non-disclosure agreements. The NADC report goes a long way toward helping investors connect those dots.

Four Data Center Colocation Trends to Watch in 2019

Colocation providers expect to reel in a lot more enterprise business in 2019, as enterprises rethink infrastructure and retool, getting rid of as much on-premises data center space as they can, replacing it with cloud services and – when necessary – modern colocation facilities.

As Clint Heiden, chief revenue officer at QTS, explained, enterprises in healthcare, financial, manufacturing, and other industries that built their own data centers about a decade ago are now realizing it can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to get those facilities up to modern standards.

They’re also realizing that they need a lot less data center space for the same infrastructure, “making a refresh very cost-prohibitive,” he added. Increasingly, they’re turning to colocation as the alternative, where they can both get up-to-date infrastructure and access to cloud providers, often at a lower cost than keeping everything in-house.

To make themselves more useful to these companies, many colocation data center operators have been building digital tools to create a user experience and functionality that feels a lot like public cloud. The core principles here are abstraction of the physical, automation, microservices, APIs, easy software-based provisioning, and unified management of different types of infrastructure, be it cloud, colo, or on-prem.

Being able to manage a mix of infrastructure is a crucial component for these platforms. Hybrid cloud is on the rise – a trend highlighted by the amount of hybrid cloud products and features hyperscale platforms rolled out this year – and colo companies are positioning themselves as the place where private, customer-controlled infrastructure meets public cloud.

Colocation providers are also starting to look for ways they can help customers get their application infrastructure physically closer to end users, both to improve performance and to tame network bandwidth costs.

Hyperscale cloud data centers dominated the conversation this year, James Leach, VP of marketing at RagingWire Data Centers, told us. But the year has also seen some of the first ever deployments of edge computing infrastructure at wireless towers. “How about a new data center architecture that combines hyperscale and edge to create ‘hedge’ data centers?” he said.

Data Center Knowledge recently surveyed numerous executives from the leading data center colocation providers about their expectations for the industry in 2019, and four trends emerged. Here they are, along with some select quotes from the execs:

Colocation That Feels Like Cloud

  • Mike Fuhrman, Chief Product Officer, Flexential: “The days of manual ordering and provisioning will fade quickly.”
  • Clint Heiden, Chief Revenue Officer, QTS: “Infrastructure – colocation in particular – will be differentiated by software-driven visibility and control, and API-capable orchestration platforms built on microservices architectures, enabling unprecedented visibility, access, and control across entire IT environments.”
  • Steve Smith, Chief Revenue Officer, CoreSite: “As enterprises become more sophisticated in leveraging multi-cloud platforms, demands will increase around API functionality, capacity management, and service provider availability on those platforms.”
  • Bill Long, VP of Interconnection Services, Equinix: “In 2019, we foresee the development of a wide range of virtual devices for network optimization, security, management, and monitoring to address many of the concerns enterprises wrestle with when expanding and managing distributed IT infrastructures.”

The Colo: Where Hybrid Cloud Happens

  • Rick Moore, Director of Global Cloud Services, Digital Realty: “Most organizations in 2019 will realize that not everything belongs in the cloud and that achieving a proper mix of on-premises and cloud-resident workloads and infrastructure will be the only way to ensure optimal workplace performance and operational efficiency.”
  • John Gould, Executive VP and Chief Commercial Officer, CyrusOne: “A growing trend in 2019 will be the deployment of hybrid cloud strategies, whereby IT departments classify different workloads as public cloud-viable and private cloud-appropriate.”
  • Mike Fuhrman, Chief Product Officer, Flexential: “As more enterprises execute a multi-cloud deployment strategy, they will choose to make their colocation footprint the centerpiece of that strategy.”
  • Clint Heiden, Chief Revenue Officer, QTS: “In 2019, the most successful colocation providers will specialize in flexible hybrid solutions encompassing colocation and public and private cloud, with the ability easily port spends between all.”
  • Wylie Nelson, VP, Product and Land Acquisition, EdgeCore: “The easier and more powerful the hybrid cloud solution looks, the more enterprises will flock to it, which is why it’ll be a main battleground for today’s cloud providers.”

