Tag Archives: help

Meet Lucas Joppa, the man on a mission to save the planet by democratizing AI – Microsoft News Center India

Can mankind’s greatest technological advancements help solve the biggest ecological challenges facing planet earth? Can technology help accelerate biodiversity conservation? Can it predict global warming to reduce the potential impact? Can it help conserve fresh water? Can it help achieve global food security? These are some of the existential questions that have kept Lucas Joppa awake at night for more than a decade.

Today, as the first Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft, Joppa leads AI for Earth, a five-year, $50 million global program that blends ecological science and cutting-edge AI to solve some of the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges. We caught up with him to learn more about the program, his experience with technology interventions for environmental advancement, and his vision of deploying AI to advance sustainability across the globe. Here are some edited excerpts from our conversation.

You’ve a PhD in Ecology and have worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. This is not exactly a profile of someone who’d be working at a technology company. How did you decide to join Microsoft?

My educational background is in environmental studies. After completing my undergraduate degree in Wildlife Ecology, I spent time in the Peace Corps working for Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Then I did my PhD in Ecology. What all the work on the environment side taught me was just how serious environmental issues really are.

The science shows the seriousness of the issues, but the work also highlighted just how monumental the task is actually going to be, to find our way to sustainable solutions where the human species can exist in a more sustainable manner, with the rest of the life on earth. As soon as I began to truly realize the enormity of the challenge, I started panicking a little like everyone does. But it also got me thinking that there’s got to be some way to get out ahead.

I began to see that there was one thing that was accelerating exponentially and potentially even faster than the degradation of our planet’s natural resources. And that was technology. Thus, I decided to drive my career towards leveraging advances in technology to address the negative effects of human activities on rest of the life on Earth and started focusing on the computational aspects of ecology. I joined Microsoft Research to focus on and lead research programs at the intersection of environmental and computer science. What enthused me was that Microsoft, about a decade ago, had realized that this was where the real challenges were, both for society and the technology sector.

How did you transition to the role of the Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft? How did the AI for Earth program come about?

I pursued research programs for about eight years at Microsoft Research. That experience prepared us to step back a couple of years ago and see the progress we had made in research from an environmental and technology perspective and how we could place it all the way into shipped products.

I put together all those learnings into one document, which I called “AI for Earth”. It laid out the opportunities I saw for Microsoft to really make a more concerted, company-wide effort, than simply a research program, to leverage our 35 years of ongoing investment in AI research and technology and focus all those efforts on the four key areas of agriculture, water, biodiversity, and climate change.

From my experience at Microsoft Research, we knew what the problems were, and we’d done enough on the technology front. So, it was time to put it into action. Last year, I left Microsoft Research and started serving as the company’s first Chief Environmental Scientist leading the AI for Earth program. That position recently expanded to Microsoft’s first Chief Environmental Officer, which allows me to oversee the whole environmental sustainability mission and mandate across the company.

Understand Windows Insider Program for Business options

The Windows Insider Program for Business provides features that help IT plan for and deploy GA builds when they arrive.

The Windows Insider Program, which Microsoft introduced in 2014, lets IT try out new features in the upcoming Windows release before Microsoft makes them generally available. Microsoft added the Windows Insider Program for Business in April 2018 to provide organizations with tools to better prepare for upcoming releases.

Windows Insider Program for Business

Microsoft designed the Windows Insider Program for Business specifically for organizations to deploy preview builds from Windows 10 and Windows Server to participating employees for testing before they are GA.

IT pros can register their domains with the service and control settings centrally rather than registering users or configuring machines individually. Individual users can also join the Windows Insider Program for Business on their own, independently of IT’s corporate-wide review.

Microsoft designed the Windows Insider Program for Business specifically for organizations to deploy preview builds from Windows 10 and Windows Server to participating employees for testing before they are GA.

The preview builds don’t replace the channel releases because IT doesn’t deploy the new builds across its organization. They’re simply earlier Windows 10 builds IT teams can use to prepare their organizations for the updates.

