Tag Archives: Seattle

Impinj partners get new program to drive IoT business

Impinj Inc., a RAIN RFID solution provider based in Seattle, has unveiled a global program for its partner ecosystem, replacing an earlier channel partner program.

The Impinj Partner Network aims to ensure the partner community “contains the depth and breadth” of the vendor’s RAIN RFID capabilities to meet the needs of a global market, said Sandy Murti, vice president of global partner development at Impinj. Impinj partners covered under the new program include IoT resellers, ISVs, distributors, service providers and OEMs.

RAIN RFID is an industry alliance that promotes the adoption of ultrahigh frequency RFID technology.

Murti said the expansion of Impinj’s partner program recognizes the diverse set of partner types that play a role in designing, deploying and servicing offerings that incorporate the company’s products. The varied partner ecosystem shares a common “desire to build transformative IoT solutions,” he added.

Impinj partners include industry-specific systems integrators, such as Lowry Solutions and Smart Label Solutions, which specialize in supply chain and logistics. Another partner, Idox Health, focuses on the healthcare industry in the United Kingdom.

Sandy MurtiSandy Murti

Some Impinj partners are also active in development. Converging Data, for example, has built an Impinj IoT Connector for Splunk. The connector “enables RAIN RFID data gathered by the Impinj platform to be visualized and analyzed within the Splunk interface,” Murti said.

Webroot aims to boost MSPs’ cyberskills

George Anderson, product marketing director at Webroot, said the cybersecuritty vendor is looking at advancing from “v1” of its products to “v2” in 2020.

We are trying to make inroads in [the cybersecurity skills gap] and finding ways of helping MSPs … and skilling them up.
George AndersonProduct marketing director, Webroot

Anderson noted that the security environment has become increasingly more complex for managed service providers (MSPs) and software vendors alike. He said he sees MSPs realizing they are under pressure to step up their security capabilities and do more to protect themselves. Many MSPs view two paths forward: either outsource cybersecurity services from other providers or skill up their in-house staffs.

“We are trying to make inroads in [the cybersecurity skills gap] and finding ways of helping MSPs … and skilling them up,” Anderson said.

Anderson added that some of Webroot’s MSP users suffered security breaches in 2019.”We have seen some of our MSPs this year compromised. We have tried to help them. We have even seen our own console used against us this year,” he said.

Webroot was acquired by Carbonite in March. Carbonite announced in November it signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by OpenText, a content management vendor.

