Tag Archives: marketing

SwiftStack layoffs reflect change in focus to AI, analytics

Object storage specialist SwiftStack laid off employees in sales, marketing and partner relations this month, while shifting its focus to artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analytics use cases.

The San Francisco software vendor originally concentrated on backing up and archiving unstructured data on commodity servers with its commercially supported and enhanced version of open source OpenStack Swift. SwiftStack gradually expanded into new areas over the past eight years. The vendor claims its latest 7.0 product supports clusters that can scale linearly to petabytes of data and support throughput in excess of 100 GB per second.

Seeking to differentiate

Erik Pounds, SwiftStack’s vice president of marketing, said SwiftStack will steer away from use cases such as low-cost, long-term repositories for backup applications, replacements for tape archives, and on-premises alternatives to Amazon S3 or Glacier.

Pounds said “object storage is commoditizing” in those areas.

“These are examples of good uses for object storage, and even SwiftStack, but for us to distinguish ourselves in a crowded field, we need to compete in areas where we have strong product differentiation,” Pounds said. “Tier I technology vendors are aggressively going after these types of opportunities to preserve and grow footprint, and it quickly becomes a race to the bottom.”

Pounds said SwiftStick’s new focus is on “more modern” AI, machine learning and analytics use cases — where customers need to access data across edge, core and cloud environments. That shift in focus required the company to change “outward-facing parts of the organization” in order to stay within operating budgets.

SwiftStack did not disclose the number of employees it laid off. LinkedIn indicates the company has 63 employees, but Pounds confirmed the Dec. 18 layoffs left SwiftStack “shy of 50.” He said the company still has “a healthy sales team with complete regional coverage,” despite the loss of “valued members” of the sales, marketing and partner team.

Pounds stressed that the organizational change “did not negatively affect the product and engineering team”. He said that team received additional resources. He also denied that the cuts will change SwiftStack’s product development work and release schedules.

“We continuously release new versions of SwiftStack on a three-week cadence, so once new functionality is developed and tested, it gets in the hands of our customers quickly,” Pounds said.

Azure support

In mid-December, SwiftStack 1space added support for Microsoft Azure Blob Storage to complement the product’s support for Amazon S3 and Google Cloud Storage. Pounds said more advanced Azure support would come in January with a SwiftStack 7 update.

SwiftStack 1space creates a single namespace to enable users to access, migrate and search data spanning public and on-premises cloud object systems. A new 1space File Connector extension enables users to access data stored in file systems.

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A year of bringing AI to the edge

This post is co-authored by Anny Dow, Product Marketing Manager, Azure Cognitive Services.

In an age where low-latency and data security can be the lifeblood of an organization, containers make it possible for enterprises to meet these needs when harnessing artificial intelligence (AI).

Since introducing Azure Cognitive Services in containers this time last year, businesses across industries have unlocked new productivity gains and insights. The combination of both the most comprehensive set of domain-specific AI services in the market and containers enables enterprises to apply AI to more scenarios with Azure than with any other major cloud provider. Organizations ranging from healthcare to financial services have transformed their processes and customer experiences as a result.

These are some of the highlights from the past year:

Employing anomaly detection for predictive maintenance

Airbus Defense and Space, one of the world’s largest aerospace and defense companies, has tested Azure Cognitive Services in containers for developing a proof of concept in predictive maintenance. The company runs Anomaly Detector for immediately spotting unusual behavior in voltage levels to mitigate unexpected downtime. By employing advanced anomaly detection in containers without further burdening the data scientist team, Airbus can scale this critical capability across the business globally.

“Innovation has always been a driving force at Airbus. Using Anomaly Detector, an Azure Cognitive Service, we can solve some aircraft predictive maintenance use cases more easily.”  —Peter Weckesser, Digital Transformation Officer, Airbus

Automating data extraction for highly-regulated businesses

As enterprises grow, they begin to acquire thousands of hours of repetitive but critically important work every week. High-value domain specialists spend too much of their time on this. Today, innovative organizations use robotic process automation (RPA) to help manage, scale, and accelerate processes, and in doing so free people to create more value.

