Tag Archives: help

Container infrastructure a silver lining amid Intel CPU flaw fixes

Container infrastructure can help IT pros deploy updates as they fortify their systems against Meltdown and Spectre CPU vulnerabilities.

Sys admins everywhere must patch operating systems to reduce the effects of the recently discovered Intel CPU flaws, which hackers could exploit to access speculative execution data in virtual memory and, potentially, to other VMs that share the same host or root access.

However, those who run container infrastructures estimate a milder impact of this additional work than the undertaking for those who must patch VM-based infrastructures, especially manually, to combat Meltdown and Spectre.

“Most of the fixes out so far are kernel patches, and since containers share the kernel, there are fewer kernels to patch,” said Nuno Pereira, CTO of IJet International, a risk management company in Annapolis, Md.

VMware has pledged to issue fixes at the hypervisor level, and cloud providers such as Google and Amazon say they’ve patched their VMs, but it’s wise to patch the kernels, as well, Pereira said.

Security best practices dictate containers run with least-privilege access to the underlying operating system and host. That could limit the blast radius should a hacker use the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities to gain access to a container. But experts emphasize that container infrastructure isn’t guaranteed immunity to the vulnerabilities, as container-level segmentation alone doesn’t fully defend against attacks.

“No one should expect that just a container layer will mitigate the issue,” said Fernando Montenegro, an analyst with 451 Research. “This issue highlights that security assumptions we’ve made in the past have to be revisited.”

Ultimately, Intel and other chipmakers, such as AMD, will have to issue hardware- or firmware-level fixes to eliminate the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. It’s not clear what those will be yet, but enterprises with container orchestration in place will have a leg up, as they accommodate those widespread changes.

“Most folks running containers have something like [Apache] Mesos or Kubernetes, and that makes it easy to do rolling upgrades on the infrastructure underneath,” said Andy Domeier, director of technology operations at SPS Commerce, a communications network for supply chain and logistics businesses based in Minneapolis. SPS uses Mesos for container orchestration, but it is evaluating Kubernetes, as well.

Containers are often used with immutable infrastructures, which can be stood up and torn down at will and present an ideal means to handle the infrastructure changes on the way, due to these specific Intel CPU flaws or unforeseen future events.

“It really hammers home the case for immutability,” said Carmen DeArdo, technology director responsible for the software delivery pipeline at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. in Columbus, Ohio.

Meltdown and Spectre loom over containers
Container infrastructure can help ease the pain of Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.

DevOps performance concerns

No one should expect that just a container layer will mitigate the issue … security assumptions we’ve made in the past have to be revisited.
Fernando Montenegroanalyst, 451 Research

Infrastructure automation will help, but these vulnerabilities arose from CPU technology that drastically improved performance, with more efficient memory caching and pre-fetching. This means patches and infrastructure updates to mitigate security risks can slow down system performance.

PostgreSQL benchmark tests in worst-case-scenario situations show OS patches alone may degrade performance by 17% to 23%. Red Hat put out an advisory to customers stating its patches to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux kernel may reduce performance by 8% to 19% on highly cached random memory.

“For Spectre, my understanding is that you need code changes and/or recompilation of userspace programs themselves to [fully] resolve it, so it is likely to be a long slog,” said Michael Bishop, CTO at Alpha Vertex, a New York-based fintech startup.

No one knows how future hardware fixes will affect CPU performance, which raises concerns for large enterprises that have grown accustomed to quick system builds in a DevOps continuous integration and delivery process. Reports have started to emerge that the performance change will affect the time it takes to compile programs, which is of particular concern to developers who want to make quick, frequent updates to apps.

“I remember when build jobs would run for hours, and we could go back to a developer mindset of, ‘Get things perfect,’ if feedback loops start to take too long,” Nationwide’s DeArdo said. “Eventually, that would impact lead time and productivity.”

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget’s Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

Upskilling: Digital transformation is economic transformation for all – Asia News Center

“So, we are working with a number of non-government organizations to help build the skills of these youth, to build their digital skills. We know that today, about 50 percent of jobs require technology skills. Within the next three years, that’s going to jump to more than 75 percent. So we’re working to help build the skills that employers need to expand their companies.”

In Sri Lanka, decades of civil strife have now given way to sustained economic growth. In this period of calm and reconstruction, 24-year-old Prabhath Mannapperuma leads a team of techie volunteers teaching digital skills to rural and underprivileged children. They use the micro:bit, a tiny programmable device that makes coding fun. “Using a keyboard to type in code is not interesting for kids,” says Mannapperuma, an IT professional and tech-evangelist, who is determined to inspire a new generation.