Other news

  • Security vendor Armor, so far this year, has identified 269 publicly disclosed cases of ransomware infections, 18 of which involve service providers. The service provider cases include MSPs, hosting companies, cloud software companies and a real estate listing service. Municipalities are the most frequently targeted group, followed by school districts and educational institutions, healthcare organizations and service providers, according to Armor, which has U.S. headquarters in Richardson, Texas.
  • Logically, an MSP based in Portland, Maine, has acquired IQ Technology Solutions, an outsourced IT services provider in Reno, Nev. The transaction closely follows Logically’s acquisition of Carolinas IT, announced Dec. 4. The MSP’s Nevada presence adds to other local service delivery teams in San Diego; Portland; Boston; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Yorktown Heights, N.Y.; and Raleigh, N.C.
  • Microsoft and Oracle have made their cloud interoperability alliance available in Canada. The partnership, which was announced in June, enables enterprise organizations to migrate and run workloads across the Oracle and Azure cloud platforms.
  • Agosto, a cloud services and development company based in Minneapolis, has achieved a Google Cloud Partner Program specialization in Work Transformation — Enterprise. The specialization recognizes a Google partner’s ability to deploy G Suite in enterprise organizations.
  • SolarWinds, an IT management software provider that sells to MSPs, has launched SolarWinds Backup for Office 365.
  • In the managed detection and response market, Arctic Wolf Networks, a security operations center-as-a-service company, has added Managed Containment to its MDR service. Meanwhile, eSentire Inc., which provides cloud-based MDR, said it is partnering with endpoint protection vendor CrowdStrike. MDR services have emerged as an adjunct to traditional managed security services.
  • Avaya signed an agreement with distributor Synnex Corp. to provide Avaya Cloud Office, a unified communications-as-a-service offering, to its channel partners. Synnex will distribute Avaya Cloud Office as part of its Avaya Master Agent program, according to Avaya.
  • 8×8, a cloud-based provider of contact center technology, opened its Elev8 Partner Program to VARs. The company said it made its platform available to global VARs after growing its referral partner program to more than 1,000 active agent partners.
  • Otava, a cloud services company based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has become a Premier Cloud Provider in the VMware Partner Network. The company, which provides cloud backup and disaster recovery as a service, among other offerings, sells to enterprises and channel partners.
  • InterVision, an IT service provider based in Santa Clara, Calif., and St. Louis, has appointed Mike Shea as associate vice president of cloud services. Shea, who will oversee the company’s cloud services and public sector delivery teams, was previously managing director and CTO for Accenture Products and Platforms’ Health and Human Services business unit.
  • ConnectWise has updated its executive management roster. Geoffrey Willison has been appointed COO. He was formerly CFO at Continuum, which ConnectWise purchased in October 2019. Brad Surminsky has been named CFO. He previously was CFO at D+H, ADP, ACNielsen Canada and CentralSquare Technologies. Clint Maddox, a strategic advisor to ConnectWise since July 2019, has been appointed chief revenue officer. And Steve Cochran has been appointed CTO. He was most recently CTO at GHX, a former Thoma Bravo portfolio company. The four executives report to ConnectWise CEO Jason Magee.
  • CenturyLink has expanded its channel management team with five new appointments. New appointments include Matt Thompson as CenturyLink’s sales director.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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DevSecOps veterans share security strategy, lessons learned

SEATTLE — DevSecOps strategy is as much an art as a science, but experienced practitioners have a few pointers about how to approach it, including what not to do.

The first task DevSecOps newcomers should undertake, according to Julien Vehent, security engineer at web software firm Mozilla, is to design an effective IT security team structure. In his view, the ideal is an org chart that embeds security engineers with DevOps teams but has them report to a centralized security department. This structure helps to balance their impact on day-to-day operations with maintaining a cohesive set of broad goals for the organization.

This embedding can and should go both ways, Vehent added — security champions from DevOps teams should also have access to the central security organization to inform their work.

“Sys admins are great at security,” he said in a presentation here at DevSecCon this week. “Talk to people who do red teaming in their organization, and half the time they get caught by the sys admins.”

Once DevOps and IT security teams are aligned, the most important groundwork for improved DevOps security is to gather accurate data on IT assets and the IT environment, and give IT teams access to relevant data in context, practitioners said.

“What you really want from [DevSecOps] models is to avoid making assumptions and to test those assumptions, because assumptions lead to vulnerability,” Vehent said, recalling an incident at Mozilla where an assumption about SSL certificate expiration data brought down Mozilla’s add-ons service at launch.

Since then, Vehent’s mantra has been, “Avoid assumptions, trust the data.”

Effective DevSecOps tools help make data-driven decisions

Assumptions lead to vulnerability. Avoid assumptions, trust the data.
Julien VehentSecurity engineer, Mozilla

Once a strategy is in place, it’s time to evaluate tools for security automation and visibility. Context is key in security monitoring, said Erkang Zheng, chief information security officer at LifeOmic Security, a healthcare software company, which also markets its internally developed security visibility tools as JupiterOne.

“Attackers think in graphs, defenders think in lists, and that’s how attackers win,” Zheng said during a presentation here. “Stop thinking in lists and tables, and start thinking in entities and relationships.”

For example, it’s not enough to know how many AWS Elastic Cloud Compute instances an organization has, but to understand their context by analyzing multiple factors, such as which ones are exposed to the internet, both directly and through cross-account access methods.

IT pros can configure such security visibility graphs with APIs and graphing databases, or use prepackaged tools. There are also open source tools available to help developers assess the security of their own applications, such as Mozilla’s Observatory.

