Category: Cloud Computing

Ireland might actually take on a big tech company

xblarneystone.jpg.pagespeed.ic.gZas-gsqnYThe nation which tends to give illegal sweeteners to big tech companies is gunning for Facebook.

Ireland’s privacy watchdog has launched a bid to refer Facebook’s data transfer mechanism to the European Union’s top court in a landmark case that could put the shifting of data across the Atlantic under renewed legal threat.

The move is the latest challenge to the various methods by which large tech firms such as Google and Apple move personal data of EU citizens back to the United States. It does not appear that Ireland is going for Google or Apple yet.

The issue of data privacy came to the fore after revelations in 2013 from former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden of mass U.S. surveillance caused political outrage in Europe and stoked mistrust of large technology companies and an overhaul in the way businesses can move personal data – from human resources information to people’s browsing histories – so as to protect Europeans’ information against US surveillance.

Ireland’s data protection commissioner, who has jurisdiction over Facebook as its European headquarters are in Dublin, wants The Court of Justice of the European Union to determine the validity of Facebook’s “model contracts” – common legal arrangements used by thousands of firms to transfer personal data outside the 28-nation bloc.

Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon has formed the view that some of the complaints against the model contracts are “well founded.”
Collins said only the CJEU and not a national court or the Data Protection Commissioner has the jurisdiction to rule a European Commission decision invalid.

He said that under EU law, a transfer of data can only be made to a country outside the EU if that country ensures an adequate level of protection.

However the court agrees it could be a major headaches for companies that need to transfer personal data to the United States. Ironically Facebook is building a huge data centre in Ireland which is designed to prevent this sort of data shifting to the US.

The court has since agreed to a request to allow the United States government to join the case, potentially giving the new US administration a platform to lay out its views on surveillance laws. Since Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump has already signed an executive order which removes the safe harbour rules negotiated between the US and the EU it is unlikely that he will prove particularly helpful to Facebook.

Facebook, which is due to speak in court during the case, said in May that it was one of thousands of companies that used model clauses and said it had a number of legal ways of moving data to the United States.

Office 365 subscriptions stall

 

Microsoft campusSoftware King of the world Microsoft said subscriptions to the productivity software had reached nearly 25 million but additions were down 62 percent compared to the year before.

This seems to indicate that Microsoft is finding it difficult to get new sign ups for the subscription based office service.

Satya Nadella touted revenue increases for the Office products aimed at consumers — which include Office 365 — and of the latter said that the company had, “continued to see an increase in … subscriber base.”

But in a filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), Microsoft pegged the number of consumer Office 365 subscriptions in the December quarter at 24.9 million, an increase of 900,000 from the September quarter and 4.3 million more than a year earlier.

Microsoft’s Office 365 started with “Home Premium” — was a five-user deal that cost $100 annually or $10 monthly. Fifteen months later, Microsoft unveiled a one-user subscription called “Personal” for $70 a year or $7 a month. Since then, Microsoft shortened the original subscription’s name to just “Home;” prices have not changed.

Vole has always wanted to shift much of its software business model toward recurring payments rather than one-time purchases of “perpetual” licences.

During the last nine months Office 365 grew by about 900,000 subscribers, the smallest quarterly increase since early 2014. Before that subscribers were signing up at rates two to three times larger per quarter.

Subscriber additions peaked in the first quarter of 2015, at 3.2 million, followed by 3 million in the third quarter, providing a foundation for a record 11.4 million new subscribers during the year.

After Q4 2015, however, the trailing 12-month numbers fell, a decline fuelled by the plateau of 0.9 million each quarter from the second onward. That resulted in a gain of just 4.3 million subscribers throughout 2016, a reduction of 62 percent from the year before.

It does not really mean much to Vole’s bottom line. In fact, revenue from the consumer side of Office with the perpetual licenses sold at retail — was up 22 percent in the December quarter. But it does indicate that there is a pain threshold in the subscriber model. It seems that most people who want Office 365 using this model have it already.

 

Microsoft might close datacentres post Brexit

 

Get-Britain-OutSoftware King of the World Microsoft might mothball its UK datacentre plans after  Blighty decided to pull out of the EU.

Microsoft had wanted to set up its datacentres in the UK so that European data did not have to cross the pond to the US.  This was because the EU was a little worried about US spooks spying in European citizens and wanted all data to stay here.

However, with the UK outside the EU too, the Microsoft set up its databases in the UK is completely pointless.

Microsoft’s UK Government Affairs Manager Owen Larter spoke in the What Brexit Means for Tech webinar expressing that the Redmond giant is committed to their branches in the UK. At least, for now.

But it is getting more worried that if Britain leaves the European single market is that import tariffs will rise and if the tariffs were to become an issue, Microsoft might pull their future plans for Britain’s two datacentres.