Upskilling is also a priority in one of Asia’s poorest countries, Nepal. Here, Microsoft has launched an ambitious digital literacy training program that is transforming lives. Santosh Thapa lost his home and livelihood in a massive 2015 earthquake and struggled in its aftermath to start again in business. Things turned around after he graduated from a Microsoft-sponsored course that taught him some digital basics, which he now uses daily to serve his customers and stay ahead of his competitors.

Often women are the most disadvantaged in the skills race. For instance in Myanmar, only 35 percent of the workforce is female. Without wide educational opportunities, most women have been relegated to the home or the farm. But times are changing as the economy opens up after decades of isolation. “Women in Myanmar are at risk of not gaining the skills for the jobs of the future, and so we are helping to develop the skills of young women, and that’s been an exciting effort,” says Michelle.

The team at Microsoft Philanthropies has partnered with the Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation in its Tech Age Girls program. It identifies promising female leaders, between the ages of 14 to 18, and provides them with essential leadership and computer science skills to be future-ready for the jobs of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The goal is to create a network of 100 young women leaders in at least five locations throughout Myanmar with advanced capacity in high-demand technology skills. One of these future leaders is Thuza who is determined to forge a career in the digital space. “There seems to be a life path that girls are traditionally expected to take,” she says. “But I’m a Tech Age Girl and I’m on a different path.”

In Bangladesh, Microsoft and the national government have come together to teach thousands of women hardware and software skills. Many are now working at more than 5,000 state-run digital centers that encourage ordinary people to take up technology for the business, work, and studies. It is also hoped that many of the women graduates of the training program will become digital entrepreneurs themselves.

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These examples are undeniably encouraging and even inspirational. But Michelle is clear on one point: Digital skills development is more than just meaningful and impactful philanthropic work. It is also a hard-headed, long-term business strategy and a big investment in human capital.

Microsoft wants its customers to grow and push ahead with digital transformation, she says. And to do that, they need digitally skilled workers. “This is about empowering individuals, and also about enabling businesses to fill gaps in order for them to actually compete globally … by developing the skills, we can develop the economy.”

Citrix enables VM live migration for Nvidia vGPUs

Live migration for virtual GPUs has arrived, and the technology will help organizations more easily distribute resources and improve performance for virtual desktop users.

As more applications get graphic rich, VDI shops need better ways to support and manage virtualized GPUs (vGPUs). Citrix and Nvidia said this month they will support live migration of GPU-accelerated VMs, allowing administrators to move VMs between physical servers with no downtime. VMware has also demonstrated similar capabilities but has not yet brought them to market.

“The first time we all saw vMotion of a normal VM, we were all amazed,” said Rob Beekmans, an end-user computing consultant in the Netherlands. “So it’s the same thing. It’s amazing that this is possible.”

How vGPU VM live migration works

Live migration, the ability to move a VM from one host to another while the VM is still running, has been around for years. But it was not possible to live migrate a VM that included GPU acceleration technology such as Nvidia’s Grid. VMware’s VM live migration tool, vMotion, and Citrix’s counterpart, XenMotion, did not allow migration of VMs that had direct access to a physical hardware component. Complicating matters was the fact that live migration must replicate the GPU on one server to another server, and essentially map its processes one to one. That’s difficult because a GPU is such a dense processor, said Anne Hecht, senior director of product marketing for vGPU at Nvidia.

The GPU isn’t just for gamers anymore.
Zeus Kerravalafounder and principal analyst, ZK Research

XenMotion is now capable of live migrating a GPU-enabled VM on XenServer. Using the Citrix Director management console, administrators can monitor and migrate these VMs. They simply select the VM and from a drop-down menu choose the host they want to move it to. This migration process takes a few seconds, according to a demo Nvidia showed at Citrix Synergy 2017. XenMotion with vGPUs is available now as a tech preview for select customers, and Nvidia did not disclose a planned date for general availability.

This ability to redistribute VMs without having to shut them down brings several benefits. It could be useful for a single project, such as a designer working on a task that needs a lot of GPU resources for a few months, or adding more virtual desktop users overall. If a user needs more GPU power all of a sudden, IT can migrate his or her desktop VM to a different server that has more GPU resources available. IT may use live migration on a regular basis to change the amount of processing on different servers as users go through peaks and valleys of GPU needs.

Most important to users themselves, VM live migration means that there is no downtime on their virtual desktop during maintenance or when IT has to move a machine.

“The amount of time needed to save and close down a project can number in the tens of minutes in complex cases, and that makes for a lot of lost production time,” said Tobias Kreidl, desktop computing team lead at Northern Arizona University, who manages around 500 Citrix virtual desktops and applications. “Having this option is in bigger operations a huge plus. Even in a smaller shop, not having to deal with downtime is always a good thing as many maintenance processes require reboots.”