LifeOmic also takes a code-driven, systematized approach to DevOps security documentation, Zheng said. Team members create “microdocuments,” similar to microservices, and check them into GitHub as version-controlled JSON and YAML files.

Another speaker urged IT pros new to DevSecOps to take a templatized approach to IT training documentation for cybersecurity that explains, in jargon-free language, the reasons for best practices, and give specific examples of how developers often want to do things, versus how they should do things to ensure application security.

“The important thing is to make the secure way the easy way to do things for developers,” said Morgan Roman, application penetration tester at electronic signature software maker DocuSign. “Find bad patterns, and make the safer way to do things the default.”

DevSecOps how tos — and how NOT to dos

Strategic planning and assessments are important, but certain lessons about DevOps security can only be learned through experience. A panel of cybersecurity practitioners from blue-chip software companies shared their lessons learned, along with tips to help attendees avoid learning the hard way.

Attackers think in graphs, defenders think in lists, and that’s how attackers win.
Erkang ZhengChief information security officer, LifeOmic Security

Multiple panelists said they struggled to get effective results from code analysis tools and spent time setting up software that returned very little value or, worse, created false-positive security alerts.

“We tried to do things like, ‘Hey, let’s make sure that we aren’t just checking in secrets to the code repository,'” said Hongyi Hu, security engineer at SaaS file-sharing firm Dropbox, based in San Francisco. “It turns out that there’s not really a standardized way of doing these things. … You can find things that look like secrets, but secrets don’t always look like secrets — a really weak secret might not be captured by a tool.”

Ultimately, no tool can replace effective communication within DevOps teams to improve IT security, panelists said. It sounds like a truism, but it represents a major shift in the way cybersecurity teams work, from being naysayers to acting as a consulting resource to apps teams. Often, a light-handed approach is best.

“The most effective strategy we got to with threat modeling was throwing away any heavyweight process we had,” said Zane Lackey, co-founder and CSO at WAF vendor Signal Sciences in Los Angeles. “As product teams were developing new features, someone from the security team would just sit in the back of their meeting and ask them, ‘How would you attack this?’ and then shut up.”

It takes time to gain DevOps teams’ trust after years of adversarial relationships with security teams, panelists said, but when all else fails, security pros can catch more flies with honey — or candy.

“We put out bowls of candy in the security team’s area and it encouraged people to come and ask them questions,” Lackey said. “It was actually wildly successful.”

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WATCH: Hackathons show teen girls the potential for AI – and themselves – AI for Business

This summer, young women in San Francisco and Seattle spent a weekend taking their creative problem solving to a whole new level through the power of artificial intelligence. The two events were part of a Microsoft-hosted AI boot-camp program that started last year in Athens, then broadened its reach with events in London last fall and New York City in the spring. Check out the wrap-up video from the three U.S. events:

YouTube Video

“I’ve been so impressed not only with the willingness of these young women to spend an entire weekend learning and embracing this opportunity, but with the quality of the projects,” said Didem Un Ates, one of the program organizers and a senior director for AI within Microsoft. “It’s just two days, but what they come up with always blows our minds.” (Read a LinkedIn post from Un Ates about the events.)

The problems these girls tackled aren’t kid stuff: The girls chose their weekend projects from among the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, considered to be the most difficult and highest priority for the world.

The result? Dozens of innovative products that could help solve issues as diverse as ocean pollution, dietary needs, mental health, acne and climate change. Not to mention all those young women – 129 attended the U.S. events – who now feel empowered to pursue careers to help solve those problems. They now see themselves as “Alice,” a mascot created by the project team to represent the qualities young women possess that lend themselves to changing the world through AI.

Organizers plan to broaden the reach of these events, so that girls everywhere can learn about the possibility of careers in technology.


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Author: Microsoft News Center

Hackathons show teen girls the potential for AI – and themselves – AI for Business

This summer, young women in San Francisco and Seattle spent a weekend taking their creative problem solving to a whole new level through the power of artificial intelligence. The two events were part of a Microsoft-hosted AI boot-camp program that started last year in Athens, then broadened its reach with events in London last fall and New York City in the spring.

