Tag Archives: different

Cloud computing technology for 2018: Transform or die

Cloud computing technology is creating business opportunities so radically new and different that they can be built only if we junk much of what we know, how we operate and even how we think — everywhere in the enterprise, not just within IT. In other words, transform or die.

That was the emphatic, no-nonsense message delivered by Ashish Mohindroo, vice president of Oracle Cloud, and Bill Taylor, co-founder and founding editor of Fast Company magazine. They spoke at the Boston stop of the 2017-2018 Oracle Cloud Day roadshow in November.

Legacy data centers won’t help, said Mohindroo. Neither will recreating on-premises complexity in the cloud. It’s time to think in new ways, as is typified by Uber and Lyft redefining transportation and Airbnb transforming the hospitality industry.

Bill Taylor at Oracle Cloud Day

During a time of disruption, don’t let what you know limit what you can imagine, warned Taylor, giving a combination of scared-straight and do-it-now-or-else advice to an audience of about 400 IT professionals.

Generational shift

IT is currently in the midst of a once-every-20-years tectonic shift, according to Mohindroo. The most recent, the 1990s shift from client/server computing to the internet, is now being supplanted by the transition to cloud computing. The upheaval is far-reaching and impossible to avoid.

“No industry is immune,” Mohindroo said, citing key cloud computing technology drivers that include artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, autonomous software, the internet of things and advances in human interface design.

A potentially debilitating problem that businesses face today is that existing legacy IT infrastructures and strategies were not built to leverage new technologies, support new business models, offer adequate control and do it all quickly. Traditional data centers, Mohindroo said, were constructed in a siloed manner, built for maximum capacity and peak loads, but not designed to be elastic, integrated or flexible.

Complicating matters is that each siloed service doesn’t talk to others and may have been built to differing standards. Integrating them can be difficult when incompatible standards, including authentication, database design or communications protocols, get in the way.

Though Mohindroo’s presentation eventually led into a sales pitch for Oracle’s cloud computing technology platforms, the underlying message was vendor neutral and clear: For businesses to exist, they must undergo a cloud transformation consisting of essential foundational services: data as a service (DaaS), software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Those services, he said, need to be based on open technologies and standards, including SQL and NoSQL databases.

Six journey paths

Oracle defines six distinct pathways into the cloud. Each offers differing appeal depending on the age of the company, its compute workload and compliance mandates, among other factors. The six options include the following:

  • Optimize an existing on-premises data center with plans to migrate later.
  • Install a complete cloud infrastructure on premises behind the corporate firewall. The advantages of this are behind-the-firewall security and a pay-as-you-go model for usage.
  • Move existing workloads into a cloud infrastructure with minimal optimization, often referred to as lift and shift. Mohindroo said the key challenge with this popular scenario is dealing with less-than-optimal I/O bottlenecks.
  • Create all new, cloud-resident applications, developed using PaaS and IaaS technology, to fully replace outmoded legacy applications. DaaS replaces the legacy on-premises database. Advantages of this model include the availability of a wide variety of open source languages and services for application development, data management, analytics and integration, along with support for virtual machines, containerization for portability and Kubernetes for orchestration.

    “The whole concept behind this is to make it easy for you to run your business,” Mohindroo said.

    One way to utilize this option is through Oracle’s advanced AI and machine learning cloud technology. For example, Oracle offers an autonomous database that Mohindroo claims is self-running — managed, patched and tuned in real time without human intervention.

  • Replace the core legacy application base with subscription-based, third-party SaaS counterparts. Similar to option four, this model offers application development tools for customization, along with the same AI and machine learning technology.
  • Choose a born-in-the-cloud model, which would be the logical choice for new companies that have no legacy IT operation or applications, Mohindroo said.

Change the way you think

Mohindroo’s presentation was crafted to deliver a purely cloud computing technology message.

Taylor’s talk, which largely avoided tech speak, still targeted IT managers, application developers and operations personnel, saying their collective efforts can benefit from understanding the human side of the user experience. To do that, he said, requires becoming fully immersed in every nuance of what it means to be a customer.

