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AIOps platforms delve deeper into root cause analysis

The promise of AIOps platforms for enterprise IT pros lies in their potential to provide automated root cause analysis, and early customers have begun to use these tools to speed up problem resolution.

The city of Las Vegas needed an IT monitoring tool to replace a legacy SolarWinds deployment in early 2018 and found FixStream’s Meridian AIOps platform. The city introduced FixStream to its Oracle ERP and service-oriented architecture (SOA) environments as part of its smart city project, an initiative that will see municipal operations optimized with a combination of IoT sensors and software automation. Las Vegas is one of many U.S. cities working with AWS, IBM and other IT vendors on such projects.

FixStream’s Meridian offers an overview of how business process performance corresponds to IT infrastructure, as the city updates its systems more often and each update takes less time as part of its digital transformation, said Michael Sherwood, CIO for the city of Las Vegas.

“FixStream tells us where problems are and how to solve them, which takes the guesswork, finger-pointing and delays out of incident response,” he said. “It’s like having a new help desk department, but it’s not made up of people.”

The tool first analyzes a problem and offers insights as to the cause. It then automatically creates a ticket in the company’s ServiceNow IT service management system. ServiceNow acquired DxContinuum in 2017 and released its intellectual property as part of a similar help desk automation feature, called Agent Intelligence, in January 2018, but it’s the high-level business process view that sets FixStream apart from ServiceNow and other tools, Sherwood said.

FixStream’s Meridian AIOps platform creates topology views that illustrate the connections between parts of the IT infrastructure and how they underpin applications, along with how those applications underpin business processes. This was a crucial level of detail when a credit card payment system crashed shortly after FixStream was introduced to monitor Oracle ERP and SOA this spring.

“Instead of telling us, ‘You can’t take credit cards through the website right now,’ FixStream told us, ‘This service on this Oracle ERP database is down,'” Sherwood said.

This system automatically correlated an application problem to problems with deeper layers of the IT infrastructure. The speedy diagnosis led to a fix that took the city’s IT department a few hours versus a day or two.

AIOps platform connects IT to business performance

Instead of telling us, ‘You can’t take credit cards through the website right now,’ FixStream told us, ‘This service on this Oracle ERP database is down.’
Michael SherwoodCIO for the city of Las Vegas

Some IT monitoring vendors associate application performance management (APM) data with business outcomes in a way similar to FixStream. AppDynamics, for example, offers Business iQ, which associates application performance with business performance metrics and end-user experience. Dynatrace offers end-user experience monitoring and automated root cause analysis based on AI.

The differences lie in the AIOps platforms’ deployment architectures and infrastructure focus, said Nancy Gohring, an analyst with 451 Research who specializes in IT monitoring tools and wrote a white paper that analyzes FixStream’s approach.

“Dynatrace and AppDynamics use an agent on every host that collects app-level information, including code-level details,” Gohring said. “FixStream uses data collectors that are deployed once per data center, which means they are more similar to network performance monitoring tools that offer insights into network, storage and compute instead of application performance.”

FixStream integrates with both Dynatrace and AppDynamics to join its infrastructure data to the APM data those vendors collect. Its strongest differentiation is in the way it digests all that data into easily readable reports for senior IT leaders, Gohring said.

“It ties business processes and SLAs [service-level agreements] to the performance of both apps and infrastructure,” she said.

OverOps fuses IT monitoring data with code analysis

While FixStream makes connections between low-level infrastructure and overall business performance, another AIOps platform, made by OverOps, connects code changes to machine performance data. So, DevOps teams that deploy custom applications frequently can understand whether an incident is related to a code change or an infrastructure glitch.

OverOps’ eponymous software has been available for more than a year, and larger companies, such as Intuit and Comcast, have recently adopted the software. OverOps identified the root cause of a problem with Comcast’s Xfinity cable systems as related to fluctuations in remote-control batteries, said Tal Weiss, co-founder and CTO of OverOps, based in San Francisco.

OverOps uses an agent that can be deployed on containers, VMs or bare-metal servers, in public clouds or on premises. It monitors the Java Virtual Machine or Common Language Runtime interface for .NET apps. Each time code loads into the CPU via these interfaces, OverOps captures a data signature and compares it with code it’s previously seen to detect changes.

OverOps Grafana dashboard
OverOps exports reliability data to Grafana for visual display

From there, the agent produces a stream of log-like files that contain both machine data and code information, such as the number of defects and the developer team responsible for a change. The tool is primarily intended to catch errors before they reach production, but it can be used to trace the root cause of production glitches, as well.

“If an IT ops or DevOps person sees a network failure, with one click, they can see if there were code changes that precipitated it, if there’s an [Atlassian] Jira ticket associated with those changes and which developer to communicate with about the problem,” Weiss said.

In August 2018, OverOps updated its AIOps platform to feed code analysis data into broader IT ops platforms with a RESTful API and support for StatsD. Available integrations include Splunk, ELK, Dynatrace and AppDynamics. In the same update, the OverOps Extensions feature also added a serverless AWS Lambda-based framework, as well as on-premises code options, so users can create custom functions and workflows based OverOps data.