VMware vs. Citrix

The new Citrix capability only supports VM live migration between servers that have Nvidia GPU cards of the same type. Nvidia offers a variety of Grid options, which differ in the amounts of memory they include, how many GPUs they support and other aspects. So, XenMotion live migration can only happen from one Tesla M10 to another Tesla M10 card, for example, Hecht said.

At VMworld 2017, VMware demoed a similar process for Nvidia vGPUs with vMotion. This capability was not in beta or tech preview at the time, however, and still isn’t. Plus, the VMware capability works a little differently from Citrix’s. With VMware Horizon, IT cannot migrate without downtime; instead, a process called Suspend and Resume allows a GPU-enabled VM to hibernate, move to another host, then restart from its last running state. Users experience desktop downtime, but when it restarts it automatically logs in and runs with all of the last existing data saved.

Nvidia Grid
Nvidia Grid graphics card

Nvidia is working with VMware to develop and release an official tech preview of this Suspend and Resume capability for vGPU migration and hopes to develop a fully live scenario for Horizon in the future as well, Hecht said.

“VMware will catch up, but I think it gives Citrix an early mover advantage,” said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst of ZK Research. “This might wake VMware up a little bit and be more aggressive with a lot of these emerging technologies.”

Who needs GPU acceleration?

Virtualized GPUs are becoming more necessary for VDI shops as more applications require intensive graphics and multimedia processing. Applications that use video, augmented or virtual reality and even many Windows 10 apps use more CPU than ever before — and vGPUs can help offload that.

“The GPU isn’t just for gamers anymore,” Kerravala said. “It is becoming more mainstream, and the more you have Microsoft and IBM and the big mainstream IT vendors doing this, it will help accelerate [GPU acceleration] adoption. It becomes a really important part of any data center strategy.”

At the same time, not every user needs GPU acceleration. Beekmans’ clients sometimes think they need vGPUs, when actually the CPU will provide good enough processing for the application in question, he said. And vGPU technology isn’t cheap, so organizations must weigh the cost versus benefits of adopting it.

“I don’t think everybody needs a GPU,” Beekmans said. “It’s hype. You have to look at the cost.”

More competition in the GPU acceleration market — which Nvidia currently dominates in terms of virtual desktop GPU cards — would help bring costs down and increase innovation, Beekmans said.

Still, the market is here to stay as more apps begin to require more GPU power, he added.

“If you work with anything that uses compute resources, you need to keep an eye on the world of GPUs, because it’s coming and it’s coming fast,” Kerravala agreed.

Top IT guidance for CIOs in 2017 underscores urgency of digitization

SearchCIO invites a variety of IT experts to shed light on the big IT issues and help CIOs in their jobs. It’s a job that seems to get bigger by the day, as companies scramble to keep up with a society that is increasingly shaped — some might say ruled — by technology.

Digital transformation, a nebulous term for a profound paradigm shift in how businesses need to do business, continued to be a big topic in 2017 for our IT experts. That means speed of delivery, scale, business agility and the CIO imperative to communicate clearly also figured large in their IT guidance. Without further ado, here are our top 10 IT guidance columns of 2017. We hope the advice will continue to guide you in 2018.

10. The transformation roadmap

A rapidly evolving, global marketplace driven by digital technologies has forced mature companies to rethink how they do business — from products and services to operating models and customer experiences. In other words, digital transformation has become a business imperative, and CIOs — in charge of the IT systems that support this paradigm shift — have their hands full.

Dan MorrisDan Morris

In “How to create an enterprise transformation roadmap,” Dan Morris connects the dots between the consumerization of IT, the digitally savvy customer and the urgent need for companies to transform their operations and business models. Morris, the founding principal of Wendan Consulting and co-author of The Business Transformation Field Guide, lays out the prerequisites for launching, sustaining and surviving the disruption of a corporate digitization effort. The good news in this IT guidance? “Fortunately for CIOs and CTOs today, technology is being delivered to help them create a new service architecture, one that enables continued use of legacy application functionality and data.” 

9. The art of the IT deal

Big, complex, messy corporate initiatives like digital transformation are not accomplished without the active support of many people. But how are people persuaded to get on board? In “The art of communicating big tech ideas: People remember stories,” longtime SearchCIO columnist and CTO Niel Nickolaisen shares his experience years ago, when he failed to make the case for IT investments.

Niel NickolaisenNiel Nickolaisen

His ideas were always backed by data and the relevant technical facts. He practiced his talks; there were no gaffes. But the presentations seemed to fall on deaf ears. Then, he read a book on the principles of effective communication that changed everything. He became a collector of stories, tracing the potential impact of his IT proposals on the work lives of his bosses, peers and their employees.

“Collecting stories takes patience. With some technology proposals, it takes me months to gather enough evidence to make my case, but I am fine with that,” Nickolaisen writes. He explains why in his column on the art of communicating big tech ideas.

