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.

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.

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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