Does Google Street View really invade your privacy?

It’s been interesting watching the reaction to Google’s new Street View. Privacy’s the big issue — and I’m as concerned as anyone about the UK government’s plans to introduce ID cards, wrap the UK in CCTV coverage and generally ensure that every move you make is stored in a database somewhere. This is an issue I’ll return to in future posts.

But back to Google Street View — and I think some people are over-reacting, or at least not thinking through the consequences of their positions.

There was Jeremy Paxman on NewsNight the other night grilling the company’s UK CEO about privacy, and I’ve read dozens of items from individuals complaining about the same issues Paxman raised. These include worries about why Google can legally take pics of their house and publish them on the web without anyone’s say so.

Well guess what? Anyone’s been able to do that since whenever. You can photograph anything and reproduce it as long as it’s not copyrighted. People are another matter of course.

Photographers have it tough right now, with the police seemingly under orders on the pretext of preventing terrorism to pounce on people taking photos with anything other than a point-and-shoot camera. I’ve read plenty of anecdotes about amateurs as well as professionals with SLRs (and sometimes tripods) being questioned about their motives. Have we really become that scared?

What we don’t need is campaigners bellowing that Google is somehow invading their privacy followed by lies from the Daily Mail sparking a whole new round of legislation as a result.

Pics of houses are surely OK as long as the house in question isn’t identified with an individual. One person has argued that Street View delivers an image of their car with legible number plates outside their house – which I’d agree is a bit annoying, although even then, you can’t assume that a nice car belongs to a particular house. And Google does promise (and I’ve no idea if it has or how quickly it has) to remove/blur images where appropriate.

Let’s have a serious think about what’s really private before we go making life even more hell for photographers and others whose ability to capture images is already being constrained. No-one’s complained about their activities before…

New HP servers take battle to Cisco

HP has today launched a swathe of servers in multiple form factors — rack, blade and tower — driven by Intel’s latest processor architecture, codenamed Nehalem.

But there’s much more to it than that.

Time was when server companies, especially those such as HP, which analysts say has the biggest server market share, would boast and blag about how theirs were the biggest and fastest beasts in the jungle.

No longer. Instead, HP put heavy emphasis on its management capabilities. That’s a shot fired across the bows of network vendor Cisco, which just two weeks ago unveiled a new unified computing initiative, at whose core is a scheme to manage and automate the movement of virtual machines and applications across servers inside data centres. Oh yes, there’s a server in there too — a first for fast-diversifying Cisco.

But this is a sidetrack: back to HP’s launch of the ProLiant G6. Performance was mentioned once in the press release’s opening paragraph — they’re twice as quick, apparently — but when he spoke to me, European server VP Christian Keller focused almost entirely on manageability, and performance per watt.

“We have 32 senders that give health information about temperatures and hotspots. Unlike our competitors, we don’t just control all six fans together — we can control them separately using advanced algorithms. These are based on computational fluid dynamics and are based in a chip, so it works even if the OS is changing — for example during virtualisation moves,” he said.

Keller went on to talk about how the servers’ power draw can be capped, again using hardware-based algorithms, which means that a server that’s been over-specified for the purposes of future-proofing won’t draw more power than it needs.

The result, Keller went on, is that “you can use the data centre better and pack more servers into the same space.” The bottom line is that the organisation reaps big total cost of ownership savings, he reckoned, although with finance very tight, he said that quick payback was at the top of mind of his customers.

“Customers are looking for faster payback today due to recession,” he said. “With HP, you need fewer servers to do the same amount of work and payback is achieved in around 12 months.” And there’s a bunch of slideware to back up his claims. You can get more on the products here.

Management software
HP’s keen to make more of its data centre management software — during a recent conversation, one HP exec said he reckoned the company had indulged in stealth marketing of its software portfolio.

And it’s true that HP’s new raft of software, much of it launched over six months ago and based on Systems Insight Manager, has barely been mentioned outside conversations with HP’s customers. It covers a wide range of functionality, enabling data centre managers to manage partitions within and across blades, which can be in the same chassis or in separate chassis — depending on what you want to do.

I saw a demo of the system and it was impressive. One of the core modules is the Capacity Advisor, which allows what-if planning so you can size your hardware requirements. It includes trending out to the future – which was a features on HP’s HP/UX platform but is now on x86. It not only allows the manager to size systems both for current and future use, it automatically checks how well the sizing operation matches reality.

Virtualisation Manager adds a view of all resources and virtual machines, and can display application resource utilisation inside VMs, while Global Workload Manager allows you to change priorities depending on which application is the most critical. So backup gets resources when the payroll cheque run is finished, for example. There’s lots more to it, so you can find out more here.

This isn’t intended to be a serious review of HP’s system management software — I didn’t spend nearly enough time with it for that. However, amid the noise surrounding VMware and Microsoft, and a host of third parties vying for position as top dog in the data centre management space, and together with the brouhaha surrounding Cisco’s recent launch, HP has quietly got on with developing hat looks like a seriously useful suite of software.

Apart from a press release six months ago, the company just hasn’t told many people about it.