“I’ve been so impressed not only with the willingness of these young women to spend an entire weekend learning and embracing this opportunity, but with the quality of the projects,” said Didem Un Ates, one of the program organizers and a senior director for AI within Microsoft. “It’s just two days, but what they come up with always blows our minds.” (Read a LinkedIn post from Un Ates about the events.)

The problems these girls tackled aren’t kid stuff: The girls chose their weekend projects from among the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, considered to be the most difficult and highest priority for the world.

The result? Dozens of innovative products that could help solve issues as diverse as ocean pollution, dietary needs, mental health, acne and climate change. Not to mention all those young women – 129 attended the U.S. events – who now feel empowered to pursue careers to help solve those problems. They now see themselves as “Alice,” a mascot created by the project team to represent the qualities young women possess that lend themselves to changing the world through AI.

Organizers plan to broaden the reach of these events, so that girls everywhere can learn about the possibility of careers in technology.


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Author: Microsoft News Center

Xbox is at PAX West 2018 – Xbox Wire

Xbox is bringing games, gear, and more to downtown Seattle for PAX West August 31 – September 3. Whether you’re joining us in person or following along on social media and Mixer, here’s what you can expect:

Xbox Booth
North Hall, 4th Floor, Booths 403, 411, 417

Experience a few of the games that make up Xbox One’s diverse line-up at the Xbox booth. We’ll have playable demos of Forza Horizon 4, The Division 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Devil May Cry 5, NBA 2k19, Metro Exodus, Kingdom Hearts III, Tunic, Ooblets, Kingdom Two Crowns, Generation Zero, Bendy and the Ink Machine, Supermarket Shriek, My Time Portia, and some new DLC from State of Decay 2. You will also have the opportunity to earn a Cuphead Pinny Arcade pin, participate in a Tomb Raider-themed scavenger hunt, guess the amount of Nuka Cola caps in a Fallout 76 experience, visit the Game Pass vending machine, and pick up exclusive Xbox Official Gear for the first time at PAX.  (PAX Badge required)

North Hall, 4th Floor, Booth #425

Drop by booth #425 in the North Hall to meet up with some of your favorite broadcasters and Mixer Partners, and for a chance to win swag in the HypeZone LIVE! In addition to that, there’s also going to be a main stage at PAX featuring our Mixer Partners, developers, and so much more. Can’t make it to PAX West in person? No problem! Watch all the action happening at PAX West via Mixer.com/Mixer and Mixer.com/HypeZoneLIVE!

Want the full rundown? Make sure to get all the latest details from the official Mixer blog, right here: https://blog.mixer.com/2018/08/22/mixer-pax-west-2018/

Xbox PAX West Panels

Find out more about streaming and the Xbox Adaptive Controller at these panels featuring Xbox and Mixer members. (PAX West badge required.)

Building Your Streaming Community
Wyvern Theater, Saturday, September 1 from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Building a community comes with many challenges and hurdles, good news is we’re here to help! We’ve gathered a council of content creators to discuss the ins-and-outs of building a great online community in your own livestreams. We’ll be smashing myths and sharing the facts about streaming to help you set a foundation for a positive and effective community.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller: Designed with the Community
Sasquatch Theater, Sunday, September 2 from 12:30pm-1:30pm

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is the newest controller by Xbox, created to help people with limited mobility play. Larry Hryb will lead a conversation with pivotal community experts and representatives of game accessibility organizations like AbleGamers and Stack Up, along with one of the controller’s creators.  We’ll describe the journey of designing the controller leveraging the input of gamers with disabilities from the start… and where we need to go next.

Xbox One Summer of PUBG Tour

The Xbox One Summer of PUBG tour will be making their final stop in Westlake Center during PAX West. No badge required to visit! Check out the PUBG bus and enter to win it or one of many other prizes. More information can be found here.

Xbox PAX West Sweepstakes

PAX West 2018 Sweepstakes Image

Enter for a chance to win one of 11 Xbox Design Lab controllers, influenced by some of our favorite games. Xbox Design Lab allows you to create your own personal controller from over a billion different color combinations, metallic finishes, and rubberized grips. Check it out and design your own controller at xboxdesignlab.xbox.com.

