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The financial services industry banks on the Microsoft Cloud for digital transformation – The Official Microsoft Blog

Financial services organizations are at a transformational tipping point. Faced with fierce market pressures – nimble disruptors, complex regulations, digital native customers – technology transformation in the industry is essential, and it’s increasingly becoming a competitive edge. Firms leading the charge into this new era are transforming customer experiences, fostering a new culture of work, optimizing operations and driving product innovation, and they are using Microsoft cloud, AI and blockchain technologies in their journey to become digital leaders of the future. TD Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui and Credito Agricola are among the organizations that have embraced this digital transformation happening in every part of the world.

Next week at Sibos, the premier financial services industry event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, myself and others from Microsoft will speak alongside other innovative business leaders driving transformation. Here are some of the scenarios and solutions Microsoft customers and partners are implementing along their journey:

Fostering a new culture of work

Fostering a digital culture is a paradigm shift, one which financial institutions must embark. Jumpstarting this culture shift means designing a workplace where every work style can thrive – one that harnesses digital intelligence to improve experiences, unleashes creativity and enables mobility while keeping organizations, people and information secure. With modern tools, employees from the first line to the back office can do their best work.

State Bank of India, a 200-year-old institution, is working with Microsoft to create a modern workplace for its 263,000 employees across 23,423 branches servicing more than 500 million customer accounts, including some in the most remote locations of the country. SBI has adopted Office 365 to enhance communication and collaboration among its workforce, and believes that Microsoft is delivering the best productivity experience for its employees while ensuring the highest standards of security, compliance and adherence to regulatory requirements.

Emirates NBD is creating more creative and collaborative workspaces for their employees, and has selected Office 365 as well as Surface Hub to deliver on their digital transformation efforts.

Transforming customer experiences

Customer expectations have changed and will continue to evolve at the speed of technology. The imperative for financial services firms is to engage customers in a way that is natural, tailored and delightful at every turn. The most innovative firms will create experiences that harness data from customers to derive actionable insights and deliver greater market success.

TD Bank is known for legendary customer service and aims to match their marquee in-person experience through digital wherever customers may be – at home, at work or on-the-go. With more than 12 million digitally active customers and expectations evolving at the speed of technology, TD has turned to Microsoft Azure and data platform services to help deliver on their promise of legendary service at every touchpoint.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation is transforming their employee workstyles and enhancing their customer experience with the Microsoft Cloud. In addition to building a secure and highly productive office environment utilizing Azure and Office 365, SMBC has also introduced an interactive automatic response system for customer service, powered by the Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit and AI services.

Optimizing operations

Shifting line-of-business applications and other capabilities to the cloud is a foundational step along the digital transformation journey that enables banks to save big and reinvest dollars in more innovative, value-add banking services. It also enables firms to be more agile like their industry disruptor counterparts.

UBS is using Azure to power its risk management platform, technology that requires enormous computing power, to run millions of calculations daily on demand. The result — speeding calculation time by 100 percent, saving 40 percent in infrastructure costs, gaining nearly infinite scale within minutes — means the firm can have more working capital on hand and employees can make quicker, more informed decisions for their clients.

Société Générale is using Azure’s high-performance computing capabilities to power the credit value adjustment (CVA) intraday calculation, a critical front-office function, enabling cost-effective, almost limitless on-demand computing power.

Driving product innovation

Driving product and business model innovation allows organizations to harness data as a strategic asset, shifting from hindsight to foresight, automating manual processes, delivering personalization to customers, and innovating with new business models, services, products and experiences to differentiate and capture emerging opportunities.

Crédito Agricola considers open banking as a future standard for the financial services industry. The bank’s digital strategy on open banking seeks to leverage the cloud to provide seamless and frictionless interactions that delight their customers, while complying with regulation. Credito Agricola is using Microsoft Azure to deliver open banking capabilities like API management gateway, security and identity, as well as analytics and insights, with plans to extend their core banking services to third-party service providers.

Microsoft is collaborating with The Monetary Authority of Singapore and The Association of Banks in Singapore to support Project Ubin 2, using Azure to explore the use of blockchain for the clearing and settlement of payments and securities, a key milestone in Singapore’s ambition of becoming a Smart Financial Center.