“We’re really keen to avoid import tariffs on any hardware. Going back to the datacenter example, we’re looking to build out our datacentres at a pretty strong lick in the UK, because the market is doing very well… So if the UK puts tariffs on Chinese server racks or eastern Europe, where a lot of them are actually assembled, that might change our investment decisions and perhaps we build out our datacentres across other European countries.”

If Vole cannot build in Britain, then they will build surrounding it.

Ironically one upside to the Brexit for Microsoft is the ability to bring in foreign employees into the UK for work.

“We’ve really struggled internally at Microsoft sometimes to bring people over from the US, from China, from India. Even just on a month or by week basis, because the restrictions on immigration from outside the EU have been so severe, because we [the UK] couldn’t control immigration from inside the EU and we were conscious about the numbers.”

We say ironic because many people thought they were voting Brexit to keep foreign workers out of the UK. This means Vole is confident they can bring many more in.

 

Users will not update IoT devices leaving them wide open

Safe-with-Open-Door_Silver-Trading-Company_iStock_000016460757_ExtraSmallThe security state of the IoTs is going to be precarious because users will not be bothered to update their gear, according to a new survey.

Writing in his Ubuntu bog, Core evangelist Thibaut Rouffineau said that his organisation surveyed  2000 consumers about their Internet of Things devices.

They found that only a third of consumers that own connected devices perform updates as soon as they become available.

Another 40 per cent have never consciously performed updates on their devices and two thirds thought that it was not their responsibility to keep firmware updated.

A fifth believed it was the job of software developers, while 18 per cent considered it to be the responsibility of device manufacturers.

Canonical thinks that better automatic mechanisms were needed to fix vulnerabilities remotely as a way to secure IoT.

“We need to remove the burden of performing software updates from the user and we need to actively ban the dreaded ‘default password’, as Canonical has done with Ubuntu Core 16,” Rouffineau said.

“It’s clear to us that too many of the solutions to IoT security proposed today involve either mitigating security issues after-the-fact, or living in a world where IoT security problems are the accepted norm. This should not and cannot be the case.”

Canonical yells at European cloud provider

cloudOpen saucy outfit Canonical is in the middle of a legal dispute with an unnamed  “a European cloud provider” over the use of its  own homespun version of Ubuntu on their cloud servers.

Canonical is worried that the implementation disables even the most basic of security features and Canonical fears that when something bad happens, the great unwashed will not blame the cloud provider but will instead blame Ubuntu.

Writing in the company bog, Canonical said that it has spent months trying to get the unnamed provider to use the standard Ubuntu as delivered to other commercial operations to no avail. It said that Red Hat and Microsoft wouldn’t be treated like this.

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, wrote that Ubuntu is “the leading cloud OS, running most workloads in public clouds today,” whereas these homegrown images “are likely to behave unpredictably on update in weirdly creative and mysterious ways. We hear about these problems all the time, because users assume there is a problem with Ubuntu on that cloud; users expect that ‘all things that claim to be Ubuntu are genuine’, and they have a right to expect that.

“To count some of the ways we have seen home-grown images create operational and security nightmares for users: clouds have baked private keys into their public images, so that any user could SSH into any machine; clouds have made changes that then blocked security updates for over a week… When things like this happen, users are left feeling let down. As the company behind Ubuntu, it falls to Canonical to take action.”

Sage doing rather well

bunch-of-sage-leavesThe number crunching software outfit named after something which ends up in a turkey at Christmas is doing rather well and announced that it has posted strong annual numbers.

Sage announced it had achieved its fastest rate of recurring revenue growth for a decade in its financial year ending 30 September 2016. Total revenues rose 9.3 percent to £1.57 billion, with growth of 6.1 percent. The UK and Ireland more than pulled their weight, with seven percent organic growth.

Recurring revenue growth hit 10.4 percent. Organic operating profit, meanwhile, rose 9.2 percent to £427 million.

Sage talked up its Sage Marketplace, a distribution platform that allows ISVs to showcase add-ons for its products, including Sage One and Sage Live, which it launched in February. More than 215 ISV apps have signed to Sage Marketplace during the year.

Sage Live, a cloud accounting solution based on Salesforce hardware was launched in the USA and UK in February, now has 600 customers, with over 400 added in the past 90 days, Sage boasted.

Pegg, which Sage bills as “the world’s first accounting chatbot”, has amassed 9,000 users for Sage in 125 countries since its launch in July, the LSE-listed vendor added.

Phase one of a transformation programme saw Sage cut general and administrative expenses as a proportion of revenue from 18.7 to 16.5 percent year on year and renew its senior management team, and is now complete, the vendor said.

Sage CEO Stephen Kelly said: “FY16 saw Sage continue to deliver on the commitment made at our June 2015 Capital Markets Day to perform and transform. The organic revenue growth of six per cent is driven by higher-quality recurring revenue, which grew at the fastest rate in a decade. The strategy is working – with customers embracing closer relationships with Sage, evidenced by a 46 percent increase in the number of subscription contracts and a contract retention rate of 86 percent.