There are two ways to enter:

  • Take a photo of your favorite Xbox Design Lab controller in the Xbox booth and share via Twitter using #XboxPAX #XboxDesignLab #Sweepstakes. Don’t forget to follow @Xbox while you’re at it!
  • Follow @Xbox or @XboxCanada on Twitter and retweet one of their tweets mentioning the sweepstakes and including #XboxPAX #XboxDesignLab #Sweepstakes.

You have until September 3rd to enter. The contest is open to anyone from the US or Canada. Click through for the Official Rules.

See you at PAX West! For more Xbox news, follow @Xbox on Twitter, visit the Xbox PAX West website, and stay tuned to Xbox Wire.

Microsoft from GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit: New Azure innovations will advance the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge

Today, I gathered with the tech community in the Seattle area at the GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit to talk about how customers are using the cloud and what the future holds. I joined GeekWire’s Todd Bishop and Tom Krazit on stage for a fireside chat to share more about Microsoft’s vision for emerging cloud innovation, but I also got to connect with many of you directly. In those conversations, it became even more apparent just how many of you are turning to the intelligent cloud to explore how emerging innovation like serverless, blockchain, edge computing, and AI can help you create solutions that can change your business — and people’s lives.

At Microsoft, we’re continually releasing technology that’s inspired by our customers and what you tell us you need to make the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge a reality for your businesses. For example, you may need to build applications to work in remote areas with low connectivity. Or you need to store, access, and drive insights from your data faster because of competitive pressures. And, you need confidence that your data and applications will be secure, resilient, and highly available across the globe.

During my time with Tom and Todd, I announced a few of our latest Azure solutions and newest regions and availability zones designed to bring this vision to you, our customers, and I’d like to share more on these new technologies.

Introducing the next level in big data analytics

Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 and general availability of Azure Data Factory capabilities

Data is currency for enterprises today, and we know you need to be able to easily store and quickly access your data to drive actionable insights. You also need to be able to ingest and integrate big data quickly and easily to get to insights more readily. Today, we are introducing a preview of a highly scalable, highly performant, and cost-effective data lake solution for big data analytics, Azure Data Lake Storage Gen 2, to deliver the scale, performance, and security needed by your most demanding and sensitive workloads. 

Because Azure Data Lake Gen2 is built on the foundations of Azure blob storage, all data — from data that is constantly in use through to data that only needs to be referenced occasionally or stored for regulatory reasons — can coexist in a single store without having to copy data. This means that you will have greater speed to insight over your data along with rich security at a more cost-effective price. Azure Data Lake Storage also provides a unified data store where unstructured object data and file data can be accessed concurrently via Blob Storage and Hadoop File System protocols.

Today also brings the general availability of new features in Azure Data Factory to deliver data movement as a service capacities so you can build analytics across hybrid and multicloud environments, and drive raw data into actionable insights. The new features include a web-based graphical user interface to create, schedule and manage data pipelines, code-free data ingestion from over 70 data source connectors to accelerate data movement across on-premises and cloud, and ability to easily lift SQL Server Integration Services packages to Azure and run in managed execution environment in Azure Data Factory. You can also start taking advantage of native ADF connector for Azure Data Lake Storage to load your data lake at scale.

Enabling the intelligent edge

Azure IoT Edge is generally available

In the next 10 years, nearly all our everyday devices and many new devices will be connected. These devices are all becoming so “smart” that they can power advanced algorithms that help them see, listen, reason, predict and more, without a 24/7 dependence on the cloud. This is the intelligent edge, and it will define the next wave of innovation in how we address world issues: distributing resources like water and oil, increasing food production and quality, and responding to natural disasters.

As key part of our strategy to deliver the promise of edge computing is Azure IoT Edge, which enables consistency between cloud and edge. This means you can push AI and machine learning to the edge, providing the most comprehensive and innovative edge offering on the market. As of today, Azure IoT Edge is generally available globally, with new updates for increased flexibility, scalability, security, and more.