For the financial services industry, a firm’s deliberate and strategic move to the cloud hinges on security, privacy and regulatory compliance. Microsoft is committed to earning the trust of our financial services customers. We engage with regulators in key markets to share information about our services, the related controls and our approach to enabling customer compliance. We also take input from leading banks and insurers across the globe on an ongoing basis to improve our offerings to help meet regulatory requirements. We do all of this to continue building our customers’ trust in cloud technology.

It’s incredible and humbling to be on this transformational journey with so many ambitious digital leaders. Come visit us at booth No. C46 if you’re in Toronto or follow our stories at our press site. You can also join my session at the Innotribe, “Creating Space for Innovation,” on Tuesday, Oct. 17, and see Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella provide the Sibos closing plenary on Thursday, Oct. 19. Satya’s plenary will also be livestreamed here.


Tags: financial services, Sibos

Wanted – GTX 970

Hi all.

I am looking for a GTX 970 4GB after market cooler prefered.

My budget is £125 including delivery seeing as the last one sold here was £115.

Thanks all.

Location: manchester

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Global Ethernet switch market grows 8% in Q2, IDC report says

The Ethernet switch market posted $6.43 billion in sales in the second quarter of 2017, rising 7.8% from the year-earlier period, according to IDC’s latest Worldwide Quarterly Ethernet Switch Tracker and Worldwide Quarterly Router Tracker reports.

The growth in the switch market masked a drop in enterprise router sales, which fell 7.1% during the quarter, as software-defined architectures began to take hold, the IDC report said.

Within the Ethernet segment, IDC said rapid adoption of 25 Gigabit Ethernet top-of-rack switches for cloud and hyperscale data centers spurred a 27.7% decrease in 40 GbE port shipments. Meantime, 100 GbE shipments grew more than sixfold, as enterprises deployed higher-capacity switches. 

IDC saw evidence for a “maturing campus segment” in the 13.6% increase in 1 GbE port shipments. Revenue from 10 GbE switches increased 4.3% over the previous year, reaching $2.24 billion, while port shipments grew by 53.1%, totaling 13.8 million ports shipped in the second quarter.

Geographically, much of the Ethernet switch market growth concentrated in the Middle East and Africa, which, along with East Asia, saw a 16.8% uptick in switch sales. Europe and South America also saw rapid growth, while U.S. sales grew 5%. Japanese switch revenues remained stagnant. 

“Application explosion associated with digital transformation and continued proliferation of cloud buildouts underpinned a strong market performance in [the second quarter of 2017],” said Rohit Mehra, IDC’s vice president for network infrastructure, in a statement. “Solid growth should continue throughout 2017, even as Ethernet switching and routing purchase behavior trends may take some turns.”

Among vendors, Cisco’s Ethernet switch market share dropped from 55.1% to 54.7% in the second quarter. And for enterprise routing, it dropped from 43.9% to 41.2%. Arista Networks, Juniper Networks and Huawei performed well, with Juniper experiencing a 33.2% growth in the second quarter. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) saw a slight decrease in switch revenue, but lost market share, IDC said.

Extreme moves up Brocade IP data unit purchase

Extreme Networks moved up its planned acquisition of Brocade Communications Systems’ data center business, saying it will now complete the $55 million transaction within 30 days.

Extreme originally said it expected to close the deal later this this fall in conjunction with Broadcom Ltd.’s $5.5 billion purchase of Brocade. But a probe by U.S. regulators has delayed that acquisition over concerns about Broadcom’s role as a major supplier of switch silicon. Broadcom and Brocade this week agreed to extend their deadline to complete that transaction.

As part of the deal, Extreme will get Brocade’s line of SLX and VDX switches, SLX and MLX routers and operating system software. Extreme said it expects the transaction will generate $230 million in annualized revenue.

In addition to buying Brocade’s IP networking business, Extreme acquired Avaya’s networking business for $100 million earlier this year.

Purdue University deploys HPE Aruba infrastructure for digital agriculture

Purdue University’s College of Agriculture rolled out a wireless and edge computing network anchored by Aruba and Hewlett Packard Enterprise to capture data about plant growth and food production operations.

The vendors installed a network comprised of Aruba 270 outdoor access points, Aruba 7000 controllers and an HPE Edgeline IoT system across the university’s 1,408-acre Agronomy Center for Research and Education, or ACRE, farm in north-central Indiana. The network captures and returns terabytes of data from sensors, cameras and data input by humans. The aggregated data is then fed back to an HPE supercomputer for processing.