Taylor suggested that IT employees expand their view beyond the technology.

Are you … learning as fast as the world is changing?
Bill Taylorcofounder and founding editor, Fast Company magazine

“Are you determined to make sure that what you know doesn’t limit what you can imagine going forward?” he said. “Are you … learning as fast as the world is changing?”

Taylor’s message can be taken two ways: Gain insight into the people who use the cloud applications you build or learn about each new cloud computing technology and programming language or risk being left behind.

Taylor cited San Antonio-based USAA, the financial services company that serves military families, as an example of a leader in technology-driven disruption that immerses every employee — even highly skilled application developers — in understanding the customer experience. USAA gives new employees a packet called a virtual overseas deployment. The idea is to spend a day role-playing as a member of the Army Reserve or National Guard suddenly called up to active duty.

“You’ve got four weeks to get your financial affairs together,” Taylor said.

The exercise forces the role-player to go through credit card statements, bank statements, life insurance and car payments — all to help USAA employees understand what their customers need.

“They’re not early adopters of technology because they love technology per se; it’s because they’re so committed to their identity in the sense of impacting customers in their marketplace,” Taylor said. 

Quorum OnQ solves Amvac Chemical’s recovery problem

Using a mix of data protection software, hardware and cloud services from different vendors, Amvac Chemical Corp. found itself in a cycle of frustration. Backups failed at night, then had to be rerun during the day, and that brought the network to a crawl.

The Los Angeles-based company found its answer with Quorum’s one-stop backup and disaster recovery appliances. Quorum OnQ’s disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) combines appliances that replicate across sites with cloud services.

The hardware appliances are configured in a hub-and-spoke model with an offsite data center colocation site. The appliances perform full replication to the cloud that backs up data after hours.

“It might be overkill, but it works for us,” said Rainier Laxamana, Amvac’s director of information technology.

Quorum OnQ may be overkill, but Amvac’s previous system underwhelmed. Previously, Amvac’s strategy consisted of disk backup to early cloud services to tape. But the core problem remained: failed backups. The culprit was the Veritas Backup Exec applications that the Veritas support team, while still part of Symantec, could not explain. A big part of the Backup Exec problem was application support.

“The challenge was that we had different versions of an operating system,” Laxamana said. “We had legacy versions of Windows servers so they said [the backup application] didn’t work well with other versions.

“We were repeating backups throughout the day and people were complaining [that the network] was slow. We repeated backups because they failed at night. That slowed down the network during the day.”

We kept tapes at Iron Mountain, but it became very expensive so we brought it on premises.
Rainier Laxamanadirector of information technology, Amvac

Quorum OnQ provides local and remote instant recovery for servers, applications and data. The Quorum DRaaS setup combines backup, deduplication, replication, one-click recovery, automated disaster recovery testing and archiving. Quorum claims OnQ is “military-grade” because it was developed for U.S. Naval combat systems and introduced into the commercial market in 2010.

Amvac develops crop protection chemicals for agricultural and commercial purposes. The company has a worldwide workforce of more than 400 employees in eight locations, including a recently opened site in the Netherlands. Quorum OnQ protects six sites, moving data to the main data center. Backups are done during the day on local appliances. After hours, the data is replicated to a DR site and then to another DR site hosted by Quorum.

“After the data is replicated to the DR site, the data is replicated again to our secondary DR site, which is our biggest site,” Laxamana said. “Then the data is replicated to the cloud. So the first DR location is our co-located data center and the secondary DR our largest location. The third is the cloud because we use Quorum’s DRaaS.”

Amvac’s previous data protection configuration included managing eight physical tape libraries.

“It was not fun managing it,” Laxamana said. “And when we had legal discovery, we had to go through 10 years of data. We kept tapes at Iron Mountain, but it became very expensive so we brought it on premises.”