Automation Anywhere, a leader in robotic process automation, partners with these companies eager to streamline operations by applying AI. IQ Bot, their unique RPA software, automates data extraction from documents of various types. By deploying Cognitive Services in containers, Automation Anywhere can now handle documents on-premises and at the edge for highly regulated industries:

“Azure Cognitive Services in containers gives us the headroom to scale, both on-premises and in the cloud, especially for verticals such as insurance, finance, and health care where there are millions of documents to process.” —Prince Kohli, Chief Technology Officer for Products and Engineering, Automation Anywhere

For more about Automation Anywhere’s partnership with Microsoft to democratize AI for organizations, check out this blog post.

Delighting customers and employees with an intelligent virtual agent

Lowell, one of the largest credit management services in Europe, wants credit to work better for everybody. So, it works hard to make every consumer interaction as painless as possible with the AI. Partnering with Crayon, a global leader in cloud services and solutions, Lowell set out to solve the outdated processes that kept the company’s highly trained credit counselors too busy with routine inquiries and created friction in the customer experience. Lowell turned to Cognitive Services to create an AI-enabled virtual agent that now handles 40 percent of all inquiries—making it easier for service agents to deliver greater value to consumers and better outcomes for Lowell clients.

With GDPR requirements, chatbots weren’t an option for many businesses before containers became available. Now companies like Lowell can ensure the data handling meets stringent compliance standards while running Cognitive Services in containers. As Carl Udvang, Product Manager at Lowell explains:

“By taking advantage of container support in Cognitive Services, we built a bot that safeguards consumer information, analyzes it, and compares it to case studies about defaulted payments to find the solutions that work for each individual.”

One-to-one customer care at scale in data-sensitive environments has become easier to achieve.

Empowering disaster relief organizations on the ground

A few years ago, there was a major Ebola outbreak in Liberia. A team from USAID was sent to help mitigate the crisis. Their first task on the ground was to find and categorize the information such as the state of healthcare facilities, wifi networks, and population density centers.  They tracked this information manually and had to extract insights based on a complex corpus of data to determine the best course of action.

With the rugged versions of Azure Stack Edge, teams responding to such crises can carry a device running Cognitive Services in their backpack. They can upload unstructured data like maps, images, pictures of documents and then extract content, translate, draw relationships among entities, and apply a search layer. With these cloud AI capabilities available offline, at their fingertips, response teams can find the information they need in a matter of moments. In Satya’s Ignite 2019 keynote, Dean Paron, Partner Director of Azure Storage and Edge, walks us through how Cognitive Services in Azure Stack Edge can be applied in such disaster relief scenarios (starting at 27:07): 

Transforming customer support with call center analytics

Call centers are a critical customer touchpoint for many businesses, and being able to derive insights from customer calls is key to improving customer support. With Cognitive Services, businesses can transcribe calls with Speech to Text, analyze sentiment in real-time with Text Analytics, and develop a virtual agent to respond to questions with Text to Speech. However, in highly regulated industries, businesses are typically prohibited from running AI services in the cloud due to policies against uploading, processing, and storing any data in public cloud environments. This is especially true for financial institutions.

A leading bank in Europe addressed regulatory requirements and brought the latest transcription technology to their own on-premises environment by deploying Cognitive Services in containers. Through transcribing calls, customer service agents could not only get real-time feedback on customer sentiment and call effectiveness, but also batch process data to identify broad themes and unlock deeper insights on millions of hours of audio. Using containers also gave them flexibility to integrate with their own custom workflows and scale throughput at low latency.

What’s next?

These stories touch on just a handful of the organizations leading innovation by bringing AI to where data lives. As running AI anywhere becomes more mainstream, the opportunities for empowering people and organizations will only be limited by the imagination.

Visit the container support page to get started with containers today.