8. How do you solve a problem like legacy IT?

“Companies and their CIOs today are facing a serious challenge.” That is the stern beginning of “Digital transformation framework: Bridging legacy apps to new tech,” another Dan Morris column in our top 10 list. Here, Morris’ IT guidance lays out why legacy tech is so crippling for companies today and what to do about it.

He systematically takes CIOs through a digital transformation framework that fosters business agility. One facet of the framework involves finding a way to expose data and functionality in legacy apps to a new environment. Using technologies such as business process management and robotic process automation, “a layer of new technology can be ‘wrapped’ around legacy applications to cordon off much of their complexity and redundancy while opening their functionality and data to users,” Morris explains.

Read his column for more details on his multilayered approach to mitigating the problem of legacy IT.

7. ‘Moneyball’ on steroids

Several movies into a long overseas flight, the intrepid Nickolaisen rewatched Moneyball, an old favorite, and marveled at how much data analytics has advanced over the years. Back in 2002, the number crunching done by the Oakland A’s seemed revolutionary, Nickolaisen muses. Now, not so much, thanks to rapid advances in machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence.

In “Machine learning, artificial intelligence like ‘Moneyball’ on steroids,” Nickolaisen explains that AI applications have not only advanced, but that cloud computing has put AI within reach of many organizations — not just the big research institutions or corporate labs. “Instead of purchasing the massive compute power needed to do meaningful machine learning … someone could rent a massive number of compute nodes for a few minutes, hours or days and then turn it off once the work was done,” Nickolaisen writes.

Even better, inexpensive compute power has spurred IT providers to deliver on-demand services such as text analytics, statistical modeling and machine learning algorithms. His message: What are you waiting for? Keeping it real, he describes three AI projects his team is doing.

6. Scaling Agile to meet digital demands

Mark TonseticMark Tonsetic

The new IT operating model CIOs are developing in order to keep up with their companies’ digital demands is predicated on scaling Agile methods. Scaling Agile, however, is far easier said than done, despite the heavy investment many CIOs have made in tools and training — and despite the business appetite for “all things digital,” Mark Tonsetic explains.

“When it comes to implementing and scaling Agile, most frameworks, training and tools ignore or overlook business constraints — not the least of which is that many of the partners an Agile team has to engage with do not ‘speak Agile,'” writes Tonsetic, who recently left CEB for ServiceNow, where he is director of its Best Practices Center of Excellence.

In “Running Agile at scale: Three challenges, ” he urges IT leaders to bridge the Agile gap, with special attention to three critical groups: product owners, finance leaders and delivery teams. Tonsetic’s IT guidance describes the challenges associated with each group and advice on how to surmount them.

5. Agile is the new standard

Joseph FlahiffJoseph Flahiff

Agile, the iterative software development methodology that breaks work into chunks and emphasizes communication among stakeholders, is quickly becoming the norm for many IT organizations, eclipsing traditional Waterfall methods: Over 90% have adopted or are leaning toward some form of Agile, according to a recent study by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. But, as Agile expert Joseph Flahiff argues in “David vs. Goliath no more, Agile adoption in the new standard,” the popularity of Agile has also ushered in a “glut of Agile coaches,” not all of them legit and many of them taking far longer than necessary to train the rank and file.

He believes Agile proficiency needs to level up. “If Agile adoption is the new normal, Agile coaching should become a form of professional development for business and IT managers — and they should be the ones training employee teams,” Flahiff writes.

4. Stop using these four-letter words

The second of Flahiff’s columns to make the 2017 top 10 has to do with the use of four-letter words. The four-letter words he warns against using in the workplace, however, are probably not the ones that come readily to mind. He believes the language that inflicts the most damage on employees are words like quit, lose, can’t, envy and hate. “These are words that crush employee potential and quash innovation. They have the power to transform your organization into a dark and desolate place,” Flahiff writes.

An innate “negativity bias” in humans to pay more mind to bad or dangerous situations than to neutral or positive events means “negative four-letter words sink deep when they hit.” CIOs should use other four-letter words more often — words like care, grow and hope. “You’ll be amazed at how positive language can transform workplace culture,” Flahiff writes. Read about his experience using positive language in the workplace, in “The power of positive four-letter words to unlock employee potential.” His IT advice ends with an exercise for you to try.

3. Getting the cloud conversation right

The second Tonsetic column to make the top 10 focuses on selling your cloud strategy to the C-suite. As cloud computing costs are better understood — and found, in some cases, to be on par with or more expensive than on-premises costs — the CIO case for moving IT operations to the cloud has shifted. Speed, not cost has become the shorthand of choice for justifying the migration of IT capacity to the public cloud to C-level peers.

But as Tonsetic explains in “Selling the value of cloud computing to the C-suite,” arguments about IT speed versus IT cost savings miss the boat. Instead, the cloud conversations CIOs should be having with executives must connect IT’s cloud strategy to business growth. “IT cannot and should not have a stand-alone cloud strategy. IT should be part of an enterprise strategy — presumably a digital one — for growth,” Tonsetic writes.