Also today, the Azure IoT Edge runtime is open sourced and available on GitHub. If you are a developer, this gives you even greater flexibility and control of your edge solutions, so you can modify the runtime and debug issues. Azure IoT Edge now also supports more languages than another other edge solution including C#, C, Node.js, Python, and Java, and we’ve added support for the Moby container management system. Additionally, we’ve released a Device Provisioning Service that enables you to provision tens of thousands of devices with zero touch. The new Security Manager for Azure IoT Edge acts as a well-bounded security core for protecting the IoT Edge device and all its components by abstracting the secure silicon hardware.

Azure IoT Edge customers like Schneider Electric and a farmer in Carnation, Washington are building sophisticated solutions that deliver real-time insights in areas with unreliable connectivity. Now that the solution is production-ready, with enhanced features, we can’t wait to see what else you build.

Azure global infrastructure

New Azure regions

We continuously invest in our cloud infrastructure to give you more compute power to enable the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. We’ve announced 54 Azure regions to help you deliver cloud services and apps to nearly every corner of the globe and to provide everything that’s needed to run mission-critical applications, across scenarios, with a full set of resiliency solutions.

Today, we expanded our Azure presence in China, one of the most dynamic cloud markets in the world, with two additional regions now generally available. We were the first international cloud provider in China in 2014 (in partnership with 21Vianet), and today’s announcement doubles the number of Azure regions available there. We continue to see immense opportunity in China for cloud services to fuel innovation and multinational corporations including Adobe, Coke, Costco, Daimler, Ford, Nuance, P&G, and Toyota, which are choosing our intelligent cloud services to help deliver for their customers in China. This builds on our recently announced plans to expand our cloud infrastructure in Europe and the Middle East and announced plans for new regions coming to Norway

We’re also constantly increasing Azure’s resiliency capabilities with the addition of new Azure Availability Zones. Our Availability Zone in the Netherlands is now generally available, adding to the Zones already available in Iowa and Paris. The combination of region pairs and Availability Zones not only increases Azure’s resiliency capabilities, but broadens customer choice for business continuity architectures and delivers an industry-leading SLA for virtual machines.

It’s an exciting future

It was great to see all of you at GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit today. For those of you who weren’t able to be there live, you can follow along online. As always, we will continue to focus on building the technologies you need to drive innovation and disruption with the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. Let us know what you think about these new solutions by sharing your feedback and comments.

Creating a city of inclusion for our country’s Special Olympics athletes – Microsoft on the Issues

Special Olympics athlete Virginia Wade with her mother
Special Olympics athlete Virginia Wade, left, who is from Seattle, with her mother. Virginia was one of 22 skiers chosen to represent the U.S. women’s team in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games.

On July 1, 4,000 athletes and coaches from across the country will arrive in Seattle to compete in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. Microsoft is proud to be the presenting sponsor of these games. It will be a special week for all of us – the athletes, the city of Seattle and our region, including Microsoft’s employees. As the honorary chairman of this year’s USA Games, I’m delighted to welcome athletes from near and far who are coming not just to compete, but to celebrate their well-earned achievements.

What began as a backyard summer camp in the 1960s by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of former President John F. Kennedy, Special Olympics has grown into the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. Shriver recognized how sports brought communities together, encouraged teamwork, built social skills and instilled confidence. She also believed that everyone, no matter their ability, deserved an opportunity to grow, learn and experience joy through sports.

Fifty years after the first games, the Special Olympics boasts more than 5.7 million athletes in 172 countries and more than 1 million volunteers around the world. And while the organization has played a transformative role in the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities, it also became a global movement of acceptance and inclusion. Through sports, health, school and youth engagement, the organization brings people around the world together, with and without intellectual disabilities, to teach tolerance, unity and respect.