As part of the project, Aruba deployed solar-powered mobile Wi-Fi hot spots, which allow researchers to enter data in the field and transmit it to a chosen application back in the data center. A weather tower provides connectivity to plant-based sensors measuring plant growth.

Data is also transmitted over the Wi-Fi network from a semi-autonomous vehicle and sensor platform, dubbed PhenoRover, which also gathers data from crops.

Gartner tracks changes afoot for CIOs

The end of 2017 through 2018 will mark a turning point for CIOs, as the rapid growth of digital business changes the nature of the CIO’s role. According to a survey Gartner published in conjunction with its ITxpo in Orlando, Fla., CIOs must shift away from serving as IT delivery executives and become business executives.

They must also move away from traditional functions, such as controlling costs and overseeing engineering, as they align more closely with overall business objectives. Up to 95% of CIOs think their job will change as a result of digitalization, the survey said.

CIOs ranked artificial intelligence, internet of things and cybersecurity as the greatest technological challenges, with execs expressing particular concern about finding enough employees with AI experience to meet business goals.

“The CIO’s role must grow and develop as digital business spreads, and disruptive technologies, including intelligent machines and advanced analytics, reach the masses,” said Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice president and analyst at Gartner, in a statement. “While delivery is still a part of the job, much greater emphasis is being placed on attaining a far broader set of business objectives,” he added.

Other results from the study, which tracked the responses from 3,160 CIOs across 98 countries and all major industries, included the following:

  • More than a quarter of CIOs said growth is their biggest priority in 2018.
  • CIOs said they’re spending more time on the business executive elements of their jobs than they did three years ago.
  • Seventy-nine percent said digitalization is making their IT organizations more “change-ready.”

A pair of big companies explain why they jumped on board the Microsoft cloud

microsoft julia white
Microsoft Corporate VP of
Azure Julia White


In the cloud service market, Microsoft finds itself
firmly in second place. 

But in trying to catch up with market leader Amazon, the
tech giant argues it has a distinct advantage — its
long history in the business software game and its
long-established relationships with companies of all sizes.
Microsoft knows how to meet companies’ needs, it argues.

That’s not just an idle boast, if my conversations with Geico and
Dun & Bradstreet are any indication. Both companies recently
turned to Microsoft’s Azure cloud service. And in both cases, the
companies saw distinct benefits to using Azure over rival

“You can tell Microsoft is hungry,” said Pat McDevitt, the chief
technology officer of Dun & Bradstreet, which recently
started experimenting with Azure. “They are doing exactly what
they need to do.”

Azure is in the spotlight this week thanks to Ignite, Microsoft’s
annual developer conference. The company typically uses Ignite to
promote its massive cloud computing platform. At this year’s
Microsoft announced several tools to make it easier for large
companies in particular to use Azure. 

‘Essentially evacuating the data center’

fikri larguet geico
Fikri Larguet, Director of


One big company that’s already embraced Azure is Geico. The
insurance giant began shifting over to Microsoft’s cloud
service about three years ago, said Fikri Larguet, the
company’s director of information technology. Geico’s rationale:
Owning and operating data centers and servers is both expensive
and outside its core area of expertise.

The company, which has more than 38,000 employees, is
“essentially evacuating the data center,” Larguet
said. Geico, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire
Hathaway, has been moving a little bit at a time. But over 50% of
the company’s core business services are already in the cloud and
its goal is to be “full cloud” by 2020, he said.

Larguet said his team has a mandate to “get out of the data
center business as quickly as possible.” 

Geico bet on Azure because Microsoft had already built into its
cloud service the ability to interact with lots of different
applications. That made it a smooth process for Geico
to bring over its existing software, Larguet said. Similar
support for newer tools and technologies also made it easier
for Geico to add on things like software containers, a trendy new
Silicon Valley technology for building large-scale apps. 

 The biggest challenge Geico’s faced hasn’t been technical,
Larguet said. As the team tries to adjust to a post-data center
era, Larguet is trying to teach the team to “fail fast” and
be unafraid of trying new things. For him, this is a chance for a
fresh start in the software organization. 

“We don’t want to carry over our bad habits,” he said.

‘We don’t need to be bleeding edge’

dun bradstreet cto pat mcdevitt
Dun & Bradstreet CTO
Pat McDevitt

Dun &

Dun & Bradstreet, a firm that’s provided data and analytics
to businesses since 1841, is taking its cloud migration a little
more slowly. 