“There’s been a platform vs. best-of-breed tool discussion forever, but the market is definitely moving toward platforms — that’s where the money is,” Gohring said.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 updates add AI features to CRM

When incorporated into business applications, AI can provide insights into how best to engage potential customers, predict customer needs, answer questions and, ultimately, sell products. Microsoft hopes to enable all that in its latest Dynamics 365 updates for marketing, sales and customer service.

At the Microsoft Business Applications Summit 2018, James Phillips, corporate vice president of the vendor’s business applications group, said in a keynote that the Dynamics 365 updates change the platform from something that feels like “a surveillance system” to a business intelligence (BI) tool incorporating AI-driven analytics.

CRM “is not a category of software that people are deeply in love with,” Phillips said. “A salesperson sits down and enters their leads and opportunities. It’s for someone else, so they can track the forecast, understand the pipeline [and] whether you’re doing your job or not.”

The granularity of the AI tools Microsoft added with the Dynamics 365 updates will likely be useful for the average end user, said Kate Leggett, analyst at Forrester Research.

“What Microsoft is really excelling at is infusing AI into all their applications to help the business user — whether it is a marketing or salesperson or customer service agent — make the right decisions for that particular interaction,” Leggett said.

Business-user AI: Microsoft’s strength

On the stage at the July 2018 conference, Tammy Mihailidis, vice president of digital customer engagement at Polaris, a maker of power sport vehicles based in Medina, Minn., spoke about how Polaris uses Dynamics 365’s marketing, sales and service platforms to give its customers a more personalized shopping experience.

Phillips said Dynamics 365 and its Power BI tools help organizations analyze traffic patterns of email and other communications and marry that information with LinkedIn to help understand where they should focus sales efforts.

Microsoft is trying to break down the artificial division between the front office and the back office by making the CRM assets available to all users.
Kate Leggettanalyst, Forrester Research

“As a salesperson, I have got a tool now that helps me focus my attention, helps guide me to success and isn’t simply about keeping track of what I am doing,” Phillips said.

Using Polaris as an example, Ryan Darby Martin, a senior product marketing manager at Microsoft, demonstrated how this process would look to both the customer — in this case, a fictional municipality — and to the Polaris agents, from within Dynamics 365.

The process with the Dynamics 365 updates includes a chatbot answering questions from a potential customer, predictive lead scoring recommending that sales staff focus on this particular lead, making the sale and welcoming the customer.

“We are actually able to track all of those interactions and calculate the health score of this particular lead,” Martin said. “We could see the time that was spent by us, but also the time that was spent by them. For example, I can actually see if they opened [an] email, if they clicked on the attachment, if they viewed the link [and] how many times they were responding to us.”

Getting AI into end users’ hands the end goal

The integration of the marketing, sales and service platform is an example of what Leggett said makes CRM features more accessible to end users.

“Microsoft is trying to break down the artificial division between the front office and the back office by making the CRM assets available to all users with its integration into Skype and the Office products,” she said. “They are making it very easy to consume. It’s probably one of the most inexpensive enterprise solutions available.”

In addition being a venue for unveiling the Dynamics 365 updates, the conference was an opportunity for Microsoft to announce it would be releasing updates to its suite of products twice a year. Each release will be preceded by release notes that will help IT professionals prepare for the software updates months in advance, according to Microsoft.

“Companies have to be continually innovating,” Leggett said. “You are getting new releases twice a year, and when that happens, you need to have change management processes in place to be able to understand the changes, communicate them to the end users and then roll out these new releases to you CRM users.”

Bugcrowd CTO explains crowdsourced security benefits and challenges

Crowdsourced security can provide enormous value to enterprises today, according to Casey Ellis, but the model isn’t without its challenges.

In this Q&A, Ellis, chairman, founder and CTO of San Francisco-based crowdsourced security testing platform Bugcrowd Inc., talks about the growth of bug bounties, the importance of vulnerability research and the evolution of his company’s platform. According to the Bugcrowd “2018 State of Bug Bounty Report,” reported vulnerabilities have increased 21% to more than 37,000 submissions in the last year, while bug bounty payouts have risen 36%.

In part one of this interview, Ellis expressed his concerns that the good faith that exists between security researchers and enterprises is eroding and discussed the need for better vulnerability disclosure policies and frameworks. In part two, he discusses the benefits of crowdsourced security testing, as well as some of the challenges, including responsible disclosure deadlines and the accurate vetting of thousands of submissions.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

When it comes to responsible vulnerability disclosure, do you think companies are at a point now where they generally accept the 90-day disclosure period?

Casey Ellis: No. No, I think technology companies are, but it’s very easy working in technology to see adoption by technology companies and assume that it’s normal now. I see a lot of people do that and I think it’s unwise, frankly.

I think that’s where we’ll end up eventually, and I think we’re moving toward that type of thing. But there are caveats in terms of, for example, complex supply chain products or vehicles or medical devices — the stuff that takes longer than 90 days to refresh and test, patch, and deploy out to the wild. The market is not used to that kind of pressure on public disclosure yet, but I think the pressure is a good thing.

The bigger problem is in terms of general vulnerability disclosure; that’s not accepted outside of the tech sector yet — at all, frankly.