The Windows Insider Program for Business preview build releases make it possible for IT to implement new services and tools more quickly once the GA release is available. The previews also help IT ensure that Microsoft addressed data security and governance issues in advance of the release.

The Windows Insider Program for Business allows administrators, developers, testers and other users to see what effect a new release might have on their devices, applications and infrastructures. Microsoft includes the Feedback Hub for IT pros and users to submit reactions about their experiences, make requests for new features and identify issues such as application compatibility, security and performance problems.

Microsoft also offers the Windows Insider Lab for Enterprise, a test deployment for insiders who Microsoft specially selects to test new, experimental or prerelease enterprise security and privacy features. The lab provides insiders with a virtual test infrastructure that comes complete with typical enterprise technologies such as Windows Information Protection, Windows Defender Application Guard and Microsoft App-V.

Getting started with the insider program

Microsoft recommends organizations sign up for the Windows Insider Program for Business and dedicate at least a few devices to the program. IT pros must register their users with the service and set up the target devices to receive preview builds.

Microsoft also recommends that organizations use Azure Active Directory work accounts when registering with the service, whether an organization registers users individually or as part of a domain account. A domain registration makes it easier for IT to manage the participating devices and track feedback from users across the organization. Users that want to submit feedback on behalf of the organization must have a domain registration, as well.

IT can install and manage preview builds on individual devices or on the infrastructure and deploy the builds across multiple devices in the domain, including virtual machines. Using Group Policies, IT can also enable, disable, defer or pause preview installations and set the branch readiness levels, which determine when the preview builds are installed.

Microsoft’s three preview readiness branches

IT can configure devices so the preview builds install automatically or allow users to choose their own install schedules. With mobile device management tools such as Microsoft Intune, IT can take over the preview readiness branch settings, assigning each user one of three preview deployment branches.

Fast. Devices at the Fast level are the first to receive build and feature updates. This readiness level implies some risk because it is the least stable and some features might not work on certain devices. As a result, IT should only install Fast builds on secondary devices and limit these builds to a select group of users.

Slow. Devices at the Slow level receive updates after Microsoft applies user and organization feedback from the Fast build. These builds are more stable, but users don’t see them as early in the process compared to the Fast builds. The Slow level generally targets a broader set of users.

Release Preview. Devices at the Release Preview level are the last to receive preview builds, but these builds are the most stable. Users still get to see and test features in advance and can provide feedback, but they have a much smaller window between the preview build and the final release.

Is the Windows Insider Program for Business for everyone?

An organization that participates in the Windows Insider Program for Business must be able to commit the necessary resources to effectively take advantage of the program’s features. To meet this standard, organizations must ensure that they can dedicate the necessary hardware and infrastructure resources and choose users who have enough time to properly test the builds.

An organization’s decision to invest in these resources depends on its specific circumstances, but deploying a Windows update is seldom without a few hiccups. With the Windows Insider Program for Business, IT can avoid some of these issues.

BP Logix BPM tool packs AI features in latest release

Low-code BPM development tools today already help developers simplify and speed up business process application development. The next step is to make those apps smarter.

To that end, BP Logix, a business process management (BPM) company in Vista, Calif., recently introduced version 5.0 of its Process Director that adds AI features to enable predictive analysis, enhanced UIs and journals for configurable collaboration.

Rather than present complex AI features, Process Director 5.0 offers a set of basic machine learning tools that the average app developer can use, such as a point-and-click graphical interfaces that guide configuration processes and display results of analytics, with no coding required.

Embedding intelligence into business applications requires specialized knowledge and teams of data scientists, said Charles Araujo, principal analyst for Intellyx, a consulting firm in Glens Falls, N.Y. Process Director 5.0’s blend of AI and low-code features brings predictive application processes to nontechnical users.

“The value Process Director 5.0 delivers is less about features, per se, and more about accessibility,” Araujo said.