The column lays out five imperatives for getting the conversation right. No. 1 on the list is figuring out the connection between cloud migration and the story your CFO “wants to tell investors.” Check out the column for the four other imperatives.

2. Hot, hot, hot

“Needed now and for the foreseeable future: Five hot IT skills,” marks Nickolaisen’s third entry in 2017’s top 10 IT guidance columns. He begins by explaining how the current race for talent and “IT salary craziness” eerily recalls the dot-com bubble and subsequent bursting — with an important difference. Businesses today are using technology to do more than build online shopping sites. Technology is being used to reinvent businesses — by automating processes, crunching data for new insights, by making employees more mobile, more productive and smarter. “The result is that competition for IT talent is fierce and it touches us all,” Nickolaisen writes.

Read his column to find out which five IT skills CIOs need to have in their organizations to thrive in 2018.

1. The strategic CIO

George SpaldingGeorge Spalding

The most-read IT advice column of 2017 delivers a timely reminder to ambitious CIOs everywhere. To garner business support for your grand strategic initiatives — and the digitization of business is indeed a grand goal — your IT house must be in order. Top order. In “The strategic CIO’s first day: In search of IT operational excellence,” George Spalding, executive vice president at IT consulting outfit Pink Elephant, recounts a CIO’s first day on the job.

His C-level peers have requested a presentation on how he will change IT for the better, and he’s ready with three strategic IT initiatives. Machine learning, mobilization and making money figure large in his talk. Before the CIO can begin, however, the CFO kicks things off by stating that the company’s network “basically sucks.” The COO picks up from there, detailing the business damage caused by network outages and ending with a withering critique of the IT help desk. The CEO … well, you get the picture.

“The fun will have to wait,” Spalding writes. But he doesn’t leave his hypothetical CIO in the lurch. If you haven’t done so already, check out his IT advice on making operational excellence your first priority.

Blockchain identity management simplifies personal security

Identity management is a pain point for many companies and individuals, but blockchain could help solve some of the challenges.

When banking, traveling, providing proof of age or accessing corporate data, individuals must prove their identity. But it can be difficult for users to keep track of all the different pieces of identification they must present to do so. ShoCard, a software provider in Cupertino, Calif., aims to eliminate the need for multiple forms of identification, usernames and passwords, and give users more control through the use of its blockchain identity management tool.

“Since it is your data, really, you have the right to hold it, to operate it as you wish,” said Alexander Novoselov, the head of innovation at Creditinfo Group, a ShoCard customer headquartered in Iceland.

How blockchain identity management works

ShoCard offers an identity management tool that uses a blockchain-based digital verification and authentication process. Blockchain is a type of database that is secured using cryptography and encryption key techniques. A user’s identity information is stored on the blockchain to a hashed version of what’s called the public key. Each user also has a private key, which allows them to safeguard their personal data and prove to those with whom they share the data that it belongs only to the person sharing it.

The idea with blockchain identity management is to store and encrypt data on users’ mobile devices, rather than in a central database. Since credentials are stored on the device, an attacker would have to hack phone by phone and wouldn’t be able to compromise many identities at once.

Although the mass appeal of blockchain identity management remains to be seen, there is potential in very strict compliance-oriented fields, said Eric Klein, director of mobile software at VDC Research in Natick, Mass.

“They are definitely unique in the market for doing something that hadn’t occurred to me as a means of enhancing your security,” Klein said.

Customers can use ShoCard software development kits to integrate the technology into their mobile applications and servers. The client app then prompts users to take pictures of their valid government IDs, and ShoCard extracts the personal information. The user then sets up a passcode or fingerprint verification as an added security measure. When a user decides to share the data with a third party, the information is placed in an encrypted container on the blockchain, which no one — including ShoCard — can access, except the party with whom the user is sharing it.

Blockchain pays off

Creditinfo adopted ShoCard for a few of its customers. It needed to allow customers to not only have control over their own credit data, but also be able to securely transfer data between different countries, Novoselov said.

For example, if a person from India goes to a U.S. bank and tries to get a credit card, it brings complications. Creditinfo cannot share data from India in the U.S. because of a difference in privacy laws between the two countries. Creditinfo needed a tool to allow people to bring their credit histories with them anywhere.

This is a new way of bringing confidence that the data is in safe hands.
Alexander Novoselovhead of innovation at Creditinfo

Customers can now download the Creditinfo app, which incorporates ShoCard technology via the vendor’s software development kit, and securely access and share their credit score data on their mobile devices.

“This is a new way of bringing confidence that the data is in safe hands,” Novoselov said.