Enterprises Lease More Colo Space

  • Bill Long, VP of Interconnection Services, Equinix: “Colocation helps enterprises optimize their hybrid/multi-cloud application workflows by placing traffic exchange points close to users and clouds.”
  • Clint Heiden, Chief Revenue Officer, QTS: “Organizations are now exiting their on-premise data centers opting instead to outsource to new software-defined data centers that offer the same acces and control at a fraction of the price of ownership allowing them to focus on their core business.”
  • Mike Fuhrman, Chief Product Officer, Flexential: “Colocation providers will continue expansion activities to bring online larger, network-enabled footprints to accommodate these workloads.”

The Edge Takes On a Bigger Role

  • Bill Long, VP of Interconnection Services, Equinix: “Businesses are figuring out that distributing their infrastructure to the edge and interconnecting to digital supply chains locally can improve performance, decrease cost and provide agility to react toevolving business needs.”
  • James Leach, VP of Marketing, RagingWire Data Centers: “In 2019, look for colocation products that attempt to seamlessly integrate hyperscale and edge data centers to support new applications for AI, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, big data, etc.”

New York Governor Cuomo Signs Bill Paving Way for First US Crypto Task Force

The state of New York has created a cryptocurrency task force following the signing of a digital currency study bill by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

This was announced by New York State Assemblyman and the chair of the subcommittee on internet and new technologies, Clyde Vanel, who commented that the task force would benefit both the blockchain industry and investors:

The task force of experts will help us strike the balance between having a robust blockchain industry and cryptocurrency economic environment while at the same time protecting New York investors and consumers.

Members of the cryptocurrency task force who will be appointed by the New York State Assembly, Senate and the Governor will be drawn from the tech sector, the investor community, academia and blockchain firms. The task force is expected to have turned in a report by December 15 next year.

New York’s Crypto Task Force a First in US

According to New York City’s tech nonprofit, Tech:NYC, the crypto task force will be the first in the United States and this will assist in solidifying the state’s status as a “global hub for smart innovation.”

The idea of a cryptocurrency task force in New York was initially proposed mid last year following an inquiry into exchanges that had been launched by the Office of the Attorney General in the state.

New York State May Launch a Cryptocurrency Task Force

The state of New York is making progress toward establishing formal cryptocurrency rules that could ultimately bolster more widespread use of virtual currencies. In yet another signal that bitcoin is…

ccn.com

At the time, the New York AG’s Office indicated that the inquiry had been started following an increase in public interest in cryptocurrencies and a spate of cryptocurrency heists.

Tyler Winklevoss, the chief executive of Gemini Exchange, which was one of the exchanges that had received questionnaires from the AG’s office, welcomed the move, arguing that the market was in need of prudent regulation and enhanced transparency:

These technologies can’t flourish and grow without thoughtful regulation that connects them to finance. As long as jurisdictions strike the right balance, we think it’s going to be a huge boon and win for cryptocurrencies.

‘No Way!’

At the time, not all crypto exchanges welcomed the inquiry by the AG’s office with open arms, however. The founder and CEO of Kraken, Jesse Powell, declined to respond to the inquiry, saying on social media that the 34 questions would require a diversion of company resources and would thus hinder the firm from fulfilling its mission:

When I saw this 34-point demand, with a deadline 2 weeks out, I immediately thought ‘The audacity of these guys – the entitlement, the disrespect for our business, out time! The resource diversion for this production is massive. This is going to completely blow up our roadmap!

How Did Ethereum Rise by 80% in 30 Days?

Two main factors have likely contributed to the short-term surge in the price of Ethereum in the past month: oversold conditions and the upcoming Constantinople fork.

From early November to mid-December, Ethereum experienced a steep decline in value as its price fell from $220 to $83. Despite its recent 80 percent climb, the asset is yet to achieve November levels and would still have to increase by an additional 46 percent to rise back to $220.