The firm “doesn’t need to be a pioneer, doesn’t need to be
bleeding edge,” McDevitt, its CTO, said. Dun & Bradstreet
has been around the better part of two centuries; it can
afford to experiment with the cloud rather than rushing to push
everything over to it right away. And the firm has been
experimenting; it moved over some key applications to Amazon
Web Services a few years ago.

About three months ago, though, the firm started
experimenting with Azure. What appealed to Dun & Bradstreet
were Microsoft’s tools for managing data. Those tools make it
easy for companies to build cloud-based applications that
read and write from their existing databases. With them, the
firm could more quickly build mobile apps and other new-wave

McDevitt asked one of the firm’s development teams in Austin
to test Azure by using it to build a new mobile app for Dun &
Bradstreet’s clients. Although these developers’ past experience
was primarily with Amazon’s cloud service, they found it so easy
to work with Azure that they finished ahead of schedule. 

And Azure offered the firm an another benefit.
Because Microsoft has embraced technology like Docker
software containers and the Linux operating system, Azure
integrated better with Dun & Bradstreet’s existing
systems than McDevitt had first thought. Originally, the
firm was going to use Azure just for new apps. Now the firm
is considering using it for older apps also, he said. 

Microsoft worked really hard to win his business, McDevitt

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

Facebook, IBM, Microsoft collaboration developments released

Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Zoho turned to their market strengths this week to try to stand out in the crowded field of vendors building cloud-based platforms for team collaboration in the workplace.

Microsoft announced at its Ignite developer conference in Orlando, Fla.,  that it would slowly replace Skype for Business Online with its Teams user interface, making the latter the core communications client for Office 365 — the online business productivity suite with 60 million commercial customers. Analysts expect the online version of business Skype to disappear by 2020.

A key advantage Microsoft has over competitors is the significant number of businesses using the Office 365 suite. Having everything in the same package makes it easier for companies to deploy individual products enterprise-wide, analysts said.

Many collaboration vendors have struggled to make companywide deals, but Facebook showed the advantage of having a social network used by billions of people. Facebook said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. planned to roll out across its workforce the business version of the social network, called Workplace. The retail giant has 2.3 million employees worldwide.

“Both Workplace by Facebook and Microsoft Teams are positioning themselves as solutions best suited for companywide deployments,” said Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research, based in Cupertino, Calif.

The Teams and business Skype merger trims the Microsoft collaboration portfolio from four to three products. The remainders include Yammer and Office 365 Groups. The consolidation will make the product line less confusing, analysts said.

IBM leans on Watson

IBM is another collaboration provider going after enterprise-wide deals. To differentiate itself from rivals, IBM has integrated its cloud-based cognitive computing platform, Watson, with its Workspace group-messaging client.

Both Workplace by Facebook and Microsoft Teams are positioning themselves as solutions best suited for companywide deployments.
Alan Lepofskyanalyst at Constellation Research

This week, IBM released Watson-powered analytics that organizes Workspace group posts into categories, so people can find shared information faster. The features had been available only as a technology preview.

Finally, Zoho gave its suite of cloud-based productivity software a boost with the integration of a team-messaging app the company called Cliq. The software provides features that are standard with the genre, such as group chat, file sharing, and audio and video calling.

In general, the announcements this week showed each vendor delivering a product stamped with technology that leveraged individual strengths. “[But] at the end of the day, it comes down to which platform is going to be easiest to use and which platform you can trust, ” said Jon Arnold, an independent analyst and strategy consultant based in Toronto.

Rework America Task Force

Diverse Cross-Sector Workforce Leaders Join Together to Transform America’s Labor Market to a 21st Century, Skills-Driven Model

Partnership of leaders of business, technology, labor, academic and policy communities, will work with America’s employers, workers, job seekers, and educators in urgent effort to disrupt the labor market and provide good jobs.

New York, NY, September 27, 2017 – Stepping up to the challenge of including all Americans in the opportunities of the digital economy, the Markle Foundation announced today the formation of the Rework America Task Force (Rework America), a coalition of influential leaders with diverse backgrounds and experience who have joined together in service of modernizing the nation’s outdated labor market and unlocking economic opportunity for American job seekers, workers, and businesses.