Based on this same blockchain identity management technology, ShoCard also offers ShoBadge, an app that allows employees to hold their encrypted ID information on their mobile devices. Unlike with ShoCard, customers don’t have to write any code; instead, they just use the app directly.

ShoBadge allows employees to access all of their corporate apps by authenticating through the app, rather than requiring different logins to different applications or devices. It also allows them to securely share their identities at the workplace — with human resources, for example. There is no longer a central database at the company where all the users’ sensitive personal information is stored. Thus, employees bring their own identity, and there is no username and password management in the hands of a third party.

The identity management market remains fragmented, with some existing vendors who have the benefit of being in the game for a long time, Klein said. But this does not mean that all customers have decided on which technology to adopt, which is why a new company like ShoCard has been attracting some pretty serious venture funding, he said.

“There are people betting on other technologies maybe surpassing what we have today,” he added. “Integrating sophisticated blockchain capabilities as a path certainly has potential.”

Discovering what DevOps means through help wanted ads

Help wanted: DevOps engineer.

Try finding a universal job description for that position on LinkedIn or Indeed.com, and you might go down the same rabbit hole I did recently. Based on what I saw, it’s not easy to define what a DevOps professional does.

Perhaps that dilemma owes to the vague boundaries of exactly what DevOps means. How about part technical, part cultural and part utopian? So, you can forgive job recruiters if they’re having a hard time describing DevOps positions that their companies want to fill.

And there are certainly lots of those positions currently open. The upward trends for DevOps jobs are impressive, according to data amassed on Indeed. There were about three times as many job postings on Indeed seeking DevOps candidates in June 2017 compared to June 2014. These job postings increased by 50% alone in the six months from January to June 2017.

Technical-based position wants ‘CIA’

In such a competitive market for job candidates, it’s natural for hiring departments to put their best spin on a DevOps job. I looked at three DevOps cloud engineer positions on LinkedIn just to see what differences showed up.

There were about three times as many job postings on Indeed seeking DevOps candidates in June 2017 compared to June 2014.

To be fair, there were some similarities: Candidates needed experience working with public cloud environments, using software automation techniques and moving toward continuous integration and continuous delivery, among other high-tech responsibilities.

But I also noticed significant differences among the trio of descriptions.

A financial services company, for example, heavily focused its DevOps cloud engineer job description on the technical duties and qualifications. In fact, the sought-after prospect was an engineer in “cloud integration and automation,” or CIA, according to the description. “This CIA engineer will be responsible for … establishing an infrastructure pipeline for on-prem workloads.” Yes, having experience with DevOps principles and in a business-friendly approach was a plus, but that qualification wasn’t readily apparent, and I had to read further down to find it.

Culture-based approach seeks a steward

Meanwhile, a well-known business media company took a different tack in its search for a DevOps engineer. The organization played upon its centennial anniversary and how technology would take it into the future.

In that regard, DevOps professionals were pitched as stewards of new visions, experimentation and increased efficiency — themes that are associated a lot more with the cultural aspects of exactly what DevOps means.

At the media company, DevOps engineers “sleep, eat and breathe a culture that is continuously iterating to improve everything they touch,” the description read.  This call to arms gave an impression strikingly different from the mechanical phraseology of the financial services job description.

Cancer fighters among the DevOps corps

Then there’s the job description from a research university, whose view of a DevOps engineer hinted at Shangri-La: Candidates need to be problem-solvers who might help cure cancer. Really?

That description might seem utopian to some. Yet, anyone following medical breakthroughs knows that precision medicine is enabling both data and clinical know-how to team up in ways not possible just a decade ago. How cool it would be if a DevOps engineer can help improve patient care?

In fact, many IT professionals in healthcare play significant roles in boosting clinical results. Researching cancer at this university, for example, requires automation techniques to better handle 17 petabytes of data flowing through a public cloud. In other words, beating cancer involves technical and DevOps know-how, not just medical expertise.

Considering the three jobs described here, DevOps candidates would seem to have many and varied choices, depending on which role appeals to them most, an embarrassment of options that in itself may seem utopian. However, the bigger issue remains and revolves around what DevOps means and whether it really does know its true identity.

With that in mind, the idea of simply seeking a DevOps engineer to fill a DevOps position might well be flawed, as Fixate IO DevOps analyst Chris Tozzi noted in DevOpsAgenda: “Doing DevOps the right way means getting the entire organization to embrace DevOps, not having a few people on staff who know DevOps.”

From where I stand, the definition of DevOps hinges on what a hiring company says it is. Just check the help wanted ads for proof.

Join us for Skype-a-Thon: Microsoft’s global event on Nov. 28-29 aiming to unite nearly half a million students |

Our annual Skype-a-Thon is here again, connecting thousands of classrooms to help open hearts and open minds. In our increasingly complex world this could not be more important. The students of today represent our hope for a better tomorrow. They are building our future.