For a deeper dive into these stories, visit the following

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Microsoft and Salesforce expand strategic partnership to accelerate customer success

Salesforce names Microsoft Azure as its public cloud provider for Salesforce Marketing Cloud to help customers scale and grow; new integration between Salesforce Sales and Service Clouds with Microsoft Teams will boost productivity

REDMOND, Wash., and SAN FRANCISCO — Nov. 14, 2019 — Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) on Thursday announced plans to expand their strategic partnership to help customers meet the evolving needs of their businesses and boost team productivity. Salesforce has named Microsoft Azure as its public cloud provider for Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Salesforce will also build a new integration that connects Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Service Cloud with Microsoft Teams.

Salesforce and Microsoft logos
“At Salesforce, we’re relentlessly focused on driving trust and success for our customers,” said Marc Benioff and Keith Block, co-CEOs, Salesforce. “We’re excited to expand our partnership with Microsoft and bring together the leading CRM with Azure and Teams to deliver incredible customer experiences.”

“In a world where every company is becoming a digital company, we want to enable every customer and partner to build experiences on our leading platforms,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “By bringing together the power of Azure and Microsoft Teams with Salesforce, our aim is to help businesses harness the power of the Microsoft Cloud to better serve customers.”

Comments on the news

“Marriott has more than 7,200 properties spanning 134 countries and territories, so driving efficiency and collaboration is critical,” said Brian King, global officer, Digital, Distribution, Revenue Strategy, and Global Sales, Marriott International. “The combination of Salesforce and Microsoft enables our teams to work better together to enhance the guest experience at every touchpoint.”

“With 400 brands and teams in 190 countries, we are always looking for ways to scale more efficiently and strengthen collaboration,” said Jane Moran, chief technology advisor, Unilever. “The powerful combination of Salesforce and Microsoft enables us to be more productive and connect with each other and our customers like never before.”

Salesforce names Microsoft Azure as its public cloud provider for marketing cloud

With Salesforce Marketing Cloud, marketers are empowered to know their customers, personalize marketing with Einstein, engage with them across any channel, and analyze the impact to improve campaign performance. Bringing its Marketing Cloud workload to Azure, Salesforce joins the over 95% of Fortune 500 companies benefitting from an Azure infrastructure offering the most global regions of any cloud provider.

Through this partnership, Salesforce will move its Marketing Cloud to Azure — unlocking new growth opportunities for customers. By moving to Azure, Salesforce will be able to optimize Marketing Cloud’s performance as customer demand scales. This will reduce customer onboarding times and enable customers to expand globally more quickly with Azure’s global footprint and help address local data security, privacy and compliance requirements.

​Salesforce and Microsoft Teams integration will boost productivity

​As teamwork becomes a driving force in the workplace, people want to bring workflows and frequently used apps into their collaboration workspace environments. Sales and customer service are highly collaborative, team-centric functions, and many companies actively use both Salesforce CRM and Microsoft Teams. As part of this agreement, Salesforce will build a new integration that give sales and service users the ability to search, view, and share Salesforce records directly within Teams. The new Teams integration for Salesforce Sales and Service Clouds will be made available in late 2020.

Building on a commitment to customer success

These new integrations will build on existing solutions that enable mutual customers to be more productive, including the hundreds of thousands of monthly active users using Salesforce’s Microsoft Outlook integration to create, communicate and collaborate.

​About Salesforce​

Salesforce is the global leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), bringing companies closer to their customers in the digital age. Founded in 1999, Salesforce enables companies of every size and industry to take advantage of powerful technologies—cloud, mobile, social, internet of things, artificial intelligence, voice and blockchain—to create a 360° view of their customers. For more information about Salesforce (NYSE: CRM), visit: www.salesforce.com.

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, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Stephanie Barnes, Salesforce PR, (415) 722-0883, [email protected]

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.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Salesforce email marketing gets Einstein AI infusion

Salesforce unveiled on Thursday Marketing Cloud email features to come, including Einstein AI tools to automate, personalize and analyze outcomes of email campaigns and interactive emails. Salesforce also introduced testing tools to detect potential errors before hitting the send button.