The market demonstrated oversold conditions subsequent to the sudden decline in the price of Ethereum from November to December, relieving sell-pressure on the crypto asset and allowing the asset to recover.

Upcoming Ethereum fork “Constantinople” is increasing the demand for Ethereum.

According to Alex Krüger, an economist and a cryptocurrency trader, the upcoming fork of Ethereum called Constantinople is increasing the demand for Ethereum, as the fork would reduce the block rewards of ETH from 3 to 2.

“Notable outperformance of ETH over BTC in the last few weeks. There’s a reason for it: the upcoming fork / supply reduction. Another BAKKT delay adds to it,” the trader said.

The reduction of the block rewards of ETH restricts the amount of ETH miners can generate, which in the long-term will lead to a gradual decline in the potential circulating supply of ETH. As the supply of ETH goes down and the demand goes up or remains the same, the ETH price is expected to increase.

On Christmas Eve of last year, Krüger added:

Ethereum’s Constantinople fork is coming on block 7080000, around January 16, 2019. Constantinople will reduce the block rewards from 3 to 2, decreasing new ETH supply accordingly. On the long run, this is decidedly bullish.

Krüger also pointed out in his analysis that in previous forks, Ethereum increased substantially in value. While the state of the market is significantly different than in previous instances, in consideration of the historical performance of ETH, the trader suggested that the Constantinople fork could contribute to the rise in the price of the asset.

“On the Homestead fork, ETH increased by 1150% in the two months prior (in both USD and BTC terms, as BTC was relatively flat during that period). Price started a 50% reversal the day of the fork. Not suggesting one should expect the same – different market, different times,” Krüger noted.

Ethereum (ETH) Best Performing Asset in December

ETH remains as one of the best-performing assets in December 2018, outperforming Bitcoin, Ripple, and Bitcoin Cash.

However, the valuation of the cryptocurrency market still remains at $130 billion and it is far from recovering to previous highs and as such, it is still too early to conclude that ETH has started to enter a mid-term bull rally.

UK invests $180m in pan-African fiber optic network

African telecommunications group Liquid Telecom, a subsidiary of Econet, has received $180 million in funding from a UK government agency to build a fiber network in central and western Africa.

The money comes from CDC Group (formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation), a development finance institution owned by the UK government, and marks one of its largest ever investments.

Common wealth

Liquid Telecom provides colocation capacity through its data center arm, Africa Data Centres, and runs Africa’s most extensive fiber optic network, stretching from Cape Town, through all the Southern, Central, and Eastern African countries, through to Sudan and Egypt.

The company said the money will help accelerate the expansion of its network infrastructure, helping connect some of the continent’s most remote regions.

“Our vision is to give every individual on the African continent the right to be connected by bringing reliable, high-speed broadband connectivity and cloud services to all. This includes businesses and communities in some of the most remote parts of the continent,” said Nic Rudnick, Group CEO at Liquid Telecom.

“We welcome CDC Group’s investment of $180m with Liquid Telecom since it will enable us to accelerate expansion along our award-winning Cape-to-Cairo route and further into Central and Western Africa.”

“Once completed, it will bring significant economic and social benefits – from providing access to online educational resources to supporting national economies, creating more jobs and driving the adoption of new technologies.”

“Digital infrastructure is still a major problem for Africa’s governments, people and its businesses, so improving access to affordable and quality internet is central to Africa’s development and economic growth,” added Nick O’Donohoe, CEO of the CDC Group.

Earlier this year, Liquid Telecom announced it would spend $400 million over the next three years to improve its network and data centers in Egypt.

A 12-day trip to outer space payable in crypto could be your next holiday plan

The Orion Span project offers a holiday in the outer space package that accepts crypto currencies as payment. 

Holiday season is here! Some of you might become unexcited as you have run out of ideas to spend it.

If so, the Orion Span project could be a great idea to spend your holiday.