This annual event is a celebration of the power of connecting students to each other globally, and an opportunity to teach greater empathy and compassion for our planet and for each other. Through sharing stories and projects, playing games, and collaborating on similar subjects, students’ hearts and minds are opened, allowing them to become more engaged global citizens.

Skype-a-Thon is a 48-hour event in which we, as a global community, count the distance all students travel virtually during any Skype calls made from November 28th through November 29th.  Last year, thousands of classrooms participated across all seven continents. This year we’re setting a goal for our global community to travel over 10 million virtual miles, and aiming to connect nearly half a million students.

As someone fortunate enough to visit classrooms around the world, I’m always heartened to see today’s students learning about global citizenship. One of the best ways they are gaining this knowledge is by using video communications technologies, like Skype. Classrooms are opening their walls to connect with different cultures and environments that can offer different perspectives, and model compassion for each other, the environment, and the health and welfare of students and their neighbors, near and far.

The impact of these experiences is best realized through the voices of the students participating.

“The world seems really large, and it would take a long time to go all way around it. But with things like Skype it seems so small.” Quentin, 8th Grade

Classrooms also use Skype to connect virtually with guest speakers, in fields of study where local experts are not available. They also take virtual field trips to visit landmarks and places of interest.

We created the Microsoft Global Skype-a-Thon to shine a light on the value of these virtual experiences.  It’s been exciting to see thousands of teachers and students participate to celebrate this kind of teaching, and to learn about empathy and appreciation of others and our world.

How do you join and have your students Skype with other classrooms and professionals?

There are many ways to get started and engage with this year’s Skype-a-Thon.  You can Skype with a classroom in another country, play Mystery Skype or share traditions and stories, take a virtual field trip to a place of interest, or get great advice from an expert during a Skype call with a guest speaker.

Visit skypeathon.com to plan your experiences and decide how many virtual miles your classroom can travel over the 48-hour celebration of global learning!

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New to Skype in the Classroom? That’s ok! Here’s how to get started:

  1. Sign-up on the Skype-a-Thon page: skypeathon.com
  2. Once you are signed up on the Microsoft Educator community, you can schedule a Skype call for November 28-29. Here you’ll be able to find a Skype activity in which to participate with your class. It could be any of the following Skype Classroom activities:
  • Skype with another class
  • Skype with a Microsoftie
  • Skype with a guest speaker
  1. Once you have scheduled your Skype calls for your students, share your plans and goals and virtual destinations. During the event, please share your experience and miles traveled with us on social networks using #skypeathon and #MicrosoftEDU.

For even more ideas, check out this Sway with even more information on all the ways you can participate in this year’s Skype-a-Thon:

 

Plus: Don’t miss the TweetMeet on Nov. 21, 10:00AM PST, in which you can talk to other educators about how they’re prepping for Skype-a-Thon.

Please join us on Nov. 28 to make this Skype-a-Thon another exciting journey through open hearts and open minds. To learn more, visit skypeathon.com today.

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using:

#skypeathon

#MicrosoftEDU

This month on Bing: holiday shopping, photo contest, new sports and weather experiences

This month at Bing we shipped several new experiences that help you quickly find what you’re looking for.
 

Holiday Shopping

With the holidays upon us, we have new tools to make it easy for you to search and discover the best deals on gifts.

blackfridaycountdown

Bing Shopping helps you save time by bringing together products from multiple sellers across the Web in to one search experience. Be it televisions, clothing and shoes, toys for your little ones, or gift baskets for your loved ones, you can compare across a wide range of products, filter your choices, compare prices, and visit the seller’s website where you can complete the purchase.

The Black Friday flyers page is a one stop shop to help you find Black Friday ads from across major stores in the US, saving you time mapping out your Black Friday strategy. So whether you are deal hunting or browsing specific stores, bookmark this page and visit it often to discover the latest deals as they are available.

Also in time for the holidays, we’ve increased the number of delivery services we support for package tracking, expanding our coverage from USPS, UPS, and Fedex in the US to coverage of several markets outside the US including myHermes in Great Britain and Purolator in Canada. Simply put your tracking ID in the search box, and Bing will present the latest tracking status right in the search result.

purolator
 

#AmplifyIngenuity Photo Contest

We also launched a #AmplifyIngenuity photo contest on 11/10 to help our users find inspiration in the ways humanity has used its intelligence to make a better future.

Users can

 

Historical weather and sports information

Bing has already got current weather and football information, but now you can check historical statistics for these topics. 

For example, if you’re hoping to travel these holidays or even just plan what to do at home, you can find historical weather patterns to know what to better expect.

historicalweather

Similarly, you can now go beyond searching current NFL results, and can brush up on your pro football knowledge by checking results of historical games.

historicalfootball

We hope you’re as excited by these releases as we are; we’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback at User Voice!

