Tag Archives: Services

Cloud-hosted apps catching on to meet user demand

With a variety of available services, now’s a good time for IT administrators to consider whether cloud-hosted apps are a good option.

Offerings such as Citrix XenApp Essentials and Amazon Web Services (AWS) AppStream allow IT to stream desktop applications from the cloud to users’ endpoints. Workflow and automation provider IndependenceIT also has a new offering, AppServices, based on Google Cloud Platform. Organizations adopt these types of services to get benefits around centralized management, scalability and more.

More organizations are considering cloud-hosted apps, because IT needs to become a service provider to meet the growing application demands of both external customers and internal users, said Agatha Poon, research director at 451 Research.

“You get requirements from different teams, and all want to have quicker ways to get applications, quicker ways to deploy services,” Poon said. “So, then, you need some sort of mechanism … to support that.”

What application hosting services offer

Application streaming services are an alternative to on-premises application virtualization, in which organizations host applications in their own data centers.

XenApp Essentials and AppStream place an application in the cloud and let the IT admins assign a group of users to it. But just delivering applications through the cloud is not enough, and the app hosting service should also provide a way to manage the lifecycle of the app publishing. Thus, IT is left with connecting data assets to the app and has to set controls for where users are allowed to move the data.  

Some app streaming services require organizations to use another set of tools for those management tasks. For example, in the case of AWS, IT must manually configure storage using the Amazon Simple Storage Service and connect it back to AppStream if they want additional storage.  

Swizznet, a hosting provider for accounting applications, adopted Independence IT’s AppServices in September 2016 to deliver apps internally and to customers. The company moved away from XenApp Essentials because IndependenceIT provided more native management capabilities, said Mike Callan, CEO of Swizznet, based in Seattle.

We wanted the ability to automatically scale and spin additional servers.
Mike CallanCEO, Swizznet

“We wanted the ability to automatically scale and spin additional servers, where we could essentially have that capability automated instead of paying engineers to do that,” Callan said.

Citrix’s business problems over the past few years were also a factor in making the switch, Callan said.

“Citrix is, unfortunately, just a company more or less in disarray, so they haven’t been able to keep up with the value proposition that they once had,” he added.

Application streaming services can also help organizations deliver apps that they don’t have the resources to host on-premises. Cornell University has used Amazon AppStream 2.0 since early 2017 and took advantage of the new GPU-powered features that aim to reduce the cost of delivering graphics-intensive apps.

These features have opened up more kinds of software that Cornell can deliver to students, said Marty Sullivan, a DevOps cloud engineer at the university in Ithaca, N.Y. Software such as ANSYS, Dassault Systemes Solidworks, and Autodesk AutoCAD and Inventor help students and faculty run simulations and design mechanical parts, but they only perform well when a GPU is available.

“[Departments] will be able to deliver these specialized pieces of software without having to redevelop them for another platform,” Sullivan said.

Google Cloud Platform
The different services within Google Cloud Platform

Cloud market pushes app hosting forward

When it comes to cloud infrastructure services, Google ranked third behind AWS and Microsoft in Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant. But Google Cloud Platform made the deployment of AppServices easy, Callan said. He was able to go through the auto-deployment quick-start guide and set it up himself in just a couple days.

The increasing reliance on cloud services and the rise of workers using multiple devices to get their jobs done are driving the app streaming trend. Providing company-approved cloud-hosted apps for such employees makes deployment and management easier. IT admins don’t have to physically load any apps on the machines, nor do the employees with the machines need to be present for IT to keep tabs on the usage and security of those apps.

Quorum OnQ solves Amvac Chemical’s recovery problem

Using a mix of data protection software, hardware and cloud services from different vendors, Amvac Chemical Corp. found itself in a cycle of frustration. Backups failed at night, then had to be rerun during the day, and that brought the network to a crawl.

The Los Angeles-based company found its answer with Quorum’s one-stop backup and disaster recovery appliances. Quorum OnQ’s disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) combines appliances that replicate across sites with cloud services.

The hardware appliances are configured in a hub-and-spoke model with an offsite data center colocation site. The appliances perform full replication to the cloud that backs up data after hours.

“It might be overkill, but it works for us,” said Rainier Laxamana, Amvac’s director of information technology.

Quorum OnQ may be overkill, but Amvac’s previous system underwhelmed. Previously, Amvac’s strategy consisted of disk backup to early cloud services to tape. But the core problem remained: failed backups. The culprit was the Veritas Backup Exec applications that the Veritas support team, while still part of Symantec, could not explain. A big part of the Backup Exec problem was application support.