There’s been a lot of talk about security automation and machine learning at RSA Conference again this year. Where do you see that going?

Ellis: It depends on your definition of automation at that point. Is it automation of decision-making or is it automation of leverage and reaching that decision?

For the customers, they just want to know what they need to go and fix. But we have to prioritize the submissions.
Casey EllisBugcrowd

Using Bugcrowd as an example, we’re heavy users of machine [learning] and automation within our platform, but we’re not doing it to replace the hackers. We’re doing it to understand which of the conversations we’re having as these submissions come in are most important. And we’re trying to get to the point where we can say, ‘Okay, this bug is less likely to be important than this other bug. We should focus on that first.’

For the customers, they just want to know what they need to go and fix. But we have to prioritize the submissions. We have to sit in front of that customer and have these conversations at scale with everyone who’s submitting, regardless of whether they’re very, very valuable in terms of the information or they’re getting points for enthusiasm but not for usefulness. It’s actually a fun and a valuable problem to solve, but it’s difficult.

How do you prioritize and rank all of the submissions you receive? What’s that process like?

Ellis: There’s a bunch of different things because the bug bounty economic model is this: The first person to find each unique issue is the one who gets rewarded for it. And then, the more critical it is, the more they get paid. And this is what we’ve been doing since day one because the premise was these are two groups of people that historically suck at talking to each other.

So we said we’re going to need to pull together a human team to help out, and then what we’ll do is we’ll learn from that team to build the product and make the product more effective as we go. It’s a learning loop that we’ve got internally, as well. And what they’re doing is, basically, understanding what’s a duplicate [submission], what’s out of scope and things like that. There are simple things that we can do from a filtering standpoint.

Duplicates get interesting because you have pattern matching and Bayesian analysis and different things like that to understand what the likelihood of a duplicate is. Those are the know things. Then there’s the heavy stuff — the critical importance, wake up the engineering team stuff.

There’s also a bunch of stuff we do in terms of analyzing the vulnerability against the corpus [of known vulnerabilities] to understand what that is, as well as who the submitter is. Because if they’re a notorious badass who comes in and destroys stuff and has a really high signal-to-noise ratio then, yes, that’s probably something that we should pay attention to.

There’s a bunch of really simple stuff or comparatively simple stuff that we can do, but then there’s a bunch of much more nuanced, complicated stuff that we have to work out. And then we’ve got the human at the end of [the process] because we can’t afford to get it wrong. We can’t say, no to something that’s actually a yes. The whole thing gets basically proofed, and then those learnings go back into the system and it improves over time.

Do you receive a lot of submissions that you look at and say, ‘Oh, this is nonsense, someone’s trying to mess with us and throw the process off’?

Ellis: Yes. There’s a lot of that. As this has grown, there are a bunch of people that are joining in for the first time, and some of them are actively trolling. But then, for every one of those, there are 10 that are just as noisy, but it’s because they think they’re doing the right thing even though they’re not.

If someone runs Nessus and then uploads a scan and says, ‘That’s a bug!’ then what we do at that point is we say, ‘No, it’s not. By the way, here are some different communities and education initiatives that we’ve got.’

We try to train them to see if they can get better because maybe they can. And if they’ve initiated that contact with us, then they’re clearly interested and enthusiastic, which is a great starting point because just because they don’t know how to be useful right now doesn’t mean they can’t be in the future. We give the benefit of the doubt there, but obviously, we have to protect the customer from having to deal with all of that noise.

When it comes to that noise in crowdsourced bug hunting, do you think those people are looking more at the reward money or the reputation boost?

Ellis: It’s usually both. Money is definitely a factor in bug bounties, but reputation is a huge factor, too. And it goes in two directions.

There’s reputation for the sake of ego, and they’re the ones that can get difficult pretty quickly, but then there’s also reputation for the sake of career development. And that’s something that we actually want to help them with. That’s been an initiative that we’ve had from day one, and a bunch of our customers actually have people in their security teams that they hired off the platform.

Jason Haddix [Bugcrowd vice president of trust and security] was number one on the platform before we hired him. We think this is actually a good thing in terms of helping address the labor shortage.

But, to your point, if someone comes in and says, ‘Oh, this is a quick way to get a high-paying career in cybersecurity,’ then we have to obviously temper that. And it does happen.

Last question: What activity on your platform has stood out to you lately?

Ellis: There’s a real shift toward people scaling up in IoT. We have more customers coming onboard to test IoT. I think the issue of IoT security and awareness around the fact that it’s something that should actually be addressed is in a far better state now than it was when IoT first kicked off years ago.

And the same thing that happened in web and mobile and automotive is happening in IoT. With IoT, it was ‘We don’t have the people [for security testing]. Okay, where are we going to get them?’ I think the crowd is reacting to that opportunity now and starting to dig into the testing for IoT.

And here’s the thing with IoT security: For starters, bugs that are silicon level or at a hardcoded level are probably out there, but the cost to find them and the value of having them [reported] hasn’t justified the effort being put in yet.

That’s usually not what people are talking about when they’re talking about IoT bugs. It’s usually either bugs that are CVEs [Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures] in the supply chain software that forms the operating system or bugs that are in the bespoke stuff that sits on top. And, usually, both of those things can be flushed and changed.