AI inside

The AI tools inside Process Director 5.0 enable machine learning, sentiment analysis, capture and expression of dissimilar events and conditions in a single state and configurable collaboration. The company also added UI features for iterative list search, calendar views, and inline HTML and text editing.

“AI and machine learning create prediction models that have been missing from BPM,” said Neil Ward-Dutton, research director for MWD Advisors, a U.K.-based IT consulting firm. With AI, the application learns from past history, identifies trends and makes recommendations for decisions.

As an example, Ward-Dutton pointed to how AI capabilities can help with a loan request by identifying factors that make the applicant and the loan’s purpose a low or high risk. Combined data mining and machine learning tools aggregate information about previous loan applications and current market conditions to help the loan officer make a decision.

AI and machine learning create prediction models that have been missing from BPM platforms.
Neil Ward-Duttonresearch director, MWD Advisors

Araujo said he sees businesses with reliable data on actions and outcomes adopt AI-enabled, predictive-type applications quickly and with good results. Developers can use that legacy data to build models that predict behavior of application users who meet certain criteria and perform specific actions. With these functions, the tool recommends a best action and prioritizes options that are presented to the user, so the application feels more intuitive or takes actions automatically.

Applying AI for nontechnical users, even with accessible tools, requires a change in traditional BPM project approaches. Araujo said project teams will have to think like a data scientist.

“Applying intelligence to applications requires imagination,” he said. “Developers need to think about application usage patterns and imagine ways to use predictive capabilities to meet users’ needs.”

“That’s not the way we’ve historically approached applications, particularly business-process-based ones,” Araujo added.

Process Director 5.0 is generally available, with versions for both cloud and on premises. In addition to AI and low-code/no-code development tools, the platform includes traditional BPM capabilities for compliance automation, process modeling, multifactor authentication and other standard BPM features.

Microsoft awards grant to Numbers4Health to expand its telehealth solution to rural Maine – Stories

The grant will help expand Numbers4Health’s telehealth solution across the U.S. including rural Maine

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 1, 2018 — On Wednesday, Microsoft Corp. announced it selected Numbers4Health as a winner of its third annual Airband Grant Fund to help bring telehealth solutions to rural communities. As one of the eight winners, Numbers4Health is deploying a solution in partnership with internet service providers to help support telemedicine and improve healthcare outcomes in rural Maine. The Airband Grant Fund is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to help close the broadband access gap in rural America by 2022.

“Numbers4Health is working to ensure the citizens of rural Maine will have broadband access to critical telehealth solutions,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “Their use of innovative technologies like TV white spaces will help improve healthcare access in Maine.”

The Microsoft Airband Grant Fund seeks to spark innovation to overcome barriers to affordable internet access, through support of high-potential, early-stage startups creating innovative new technologies, services and business models. This year’s grantees will receive cash investments, access to technology, mentoring and networking opportunities.

“The best way to manage healthcare costs and improve health outcomes is to treat injury and illness as fast as possible,” said Peg Molloy, managing director, Numbers4Health.  “Numbers4Health puts health information software and technology at schools where injured student athletes can be quickly assessed. Microsoft’s Airband Grant Fund is helping us make that happen.”

Broadband is the electricity of the 21st century. It is a necessity to start and grow a small business and take advantage of advances in agriculture, telemedicine and education. In the United States, more than 24 million Americans lack broadband access, including 19.4 million people living in rural areas.

Below is a list of this year’s Microsoft Airband Grant Fund recipients. More about the Microsoft Airband Grant Fund can be found here.

About Numbers4Health

Numbers4Health is a Colorado-based startup that provides a collection of tools to encourage increased use of telehealth solutions to drive positive change and better healthcare outcomes. The system operates across Windows, Android, and iOS environments.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, +1 (425) 638-7777,

rrt@we-worldwide.com

Numbers4Health, Peg Molloy, managing director, memolloy@vistapartners.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com.Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Microsoft awards grant to Skylark Wireless to expand internet access in rural West Virginia – Stories

The grant will help expand Skylark Wireless’ network, providing broadband in Mingo County

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 1, 2018 — On Wednesday, Microsoft Corp. announced it selected Skylark Wireless as a winner of its third annual Airband Grant Fund, to help bring broadband internet access to rural communities. As one of the eight winners, Skylark Wireless is using innovative broadband solutions to extend broadband access to 10,000 households and businesses in Mingo County, West Virginia. The Airband Grant Fund is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to help close the broadband access gap in rural America by 2022.