The Salesforce email marketing AI features scheduled for release later this month include Einstein Content Selection, which makes personalized recommendations for images based on customer preferences. Einstein Copy Insights, also slated for later this month, predicts verbiage most likely to drive customer response in email subject lines and body text, as well as for social media and text messages.

Also, part of the upcoming release is a testing and validation tool that examines email addresses for missing elements, text errors and off-topic offers before sending emails to a list. 

Einstein Messaging Insights, scheduled for January release, analyzes email campaigns to figure out why some campaigns underperform against expected results. More importantly, it can help determine why overperforming ones succeed.

“If you’re doing something that’s performing pretty well, it’s going to try to tell you why,” said Bobby Jania, Salesforce product marketing VP. “So, you’re learning from that and can use it in other campaigns.”

Salesforce also plans to pilot an interactive email builder, based on technology from its Rebel acquisition earlier this year. It can embed surveys, polls and image carousels inside emails. That avails content that otherwise might require an email recipient to click on a web link, which reduces customer engagement.

Consumers and B2B buyers prefer email as the channel to receive marketing messages, according to a Salesforce-commissioned survey of 8,000 consumers and B2B buyers conducted last April. Respondents indicated email remains the favorite channel despite the rise of competing social media and text messaging channels, Jania said.

Salesforce email marketing tools screenshot.
Salesforce email marketing tools now can tap AI to match hero images in individual emails to preferences found in customer data.

Email is not going anywhere as the most-used digital marketing channel, said Constellation Research analyst Nicole France. The upcoming Salesforce email marketing tools aren’t particularly groundbreaking, she said, as other vendors offer similar capabilities.

However, France said that Salesforce is doing what it does well: Getting Einstein AI into the hands of its customers by embedding it in tools they can use right away without help from a data scientist. That will make the tools useful.

“No one’s using AI for the sake of using AI,” France said. “This is a practical use of AI in the marketer’s daily work.”

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The Microsoft AI Idea Challenge – Breakthrough Ideas Wanted!

This post is authored by Tara Shankar Jana, Senior Technical Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft.

All of us have creative ideas – ideas that can improve our lives and the lives of thousands, perhaps even millions of others. But how often do we act on turning those ideas into a reality? Most of the time, we do not believe in our ideas strongly enough to pursue them. Other times we feel like we lack a platform to build out our idea or showcase it. Most good ideas don’t go beyond those initial creative thoughts in our head.

If you’re a professional working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), or an aspiring AI developer or just someone who is passionate about AI and machine learning, Microsoft is excited to offer you an opportunity to transform your most creative ideas into reality. Join the Microsoft AI Idea Challenge Contest today for a chance to win exciting prizes and get your project featured in Microsoft’s AI.lab showcase. Check out the rules, terms and conditions of the contest and then dive right in!

The Challenge

The Microsoft AI Idea Challenge is seeking breakthrough AI solutions from developers, data scientists, professionals and students, and preferably developed on the Microsoft AI platform and services. The challenge gives you a platform to freely share AI models and applications, so they are reusable and easily accessible. The ideas you submit are judged on the parameters shown in the figure below – essentially half the weight is for the originality of your idea, 20% for the feasibility of your solution, and 30% for the complexity (i.e. level of sophistication) of your implementation.

The Microsoft AI Challenge is accepting submissions between now and October 12th, 2018.

To qualify for the competition, individuals or teams are required to submit a working AI model, test dataset, a demo app and a demo video that can be a maximum of three minutes long. We encourage you to register early and upload your projects soon, so that you can begin to plan and build out your solution and turn in the rest of your materials on time. We are looking for solutions across the whole spectrum of use cases – to be inspired, take a look at some of the examples at AI.lab.

Prizes

The winners of the first three places in the contest will respectively receive a Surface Book 2, a DJI Drone, and an Xbox One X.

We hope that’s motivation to get you started today – good luck!

Tara

InsightSquared unveils marketing analytics tools

BOSTON — InsightSquared unveiled new marketing analytics tools aimed at providing better insights to how marketing is getting leads into play and how they translate to sales.