We’re not at the point where you’ve got a more common issue and you’re not able to change it ever. I assume that will happen at some point but, hopefully by the time we get there, people are going to be thinking about design with security more in mind for the first place, and all that older stuff will be at end-of-life anyway.

Microsoft awards grant to Tribal Digital Village and Numbers4Health to expand internet access and solutions for rural and underserved communities in California – Stories

The grant will provide broadband access and telehealth solutions in Valley Center and Compton, California

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 1, 2018 — On Wednesday, Microsoft Corp. announced it selected Tribal Digital Village and Numbers4Health as winners of its third annual Airband Grant Fund to help bring broadband internet access to rural and underserved communities. As two of eight winners, Tribal Digital Village (TDVNet) will help bring broadband to tribal land in the rural community of Valley Center, California, and Numbers4Health will deploy a solution in partnership with internet service providers to help support telemedicine and improve healthcare outcomes in Compton, California. 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.

“Tribal Digital Village and Numbers4Health are working to ensure the citizens of Valley Center and Compton have the broadband access they need to connect and compete with their more urban neighbors and access 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 address the broadband and healthcare gap in California.”

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.

“It’s truly a benefit when a corporation such as Microsoft focuses on scaling the reach of new technologies, like TV white spaces, to solve for the hardest-to-reach tribal communities,” said Matthew Rantanen, director, TDVNet. “Microsoft’s investment in projects that are uniquely solving these connectivity issues on the ground, like TDVNet, is essential in stimulating creativity and permanently fixing the broadband access gap.”

“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 Tribal Digital Village

Tribal Digital Village, a tribal-owned ISP based in Valley Center, California, has developed hybrid wireless networks to solve last mile connectivity challenges and enable tribal members to deliver community-based networks.

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

Tribal Digital Village, Matthew R. Rantanen, director, mrr@sctdv.net

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.

RTO Wireless and Microsoft announce agreement to deliver broadband internet to rural communities in New York and Maine

TV white spaces and other new technologies will provide affordable, reliable broadband access to approximately 290,000 people

REDMOND, Wash. — July 24, 2018 — On Tuesday, RTO Wireless and Microsoft Corp. announced a new agreement to provide broadband internet access to more than 290,000 people living in unserved rural regions of New York and Maine. The partnership is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to extend broadband access to 2 million people in unserved portions of rural America by July 4, 2022.

Currently, 19.4 million people living in rural areas in the United States lack access to a broadband internet connection. RTO Wireless will use innovative techniques and technologies, including TV white spaces and Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), to deliver fixed and mobile wireless services to rural markets within the U.S., with initial rollouts across 16 counties in Maine and 20 counties in New York.

“Without reliable internet access, many people living in rural America are unable to take advantage of the same opportunities as their urban neighbors,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “We are excited to partner with RTO Wireless to bring broadband to students, farmers, educators and business owners across the Southern Tier and North Country of New York and Western Maine so that they have an equal opportunity to learn, grow, contribute and prosper in the 21st century economy.”

“The TV white spaces technology ecosystem championed by Microsoft provides a critical low-band function enabling tremendous RF propagation over a large service area,” said Steve Hubbard, CEO of RTO Wireless. “Microsoft is contributing tremendous resources to solving the lack of broadband options in rural America. Joining the Microsoft Airband Initiative will enable RTO to enhance the educational, healthcare and agricultural services that can be provided to the rural communities. RTO is proud to launch its initial networks in New York and Maine with an impressive consortium of technology partners to deliver exciting applications and services.”

This partnership between Microsoft and RTO Wireless will complement the already established and successful “broadband for all” initiative in New York. In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature established the $500 million New NY Broadband Program, the nation’s largest and most ambitious state investment in broadband expansion. Three rounds of grants using a reverse-auction method have expended this $500 million and provided support to projects that deliver high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas of the state.

Leaders in New York have offered strong support for closing the rural broadband gap in the U.S.:

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, District 23, said, “We care about the promotion of rural broadband, and this announcement will allow more hardworking people in our region to access the digital economy and quality, family-sustaining jobs. We will continue our work in Washington to promote broadband infrastructure through funding and fair regulation.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, District 27,  said, “New York’s 27th Congressional District is 65 percent underserved by broadband technologies, and it is welcome news that RTO Wireless and Microsoft are taking action to expand service in five of the counties I represent. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, I’ve been able to work on policies that will help bring more broadband to rural America. We still have a long way to go in making sure all of Western New York has reliable access to broadband, but I commend Microsoft for its investment in our area that will benefit thousands of my constituents.”

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, District 21, said, “This is excellent news, and I applaud Microsoft and RTO Wireless for working to bring broadband to our district. Increasing access to broadband is critical to ensuring our businesses can compete, our economy can grow and our children have access to the best educational resources. At the federal level, I am pleased to be a leader on expanding access to rural broadband and will continue to work to ensure the North Country has access to this critical 21st century infrastructure.”

U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, District 22, said, “Broadband internet access unlocks pathways to better education, business growth, health and so much more. Microsoft and RTO Wireless’ new agreement to bring broadband to underserved rural regions of New York, including to people in the 22nd District, ensures our community can take advantage of the opportunities offered by today’s digital economy.”