“Skylark Wireless is working to ensure the citizens of Mingo County have broadband access they need to connect and compete with their more urban neighbors,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “Their use of innovative technologies like TV white spaces will help close the broadband gap in West Virginia.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt said, “We know there is a huge potential for economic growth through our agriculture industries. Unfortunately, many of these small businesses struggle to reach their potential because of a lack of access to broadband. I commend Microsoft’s approach, which combines public-private partnerships with emerging technologies to connect West Virginia to the rest of the world and bring 21st century opportunities to our state.”

The Microsoft Airband Grant Fund seeks to spark innovation to overcome barriers to affordable internet access, through support of high-potential, early-stage startups creating innovative new technologies, services and business models. This year’s grantees receive cash investments, access to technology, mentoring and networking opportunities.

“Skylark Wireless is excited to be deploying its cutting-edge Massive MIMO platform in West Virginia,” said Clayton W. Shepard, founder and CTO, Skylark Wireless. “This next- generation wireless network will bring true high-speed affordable broadband internet to thousands of people who need it most, which wouldn’t have been possible without the Microsoft Airband Grant Fund.”

Broadband is the electricity of the 21st century. It is a necessity to start and grow a small business and take advantage of advances in agriculture, telemedicine and education. In the United States, more than 24 million Americans lack broadband access, including 19.4 million people living in rural areas.

Below is a list of this year’s Microsoft Airband Grant Fund recipients. More about the Microsoft Airband Grant Fund can be found here.

About Skylark Wireless

In rural West Virginia, Skylark Wireless is developing next-gen wireless solutions to connect underserved populations, focusing on long-range, high-speed connectivity including massive-MIMO and TV White Spaces.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, +1 (425) 638-7777,

rrt@we-worldwide.com

Skylark Wireless, Ryan Guerra, founder and CEO, ryan@skylarkwireless.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com.Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Microsoft awards grant to CvWireless to expand internet access in rural New York – Stories

The grant will help expand CvWireless’ network, providing broadband in Essex County

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 1, 2018 — On Wednesday, Microsoft Corp. announced it selected CvWireless as a winner of its third annual Airband Grant Fund to help bring broadband internet access to rural communities. As one of eight winners, CV Wireless is using innovative broadband solutions to connect 300 households in Essex County, New York, including the towns of Whallonsburg, Willsboro and Reber. The Airband Grant Fund is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to help close the broadband access gap in rural America by 2022.

“CV Wireless is working to ensure the citizens of Essex County have the broadband access they need to connect and compete with their more urban neighbors,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “Their use of innovative technologies like TV white spaces will help close the broadband gap in the New York state.”

The Microsoft Airband Grant Fund seeks to spark innovation to overcome barriers to affordable internet access, through support of high-potential, early-stage startups creating innovative new technologies, services and business models. This year’s grantees receive cash investments, access to technology, mentoring and networking opportunities.

“CvWireless is honored to be recognized for innovation and its continued response to its rural communities’ need to access high-speed internet service. The Microsoft grant provides needed funds to continue to enhance our communities’ internet access by reaching those locations that are truly the last mile of our mountainous and wooded paradise,” said Beth Schiller, owner of CvWireless.

Broadband is the electricity of the 21st century. It is a necessity to start and grow a small business and take advantage of advances in agriculture, telemedicine and education. In the United States, more than 24 million Americans lack broadband access, including 19.4 million people living in rural areas.

Below is a list of this year’s Microsoft Airband Grant Fund recipients. More about the Microsoft Airband Grant Fund can be found here.