Rework America is chaired by Denis McDonough, former White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama, and includes members from some of the world’s leading organizations and institutions – including Siemens USA, Microsoft Corp., IBM, Princeton University, Hearsay Systems, the Walmart Foundation and Coursera. The Markle Foundation Advisory Board – chaired by Zoë Baird, CEO and President of the Markle Foundation; with vice chairs Mitch Daniels, former Governor of Indiana and current President of Purdue University, and Penny Pritzker, Chairman, PSP Capital and Pritzker Realty Group; and members James Manyika, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company; Dr. Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation; Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer; and Lisa Garcia Quiroz, Chief Diversity Officer & Senior Vice President, Time Warner, Inc. – will work closely with Rework America, providing counsel and feedback.

The goal of Rework America is to fix America’s broken labor market. Across the country, six-million-plus jobs are unfilled because employers can’t find skilled workers, yet millions of Americans with in-demand skills, or job seekers who are capable of getting those skills, are unemployed or underemployed. Rework America seeks comprehensive reform toward a skills-based labor market which includes training workers over the course of their lives in the skills that employers need to compete in the 21st-century economy.

The task force will seek to use the same digital technology that is disrupting the economy today to rewire the labor market; connecting relevant stakeholders, trainers and educators, and bringing new clarity and transparency to the job-search process so workers develop in-demand skills. Rework America will highlight successful existing training programs and deploy new training experiments to create practical solutions that will transform America’s labor market from one based largely on traditional credentials, such as degrees and work history, to one rooted in the skills valued in the digital economy.

“Too many Americans are being left behind by the changes brought about by globalization and technology,” said Zoë Baird, CEO and President of the Markle Foundation. “Workers deserve good jobs, solid career paths, and income growth. At the same time, American businesses deserve a skilled workforce, ready for the new, digital economy. The system wasn’t going to change on its own, so we’ve brought together some of the boldest leaders of all perspectives to tackle this challenge head-on.

“Redesigning the labor market is an ambitious challenge, but we have revolutionary tools at our disposal – digital technologies that have emerged as powerful, transformative forces in our economy,” Zoë Baird added. “’Big Data’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ aren’t buzzwords. They have already had a profound effect on how we do business, and we believe that they can have an equally large impact on how we train workers, and how we connect Americans with opportunity.”

“The digital transformation we are living through today is historic, and our response needs to be equally as historic,” said Judy Marks, CEO, Siemens USA, and a Rework America member. “A labor market that was designed in the 20th century to prioritize four-year degrees and work histories is no longer sufficient to keep up with the fast-changing skills necessary to perform the digital jobs of the 21st century. We need to use technology to better align the skills of our workforce to the needs of employers, helping all stakeholders rethink, retool, and revitalize the ways we connect job seekers to open positions. This work is vital for our future, and that’s why I am eager to join the Rework America Task Force.”

Rework America builds on the success of the Markle Foundation’s Skillful initiative, which is transforming businesses as well as the lives of job seekers and workers in Colorado. Established in 2016 as a partnership between Governor John Hickenlooper and the state of Colorado, LinkedIn, and others, Skillful provides data, tools, and resources that enable businesses to define the exact skills they seek, and turn those insights into a skills-based hiring process that allows workers to demonstrate and articulate the skills that they can bring to an organization. Recently, Microsoft invested more than $25 million in Markle to expand Skillful’s model in Colorado, expand to another state, and support Rework America.

Rework America’s cross-sector, non-partisan approach will focus on systems integration – pulling together, and leveraging currently-existing resources in a more effective manner in order to create new tools and business models to better serve the entire labor ecosystem. The task force will consist of small groups, drawing on each member’s expertise. The task force will deliver its recommendations to key stakeholders and create a path from idea to feedback, to policy and action.

“The current labor market fails job seekers, workers, and businesses,” said Denis McDonough, Chair of the Rework America Task Force. “Many workers have the skills employers are looking for to fill open positions, but don’t know it because too many job listings are written in a way that excludes qualified job seekers rather than attracting them. They use credentials like a four-year degree as a proxy instead of listing the actual skills needed to work a job – which is a problem, since nearly seven in 10 Americans don’t have a four-year degree but many have the relevant skills. And our research has found that a middle skilled worker in Colorado could apply for substantially more jobs – and with a $7,000 higher average salary – if jobs with credential gaps reflected today’s workforce as opposed to requirements for a college degree.