The Microsoft Airband Initiative is focused on bringing broadband coverage to rural Americans through commercial partnerships and investment in digital skills training for people in the newly connected communities. Proceeds from Airband connectivity projects will be reinvested into the program to expand broadband to more rural areas.

About RTO Wireless

RTO Wireless is a “Rural Technology Operator” who has solved a unique set of operational and economical constraints plaguing rural broadband & narrowband connectivity, by incorporating the latest wireless connectivity technologies across TV White Space, CBRS, LoRaWAN and traditional spectrum bands. RTO is founded by executives with vast experience building and operating neutral host and wholesale wireless affiliate & roaming networks for top tier mobile operators. In 2018, RTO’s financial commitments to new wireless infrastructure construction has exceeded $150,000,000. RTO is building wireless infrastructure for rural communities to access fixed broadband services and IoT applications, including middle mile backhaul connections to serve education, healthcare, public safety, utilities, asset tracking, precision agriculture, connected vehicles, and environmental applications. RTO’s neutral host rural networks enable dynamic partnerships with IoT ASPs, wireless carriers and wireline/cable operators in need of higher capacity rural network footprint. More information can be found at www.rtowireless.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,

rrt@we-worldwide.com

RTO Wireless Media Requests: Please submit requests through the RTO website: www.rtowireless.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.

The case for cloud storage as a service at Partners

Partners HealthCare relies on its enterprise research infrastructure and services group, or ERIS, to provide an essential service: storing, securing and enabling access to the data files that researchers need to do their work.

To do that, ERIS stood up a large network providing up to 50 TB of storage, so the research departments could consolidate their network drives, while also managing access to those files based on a permission system.

But researchers were contending with growing demands to better secure data and track access, said Brent Richter, director of ERIS at the nonprofit Boston-based healthcare system. Federal regulations and state laws, as well as standards and requirements imposed by the companies and institutions working with Partners, required increasing amounts of access controls, auditing capabilities and security layers.

That put pressure on ERIS to devise a system that could better meet those heightened healthcare privacy and security requirements.

“We were thinking about how do we get audit controls, full backup and high availability built into a file storage system that can be used at the endpoint and that still carries the nested permissions that can be shared across the workgroups within our firewall,” he explained.

Hybrid cloud storage as a service

At the time, ERIS was devising security plans based on the various requirements established by the different contracts and research projects, filling out paperwork to document those plans and performing time-intensive audits.

It was then that ERIS explored ClearSky Data. The cloud-storage-as-a-service provider was already being used by another IT unit within Partners for block storage; ERIS decided six months ago to pilot the ClearSky Data platform.

“They’re delivering a network service in our data center that’s relatively small; it has very fast storage inside of it that provides that cache, or staging area, for files that our users are mapping to their endpoints,” Richter explained.

From there, automation and software systems from ClearSky Data take those files and move them to its local data center, which is in Boston. “It replicates the data there, and it also keeps the server in our data center light. [ClearSky Data] has all the files on it, but not all the data in the files on it; it keeps what our users need when they’re using it.”

Essentially, ClearSky Data delivers on-demand primary storage, off-site backup and disaster recovery as a single service, he said.

All this, however, is invisible to the end users, he added. The researchers accessing data stored on the ClearSky Data platform, as well as the one built by ERIS, do not notice the differences in the technologies as they go about their usual work.

ClearSky benefits for Partners

ERIS’ decision to move to ClearSky Data’s fully managed service delivered several specific benefits, Richter said.

He said the new approach reduced the system’s on-premises storage footprint, while accelerating a hybrid cloud strategy. It delivered high performance, as well as more automated security and privacy controls. And it offered more data protection and disaster recovery capabilities, as well as more agility and elasticity.

Richter said buying the capabilities also helped ERIS to stay focused on its mission of delivering the technologies that enable the researchers.

“We could design and engineer something ourselves, but at the end of the day, we’re service providers. We want to provide our service with all the needed security so our users would just be able to leverage it, so they wouldn’t have to figure out whether it met the requirements on this contract or another,” Richter said.

He noted, too, that the decision to go with a hybrid cloud storage-as-a-service approach allowed ERIS to focus on activities that differentiate the Partners research community, such as supporting its data science efforts.

“It allows us to focus on our mission, which is providing IT products and services that enable discovery and research,” he added.

Pros and cons of IaaS platform

Partners’ storage-as-a-service strategy fits into the broader IaaS market, which has traditionally been broken into two parts: compute and storage, said Naveen Chhabra, a senior analyst serving infrastructure and operations professionals at Forrester Research Inc.

[Cloud storage as a service] allows us to focus on our mission, which is providing IT products and services that enable discovery and research.
Brent Richterdirector of ERIS at Partners HealthCare

In that light, ClearSky Data is one of many providers offering not just cloud storage, but the other infrastructure layers — and, indeed, the whole ecosystem — needed by enterprise IT departments, with AWS, IBM and Google being among the biggest vendors in the space, Chhabra said.

As for the cloud-storage-as-a-service approach adopted by Partners, Chhabra said it can offer enterprise IT departments flexibility, scalability and faster time to market — the benefits that traditionally come with cloud. Additionally, it can help enterprise IT move more of their workloads to the cloud.

