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U of T criticises Canada's ISPs for routing user traffic via the US

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May 1, 2014

The U of T has criticised Canada's Internet Service Providers for unnecessarily routing user traffic via the United States, even when both the origin and destination of the traffic is within Canada.

In a study that mirrors European concerns about why traffic should traverse the U.S. when it doesn't need to, the Canadian transparency study blames an unwillingness to peer for sending traffic into the reach of the NSA.

The University of Toronto's Andrew Clement and Jonathan Obar have put together the report along with an interactive map, in which they rate Canadian ISPs on various transparency characteristics.

The ratings, the report says, are based on how easily users can find information including an ISP's compliance with data privacy legislation, how they report data access requests, how well they define personal information, information about where user data is stored, etc.

Against the 10 criteria used in the assessment, nobody scored highly-- the best was Teksavvy, scoring just 3.5 stars out of a potential ten, followed by Primus on just three stars.

None of the ISPs tested provide transparency reporting, and the researchers say none of the 20 carriers they examined are in full compliance with Canada's PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) privacy law.

About routing, the report states-- “Fewer than half of the ISP privacy policies refer to the location and jurisdiction for the information they store. Only one (Hurricane) gives an indication of where it routes customer data and none make explicit that they may route data via the US where it is subject to NSA surveillance”.

“Boomerang” routing – where data leaves Canada, traverses US networks (who might choose to ignore PIPEDA) and returns to Canada – accounts for as much as 25 percent of all internet traffic, the report states.

It also claims that traffic traversing the US is “almost certainly subject to NSA surveillance”. The key reason is peering, a discussion that will resonate with smaller ISPs around the world. If an ISP is unable to peer its traffic within Canada's TorIX (Toronto Internet Exchange) or OttIX (Ottawa), it may need to send data upstream through its transit provider to reach its destination.

In other IT news

Former BSD and Unix server enterprise customers are continuing their march towards Linux and for some there's no looking back. However, that hasn't stopped Oracle from continuing its own development of Solaris Unix, but at a slower pace than before.

Yesterday, Oracle staged an event in New York to announce the launch of Solaris version 11.2, which is only the second point release of the former Sun Microsystems product since Solaris 11 shipped in November 2011, the last being in 2012.

However, even though the operating system is only getting a minor version-number increase, that doesn't mean it doesn't include significant updates, according to Solaris product director Larry Wake.

Oracle says the new update shouldn't break any existing Unix systems. "In fact, what the dot really means is that we've incorporated some noteworthy changes in such a manner that we're not leaving anything, or anyone behind," Wake said.

"This is Oracle Solaris 11, only more so. The reason that it's a dot is that there are no concerns for existing version 11 end users and developers about how to integrate this into their environments," he added.

At the 2011 launch, Oracle trumpeted Solaris 11 as "the first cloud OS," and predictably it's continuing that theme with the new release.

But most of the new features do have a cloudy texture, even if Oracle's increasingly niche OS is more likely to be deployed on private clouds than public ones.

But most significantly, Solaris 11.2 now comes bundled with a complete OpenStack distribution. Oracle joined the OpenStack bandwagon in December and said at the time that it planned to integrate support for the open source cloud technology across multiple products, including Solaris and Oracle Linux.

With OpenStack support for Solaris, enterprise customers will now be able to manage their Solaris virtual machines from the same OpenStack dashboard as their KVMs and ESX instances.

And to sweeten things a bit, the release also bundles the popular Puppet IT automation software to help speed provisioning, configuration, software management and other repetitive tasks.

Also new are Unified Archives, a new form of backup and archiving software that allows system admins to clone their entire environments for disaster recovery or quick provisioning in the cloud.

To demonstrate the new technology, Oracle has provided a Unified Archive for OpenStack that makes it possible to spin up a single node of Solaris OpenStack system in a matter of minutes, Oracle claims.

Additionally, a new application-driven software defined networking feature (SDN) allows applications to prioritize their own traffic via networking flows that can be used to specify service level agreements (SLAs) within the data center.

There have also been numerous virtualization improvements, including the ability to dynamically reconfigure Solaris Zones without a reboot and support for automated Zone renaming.

And new Kernel Zones can run different kernel versions from the global zone and can be patched without requiring a reboot of the global Zone.

For a detailed breakdown of all the new features in Solaris 11.2, you can check the formal release notes on Oracle's site.

You can also download the operating system and try it out for yourself, but so far it's only in beta. Oracle says to expect the final release to ship sometime in the summer.

In other IT news

HP is trying to keep its dwindling server market share from lower cost Asian makers that are eating into its own shipments by inking a deal with China's Foxconn in an effort to reduce the cost of lower-end servers. HP had been mulling the decision for several months already.

When it comes to the Cloud, the so-called 'white box' server market is still a rapidly growing market, according market research firm IDC.

But besides Foxconn, there are a lot of other lower cost server makers in Asia, including offerings from Quanta Computer, Wistron, Inventec and Compal Electronics, among others.

Those Chinese and Taiwanese hardware-builders account for single-digit percentage market revenues and are still overshadowed by HP itself, Dell and Lenovo.

However, they are still considered to be forces to be dealt with in the United States, producing servers for big names including Google, Amazon, Sun Hosting, Rackspace and Facebook.

Against such a backdrop, HP has signed a strategic commercial agreement with Foxconn to build a new line of cloud-optimized servers targeting that very market segment.

The servers HP wants the deal to work include quick customer response times and volume manufacturing that result in high-density, easy to manage, cost competitive hardware.

Server specifications, prices and availability are expected once the non-equity joint venture takes effect from tomorrow, but HP said the line will sit alongside its existing ProLiant systems.

In prepared comments, HP CEO Meg Whitman said it was combining its innovation with Foxconn's high-volume design and manufacturing capabilities.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou added-- "Cloud computing is radically changing the entire supply chain for the server market as customers place new demand on breadth of design capability, value-oriented solutions, large scale and global manufacturing capabilities."

To be sure, Foxconn already builds HP servers, storage and integrated custom built systems in EMEA. The plants are Foxconn-owned but HP teams are on site for planning, logistics and quality assurance.

Source: University of Toronto.

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