About CvWireless

CvWireless is an internet service provider (ISP) that supports rural customers in Essex County, New York. Using a combination of fixed wireless solutions, including TV white spaces, they deliver affordable broadband to households, farms, government offices, and small businesses.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, +1 (425) 638-7777,

rrt@we-worldwide.com

CvWireless, Beth Schiller, Owner, beth@cv-wireless.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com.Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Microsoft awards grant to Numbers4Health to expand its telehealth solution to rural Texas – Stories

The grant will help expand Numbers4Health’s telehealth solution across the U.S. including rural Texas

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 1, 2018 — On Wednesday, Microsoft Corp. announced it selected Numbers4Health as a winner of its third annual Airband Grant Fund to help bring telehealth solutions to rural communities. As one of the eight winners, Numbers4Health is deploying a solution in partnership with internet service providers using TV white spaces technologies to help support telemedicine and improve healthcare outcomes in rural Texas. The Airband Grant Fund is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to help close the broadband access gap in rural America by 2022.

“Numbers4Health is working to ensure the citizens of rural Texas will have broadband access to critical telehealth solutions,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “Their use of innovative technologies like TV white spaces will help improve healthcare access in Texas.”

The Microsoft Airband Grant Fund seeks to spark innovation to overcome barriers to affordable internet access, through supporting high-potential, early-stage startups creating innovative new technologies, services and business models. This year’s grantees will receive cash investments, access to technology, mentoring and networking opportunities.

“The best way to manage healthcare costs and improve health outcomes is to treat injury and illness as fast as possible,” said Peg Molloy, managing director, Numbers4Health. “Numbers4Health puts health information software and technology at schools where injured student athletes can be quickly assessed. Microsoft’s Airband Grant Fund is helping us make that happen.”

Broadband is the electricity of the 21st century. It is a necessity to start and grow a small business and take advantage of advances in agriculture, telemedicine and education. In the United States, more than 24 million Americans lack broadband access, including 19.4 million people living in rural areas.

Below is a list of this year’s Microsoft Airband Grant Fund recipients. More about the Microsoft Airband Grant Fund can be found here.

About Numbers4Health

Numbers4Health is a Colorado-based startup that provides a collection of tools to encourage increased use of telehealth solutions to drive positive change and better healthcare outcomes. The system operates across Windows, Android, and iOS environments.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, +1 (425) 638-7777,

rrt@we-worldwide.com

Numbers4Health, Peg Molloy, managing director, memolloy@vistapartners.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com.Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Google Cloud security adds data regions and Titan security keys

Multiple improvements for Google Cloud security aim to help users protect data through better access management, more data security options

and
greater transparency.

More than half of the security features announced are either in beta or part of the G Suite Early Adopter Program, but in total the additions should offer better control and transparency for users.

The biggest improvement in Google Cloud security comes in identity and access management. Google has developed its own Titan multi-factor physical security key — similar to a YubiKey — to protect users against phishing attacks. Google previously reported that there have been no confirmed account takeovers in more than one year since requiring all employees to use physical security keys, and according to a Google spokesperson, Titan keys have already been one such key available to employees.

The Titan security keys are FIDO keys that include “firmware developed by Google to verify its integrity.” Google announced it is offering two models of Titan keys for Cloud users: one based on USB and NFC and one that uses Bluetooth in order to support iOS devices as well. The keys are available now to Cloud customers and will come to the Google Store soon. Pricing details have not been released.

“The Titan security key provides a phishing-resistant second factor of authentication. Typically, our customers will place it in front of

high value
users or content administrators and root users, the compromise of those would be much more damaging to an enterprise customer … or specific applications which contain sensitive data, or sort of the crown jewels of corporate environments,” Jess Leroy, director of product management for Google Cloud, told reporters in a briefing. “It’s built with a secure element, which includes firmware that we built ourselves, and it provides a ton of security with very little interaction and effort on the part of

user
.”