“The Rework America Task Force is ideally suited to help rethink and redesign the American labor market to benefit us all,” Denis McDonough added. “This is a group of proven leaders who have come together to serve as an incubator for fresh ideas, inform state and national-level policy discussions, and develop real-world solutions to build a smarter, modern labor market – over both the short-term and long-term.”

The Rework America Task Force is supported, to date, by Carnegie Corporation; the Markle Foundation, Microsoft Philanthropies, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

About Markle
The Markle Foundation works to realize the potential of information technology as a breakthrough tool for some of the nation’s most challenging problems. Working as an operating foundation, Markle has participated in partnerships to create policy and technology architecture that has enabled improvements in healthcare, national security, and access to the Internet. Markle’s priority today is to provide Americans with access to good jobs and enable people to prepare for today’s rapidly changing digital economy, as articulated in its book America’s Moment. For more information, visit markle.org, and follow @MarkleFdn and @ReworkAmerica onTwitter.

Markle Media Contact: Leah Johnson
212-713-7632 or [email protected]

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Huawei wants to grow public cloud market share

Huawei wants to gain public cloud market share and become a dominant public cloud provider, according to Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis in Sterling, Va. At its annual Huawei Connect event, the Chinese vendor laid out its plans to grow public cloud market share to compete directly with Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM. However, as Shimmin noted, Huawei’s plan is not to dominate in the same way as its competitors — instead the vendor aims to create an open platform that interoperates with other clouds.

Huawei will initially focus its attention on growing public cloud market share among telcos and in its home market, with clients such as China Telecom and China Central TV. Shimmin doubts that Huawei can match other hyperscale cloud providers in scope and scale. Although the vendor recently launched Huawei Enterprise Intelligence AI, Shimmin still sees Huawei’s machine learning ranking far behind the AI capabilities of its competitors. “In my opinion, where Huawei is most likely to succeed with its cloud play is in helping partners and customers apply Huawei’s significant hardware expertise to trenchant problems like cross-cloud security, AI-scale hardware and IoT edge computing,” Shimmin said.

Read more of Shimmin’s thoughts on Huawei.

Achieving container workload performance

Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said instead of fretting over competition between containers, virtual machines (VMs) and serverless machines, professionals need to focus on the architecture of new applications. Many emerging applications are geared for microservices and depend on new infrastructure to scale and interoperate.

In Conde’s view, what really matters with containers and similar technologies is the performance of the workload, not how the workload is actually run. Having choices is vital — even if it means mixing and matching containers and VMs. The traditional system of underlying platforms and operating systems has been displaced by a much more complicated set of services such as Cassandra, NATS or Apache Spark; cloud platforms; and lower-level offerings such as Apache Mesos or Red Hat OpenShift. “The old notion of a highly curated platform as a service (PaaS) is effectively dead because developers demand choices and the world is changing too rapidly to choose a narrow path. …The analogy would be the five-year plans of the old planned economies. The current world is too dynamic to go down such a narrow path,” Conde said.

Dig deeper into Conde’s thoughts on container workload performance.

Cisco emphasizes LISP for enterprise campuses

Ivan Pepelnjak, writing in ipSpace, responded to questions he received from readers asking why Cisco was pushing LISP instead of EVPN for VXLAN-based enterprise systems. While Pepelnjak admitted that he wasn’t certain of the exact reasons, he suggested that Cisco and a few other large vendors still see a need for large Layer 2 domains. “It looks like the networking industry is in another lemming rush. Everyone is rolling out VXLAN to solve large VLAN challenges, or even replacing MPLS with VXLAN for L3VPN deployments,” Pepelnjak said.

He added that every large vendor is deploying EVPN as a control plane for VXLAN, including Cumulus Networks, Juniper Networks, Cisco and Arista Networks. According to Pepelnjak, LISP is a system searching for a problem that Cisco has chosen to deploy as an additional control plane, without any technical factors driving the decision.

Read more of Pepelnjak’s thoughts on LISP.

Microsoft Surface PCs Gain Ground in the Enterprise

Despite some early stumbles, Microsoft’s decision to enter the PC hardware market appears to be paying off.

The Redmond, Wash. technology giant trails just behind Apple in the business PC laptop and desktop market, according to a Spiceworks survey of nearly 1,000 IT professionals in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Three of percent of organizations use Microsoft-branded PC compared to the four percent that use Apple Macs.