There are potential drawbacks in a hybrid cloud storage-as-a-service setup, however, Chhabra said. Applying and enforcing access management policies in an environment where there are both on-premises and IaaS platforms can be challenging for IT, especially as deployment size grows. And while implementation of cloud-storage-as-a-service platforms, as well as IaaS in general, isn’t particularly challenging from a technology standpoint, the movement of applications on the new platform may not be as seamless or frictionless as promoted.

“The storage may not be as easily consumable by on-prem applications. [For example,] if you have an application running on-prem and it tries to consume the storage, there could be an integration challenge because of different standards,” he said.

IaaS may also be more expensive than keeping everything on premises, he said, adding that the higher costs aren’t usually significant enough to outweigh the benefits. “It may be fractionally costlier, and the customer may care about it, but not that much,” he said.

Competitive advantage

ERIS’ pilot phase with ClearSky Data involves standing up a Linux-based file service, as well as a Windows-based file service.

Because ERIS uses a chargeback system, Richter said the research groups his team serves can opt to use the older internal system — slightly less expensive — or they can opt to use ClearSky Data’s infrastructure.

“For those groups that have these contracts with much higher data and security controls than our system can provide, they now have an option that fulfills that need,” Richter said.

That itself provides Partners a boost in the competitive research market, he added.

“For our internal customers who have these contracts, they then won’t have to spend a month auditing their own systems to comply with an external auditor that these companies bring as part of the sponsored research before you even get the contract,” Richter said. “A lot of these departments are audited to make sure they have a base level [of security and compliance], which is quite high. So, if you have that in place already, that gives you a competitive advantage.”

InMobi forms strategic partnership with Microsoft to power new cloud-based enterprise platforms for marketers | Stories

Collaboration combines the power of the cloud with cutting-edge technologies such as AI and data to provide actionable insights for marketers in a mobile world

SAN FRANCISCO and REDMOND, Wash. — June 26, 2018 — InMobi, a global provider of enterprise platforms for marketers, today announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp. to enable new-age CMOs in their transformational journey from digital to mobile marketing. The partnership will consist of InMobi moving to Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud provider, and will involve technology collaboration and combined go-to-market strategies aimed at accelerating the way marketers are looking at their advertising and marketing strategies in an always-connected world.

Simultaneously, InMobi is significantly expanding its platform for marketers via the InMobi Marketing Cloud, adding to its decade-long market leadership through InMobi’s Advertising Cloud. The Marketing Cloud will enable marketers to get a 360-degree view of every customer, uncovering insights that help them design customer journeys for engagement, action and measurement, and analyzing and acting on customer feedback from disparate channels to increase retention and lifetime value of customers, while remaining committed toward the privacy rights of the customer.

Picture of Satya Nadella, Naveen Tewari and Peggy Johnson
From L to R: Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft, Naveen Tewari, founder and CEO at InMobi, Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Microsoft

“As digital technology is transforming every industry and every aspect of our lives, companies are seeking new ways to engage customers where they are, with connected, personalized experiences,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “The combination of Microsoft Azure with InMobi’s marketing platforms will deliver new intelligent customer experiences and business insights to organizations around the world.”

With this partnership, InMobi will move in a phased manner to Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud provider and tap into the power of its intelligent capabilities. With more regions than any other cloud provider, Microsoft Azure provides the global scale and trusted platform to meet the needs of the marketing industry.

There has been a fundamental shift in the advertising and marketing industry, with far more advanced technologies available to marketers, combined with an exponential increase in customer touchpoints across multiple connected devices. InMobi, with its new AI-powered Marketing Cloud, is at the forefront of these changes and evolving beyond its pure-play advertising platform to a comprehensive and integrated suite of advertising and marketing platforms.

“InMobi is building one of the most advanced enterprise platforms for marketers, and we’re extremely excited to partner with Microsoft as we dive into the next frontier of connected devices,” said Naveen Tewari, founder and CEO InMobi. “With Microsoft’s global reach and advanced security, privacy and compliance, alongside InMobi’s scale and decade-long experience in mobile-first technology, we can truly disrupt the marketing ecosystem. Together, Microsoft and InMobi will create a formidable force in the industry.”

The two companies are also looking at additional opportunities in combining the power of InMobi’s Advertising and Marketing Cloud capabilities with Microsoft Dynamics 365 on the back of the global Azure infrastructure, including AI, machine learning and analytics. The companies will also work in close cooperation on the go-to-market approach, offering these integrated advertising and marketing solutions to Microsoft’s global enterprise client base.

The InMobi Marketing Cloud will be sequentially launched market-wise worldwide over the next six months.

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.

About InMobi

InMobi is a global provider of enterprise platforms for marketers. As a leading technology company, InMobi has been recognized as a 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 company and as one of Fast Company’s 2018 Most Innovative Companies. For more information, visit inmobi.com.