However, Stina Ehrensvard, CEO

and
founder of Yubico, the manufacturer of Yubikey two factor authentication keys, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., noted in a blog post that her company does not see Bluetooth as a good option for a physical security key.

“Google’s offering includes a Bluetooth (BLE) capable key. While Yubico previously initiated development of a BLE security

key,
and contributed to the BLE U2F standards work, we decided not to launch the product as it does not meet our standards for security, usability

and
durability,” Ehrensvard wrote. “BLE does not provide the security assurance levels of NFC and USB, and requires batteries and pairing that offer a poor user experience.”

In addition to the Titan keys, Google Cloud security will have improved access management with the implementation of the context-aware access approach Google used in its BeyondCorp network setups.

“Context-aware access allows organizations to define and enforce granular access to [Google Cloud Platform] APIs, resources, G Suite, and third-party SaaS apps based on a user’s identity, location, and the context of their request. This increases your security posture while decreasing complexity for your users, giving them the ability to seamlessly log on to apps from anywhere and any device,” Jennifer Lin, director of product management for Google Cloud, wrote in the Google Cloud security announcement post. “Context-aware access capabilities are available for select customers using VPC Service Controls, and are coming soon for customers using Cloud Identity and Access Management (IAM), Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy (IAP), and Cloud Identity.”

Data transparency and control

New features also aim to improve Google Cloud security visibility and control over data. Access Transparency will offer users a “near real-time log” of the actions taken by administrators, including Google engineers.

“Inability to audit cloud provider accesses is often a barrier to moving to

cloud
. Without visibility into the actions of cloud provider administrators, traditional security processes cannot be replicated,” Google wrote in

documentation
. “Access Transparency enables that verification, bringing your audit controls closer to what you can expect

on premise
.”

In terms of Google Cloud security and control over data, Google will also now allow customers to decide in what region data will be stored. Google described this feature as allowing multinational organizations to protect their data with

geo redundancy
, but in a way that organizations can follow any requirements regarding where in the

world
data is stored.

A Google spokesperson noted via email that the onus for ensuring that regional data storage complies with local laws would be on the individual organizations.

Other Google Cloud security improvements

Google announced several features that are still in beta, including Shielded Virtual Machines (VM, which will allow users to monitor and react to changes in the VM to protect against tampering; Binary Authorization, which will force signature validation when deploying container images; Container Registry Vulnerability Scanning, which will automatically scan Ubuntu, Debian and Alpine images to prevent deploying images that contain any vulnerable packages; geo-based access control for Cloud Armor, which helps defend users against DDoS attacks; and Cloud HSM, a managed cloud-hosted hardware security module (HSM) service.

WSO2 integration platform twirls on Ballerina language

The latest version of WSO2’s open source integration platform strengthens its case to help enterprises create and execute microservices.

The summer 2018 release of the WSO2 Integration Agile Platform, introduced at the company’s recent annual WSO2Con user conference, supports what the company calls an “integration agile” approach to implement microservices. Software development has moved to an agile approach, but legacy Waterfall approaches can stymie the integration process, and WSO2 aims to change that.

Solving the integration challenge

Integration remains a primary challenge for enterprise IT shops. The shift of automation functions to the public cloud complicates enterprises’ integration maps, but at the same time, enterprises want to use microservices and serverless architectures, which require new integration architectures, said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research in San Francisco.

Improvements to the WSO2 integration platform, such as integration of the WSO2 API management, enterprise integration, real-time analytics and identity and access management options, aim to help enterprises adopt agile integration as they move from monolithic applications to microservices as part of digital transformation projects. The company also introduced a new licensing structure for enterprises to scale their microservices-based apps.

In addition, WSO2 Integration Agile Platform now supports the open source Ballerina programming language, a cloud-native programming language built by WSO2 and optimized for integration. The language features a visual interface that suits noncoding business users, yet also empowers developers to write code to integrate items rather than use bulky configuration-based integration schemes.