“Since jumping into the hardware market with its Surface line, Microsoft has had success making inroads into the tablet and 2-in-1 market,” Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks, told eWEEK. “Many IT pros praised the hardware’s sleek design, powerful specs in a highly-portable package, and ability to run Windows, which allows employees to be productive while giving IT departments management flexibility.”

The Surface Pro, for example, offers corporate IT buyers a blend of premium packaging and powerful processors. Add long-lasting battery life to the equation and business travelers can legitimately get work done on a cross-country or trans-Atlantic flight.

Further reading

For Microsoft’s hardware ambitions, it also helps that the company is branching out beyond the 2-in-1 form factor. “In the last couple of years, Microsoft has expanded its Surface lineup to include sleek and powerful laptops and all-in-one desktops, providing more options for IT departments that liked Surface tablets and 2-in-1s, but didn’t think they were a good fit for all users,” Tsai noted.

In 2015, the company unveiled its first-ever laptop, the Surface Book. Challenging Apple’s MacBook Pro, the device features a detachable, touch- and stylus-enabled tablet with a graphical power boost provided by an optional discrete GPU (graphical processing unit) subsystem from Nvidia.

To court creative professionals, Microsoft last year launched the high-end Surface Studio all-in-one PC with a high-resolution 28-inch display that folds down to provide users with a drafting table-like experience when they put their Surface Pen stylus to the screen. This spring, in an education-themed media event in New York City, the company took the wraps off the Surface Laptop.

For technology executives who are well served by Microsoft’s software and cloud services offerings, entrusting their PC hardware needs to the company isn’t much of a stretch. “And with the success of Windows 10 and Microsoft Azure, perhaps more IT departments are now willing to give Microsoft hardware a try,” concluded Tsai.

Microsoft is well positioned to capitalize on the momentum, for the near future at least. Over the next 12 months, 15 percent of organizations plan to increase their investments in Microsoft Surface PCs compared to 8 percent for Apple laptops and PCs.

Of course, Microsoft has quite a lot of ground to cover before it can catch up to market leaders Dell and Hewlett Packard (HP).

Dell currently commands nearly half (47 percent) of the business PC market, according to the Spiceworks study. HP ranks second with 21 percent and Lenovo comes in third with 14 percent followed by Apple. Over the next 12 months, organizations plan to increase their spending on Dell and HP PCs by 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Streaming video platforms see surge in healthcare market

Streaming video has great potential in the healthcare market as that industry becomes more digital, according to Wainhouse Research analyst Alan Greenberg.

Streaming video platforms for one-to-many communications — such as live streaming, recorded and archived content — are gaining relevance in healthcare services. The platforms offer a variety of real-time and on-demand use cases, including clinical care, training and patient education, Greenberg wrote in a blog. The industry is also seeing an emerging use case with microlearning content, such as short recordings describing how to use a technology or device.

Greenberg said healthcare organizations should focus on a positive user experience and the technology behind the platform that will meet user and organizational needs. Streaming video platforms should include elements such as scalability for long recorded sessions and an increasing number of users, as well as platform performance behind and across firewalls.

“How users interact with the front end of a technology can make or break a deployment,” he said.

Healthcare organizations should keep Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations top of mind when deploying streaming video platforms, particularly if patients are identified in video content. Greenberg said organizations should heed policy procedures and approaches to user authentication and access.

Read more about the other factors Greenberg said are important to a successful streaming video platform deployment.

AI capabilities boost customer experience

Artificial intelligence (AI) may still be new, but the technology is already having a measurable effect on customer support, according to Forrester Research analyst Kate Leggett.

Organizations can use AI capabilities for presale customer service to offer support before customers make a purchase. The capabilities allow customer service to intervene through a chat or co-browsing invitation at points of struggle or abandonment such as checkout or session inactivity.

Organizations can also intervene at points best suited for customers to accept coupons or additional advice, Leggett wrote in a blog. This is accomplished through analytics and intent models that determine the best outcomes and is refined over time through machine learning.

AI capabilities can help organizations increase customer engagement through onboarding activities such as customer activation or predicting customer satisfaction. Organizations are also starting to use real-time satisfaction predictors to anticipate issues or identify customers who require attention, she said.

Algorithms calculate satisfaction scores based on attributes such as wait times, reply times and incident details, and AI capabilities can decide what escalation action to take based on the score.