“The challenge was that we had different versions of an operating system,” Laxamana said. “We had legacy versions of Windows servers so they said [the backup application] didn’t work well with other versions.

“We were repeating backups throughout the day and people were complaining [that the network] was slow. We repeated backups because they failed at night. That slowed down the network during the day.”

We kept tapes at Iron Mountain, but it became very expensive so we brought it on premises.
Rainier Laxamanadirector of information technology, Amvac

Quorum OnQ provides local and remote instant recovery for servers, applications and data. The Quorum DRaaS setup combines backup, deduplication, replication, one-click recovery, automated disaster recovery testing and archiving. Quorum claims OnQ is “military-grade” because it was developed for U.S. Naval combat systems and introduced into the commercial market in 2010.

Amvac develops crop protection chemicals for agricultural and commercial purposes. The company has a worldwide workforce of more than 400 employees in eight locations, including a recently opened site in the Netherlands. Quorum OnQ protects six sites, moving data to the main data center. Backups are done during the day on local appliances. After hours, the data is replicated to a DR site and then to another DR site hosted by Quorum.

“After the data is replicated to the DR site, the data is replicated again to our secondary DR site, which is our biggest site,” Laxamana said. “Then the data is replicated to the cloud. So the first DR location is our co-located data center and the secondary DR our largest location. The third is the cloud because we use Quorum’s DRaaS.”

Amvac’s previous data protection configuration included managing eight physical tape libraries.

“It was not fun managing it,” Laxamana said. “And when we had legal discovery, we had to go through 10 years of data. We kept tapes at Iron Mountain, but it became very expensive so we brought it on premises.”

Laxamana said he looked for a better data protection system for two years before finding Quorum. Amvac looked at Commvault but found it too expensive and not user-friendly enough. Laxamana and his team also looked at Unitrends. At the time, Veeam Software only supported virtual machines, and Amvac needed to protect physical servers. Laxamana said Unitrends was the closest that he found to Quorum OnQ.

“The biggest (plus) with Quorum was that the interface was much more user-friendly,” he said. “It’s more integrated. With Unitrends, you need a third party to integrate the Microsoft Exchange.”

Salesforce Lightning Bolt strikes Appirio as vertical plan

Appirio, a cloud services provider, rolled out prebuilt offerings on Salesforce Lightning at Dreamforce 2017, which wrapped up this week in San Francisco.

The Wipro company’s prebuilt wares, referred to as Salesforce Lightning Bolt solutions in the SaaS vendor’s terminology, target the retail and healthcare vertical markets and employee engagement as a horizontal market.

Salesforce Lightning, the vendor’s platform-wide upgrade, debuted two years ago, and customer migration to the environment was a key theme at Dreamforce 2017. The Salesforce Lightning Bolt approach, which the company unveiled in 2016, lets Salesforce partners create new communities, portals or websites that integrate with Salesforce customer relationship management. Salesforce intends for the Lightning Bolts to be reusable, industry-specific offerings.

The ability to develop custom, repeatable Salesforce Lightning Bolt solutions appeals to channel partners.

“That is why [Salesforce Lightning Bolt] resonates with us and other systems integrators,” said Yoni Barkan, director of solutions and innovation at Appirio, based in Indianapolis. “These are solutions that we feel show our industry expertise in a particular area and allow us to leverage that.”

These are solutions that we feel show our industry expertise in a particular area and allow us to leverage that.
Yoni Barkandirector of solutions and innovation at Appirio

Appirio’s Bolt lineup includes a retail and franchise offering that aims to facilitate collaboration among franchisors and franchisees, home offices and retail partners. Barkan said the Lightning Bolt lets participants view their own branding — a franchisee’s or home office’s branding, for example — while participating in the Salesforce-based community.

Also in the retail and franchise space, Appirio’s promotion management Lightning Bolt provides a collaboration platform for managing new promotions and brand updates. Barkan said the promotion use case stems from work the company has undertaken with a global franchise company.

A medical device ordering and sales Lightning Bolt, meanwhile, seeks to bolster communication and collaboration among manufacturers, distributors and suppliers. And an employee community and social intranet Salesforce Lightning Bolt targets employee engagement. For that Bolt, Appirio is partnering with vendors such as Stantive Technologies Group, which provides the OrchestraCMS content management system.