“There’s natural tension between sales and marketing,” said Matisha Ladiwala, general manager of marketing analytics at InsightSquared, based in Boston. Ladiwala spoke to an audience of about 500 — mostly customers — at the data visualization and reporting vendor’s second annual Ramp 2018 conference at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel.

InsightSquared executives at the conference on Aug. 7 said bringing together marketing, sales and service departments — collectively known as revenue ops — is its main business goal, and the new marketing analytics tools would help unlock those hidden insights.

Measuring marketing revenue

The marketing analytics tools are intended to relieve some of the tension often found between those departments by providing interactive, current dashboards that display how marketing campaigns are doing and when and how many leads entered the sales funnel. The new tools also include more planning and reporting capabilities.

InsightSquared executive Matisha Ladiwals speaking at Ramp, the vendor's annual user conference
Matisha Ladiwala, GM for marketing analytics at InsightSquared, demos new marketing analytics tools.

“It’s a great way to build trust and credibility with other departments and optimize which marketing campaigns are giving you results,” Ladiwala said. “The dashboards are there to give you the confidence that you’re investing in the right things.”

Most InsightSquared customers at the conference hadn’t yet seen the marketing analytics software in action to gauge how it could affect revenue operations or how well it brings different departments together. But a few customers used the marketing analytics tools in beta, and while speaking onstage at the conference, they said the software helped find key insights that were often somewhat hard to unearth.

The marketing analytics tools are commercially available now, according to InsightSquared.

Automation key to efficiency

There’s natural tension between sales and marketing.
Matisha Ladiwalageneral manager of marketing analytics at InsightSquared

“Aggregating that information from those areas was very manual and time-consuming,” said Guido Bartolacci, manager of acquisition and strategy for New Breed, a marketing and sales agency based in Winooski, Vt. “We were taking all this time pulling together information, rather than analyzing it.”

Bartolacci said New Breed was having difficulty bringing together its own information from its disparate sources, including Google Analytics and Salesforce.

By using the marketing analytics tools, New Breed was able to measure the value of marketing processes and help its sales department focus on the right leads, he said.

“What we’ve been able to do with a marketing-generated revenue [report], we can tell how much revenue marketing is creating for the bottom line,” Bartolacci said. “It’s been great for sales and marketing and helps unify our teams to work more efficiently. Marketing exists to drive revenue, but these reports help us understand how and why that happens.”

Dashboards help sales enablement

Another customer, ThriveHive, a digital marketing company based in Quincy, Mass., is using InsightSquared’s marketing analytics software to help connect its disparate marketing and sales tools.

“We have a complicated marketing and sales stack,” said Adam Blake, ThriveHive’s chief marketing officer. “Every week, I’d make my team go through a day of hell by compiling data from all these different platforms and put them in Excel.”

By doing those reports manually, Blake said ThriveHive employees often wouldn’t know if something went wrong with a prospect until it was too late. By switching to live reporting and dashboards with the InsightSquared marketing analytics tools, ThriveHive was able to find more insights in its prospect funnel.

 “We now have dashboards showing how quickly sales reps follow up with leads,” Blake said.

Salesforce Datorama acquisition to bolster Marketing Cloud

The Salesforce Datorama acquisition is expected to enhance the Salesforce Marketing Cloud system and better compete with Adobe — the CRM software vendor’s main competitor in the marketing space.

The Salesforce Datorama acquisition marks the fourth purchase for the vendor this year, following its acquisitions of Attic Labs, CloudCraze and MuleSoft. The cost of buying Datorama, according to reports, was about $800 million.

Datorama uses AI and machine learning to provide marketing intelligence and analytics to help organizations identify which campaigns work best and what the next best marketing tactic should be. Salesforce appears to be looking to the Israel-based company’s technology to bolster its Einstein AI-backed business intelligence software.

The move will strengthen Salesforce’s portfolio in marketing and analytics, said Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research.