Since its launching on April this year, the team behind the project has been working on “building” a hotel on their Aurora space station to be ready to welcome visitors.

So far, the company claims to have received as many as 26 reservations from travelers around the world for their 12-night stay in outer space package.

Quoting the founder and CEO of Orion Span, Frank Bunger, “Since opening our hotel reservations in April, we’ve been met with great excitement as space enthusiasts from around the world have moved quickly to secure their reservations.”

Explaining the project further, the hotel will have the capacity for 4 to 6 guests and 2 crew members for each departure of the 12-night stay package, during which, they can experience a zero-gravity environment, enjoy the view of the northern and southern aurora as well as participate in available space experiments.

In addition, the Aurora Station Hotel will also have amenities, such as holodeck that gives virtual reality experiences and live streaming wireless internet to, well, post videos and pictures to social media for sure!

So, what’s the catch for such a mind-blowing holiday experience?

The once-in-a-lifetime 12-night stay in the outer space package will require pretty deep pockets as it costs $9.5 million. Big ouch!

The good news is, the company stated that they accept various cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC) and Bitcoin (BTC) for payment. And it will only start sending off travelers on 2022, although a down payment of $80,000 is required to reserve a space.

It means, there’s still time to save for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday trip. It’s even better with the current situation where crypto prices are tanked, and crypto market is said to have reached a new yearly low, which could probably become a new perspective to see and endure what it seems like a never-ending bear market.

Lastly, Orion Span is not the only company that offers such experiences to the public. According to News Bitcoin, Elon Musk’s Space X also has similar project, called the Falcon 9, while Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic also has their Spaceship Two project, which is said to accept Bitcoin as payment as well.

AWS Announces Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) and Amazon Managed Blockchain

Amazon announced two new services to help companies manage business transactions that require full auditability. Amazon QLDB is a transparent, immutable, and cryptographically verifiable ledger for applications that need a central, trusted authority to provide a permanent and complete record of transactions (for example, supply chain, financial, manufacturing, insurance, and HR). For customers who want to build applications where multiple parties can execute transactions without the need for a trusted, central authority, Amazon Managed Blockchain makes it easy to create and manage scalable blockchain networks using the popular, open source Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric frameworks. With a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, customers can set up a blockchain network that can span multiple AWS accounts and scale to support thousands of applications and millions of transactions.

“AWS teams have been using Amazon QLDB for years to maintain a complete, immutable, and append-only journal of data changes. We started out trying to use relational databases to do this, but quickly found they could not scale or deliver the performance we needed to support our most widely-used services,” said Shawn Bice, Vice President, Nonrelational Databases at AWS. “Earlier this year, when we started talking to customers about what they needed from a blockchain solution, we realized that the Amazon QLDB’s ledger technology met a lot of their requirements. They wanted a centrally-owned ledger that provided an immutable way to log the transactions history of their applications and was transparent to all the parties with whom they were interacting. So, today we’re offering an immutable, transparent, and cryptographically verifiable ledger, based on the same one that AWS teams have been using for years at scale, as a fully managed service.”

Amazon Managed Blockchain: An easy way to create and manage scalable blockchain networks (available in preview)

Other customers want the immutable and verifiable capability provided by a ledger, however they also want to allow multiple parties to transact, execute contracts, and share data without a trusted central authority. For this, customers use blockchain frameworks like Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric. But setting up these frameworks is hard and time consuming. Each member of a permissioned network has to provision hardware, install software, create, and manage certificates for access control, and configure network settings. As usage of a blockchain application grows, there is a lot of work involved in scaling the network, including monitoring resources across all nodes, adding or removing hardware, and managing the availability of the entire network. This complexity is the reason many customers typically need the help of expensive consultants to make blockchain work.