Phase two of the transformation effort will focus on “driving more technology innovation and increasing focus on new customer acquisition”.

LingLong creates DingDong in smart home industry

Linglong-Dingdong-Lautsprecher-1024x576-31f5edc41d756a0cChinese outfit LingLong has created an AI based assistant it has dubbed the DingDong which is making a sing song in the consumer electronics market.

The gear has a music library of three million songs, can take memos and share updates regarding news, traffic and weather in what the firm calls ‘cinema-like sound quality’

It speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, which means it can roll into the lucrative Chinese market and get a head start on its Western rivals.

It costs $118 and answers questions, gives directions and plays music in high quality 320Kbps format

The device comes in four colours: red for prosperity, white for purity, black for money and purple because it is pretty.

In the west, Amazon is the leaders in this space. It released its Echo in 2014 – smart speaker powered by Alexa. Users can ask Alexa to do a range of activities such as request an Uber or order their usually from Dominos – and there is more than three million units in the world.

Most DingDong owners use the technology as a music player, or as someone to talk to.

MongoDB picks up disgruntled Oracle customers

mongoOracle is alienating its customers who are apparently rushing to MongoDB in droves – at least according to the chief Mongo.

Chatting to Diginomica, MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria claimed that MongoDB is increasingly encroaching on Oracle’s database lead – with enterprises becoming more and more confident with the maturing NoSQL technology.

Ittycheria said that MongoDB had invested heavily in making the product ‘enterprise ready’ – with advanced management capabilities, better performance and better integrations. Now it is picking up a big chunk of migration work.

He claimed a third of MongoDB’s business is migration off existing workloads to us when two years ago it was 5 per cent.  Ittycheria claimed that punters were ditching Oracle “and others, but mainly Oracle”.

“There’s a large bank, whose logo you would recognise instantly, they had a very sophisticated equities trading platform. The problem was that the compliance rules changed after the credit crisis, where they had to track so much information around for auditing, that the impact on the relational database was so large that they realised that it would quickly run out of gas,” he claimed.

Instead the bank re-platformed that on MongoDB, side by side for a while and now they’ve started moving everything off.

Developers are now beginning to hold MongoDB in the same regard that they used to Oracle, with Oracle falling out of favour.

The NoSQL market is highly competitive and that there are a bunch of players all neck and neck to take on Oracle. He claims that this might have been the case two or three years ago – with “Oracle printing money hand over fist and ankle biters fighting over each other – but now MongoDb has really separated itself from the pack, he said.

Mongo is now a nine figure business and is doing eight figure deals with large companies that are standardising on its technology, he said.

Never mind AI, Intel has Nervana

3d2a123ddc312423225755a14fe7db2dChipzilla’s billion dollar investment in Nervana might be the key to making its server chips more intelligent.

Intel is laying out its roadmap to advance artificial intelligence performance across the board and Nervana technology appears to be everywhere.

The high-performance silicon market is dominated by GPUs. However, with Nervana inside, Intel hopes its new corporate tech with its a fully-optimized software and hardware stack will give that business model a good kicking.

Nervana hardware will initially be available as an add-in card that plugs into a PCIe slot. The first Nervana silicon, codenamed Lake Crest, will make its way to select Intel customers in H1 2017.

Intel is also talking about Knights Mill, which is the next generation of the Xeon Phi processor family. Intel said that Knights Mill will deliver a 4x increase in deep learning performance compared to existing Xeon Phi processors and the combined solution with Nervana will offer orders of magnitude gains in deep learning performance.

Diane Bryant, Executive VP of Intel’s Data Center Group said that the Intel Nervana platform to produce breakthrough performance and dramatic reductions in the time to train complex neural networks.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said that Nervana’s technologies will produce a 100-fold increase in performance in the next three years to train complex neural networks, enabling data scientists to solve their biggest AI challenges faster.

Privacy group launches legal challenge against US data deal

Data centreAn Irish privacy group has issued a legal challenge against an EU deal which allows Euro data to end up in US hands.

The EU-US Privacy Shield commercial data transfer pact has been running for  two months but it was hammered out after the European Union’s highest court struck down the previous such framework over concerns about intrusive US surveillance.

The framework enables businesses moving personal data across the Atlantic a way of avoiding falling foul of tough EU data transferral rules.

Digital Rights Ireland has challenged the adoption of the “Privacy Shield” in front of the second-highest EU court, arguing it lacks adequate privacy protections.

It will be a year or more before the court rules on the case and it could still be declared inadmissible if the court finds the Privacy Shield is not of direct concern to Digital Rights Ireland.

More than 500 companies have signed up to the Privacy Shield so far, including usual suspects Google, Facebook and Microsoft.