Laxamana said he looked for a better data protection system for two years before finding Quorum. Amvac looked at Commvault but found it too expensive and not user-friendly enough. Laxamana and his team also looked at Unitrends. At the time, Veeam Software only supported virtual machines, and Amvac needed to protect physical servers. Laxamana said Unitrends was the closest that he found to Quorum OnQ.

“The biggest (plus) with Quorum was that the interface was much more user-friendly,” he said. “It’s more integrated. With Unitrends, you need a third party to integrate the Microsoft Exchange.”

Announcing the Skype Professional Account Preview—doing business online made easy

People use Skype for lots of different things: chatting with friends and family, of course, but also giving music lessons, tutoring, consulting, and a whole lot more. We’re thrilled to announce that very soon these business owners and instructors are going to see some big changes with the way they use Skype.

The Skype Professional Account desktop client, soon to be released in preview in the U.S., adds powerful new features to Skype to make doing your online business a whole lot easier. In addition to meeting with your clients as you have been on Skype, you can also book those meetings, accept payments, and keep notes—all in one place.

If you’re a language or music teacher who works online—or a personal trainer, or a chess instructor, or any one of hundreds of other remote service providers—you’re probably using a combination of different platforms to organize and give sessions across Skype. You might use email to arrange a Skype call, calendar software to manage your Skype meeting schedule, and a third-party provider to coordinate and accept online payments. And you might be paying a pretty penny for some of these services.

Skype Professional Account gives you the power to do all that from one app for free during the preview. From French tutors to yoga instructors, you’ll be able to book lessons, accept payments, and give lessons all from one place, seamlessly. Plus, we’ve added an enhanced profile page to help improve your online presence and a dedicated website for your small business right in Skype. Your contacts will be able to see pertinent info like your hours and business offerings.

A laptop displays an instructor using Skype Professional Account. The image is accompanied by a screenshot.

All the features work together. For example, a payment request can be sent along with a booking. You’ll also be able to see all your notes without leaving the app. In addition, you’ll be able to easily port your contacts over to the Skype Professional Account Preview desktop client while your customers and clients continue to use their familiar Skype app to work with you.

As for your customers, in addition to searching for friends and groups they want on Skype, they’ll be able to find businesses as well. That means they can now look for the kind of professional they want to work with—maybe a financial planner in their time zone with over ten years of experience, or a career coach who’s worked in the healthcare industry.

Skype Professional Account will make it easier for thousands of service providers to connect with their customers and conduct their business—all in one place. We have limited spots available for the preview. Fill out a survey by visiting the Skype Professional Account homepage to have the opportunity to join. By the way, we’re busy working hard on several other exciting features we want to add to this app, so stay tuned for updates.

Check out what violin teacher Laurel Thomsen has to say about Skype Professional Account. Laurel was one of our early adopters who participated in the alpha program for Skype Professional Account.

We look forward to hearing your feedback in the Skype Community.

Bad Rabbit ransomware data recovery may be possible

Two different security research firms uncovered important information about the Bad Rabbit ransomware attacks, including the motives and a possible way to recover data without paying.

A threat research team from FireEye found a connection between the Bad Rabbit ransomware and “Backswing,” which FireEye described as a “malicious JavaScript profiling framework.” According to the researchers, Backswing has been seen in use in the wild since September 2016 and recently some sites harboring the framework were redirecting to Bad Rabbit distribution URLs.

“Malicious profilers allow attackers to obtain more information about potential victims before deploying payloads (in this case, the Bad Rabbit ‘flash update’ dropper),” FireEye researchers wrote. “The distribution of sites compromised with Backswing suggest a motivation other than financial gain. FireEye observed this framework on compromised Turkish sites and Montenegrin sites over the past year. We observed a spike of Backswing instances on Ukrainian sites, with a significant increase in May 2017. While some sites hosting Backswing do not have a clear strategic link, the pattern of deployment raises the possibility of a strategic sponsor with specific regional interests.”