Amazon Managed Blockchain is a new, fully managed blockchain service that makes it easy and cost-effective for customers to create and manage secure blockchain networks that can scale to support thousands of applications running millions of transactions. Amazon Managed Blockchain supports two popular open source blockchain frameworks, Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric, and setting up a blockchain network is as easy as a few clicks in the AWS Management Console. Customers simply choose their preferred framework, add network members, and configure the member nodes that will process transaction requests. Amazon Managed Blockchain takes care of the rest, creating a blockchain network that can span multiple AWS accounts with multiple nodes per member, and configuring software, security, and network settings. For a permissioned network, Amazon Managed Blockchain secures and manages blockchain network certificates with AWS Key Management Service, eliminating the need for customers to set up their own secure key storage.

Amazon Managed Blockchain contains a voting API that allows network members to quickly vote to add or remove members. And, as application usage grows, customers can add more capacity to the blockchain network with a simple API call. Amazon Managed Blockchain offers a range of instances with different combinations of compute and memory capacity to give customers the ability to choose the right mix of resources for their blockchain applications.

To learn more about Amazon QLDB, visit https://aws.amazon.com/qldb. To learn more about Amazon Managed Blockchain, visit: https://aws.amazon.com/managed-blockchain.

MasterCard and Microsoft to Develop “Universally Recognised” ID System

The press release doesn’t say “blockchain” but a whitepaper does…

Microsoft, Mastercard have teamed up to develop a “universally recognised” and decentralised digital identity service, the two said today.

Although they offered precious little detail on how the service would work, saying “additional details on these efforts will be shared in the coming months”, a previous whitepaper by Microsoft provides some clues.

The move will serve as the foundation for new Mastercard services powered by Microsoft Azure and built-in collaboration with the banking, mobile network operator and government communities, the two said.

“Today’s digital identity landscape is patchy, inconsistent and what works in one country often won’t work in another. We have an opportunity to establish a system that puts people first, giving them control of their identity data and where it is used,” added Ajay Bhalla, president, cyber and intelligence solutions, Mastercard.

“Working with Microsoft brings us one step closer to making a globally interoperable digital identity service a reality, and we look forward to sharing more very soon.”

microsoft, mastercard
A screengrab from Microsoft’s “decentralised identity” whitepaper

Microsoft, Mastercard ID System: Does it Involve Blockchain?

A whitepaper by Microsoft on “decentralised identity” cites a technical foundation “made up of seven key innovations” – and yes, blockchain is a core component.

“Microsoft is actively collaborating with members of the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF), the W3C Credentials Community Group, and the wider identity community. We’re working with these groups to identify and develop critical standards. We’re developing an open source DID implementation that runs atop existing public chains as a public Layer 2 network designed for world-scale use”, it reads.

The whitepaper details seven innovations.

1: W3C Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs): “Globally unique identifiers linked to Decentralised Public Key Infrastructure (DPKI) metadata composed of JSON documents that contain public key material, authentication descriptors, and service endpoints.”

2Decentralised systems (e.g. blockchains): These provide the mechanism and features required for DPKI (Microsoft is helping develop them) and “allow for a vibrant ecosystem of DID implementations that support a variety of blockchains and ledgers.”

3: DID User Agents: User Agent apps help create DIDs, managing data and permissions, and signing/validating DID-linked claims. “Microsoft will offer a Wallet-like app that can act as  User Agent for managing DIDs and associated data.”

4: DIF Universal Resolver: A server that uses a collection of DID Drivers to provide a standard means of lookup and resolution for DIDs across systems.

5: DIF Identity Hubs: “A replicated mesh of encrypted personal datastores, composed of cloud and edge instances (like mobile phones, PCs or smart speakers), that facilitate identity data storage and identity interactions.”

6: DID Attestations: These are “based on standard formats and protocols” Microsoft says, without further detail. They enable identity owners to generate, present, and verify claims. This forms the basis of trust between users of the systems.

7: Decentralised apps: “DIDs paired with Identity Hub personal datastores enable the creation of a new class of apps and services.

“New and Enhanced Experiences”

“Access to a universally-recognised digital identity could unlock new and enhanced experiences for people as they interact with businesses, service providers and their community online”, the two said.