“Datorama looks at every piece of analytics around the campaign to figure out why one was more successful than another. Salesforce has been building out its Marketing Cloud and [has] been doing specific acquisitions to bolster its marketing and ad-tech capabilities,” Wang said.

Not all observers think the Salesforce Datorama acquisition was the best move to help with marketing analytics.

Datorama customers have used the product more for reporting, rather than analytics, according to Tina Moffett, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

“Datorama’s strong suit is in its ability to connect disparate data sources — from Facebook and ad servers and email providers — into one central system, and it uses AI to do that,” Moffett said. “A lot of the organizations that we’ve talked to use Datorama as a central reporting and dashboard tool.”

Building capabilities through acquisition

When you see this acquisition, you have to think the next thing for Salesforce is ad tech.
Ray Wangprincipal analyst and founder of Constellation Research

Salesforce has been visibly working to improve Marketing Cloud and has done so mainly through acquisitions.

That campaign started with acquiring ExactTarget in 2013 and turning it into the core Marketing Cloud system. Salesforce then bought Krux in 2016 to improve Marketing Cloud’s data management capabilities and soon renamed Krux to Salesforce DMP.

Salesforce’s acquisition of Datorama AI marketing software fits the same theme, but the purchase may have surprised some.

“Salesforce’s [approach] is to build capabilities through acquisitions,” Moffett said. “For them to focus on marketing performance measurement and then acquire a company wasn’t that big of a shock. I think what was a big of a surprise was that it was Datorama.”

Surprise or not, Salesforce appears to have big plans for Datorama.

“Salesforce’s acquisition of Datorama will enhance Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud with expanded data integration, intelligence and analytics, enabling marketers to unlock insights across Salesforce data and the myriad of technologies used in today’s marketing and consumer engagement ecosystem,” Ran Sarig, Datorama CEO and co-founder, wrote in a blog post.

Meanwhile, Wang said he could see the Salesforce Datorama acquisition laying the groundwork for another Salesforce product: an advertising cloud.

“When you see this acquisition, you have to think the next thing for Salesforce is ad tech,” Wang said.

Salesforce graphic with Marketing Cloud logo
Salesforce acquired Datorama, an AI marketing analytics company, to help bolster its Marketing Cloud (pictured).

Salesforce sets sights on Adobe

Salesforce’s focus on strengthening Marketing Cloud also is apparently aimed at Adobe — another marketing software giant.

The two software goliaths have battled fiercely in recent years, and the Salesforce Datorama acquisition should be viewed in the context of that technological arms race, Wang said.

“From a Marketing Cloud perspective, it’s Salesforce and Google versus Microsoft and Adobe, and that’s what people need to recognize when considering their investments,” he said.

The big tech leaders all are trying to make it easier for organizations to connect the dozens of marketing tools that most large enterprises use.

“The bigger issue is the fact that most organizations run 40 to 50 martech solutions and want to know how to consolidate [their data],” Wang said. “Everyone is looking for one vendor to make this easier, and the integrations that Datorama has are important and allow you to connect those different pieces.”

Exactis leak exposes database with 340 million records

A marketing firm exposed records on most adults in the U.S., but experts weren’t surprised at the number of people affected and said the lesson should be about the depth of data gathered.

Marketing firm Exactis, a data company based in Palm Coast, Fla., exposed 340 million records — 230 million for individuals and 110 million for business customers — via a publicly accessible server, meaning anyone who knew where to look could have taken the data. Vinny Troia, security researcher and founder of NightLion Security, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., discovered the potential Exactis leak and wrote on Twitter that he is working with the company to determine if anyone accessed the data. Exactis has since secured the server.

The data potentially exposed in the Exactis leak added up to 2 terabytes of information, including phone numbers, home and email addresses, but Bruce Silcoff, CEO of Shyft Network International, a cybersecurity company based in Barbados, said the Exactis leak is noteworthy “not only for the number of customers impacted, but also for the depth of compromised data.”