Researchers added that using Backswing to gather information on targets and the growing number of malicious websites containing the framework could point to “a considerable footprint the actors could leverage in future attacks.”

Bad Rabbit ransomware recovery

Meanwhile, researchers from Kaspersky Lab discovered flaws in the Bad Rabbit ransomware that could give victims a chance to recover encrypted data without paying the ransom.

The Kaspersky team wrote in a blog post that early reports that the Bad Rabbit ransomware leaked the encryption key were false, but the team did find a flaw in the code where the malware doesn’t wipe the generated password from memory, leaving a slim chance to extract it before the process terminates.

However, the team also detailed an easier way to potentially recover files.

“We have discovered that Bad Rabbit does not delete shadow copies after encrypting the victim’s files,” Kaspersky researchers wrote. “It means that if the shadow copies had been enabled prior to infection and if the full disk encryption did not occur for some reason, then the victim can restore the original versions of the encrypted files by the means of the standard Windows mechanism or 3rd-party utilities.”

Wanted – Cheap desktop

How about an HP Elite 8300 MT in great condition?

Can offer it in two different configurations:
Ivy Bridge Celeron G1610 (Dual core, 2.6GHz)
6GB DDR3
500GB WD Blue HDD
nvidia Quadro 600 GPU (Displayport and DVI)
Windows 7 64bit Home Premium CoA
£100 + £15 delivery

or
Ivy Bridge Core i5 3570K (Quad core, 3.4GHz, 3.8GHz boost)
6GB DDR3
500GB WD Blue HDD
nvidia Quadro 600 GPU (Displayport and DVI)
Windows 7 64bit Home Premium CoA
£165 + £15 delivery

Payment via BT or PPG

Azure powers the industrial Internet

We know that every business is different, but the cloud is foundational to digital transformation. We’re proud that Azure has been at the forefront of helping companies across industries transform. Today, Satya Nadella is sharing the stage with GE’s CEO at Minds + Machines to talk about GE’s transformation and how we’re partnering to help customers around the world accelerate their own transformation.

As we think about the industrial companies of the future, we know there is a huge opportunity to gain insights that will have true business impact. Connecting industrial assets to the cloud enables the creation of a digital feedback loop that helps customers to unlock actionable intelligence from machinery and equipment like wind turbines, jet engines and refrigeration systems.

The industrial internet is changing the way businesses fundamentally operate. We believe that IoT is not a technology revolution, but a business revolution enabled by technology. Think about the advantages of being able to predict when equipment failure might happen and getting in front of it versus dealing with the consequences. It directly impacts the bottom line if you can avoid unplanned downtime, extend equipment life, increase production value and generate higher yields.

At Microsoft, we believe in customer choice and enabling a rich ecosystem of offerings for our customers. In that spirit, we’re pleased to announce that starting November 30, GE’s Predix platform will be available on Azure – the leading cloud for enterprises. This enables Predix to take advantage of Azure’s differentiated capabilities, from enterprise-grade security, to more regions worldwide, to a larger compliance portfolio, to national clouds for the highest level of data sovereignty, to industry leading hybrid capabilities – and more.

We’re committed to helping businesses of all sizes realize their full potential, so customers interested in learning more about our partnership with GE, please contact Erik Sevenants, director of partner development at Microsoft.

Wanted – Cheap desktop

How about an HP Elite 8300 MT in great condition?

Can offer it in two different configurations:
Ivy Bridge Celeron G1610 (Dual core, 2.6GHz)
6GB DDR3
500GB WD Blue HDD
nvidia Quadro 600 GPU (Displayport and DVI)
Windows 7 64bit Home Premium CoA
£100 + £15 delivery

or
Ivy Bridge Core i5 3570K (Quad core, 3.4GHz, 3.8GHz boost)
6GB DDR3
500GB WD Blue HDD
nvidia Quadro 600 GPU (Displayport and DVI)
Windows 7 64bit Home Premium CoA
£165 + £15 delivery

Payment via BT or PPG