They cited benefits including streamlined e-commerce, friction-free government services and a rise in “identity inclusion” for the estimated one billion people who are not “officially recognised”.

Ripple’s XRP Added to Crypto.com’s Wallet & Card App

Crypto.com Adds XRP to Wallet & Card App

Hong Kong-based crypto and payments platform Crypto.com just added Ripple’s XRP digital currency to its Wallet & Card App for iOS and Android.

Crypto.com announced the news in a press release. The app already supports bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Binance Coin (BNB), and Crypto.com’s native MCO token. Now, it supports Ripple’s XRP digital currency, which has been on a bull run over the past few weeks.

The app allows users to send, buy, sell, store and track cryptocurrencies – similar to other wallet apps. You can also order a physical card that allows you to spend cryptocurrency as easily as you would use a credit card.

The price of XRP seemed unaffected by the news. The coin is down 4.64% over the last 24 hours. XRP surged in value earlier this week after a slew of positive announcements, including news from Ripple’s Swell conference in San Francisco. At that conference, it was also confirmed that three financial institutions were already using Ripple’s xRapid technology – which uses the XRP digital currency – for commercial purposes.

While XRP remains about even on the week, the price of XRP has doubled in the last 2 to 3 weeks over excitement about the continued growth of Ripple’s xRapid protocol. On September 17, XRP was sitting at a price of $0.27. Since September 21, XRP has held steady above $0.50.

This is the first coin that Crypto.com is releasing on its new platform. The new infrastructure of the platform will make it easier to add new coins in the future. Crypto.com also expects the new infrastructure to lead to faster withdrawals and better security, among other user benefits.

“XRP is the first coin that we’re releasing on our newly built backend infrastructure, which allows us to add new coins faster, as well as, to perform faster withdrawals, all while maintaining full security of the platform,” explains Kris Marszalek, co-founder and CEO of Crypto.com.

Crypto.com plans to continue adding more coins in the future:

“We intend to increase the number of coins listed aggressively, to eventually cover all cryptocurrencies that matter.”

Crypto.com conducts an internal review and evaluation process before adding a new cryptocurrency to their platform. It’s unclear which cryptocurrencies may be added to Crypto.com next, and the press release didn’t give us any hints.

The Crypto.com Wallet & Card App is available for free for iOS and Android.

Crypto.com is a Hong Kong-headquartered company seeking to accelerate cryptocurrency adoption worldwide through its flagship app. You can learn more or download the Wallet & Card App today by visiting Crypto.com.

Google opens Cloud region in Hong Kong

Google this week opened its sixth Asia Pacific (APAC) region in Hong Kong, promising faster access to businesses both in Hong Kong and neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. The region was first promised in November 2017.

The opening was announced by Kirill Tropin, a manager at Google Cloud in a blog entry: “Our Hong Kong region is officially open for business. This new region – our eighteenth overall – will give both local and large multinational companies doing business in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia faster access to their data and applications.”

Hong-Kong-resized.jpg

High availability

The Hong Kong GCP region is known as “asia-east2” and has three availability zones to let customers distribute their workloads and storage for a higher level of availability

Tropin noted that Google Cloud has expanded the number of Google Cloud Platform (GCP) regions in APAC from three to six over the last 18 months. According to him, the applications in the new region can improve latency for end users in Hong Kong by up to 14ms, while customers in Vietnam and the Philippines will also benefit from a 25 to 30 percent improvement in latency.

Like the other top cloud providers, Google has been steadily growing its presence and beefing up existing facilities in the Asia Pacific. In August, the cloud giant announced that it is building its third data center in Singapore as part of its plans to scale up capacity to meet increasing demand for its services in the region.

In the same blog, Tropin also offered additional information about Google’s upcoming GCP region in Indonesia, which was first mentioned last month. The Indonesia GCP region will be in Jakarta and be launched in 2020, he said. Notably, Tropin also revealed that the Jakarta region will be designed for high availability with three availability zones.