Read more about how Leggett said AI capabilities help organizations build customer trust after the sale.

How to choose the right mobile device

New mobile devices are always entering the market, and organizations might struggle to decide which devices are right for them. Blue Hill Research analyst Charlotte O’Donnelly and Mobi brand journalist Matt Louden discussed the factors that organizations should consider when evaluating mobile devices.

Organizations should assess the native security of a mobile device. A remote data wipe capability should be available in case a device is lost or stolen in order to prevent the loss of sensitive information. Enterprise mobile devices should manage data transfers securely and enforce adequate encryption controls, O’Donnelly and Louden wrote in a blog.

IT must also be prepared to support new devices, particularly around procurement and device management tasks. Organizations should make sure devices align with their mobility program strategy before deploying them, they said.

Organizations should also evaluate HTML5-compatible devices. HTML5 is a program-agnostic development language that lets users access apps that work across any device type.

Read more about the other factors O’Donnelly and Louden said should be included in an evaluation of mobile devices.

Google Chrome Enterprise adds management options

Chromebooks have found success in the education market and now Google is aiming to bring the Chrome OS to the enterprise with a suite of new features and security options.

Google Chrome Enterprise offers many of the same benefits as consumer Chrome OS, like automatic updates, but adds options such as 24/7 support from Google, management tools for the Google Play Store and Chrome extensions, and a new partnership with VMware allowing the use of VMware Workspace ONE as “the first third-party solution provider to manage Chrome devices.”

Sharon Vardi, CMO at Prevoty, the application security company based in Los Angeles, said Google Chrome Enterprise opening up to enterprise mobility management (EMM) partners was a big step.

“Up until now, only Google and a few other cloud services were able to design, implement and apply configuration and security policies for these devices and none were really enterprise ready,” Vardi told SearchSecurity. “Now with both the Active Directory integration and VMware integration, policing these devices becomes a much easier task whether they are owned by the enterprise or if they are personal devices that employees bring to the office and add to the network.”

Craig Young, computer security researcher for Tripwire’s Vulnerability and Exposures Research Team, said Google Chrome Enterprise could be a good option for “certain organizations looking for a locked down yet enterprise friendly computing platform.” 

“Chrome OS itself is based around Gentoo Linux and benefits heavily from Google’s heavy investments in security. Google has generally been on the cutting edge of vulnerability research particularly related to identifying memory safety issues, and I think they have done a lot of work to harden all components of Chrome OS,” Young told SearchSecurity. “Chrome OS is also backed by a standing bounty of $100K for anyone who can demonstrate an exploit chain yielding a persistent device compromise. Google also enables researchers with grants to perform security research as well as provides Google scale computing resources.”

In addition to the security of Google Chrome Enterprise, Vardi said the Active Directory integration should sway some IT staff.

“The one big problem this does solve that also ties into security is IT fragmentation in the enterprise with devices on the network that the enterprise has no control over and cannot be controlled via traditional CMDBs [configuration management databases] or EDR [enterprise data replication] solutions,” Vardi said. “With the announcement of their Active Directory integration for identity and access management of Chrome OS devices [this] is a big step forward to allowing these types of devices to be accepted on enterprise networks.”

Google Chrome Enterprise with Android apps

Although Google said not all Chromebooks will support the Play Store, even with a Chrome Enterprise license, the addition of Android apps to Chrome OS has been somewhat controversial. Some have said the addition of Android apps extends the functionality of Chrome OS, while others claim it could hurt Chrome’s appeal as a “thin client”.

Young said Chrome OS had also suffered from risks of “abuse from third-party content,” especially given security issues surrounding Chrome extensions, which Young said “can be extremely dangerous given their ability to read from and inject content into arbitrary web sessions.” 

“It looks like Chrome Enterprise could make strides to alleviate this concern for network administrators by providing managed Play Store and extensions,” Young said. “I’m not sure exactly what this will look like in practice, but my hope would be that an organization could configure their Chrome Enterprise stores to automatically install certain apps and deploy specific settings as well as also give users the ability to select and install pre-approved third-party content.”

Ultimately, Young said, Google Chrome Enterprise “could be a really ideal environment for an organization like a hospital where staff members currently use laptops, ultrabooks, or tablets to input data into clinical web or desktop applications. In addition to security benefits, Chromebooks can provide benefits in terms of operating expense and mobility.”