Tuesday Nov 18, 2008

Why OpenSocial for Social Networking applications and platforms

Today, you dont have to be an abnormal geeky engineer to develop IT applications. Infact, its almost where software engineers are an endangered species and neophytes will take over all engineering jobs. Particularly in the Social Networking world, with the advent of  ever growing supply of interesting Web APIs and Open Application platforms, almost anyone and everyone can develop a Web-scale application with very little to no technical background, and potentially make millions if the idea is cool and clever.

The most popular Application Platform today seems to be the Facebook Platform, given it has the maximum users (over 120 million users worldwide) and applications (over 40k). Facebook has its own proprietary programming API and language called FBML and an application written to FBML would run only on Facebook or a site built on Facebook platform.

OpenSocial on the  other hand is an open source API originally developed by Google. It is a community effort,  supported by Sun(Check out Project SocialSite), MySpace, Orkut, Ning, Hi5, Google App Engine among others. Languages supported are HTML, JavaScript, XML, ReST.

As a developer, building an application on OpenSocial would mean that it can be deployed on multiple Social Networking sites that support OpenSocial and your total number of users across these sites might add up to more than what you might get from a single proprietary site. Plus, you might be able to tap into different geographies and age groups depending on which social networking site is more popular in a given region. Eg. Orkut is more popular in Asia whereas MySpace is more popular in USA and Bebo is more popular in the UK. Also, you automatically build safety in the numbers by spreading the risk, such that if one site is down, other sites are up and still churning money for you.

Yesterday I had a chance to attend a presentation by Dave, author of BuddyPoke, one of the most popular application on Orkut. It was very interesting to learn that BuddyPoke is an application developed by 2 developers, is live on 8 Social Networking sites (MySpace, NetLog, Orkut, Friendster, Hyves, Hi5), has 26 million+ users  with a peak install rate of 260K installs in one day. It was launched just 6 months ago. Compare this to some of the most popular Facebook applications like RockYou that has I am told about 20 million Facebook users. It takes Dave less than a few hours to get his BuddyPoke application up and running on a new OpenSocial platform.

You get my point. Web is Good, and being Social is Good. However, Social Web is even better. We all have the opportunity to shape the future of Social Networking via our contributions to OpenSocial.


And if you are a OpenSocial or Facebook developer, dont forget to leverage the Sun's offer of free hosting on Joyent for 1 yr.

Wednesday Nov 05, 2008

Open Social Networks built on Open Identity and Open APIs

This has been an year of Application Platforms and we have seen a number of Social Networks and XaaS flourish. Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, Friendster, Orkut, Google Apps Engine, Y!OS, EC2 to name a few. Everything is syndicated and social is everywhere. Its the people who are the center of the services, not the software. There is a seemingly infinite demand for applications, almost difficult to deliver. Social computing is becoming a pillar of mass culture. Software is increasingly mediating between people and Apps is a way of life.

However, its also evident that in the current world, these social networks and platforms live alone and isolated from each other and there is no easy way to maneuver seamlessly between different networks.  This limitation is giving birth to Identity platforms wherein every user has an Open Identity and the social network vendors are being encourged to implement their platforms on top of these open Identity standards. In the coming year, we are likely to see more "Open Social Networks" so as to lower the barrier to entry in a social network, ease user acquisition and make socializing a more vibrant experience.

An Open Identity is an entity built on open standards that would define some of the following user attributes:

  • My profile
  • What people say about me
  • Who my friends are
  • What is my content
  • Which sites I can go to
  • etc.

Basically this entity would define a user. If all platforms leverage the same standard identity platform, then it would be seamless for a user to enter new networks. This would enable the service providers to get valuable insights into new user base by allowing them to easily plugin to their networks using open identity.

Yahoo! , MySpace and other vendors in this space are preaching what they are calling "Open Stack" that would make user data portable and enable a user to carry their address books with them while signing on to a new network or platform. As an example, figure below illustrates the Y! Open Platform.

With the web becoming more open and social, standards are needed to power the social functionality without having to reinvent the wheel every time. It only makes sense to tap into the existing semantic information and participate in the echo system. Its important to understand this distributed landscape and plan intelligently so that one can best leverage the building blocks.

Sunday Nov 02, 2008

Sun's Cloud Computing Portfolio

Update: Sun has expanded its Cloud Computing portfolio with the recent acquisition of Qlayer, a cloud computing company that automates the deployment and management of both public and private clouds.  The Q-layer organization, based in Belgium, is now part of Sun's Cloud Computing business unit which develops and integrates cloud computing technologies, architectures and services.