For more information, press only:

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

rrt@we-worldwide.com

InMobi Media Relations

pr@inmobi.com

InMobi forms strategic partnership with Microsoft to power new cloud-based enterprise platforms for marketers | Stories

Collaboration combines the power of the cloud with cutting-edge technologies such as AI and data to provide actionable insights for marketers in a mobile world

SAN FRANCISCO and REDMOND, Wash. — June 26, 2018 — InMobi, a global provider of enterprise platforms for marketers, today announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp. to enable new-age CMOs in their transformational journey from digital to mobile marketing. The partnership will consist of InMobi moving to Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud provider, and will involve technology collaboration and combined go-to-market strategies aimed at accelerating the way marketers are looking at their advertising and marketing strategies in an always-connected world.

Simultaneously, InMobi is significantly expanding its platform for marketers via the InMobi Marketing Cloud, adding to its decade-long market leadership through InMobi’s Advertising Cloud. The Marketing Cloud will enable marketers to get a 360-degree view of every customer, uncovering insights that help them design customer journeys for engagement, action and measurement, and analyzing and acting on customer feedback from disparate channels to increase retention and lifetime value of customers, while remaining committed toward the privacy rights of the customer.

Picture of Satya Nadella, Naveen Tewari and Peggy Johnson
From L to R: Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft, Naveen Tewari, founder and CEO at InMobi, Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Microsoft

“As digital technology is transforming every industry and every aspect of our lives, companies are seeking new ways to engage customers where they are, with connected, personalized experiences,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “The combination of Microsoft Azure with InMobi’s marketing platforms will deliver new intelligent customer experiences and business insights to organizations around the world.”

With this partnership, InMobi will move in a phased manner to Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud provider and tap into the power of its intelligent capabilities. With more regions than any other cloud provider, Microsoft Azure provides the global scale and trusted platform to meet the needs of the marketing industry.

There has been a fundamental shift in the advertising and marketing industry, with far more advanced technologies available to marketers, combined with an exponential increase in customer touchpoints across multiple connected devices. InMobi, with its new AI-powered Marketing Cloud, is at the forefront of these changes and evolving beyond its pure-play advertising platform to a comprehensive and integrated suite of advertising and marketing platforms.

“InMobi is building one of the most advanced enterprise platforms for marketers, and we’re extremely excited to partner with Microsoft as we dive into the next frontier of connected devices,” said Naveen Tewari, founder and CEO InMobi. “With Microsoft’s global reach and advanced security, privacy and compliance, alongside InMobi’s scale and decade-long experience in mobile-first technology, we can truly disrupt the marketing ecosystem. Together, Microsoft and InMobi will create a formidable force in the industry.”

The two companies are also looking at additional opportunities in combining the power of InMobi’s Advertising and Marketing Cloud capabilities with Microsoft Dynamics 365 on the back of the global Azure infrastructure, including AI, machine learning and analytics. The companies will also work in close cooperation on the go-to-market approach, offering these integrated advertising and marketing solutions to Microsoft’s global enterprise client base.

The InMobi Marketing Cloud will be sequentially launched market-wise worldwide over the next six months.

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.

About InMobi

InMobi is a global provider of enterprise platforms for marketers. As a leading technology company, InMobi has been recognized as a 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 company and as one of Fast Company’s 2018 Most Innovative Companies. For more information, visit inmobi.com.

For more information, press only:

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

rrt@we-worldwide.com

InMobi Media Relations

pr@inmobi.com

Microsoft expands commitment to military spouse community – Microsoft Military Affairs

Today in San Francisco, Microsoft Military Affairs will join our partners from LinkedIn to each share new commitments to the military spouse community.

Military spouses are an integral supporting force for members of our military, but face staggering 18 percent unemployment and 53 percent underemployment due to moves every two to three years, according to a 2016 study from Blue Star Families on the social cost of unemployment and underemployment of military spouses.

As part of our commitment to the military spouse community, Microsoft will launch a pilot program to provide spouses with technology skills training beginning in September.

Microsoft has successfully opened a technology career pipeline for transitioning service members and veterans via the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) program, which has expanded coast-to-coast and has a graduation rate of over 90 percent. We are excited to explore how to expand and tailor these opportunities to military spouses, which represent a diverse talent pool that is adaptable, resilient and highly educated and ready to take on new and exciting opportunities to further their professional and personal goals.

The U.S. government estimates information technology occupations are projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Because there are 500,000 open technology jobs annually, we know that career programs are needed to help close the technology skills gap.

“Microsoft is excited to work with technology leaders and other organizations committed to supporting military spouses, and to find avenues that lead to meaningful career opportunities for active duty military spouses,” said U.S. Marine Corps Major General (Ret.) Chris Cortez, Vice President of Microsoft Military Affairs.

LinkedIn also announced today that it is expanding its military and veterans program to include military spouses through a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program. Beginning this July, LinkedIn will provide one year of LinkedIn Premium to every military spouse during each of their moves to new installations to facilitate their career transitions, and once again upon conclusion of military service. This will include free access to LinkedIn’s online library of more than 12,000 LinkedIn Learning courses, including its newly-launched learning path designed to help military spouses succeed in flexible, freelance or remote-work opportunities.

The Microsoft Military Affairs team is working closely with military spouses and nonprofit organizations to understand firsthand the unique challenges this community faces as we build out and learn from our pilot program.