AWS starts offering Graviton, a custom Arm CPU built by Amazon

At AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, Amazon Web Services announced that it is now offering Arm CPU-based instances for the first time.

The ‘Graviton’ 64-bit processor was designed in-house; it was created by Annapurna Labs, a chip company Amazon acquired for $350m in 2015. Annapurna also developed two generations of ‘Nitro’ ASICs that run networking and storage tasks in Amazon’s data centers.

The Cloud Arms race

“With today’s introduction of A1 instances, we’re providing customers with a cost optimized way to run distributed applications like containerized microservices,” Matt Garman, VP of compute services at AWS, said.

“A1 instances are powered by our new custom-designed AWS Graviton processors with the Arm instruction set that leverages our expertise in building hyperscale cloud platforms for over a decade.”

The A1 instances are available now in the US East (Northern Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon) and Europe (Ireland) regions as on-demand, reserved, spot and dedicated instances, and in dedicated host form. The chip is supported by Amazon Linux 2, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Ubuntu, with support for more operating systems on the way.

There are five flavors of A1 EC2 instances – from the a1.medium with 1 vCPU, 2GB of RAM, up to 3.5Gbps EBS and 10Gbps network bandwidth, priced at $0.0255 per hour on-demand, to a1.4xlarge with 16 vCPUs and 32GB of RAM, priced at $0.408 per hour.

Depending on the workload and configuration, AWS claims that A1 instances could be up to 45 percent cheaper than its x86-based virtual machines. Image hosting platform SmugMug said that it saw 40 percent cost savings from a shift to A1.

Earlier this month, AWS announced that it would offer instances based on AMD Epyc CPUs, something that could inconvenience its long-time partner Intel, the dominant supplier of server chips.

Seagate uses tiny lasers to create world’s first 16TB hard drive

Storage hardware giant Seagate has successfully used tiny lasers to increase the capacity of a traditional 3.5-inch hard drive to 16TB.

The technology, known as Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR), employs a radically new read/write head design and a specific magnetic alloy to reduce the width of data tracks – helping store more information in the same amount of physical space.

Seagate has built and tested the first generation of HAMR drives, and said it will sell them as part of its Exos product family – aimed primarily at enterprise customers – however the exact date of the commercial launch has not been made public.

The highest capacity HDD on the market today is Western Digital’s Ultrastar DC HC620, weighing in at 15TB – but it uses Shingle Magnetic Recording (SMR), a method of storing information that boosts capacity at the expense of write speed and requires customers to modify their applications and/or operating system.

Seagate Exos HAMR 16TB - artists's impression

The upcoming Seagate Exos HAMR 16TB– Seagate

It’s HAMR Time!

HAMR relies on a very small laser diode mounted on the drive’s read/write head that heats up the storage medium – a spinning disk made of “a new kind of media magnetic technology” – before any information is written.

This allows the use of smaller magnetic grains and narrower data tracks, and results in higher areal density – which enables more data capacity.

Unlike SMR drives, HAMR drives can be used as a drop-in replacement for existing Parallel Magnetic Recording (PMR) drives – the traditional HDDs that have been serving the industry since around 1957.

The HAMR technology was proposed by Fujitsu way back in 2006, and demonstrated by Seagate in 2012, but bringing it to the market has proved complicated: Seagate originally planned to launch working drives by 2015-2016, but even after the latest set of tests, it refuses to commit to a specific launch date. The company does say, however, that HAMR technology will enable it to build 20TB+ hard drives by 2020.

“Our testing has demonstrated the drives’ compatibility for enterprise systems that are being used today. No system level changes are needed to run the HAMR drives in these evaluations, or to deploy them in customer environments,” said Jason Feist, Seagate’s senior director of enterprise product line management.

“These are the same tests that customers use to qualify every new drive, including power efficiency tests, sg3_utils utilities that test SCSI commands to devices, standard smartmontools utility programs that will enable customers to characterize and compare HAMR drives in their environment right next to PMR drives, and several four-corners tests of reads, writes, random, sequential and mixed workloads.”

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