“Ballerina has a vaguely Java-JavaScript look and feel,” said Paul Fremantle, CTO of WSO2. “The concurrency model is most similar to Go and the type system is probably most similar to functional programming languages like Elm. We’ve inherited from a bunch of languages.” Using Ballerina, University of Oxford students finished projects in 45 minutes that typically took two hours in other languages, Fremantle said.

Some early Ballerina adopters requested more formal support, so WSO2 now offers a Ballerina Early Access Development Support package with unlimited query support to users, but this is only available until Ballerina 1.0 is released later this year, Fremantle said. Pricing for the package is $500 per developer seat, with a minimum package of five developers.

WSO2's Paul Fremantle at BallerinaCon
Paul Fremantle, CTO of WSO2, demoing Ballerina at BallerinaCon.

Integration at the heart of PaaS

Integration technology is central functionality for all PaaS offerings that aim to ease enterprise developers and DevOps pros into microservices, serverless computing, and even emerging technologies like blockchain, said Charlotte Dunlap, an analyst at GlobalData in Santa Cruz, Calif. WSO2 offers a competitive open source alternative to pricier options from larger rivals such as Oracle, IBM, and SAP, though it’s more of a “second tier” integration and API management provider and lacks the brand recognition to attract global enterprises, she said.

Nevertheless, Salesforce’s MuleSoft acquisition earlier this year exemplifies the importance of smaller integration vendors. Meanwhile, Red Hat offers integration and API management options, and public cloud platform providers will also build out these services.

SolarWinds: MSP Pulse can shed light on business transformation

SolarWinds MSP has launched a benchmarking tool that it said is designed to help managed service providers better understand the health of their businesses. The new offering from SolarWinds, MSP Pulse aims to improve channel partners’ business strategies while also providing insight into how they stack up against their competitors.

The move comes as MSPs look for better ways to measure their progress as they grapple with business transformation at their companies. As channel companies transition from hardware reselling to an as-a-service subscription model, many are finding that shifting gears has placed new responsibilities on their business. As a result MSPs are looking for more analysis and insights as they move to the managed services model.

To help them understand how their competitors are handling new market trends, SolarWinds MSP in collaboration with research firm The 2112 Group developed MSP Pulse, a free online survey that asks participants specific questions about their business. 

SolarWinds: MSP Pulse attracts nearly 500 survey takers

So far nearly 500 companies located in North America and Europe have taken the survey, answering a range of questions on such topics as 2017 revenue, 2018 projected revenue, location, types of managed services offered, and the number of dedicated salespeople on staff.

According to executives at SolarWinds MSP, answers to these questions are stored in a database and used to generate comparative analysis in a variety of areas, including sales, profitability and customer engagement.

Comparisons are also made between companies that are the same size, offer the same managed service offerings and operate in the same region.

“Many companies are in the dark on their own,” said Mike Cullen, vice president of customer experience and business strategy at SolarWinds MSP. “This tool gives them good information to balance themselves off of what other companies are doing in the market.”

Chart showing steps for achieving predictable revenue streams
The quest for predicable, as-a-service revenue is just one dimension of the MSP transition the SolarWinds MSP Pulse tool aims to address.

How it works

Many companies are in the dark on their own.
Mike Cullenvice president of customer experience and business strategy, SolarWinds MSP

At the end of the SolarWinds MSP Pulse survey, participants receive a customized report about how their companies’ performance compares with companies of similar size and type. The benchmarking process provides information on whether an MSP is on par, below average or above average with regard to its competitors across a number of categories, including monthly account attrition rate — also known as churn rate — and managed service revenue targets.

Channel partners may use their results to plan their managed services model transformation and are encouraged to take the survey on a quarterly basis to update their data and track their progress.

Cullen said many MSPs are wondering what their benchmark should look like. He said these companies need information on how many new customers should they acquire per month and how much of their companies’ business should be managed services as opposed to hardware.

He added executives at MSPs also want to know if MSPs in their region of the same size and the same revenue structure have the same number of employees.