“It’s been reported that every record includes more than 400 variables of personal characteristics,” Silcoff wrote via email. “The reality is that we live in a digitized world and all our interactions on social channels are recorded, and this isn’t stopping anytime soon. The centralized storage of user information makes institutions like Exactis hacker bait. Never has there been such urgency nor opportunity to introduce a disruptive alternative to an antiquated system and solve an urgent global problem.”

Wired’s original report on the Exactis leak noted that the personal characteristics data could include information such as personal interests and habits, if the person smokes, has pets or the number, age and gender of the person’s children.

The reality is that we live in a digitized world and all our interactions on social channels are recorded, and this isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Bruce SilcoffCEO of Shyft

Troia told Wired that he found the Exactis leak with a simple Shodan search for ElasticSearch databases on publicly accessible servers in the U.S. While there is a huge trove of personal information, the dataset does not include Social Security numbers or credit cards, so experts said it would be more useful for social engineering.

Nico Fischbach, global CTO at Forcepoint, said the highly sensitive data in the Exactis leak “could be exploited by malicious actors to carry out a number of different types of attacks.”

“If an attacker combined this intel with data from the 2015 OPM breach, they could run human intelligencetype special operations attacks against cleared personnel. It’s also a huge asset to criminals using impersonation as a tool for phishing. Further, as 110 million of the records pertain to businesses, criminals could utilize the data for spear-phishing campaigns aimed at data exfiltration,” Fischbach wrote via email. “In the case of Cambridge Analytica, attackers had to ‘steal’ this type of profile data from Facebook, but, with Exactis, the data was publicly accessible on a server with weak or no authentication. This further underscores the need for enterprises to focus on knowing how their people interact with their data, have insight to risky activity and to think ahead on how vulnerabilities like this could be mitigated against, or prevented entirely.”

Ruchika Mishra, director products and solutions at Balbix, a cybersecurity company headquartered in San Jose, Calif., said this was likely a problem of Exactis not understanding the mindset of an attacker.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Exactis knew exactly what type of information they had and the ramifications there would be if there was a breach,” Mischra wrote via email. “But the problem with most enterprises today is that they don’t have the foresight and visibility into the hundreds of attack vectors — be it misconfigurations, employees at risk of being phished, admin using credentials across personal and business accounts — that could be exploited.”

Robert Capps, vice president and authentication strategist for NuData Security, a behavioral biometrics company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, said “if U.S. citizens did not think their personal information has ever been compromised, this should convince them it definitely is.”

“Unfortunately, breaches are here to stay, but government agencies, businesses, and organizations across the U.S. can protect users by applying a new authentication framework,” Capps wrote via email. “Multi-layered security solutions based on passive biometrics and behavioral analytics make this stolen information useless to cybercriminals, as they identify users based on their behavior instead of data such as names, last names, dates of birth, passwords, addresses, and more.”

Vendors need to concentrate on wireless reliability, not hype

WLAN vendors and industry institutions need to avoid getting lost in a sea of buzzword and marketing hype and remain focused on wireless reliability. So writes blogger and wireless veteran, Lee Badman.

“For those of us that have been in the wireless game for a long time, unfulfilled promises and poor output from certain industry groups are a way of life,” he said. “That’s not to say that Wi-Fi isn’t an utterly amazing, transformative technology. It most certainly is. But just like politicians can make promises that no one blinks at when they stay unfulfilled, many WLAN-related organizations and entities have become known as much for what they don’t deliver as for what they do.”

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ insistence on making new standards backward-compatible is one area Badman finds frustrating, as does the bewildering amount of mobile clients certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Furthermore, Badman lambastes vendors for using industry buzzwords without having the results to support their claims. “Maybe the vendors can prove they have fixed the cultures that have resulted in their sins of the past before asking us to embrace the latest flavor of the month and the fat fees that come with it,” he said.

The advent of 802.11ax will usher in new performance standards and new claims, Badman said. These new products could indeed be as great as promised, or it could just open the door for more wireless reliability problems if the industry doesn’t properly prepare.

Read more of what Badman says vendors need to do to ensure wireless reliability.