– The Bing Team
 

Druva Cloud Platform expands with Apollo

Druva moved to help manage data protection in the cloud with its latest Apollo software as a service, which helps protect workloads in Amazon Web Services through the Druva Cloud Platform.

The company’s new service provides a single control plane to manage infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service cloud workloads.

Druva, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., sells two cloud backup products, Druva InSync and Druva Phoenix, for its Druva Cloud Platform. The enterprise-level Druva InSync backs up endpoint data across physical and public cloud storage. The Druva Phoenix agent backs up and restores data sets in the cloud for distributed physical and virtual servers. Phoenix applies global deduplication at the source and points archived server backups to the cloud target.

There is a big change going on throughout the industry in how data is being managed. The growth is shifting toward secondary data.
Steven Hillsenior storage analyst, 451 Research

Apollo enables data management of Druva Cloud Platform workloads under a single control plane so administrators can do snapshot management for backup, recovery and replication of Amazon Web Services instances. It automates service-level agreements with global orchestration that includes file-level recovery. It also protects Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud instances.

Druva Apollo is part of an industrywide trend among data protection vendors to bring all secondary data under global management across on-premises and cloud storage.

“There is a big change going on throughout the industry in how data is being managed,” said Steven Hill, senior storage analyst for 451 Research. “The growth is shifting toward secondary data. Now, secondary data is growing faster than structured data, and that is where companies are running into a challenge.”

“Apollo will apply snapshot policies,” said Dave Packer, Druva’s vice president of product and alliance marketing. “It will automate many of the lifecycles of the snapshots. That is the first feature of Apollo.”

Automation for discovery, analysis and information governance is on the Druva cloud roadmap, Packer said.

Druva last August pulled in $80 million in funding, bringing total investments into the range of $200 million for the fast-growing vendor. Druva claims to have more than 4,000 worldwide customers that include NASA, Pfizer, NBCUniversal, Marriott Hotels, Stanford University and Lockheed Martin.

Druva has positioned its data management software to go up against traditional backup vendors Commvault and Veritas Technologies, which also are transitioning into broad-based data management players. It’s also competing with startups Rubrik, which has raised a total of $292 million in funding since 2015 for cloud data management, and Cohesity, which has raised $160 million.

Versa SD-WAN gets features focused on voice, video calling

Versa Networks has added to its SD-WAN product capabilities the vendor claims will help organizations maintain the quality of video and voice calling in the branch office.

The company introduced this week Versa SD-WAN technology that formulates a mean opinion score (MOS) for communication traffic and lets network engineers set policies that trigger specific actions if the score falls below a baseline. MOS is a number from one to five that indicates the voice or video quality at the destination end of the circuit. Satisfactory voice calls, for example, are typically in the 3.5 to 4.2 range.

Versa has developed algorithms that determine the MOS of each call based on metrics extrapolated from Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) and Real-Time Transport Control Protocol (RTCP) traffic flows. RTP combines its data transport with the RTCP. The latter lets monitoring applications detect packet loss and compensate for delays that lead to jitter.

Other factors used to reach a mean opinion score are the codecs used in a company’s voice over IP and video conferencing application. In general, codecs compress digital data to move it faster over the network and then decompress it at the destination point. In doing its work, however, a codec causes some degradation in quality.

Network engineers can set policies that tell the Versa SD-WAN to take specific actions when the MOS is too low. Those steps could include changing the transport of the data flow, moving other traffic off the route to increase available bandwidth and cloning the communication traffic so it can be sent across multiple circuits.

Analysts split on value of MOS in Versa SD-WAN

Other SD-WAN vendors, such as VeloCloud, which was recently acquired by VMware, also provide mechanisms for monitoring and taking corrective actions to help maintain voice and video quality. In general, most products take into account common network problems, such as the loss of packets or delay in their delivery.

“The added support [within Versa ] for real-time voice and video will help ensure good-quality communications are maintained,” said Mike Fratto, an analyst at Current Analysis, which is owned by London-based GlobalData.

Not all analysts, however, agreed that MOS scoring would improve voice and video calling.

“My guess is that this won’t improve calling all that much, because SD-WAN solutions are already looking at things like jitter, latency, etc., for voice traffic,” said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. “They also can’t deal with factors inside the LAN, such as poor Wi-Fi performance that can adversely impact call quality.”

At its core, SD-WAN lets engineers steer traffic across multiple links, such as MPLS, Long Term Evolution and broadband. The connections they choose depends on the needs of the applications generating the traffic. Companies can select MPLS for data that needs a high-level of reliability, while using cheaper broadband for less sensitive data flows.

Vendors have added WAN optimization, firewalls, routing and quality-of-service features for communications as differentiators and to demand higher prices for their SD-WAN platforms.