Cloud computing is about managing petascale data. Sun's server and storage systems can radically improve the data-intensive computing emerging in the cloud. Some clouds are closed platforms that lock you in. Sun's open source philosophy and Java principles form the core of a strategy that provides interoperability for large-scale computing resources. Sun's virtualization solutions for advanced high-performance computing deployments are integrated with Solaris and Web 2.0 technologies such as Java and MySQL.

Check out Sun's Cloud Computing Porfolio below:

  • MySQL is almost the defacto database of choice powering the web-scale next-generation of database driven web applications in the cloud. Cloud computing solutions for MySQL makes it easy to develop, deploy, and manage your new and existing MySQL-backed applications in a virtual computing environment. The MySQL Enterprise for Amazon EC2 subscription is a comprehensive offering of database software and production support to deliver applications on Amazon EC2 with optimal performance, reliability, security, and uptime. For the first time, organizations can now cost-effectively deliver database driven web-scale computing in the "cloud", fully backed by the MySQL database experts at Sun. You can learn more about it here


  • The Webstack from Sun is the optimized open source software stack and is bundled with latest release of OpenSolaris 2008.11. It is pre-configured to have the most popular applications (Apache, PHP, MySQL) to work seamlessly out of a Solaris box. By using Solaris with these binaries in a Cloud, you can enjoy the best levels of performance, while also reducing your time-to-service.
  • Performance is one of the key metrics that users are skeptical about in the cloud. White its not a critical criteria, they still want to be able to profile their applications running in the cloud. Netbeans  provides plugins to profile your application on Amazon EC2. Check out the steps here on how to use Netbeans for profiling your application in the Cloud. You can learn more on this at the Cloud Computing Bootcamp on Nov. 19 2008.  

  • Virtualization is key to enabling a Cloud Computing environment. The Sun xVM portfolio offers a simple and efficient way to leverage a heterogeneous, virtualized environment:
    • xVM Ops Center Discover, provision, update, and manage globally dispersed IT environments from one console
    • xVM VirtualBox Build, test, and run applications on one desktop or laptop for multiple OS platforms side by side
    • xVM Server Securely and reliably virtualize systems and services in a Windows, Solaris OS, or Linux environment
    • Sun VDI Software Securely access a virtual desktop from nearly any client on the network

Further, Solaris 10 includes the Containers technology which is an implementation of operating system level virtualization technology first made available in 2005 as part of Solaris 10. A Solaris Container is the combination of system resource controls and the boundary separation provided by zones. Zones act as completely isolated virtual servers within a single operating system instance. By consolidating multiple sets of application services onto one system and by placing each into isolated virtual server containers, system administrators can reduce cost and provide all the same protections of separate machines on a single machine, hence making it a perfect technology for the Clouds.

  • Besides the product portfolio, Sun is also offering services in the Cloud Computing space.
    • Zembly is a service from Sun hosted on Network.Com which is a place to create social applications, together.  At Zembly, you easily create and host social applications of all shapes and sizes, targeting the most popular social platforms on the web like Facebook, Meebo, iPhone, Google Gadgets etc. And, you do it along with other people, using just your browser and your creativity, and working collaboratively with others.
    • Project Kenai is the foundation for the connected developer of tomorrow. It allows you to freely host your open source projects and code. Find and collaborate with developers of like mind and passion from around the globe.
    • Project SocialSite, is an open source ( CDDL/GPL2) project for building Widgets and Web Services that make it easy for you to add social networking features to your existing web sites, including the ability to run OpenSocial Gadgets and have them backed by the same social graph.
    • Project Caroline is an advanced R&D project at Sun Microsystems. It is a hosting platform for development and delivery of dynamically scalable Internet-based services. It is designed to serve an emerging market of small and medium sized software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers.


  • Sun is offering Open Solaris on Amazon EC2 OpenSolaris, which comes with tools such as ZFS and Dynamic Tracing (D-Trace), are offered for free, in contrast to some Linux offerings that cost money. ZFS allows instant rollback and continual check-summing capabilities, something developers have found lacking in the EC2 platform.  In addition, Sun is offering several popular EC2 images like Drupal, Roby on Rails, Apache, Tomcat etc. For the entire list, click here.


  • Sun is running several promotions for  hosting Facebook and OpenSocial applications on OpenSolaris free for 1 year with some of our cloud computing partners like Joyent. For more details, check out our Startup Essentials program.

Stay tuned for more to come from Sun in this space.

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alkagupta

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