Special Olympics USA Games 2018 logo

For Microsoft, it’s an honor to sponsor this year’s milestone event that celebrates diversity and inclusion in a way no other organization has. “Diversity and inclusion” is a key component to how we understand and work toward our mission every day: To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. That’s why we’ve partnered with Special Olympics since 2014, using cloud-based data management to transform how the games are run and how athletes are cared for, while supporting the group’s efforts to build a more inclusive global community.

This year, athletes challenge Seattle to “Rise with Us” and make the 2018 games the most inclusive Special Olympics to date. Already, the games are well on that path with 39 percent of competitors participating in Unified Sports (teams of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities), youth-led leadership initiatives, thousands of volunteer opportunities, and the special events designed for the broader community to participate. And this summer’s games will be one of the largest sporting events ever to come to our city, with an expected 50,000 spectators.

As the Pacific Northwest prepares for the arrival of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, state and local leaders, businesses, organizations and individuals have an important role to play in creating a region that welcomes everyone. This summer’s games are about much more than sports. They’re about creating a city of inclusion where everyone is welcome and can contribute their talents and skills.

One of the best ways you can show the world this spirit of inclusion is to support the games. Attend the opening ceremonies, to be held on July 1 at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium. Cheer on athletes who will be competing in 14 sports at events across the region. Volunteer for one of the 10,000 positions needed to make these games a success.

This summer’s games offer the opportunity for each of us to ask important questions, challenge our biases, learn together and act collectively to create more inclusive communities. In other words, this year’s USA Games will require each and every one of us to rise to the occasion and show the world what the Special Olympics – and Seattle – stand for.

Tags: 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, Brad Smith, inclusion, Special Olympics

4-H youth leader rocks the Hour of Code, plans to continue the movement in her community – Microsoft on the Issues

4H youth leader and Seattle Seahawk player with student in Microsoft Store in Bellevue, Washington
4-H youth leader and TEALS student Nora Medina, left, and Seattle Seahawks player Luke Willson participate in an Hour of Code with a student Dec. 5 at the Microsoft Store at Bellevue Square Mall in Bellevue, Washington.

Earlier this fall, Microsoft and National 4-H Council announced a partnership to support young people to be digital leaders, equipping them with the digital skills and other resources to help them make an even bigger, positive impact on their communities. Youth leaders are working with educators, community members and others to identify challenges their communities face, and to use technology to address those challenges.

Nora Medina, from Quincy High School in central Washington state, is working to inspire kids to learn to code, and help adults build digital skills to close the digital divide in her community. We caught up with Nora during Computer Science Education Week when she visited the Microsoft Store in Bellevue, Washington, alongside Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson, to coach elementary school students through their first Hour of Code. Nora and Luke used the new Minecraft tutorial for Hour of Code, called Hero’s Journey, which introduces kids to coding in a fun and engaging way. While our partnership with 4-H is wide-ranging, going beyond digital skills, computer science was the focus of this conversation with Nora:

4H youth leader and TEALS student Nora Medina with Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson
4-H youth leader and TEALS student Nora Medina with Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson.

How did you discover computer science?

I was introduced to coding and Code.org in middle school in an afterschool club. I started by playing with Minecraft and JavaScript. After that I got involved in Digital Tools class, which opened up more classes at my high school, where I learned web design. I realized you can do so much with your imagination and your creativity. Nothing limits you!

Why do you think learning to code is important for kids today?

Coding is everywhere! If you know coding, companies will be more inclined to hire you. You’ll have more skills to offer.

What can you tell us about your involvement with 4-H?

We’re starting a service project where the main focus is teaching adults digital skills. There’s a gap between students and parents. If we teach adults about digital skills, and why we’re on our phones so much, that can bring us closer as a community, and opens up more opportunities for parents and adults!

Microsoft is a leading supporter of Computer Science Education Week because the lack of access to computer science education threatens to widen the income gap between those who have the skills to succeed in the 21st century and those who do not, impeding students’ ability to eventually thrive in their future careers. We’re inspired by young people like Nora Medina who are stepping forward to help us, and others, address the problem.