We are thrilled to begin our pilot program in the fall and to continue our support of military spouses and their community by providing the skills they need to enter technology careers.

New data science platforms aim to be workflow, collaboration hubs

An emerging class of data science platforms that provide collaboration and workflow management capabilities is gaining more attention from both users and vendors — most recently Oracle, which is buying its way into the market.

Oracle’s acquisition of startup DataScience.com puts more major-vendor muscle behind the workbench-style platforms, which give data science teams a collaborative environment for developing, deploying and documenting analytical models. IBM is already in with its Data Science Experience platform, informally known as DSX. Other vendors include Domino Data Lab and Cloudera, which last week detailed plans for a new release of its Cloudera Data Science Workbench (CDSW) software this summer.

These technologies are a subcategory of data science platforms overall. They aren’t analytics tools; they’re hubs that data scientists can use to build predictive and machine learning models in a shared and managed space — instead of doing so on their own laptops, without a central location to coordinate workflows and maintain models. Typically, they’re aimed at teams with 10 to 20 data scientists and up.

The workbenches began appearing in 2014, but it’s only over the past year or so that they matured into products suitable for mainstream users. Even now, the market is still developing. Domino and Cloudera wouldn’t disclose the number of customers they have for their technologies; in a March interview, DataScience.com CEO Ian Swanson said only that its namesake platform has “dozens” of users.

A new way to work with data science volunteers

Ruben van der Dussen, ThornRuben van der Dussen

Thorn, a nonprofit group that fights child sex trafficking and pornography, deployed Domino’s software in early 2017. The San Francisco-based organization only has one full-time data scientist, but it taps volunteers to do analytics work that helps law enforcement agencies identify and find trafficking victims. About 20 outside data scientists are often involved at a time — a number that swells to 100 or so during hackathons that Thorn holds, said Ruben van der Dussen, director of its Innovation Lab.

That makes this sort of data science platform a good fit for the group, he said. Before, the engineers on his team had to create separate computing instances on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for volunteers and set them up to log in from their own systems. With Domino, the engineers put Docker containers on Thorn’s EC2 environment, with embedded Jupyter Notebooks that the data scientists access via the web. That lets them start analyzing data faster and frees up time for the engineers to spend on more productive tasks, van der Dussen said.

He added that data security and access privileges are also easier to manage now — an important consideration, given the sensitive nature of the images, ads and other online data that Thorn analyzes with a variety of machine learning and deep learning models, including ones based on natural language processing and computer vision algorithms.

Thorn develops and trains the analytical models within the Domino platform and uses it to maintain different versions of the Jupyter Notebooks, so the work done by data scientists is documented for other volunteers to pick up on. In addition, multiple people working together on a project can collaborate through the platform. The group uses tools like Slack for direct communication, “but Domino makes it really easy to share a Notebook and for people to comment on it,” van der Dussen said.

Screenshot of Domino Data Lab's data science platform
Domino Data Lab’s data science platform lets users run different analytics tools in separate workspaces.

Oracle puts its money down on data science

Oracle is betting that data science platforms like DataScience.com’s will become a popular technology for organizations that want to manage their advanced analytics processes more effectively. Oracle, which announced the acquisition this month, plans to combine DataScience.com’s platform with its own AI infrastructure and model training tools as part of a data science PaaS offering in the Oracle Cloud.

By buying DataScience.com, Oracle hopes to help users get more out of their analytics efforts — and better position itself as a machine learning vendor against rivals like Amazon Web Services, IBM, Google and Microsoft. Oracle said it will continue to invest in DataScience.com’s technology, with a goal of delivering “more functionality and capabilities at a quicker pace.” It didn’t disclose what it’s paying for the Culver City, Calif., startup.

The workbench platforms centralize work on analytics projects and management of the data science workflow. Data scientists can team up on projects and run various commercial and open source analytics tools to which the platforms connect, then deploy finished models for production applications. The platforms also support data security and governance, plus version control on analytical models.

Cloudera said its upcoming CDSW 1.4 release adds features for tracking and comparing different versions of models during the development and training process, as well as the ability to deploy models as REST APIs embedded in containers for easier integration into dashboards and other applications. DataScience.com, Domino and IBM provide similar functionality in their data science platforms.

Screenshot of Cloudera Data Science Workbench
Cloudera Data Science Workbench uses a sessions concept for running analytics applications.

Choices on data science tools and platforms

Deutsche Telekom AG is offering both CDSW and IBM’s DSX to users of Telekom Data Intelligence Hub, a cloud-based big data analytics service that the telecommunications company is testing with a small number of customers in Europe ahead of a planned rollout during the second half of the year.

Users can also access Jupyter, RStudio and three other open source analytics tools, said Sven Löffler, a business development executive at the Bonn, Germany, company who’s leading the implementation of the analytics service. The project team sees benefits in enabling organizations to connect to those tools through the two data science platforms and get “all this sharing and capabilities to work collaboratively with others,” he said.

However, Löffler has heard from some customers that the cost of the platforms could be a barrier compared to working directly with the open source tools as part of the service, which runs in the Microsoft Azure cloud. It’s fed by data pipelines that Deutsche Telekom is building with a new Azure version of Cloudera’s Altus Data Engineering service.