Finding the next generation of coders

GlobalData analyst Charlotte Dunlap took a look at how vendors are increasing their efforts to bring in new coding talent in her most recent blog.

According to Dunlap, the biggest problem facing the technology industry is the lack of coding talent. In response to this deficit, major application platform vendors have ramped up campaigns to attract new developers and grow developer communities.

The most significant result of this shift was Microsoft’s purchase of GitHub for $7.5 billion. Dunlap described GitHub as being among the industry’s most powerful programming environments, predicting that Microsoft Azure will be the largest beneficiary of the acquisition.

IBM, meantime, recently announced its new coding campaign, Call for Code, which challenges programmers to create an app to assist in disaster relief. Oracle has been attracting young coders through social media with its Live for the Code and Why I Code campaigns.

These strategies have been yielding impressive results, Dunlap said.

“For their efforts, vendors get access to developers, equip them with tools and solutions to develop advanced apps, and try to make them loyal followers of their cloud platforms.”

Read more on what Dunlap had to say about the talent deficit.

Tracing why networking wasn’t horizontally integrated

Why did networking evolve the way it did, with routers and switches being vertically integrated? According to Ivan Pepelnjak at IPSpace, it’s because “nobody was interested in disaggregating them.”

Enterprise networking, unlike compute, didn’t have a Microsoft or an Intel making the software and chips that could be used in any box. Networking is more complex and it’s a much smaller market than the server market, meaning there weren’t any companies willing to make the necessary investment to develop a multivendor approach. And, Pepelnjak said, “high-speed packet forwarding was always a bleeding-edge technology,” which posed another barrier to a disaggregated environment.

Finally, Pepelnjak said, “vertical integration is the only way to push things to their maximum capacity.” Companies that wrote code or designed systems tailored to the least common denominator ran into problems supporting a multivendor switching environment.

And there is this: the question of support and a single throat to choke. Many companies would prefer to spend more money on an integrated system because they know it’s easier to get the service and upgrades they might need.

Read more about why networking developed the way it did.

REWIND’s high-flying work with Microsoft HoloLens

Leila Martine, Director of Product Marketing at Microsoft, sees first-hand the excitement HoloLens is causing. “HoloLens is helping companies to work better by empowering staff. Every day we are seeing that workers from a range of sectors can easily collaborate to make complicated problems simple to solve. It really is taking human experiences to the next level.”

Virtual, augmented and mixed reality is becoming increasingly important to companies across the globe. According to market intelligence firm IDC, “worldwide revenues for the augmented reality and virtual reality market will grow … to more than $162 billion in 2020″.

REWIND is at the cutting-edge of that market. The company, which is based in St Albans (Rogers: “We’re only 2.5 miles outside the M25, so we’re London”), was only founded in 2011 but has grown quickly, boasting a team of more than 50 people. The group has already created a multi-award-winning virtual reality spacewalk for the BBC, as well as experiences with Jaguar, Lexus, Nissan, Rolls-Royce, Nike, Stella Artois, Savills and singer Bjork, among many others.

That level of technical experience led to REWIND being added to Microsoft’s HoloLens Agency Readiness Partner programme, which means the company will help other businesses use the mixed-reality headset to transform how they work. Rogers is excited by the possibilities.

“HoloLens is the first device humans have ever had that can augment human intelligence in real time. We have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips with one of these [he holds up his smartphone] but it’s a layer away, a search algorithm away. We have laptops, but what if the second screen is a HoloLens screen? If I can make this [he points to my laptop] as good as talking like we are now, as though I’m really here in the same space as you [when I’m really somewhere else], then why do we need to commute in the way we currently do, why do we all need to be compacted down this end of the country? What if you don’t like the weather so you change it to something else? That’s a little far away, but it’s not that big a leap. HoloLens has some amazing stuff, which is just the tip of the iceberg of what mixed reality can do.”

However, rather than see what he can do with HoloLens in the commercial sector, where the device has been predominantly used since its launch in 2016, Rogers wants members of the public to get their hands on the technology, too.