In the United States alone, there are over 500,000 open computing jobs, however last year, less than 43,000 computer science students graduated into the U.S. workforce.  Learning to code is one of the most important steps students can take to prepare themselves to fully participate in, and benefit from, our digital economy. That’s why Microsoft Philanthropies is working to help young people and adults become creators of technology, advance their careers and grow their local economies by making computer science education and digital skills available to everyone.

Learn more, and find resources to start learning to code, or to teach others, by visiting your local Microsoft Store or https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/digital-skills/hour-of-code.

Tags: Computer Science Education Week, Hour of Code, Microsoft Philanthropies, Microsoft Store

Microsoft boasts SQL Server machine learning services

SEATTLE — While SQL Server 2017 continues to get attention for opening up to Linux, many of Microsoft’s database advances revolve around various ways the company is opening up analytics on its flagship database. Case in point: SQL Server machine learning services.

Open source data frameworks and development languages increasingly have become a path to next-level data analytics and machine learning, and SQL Server support is central to this strategy.

The clues are various. Even before 2017, Microsoft brought Apache Spark and the R language into the mix. Earlier this year, the Python language joined R as part of a newly minted Azure Machine Learning developer kit.

The story took a new turn at PASS Summit 2017 last week, as Microsoft featured the capability for Azure Machine Learning users to bring their analytics models into SQL Server 2017 for native T-SQL runtime scoring. An essential element in machine learning, scoring is a way to measure the likely success of machine-generated predictions.

Native T-SQL scoring can process large amounts of data at an average of under 20 milliseconds per row, according to Rohan Kumar, general manager of Microsoft’s database systems group, who spoke at PASS Summit. Native T-SQL scoring takes the form of a stored procedure for prediction that can be used without calling Microsoft’s R runtime, as was the case with SQL Server 2016.

This capability is important because models built and trained to, for example, suggest new products to likely buyers can produce results while the buyers are actually web browsing. As SQL Server machine learning services head in this direction, their use could grow.

Machine learning models

Supporting such scoring in the Microsoft database could make machine learning analytics more a part of operations and less an experimental effort, according to Ginger Grant, advanced analytics consultant for SolidQ and a presenter at the event.

“Traditionally, what has happened is that you’ve had a data science group that sort of sat in the corner creating machine learning models. They then threw that ‘over the wall’ to developers who had to code it in another language,” Grant said in an interview.

“Native T-SQL scoring allows people to modularize their work and environment, so things can be operationally implemented relatively quickly,” she said.

Microsoft’s new SQL Server machine learning services will help with real-time prediction, said Victoria Holt, who also took part in PASS Summit. She is an independent data analytics and platforms architect, as well as a trainer at SQL Relay.

“It is great to be able to leverage machine learning computation in-database,” she said.

This year’s inclusion of Python in the Microsoft Machine Learning workbench is also a step forward, Holt said. But it will take time for such new technologies to spread.

Holt noted that the “addition of Python extends the use of deep learning frameworks in the product. The retrained cognitive models will speed up consumption. But there is significant user training and upgrading that will need to happen before these models are adopted.”

Beyond T-SQL stored procedures

Microsoft’s moves are all about being more welcoming to open source communities.
Jen Stirrupfounder of Data Relish

Microsoft analytics advances discussed at PASS Summit were not limited to T-SQL. The company previewed scale-out features for Azure Analysis Services to improve response time for large query workloads on the cloud.

The company also moved to simplify data preparation for analytics in the cloud by releasing a public preview of Azure Data Factory that includes the ability to run SQL Server Integration Services in ADF.

Growing Microsoft SQL Server 2017 support for Python and R is significant, according to Jen Stirrup, founder of the U.K.-based Data Relish consultancy and PASS Summit board member.

Python is something of a portal to a crop of machine learning services entering the open source sphere almost daily. In Stirrup’s view, deeper support for advanced analytics is the next step for big data, and Microsoft is tuned to that notion.

“The company understands that customers really want to do something with the data,” she said.

“The data is such a key thing. It underpins your applications. Today, that means you have to reach out to software and languages that are not necessarily part of Microsoft’s .NET,” Stirrup continued. “Microsoft’s moves are all about being more welcoming to open source communities.”