Green House Data, Ingram in acquisition mode

Green House Data, a cloud hosting and managed services company based in Cheyenne, Wyo., has acquired Ajubeo, an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider based in Boulder, Colo.

The purchase provides Green House Data a presence in the Rocky Mountain region, adding to its geographic expansion. The company in April 2017 purchased IaaS provider Cirracore, which has operations in Atlanta and Dallas.

“We’ve largely based acquisition and expansion strategies around a combination of customer demand, geodiversity and, of course, market opportunity,” said Shawn Mills, president and CEO at Green House Data. “For example, we acquired into Atlanta earlier this year because 75% of Fortune 1000 companies have some kind of presence in this market, so it is advantageous to both our clients and to organic growth.”

From the cloud services point of view, Green House Data’s Ajubeo purchase was also driven by the latter company’s private cloud practice, Mills noted.

Cloud services companies are acquiring other firms to shore up skills in an increasingly multi-cloud environment. Mills said multi-cloud customer engagements are “more and more the norm than an anomaly.”

Ingram Micro Inc., meanwhile, acquired The Phoenix Group, a distributor of point-of-sale (POS) technology for the U.S. and Canadian electronic payments markets. According to Ingram Micro, The Phoenix Group’s management and associates will operate as a division of Ingram Micro.

Other news

  • Big Switch Networks, a data center networking vendor, launched a channel program the company said provides partner incentives, training, certification and enablement programs, along with professional services opportunities. The company’s channel partner program is based on two tiers: The Big Switch Authorized Partner tier is open to partners who are authorized networking resellers of Dell EMC or Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Channel partners can also qualify for that tier by signing a Big Switch VAR agreement for selling Edgecore and Big Switch offerings. The Big Switch Premier Partner tier is open to partner that meet the Authorized Partner requirements and also fulfill additional Premier Partner tier requirements that include maintaining a defined number of certified sales and engineering employees.
  • Datical, a provider of database release automation offerings, unveiled a partner program with the objective of connecting DevOps vendors and systems integrators. Program features include an online marketplace, access to training and joint marketing opportunities with Datical.
  • Pivot3, a hyper-converged infrastructure vendor, said the company witnessed a 178% increase in new deal registrations from channel partners from the first quarter to the third quarter of 2017. In addition, the company said 77 partners have joined the company’s channel roster in Q3.
  • Kryon Systems, a robotic process automation solutions provider, is partnering with MFX, an IT services provider for property and casualty insurance carriers, reinsurers and agents.
  • Ingenico Group, a POS and e-payment company, has selected Masergy, a hybrid networking and managed security provider, for its managed SD-WAN Pro offering.
  • World Wide Technology, an IT solution provider, opened a new global headquarters in the Maryland Heights, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. The facility is 208,000 square feet, and it includes a 300-seat auditorium equipped with an LED screen that’s 51 feet by 12 feet.
  • BCS ProSoft, a business software and technology consulting firm, has appointed Sally Craig as its vice president of sales and marketing. Craig was previously a channel executive at ERP vendor Epicor.

Maxta hyper-converged MxSP helps services firm fuel growth

When Larry Chapman arrived at Trusource Labs as IT manager, the technical support services provider was in the hyper-growth stage, while its IT infrastructure was stuck in neutral.

The IT infrastructure consisted of no shared storage and a server with a single point of failure. Chapman decided to upgrade it in one shot with hyper-convergence. Trusource installed Maxta MxSP software-based hyper-convergence running on Dell PowerEdge servers last April when it opened a new call center.

The company started in 2013 with a call center in Austin, Texas, and added one in Limerick, Ireland, in the past year. It has since built a second call center in Austin, a 450-seat facility called “Austin North” to deal with the company’s rapid customer growth and for redundancy. Trusource plans further expansion with another call center set to open in Alpine, Texas, in 2018.

In four years, Trusource has grown to 600 employees and around $30 million in annual revenue.

“We were in hyper-growth mode from when we started until I got here,” said Chapman, who joined Trusource in mid-2016. He said when he arrived at Trusource the network consisted of “one big HP server with 40 VMs and 40 cores. Obviously, that’s a single point of failure; there was no shared storage and no additional servers.”

Chapman considered building his IT infrastructure out the traditional way, adding a dedicated storage array and more servers. But that would require adding at least one engineer to his small IT staff.

Forty minutes, start to finish, and boom, I was running hyper-converged infrastructure.
Larry ChapmanIT manager, Trusource Labs

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to hire a storage engineer to calculate LUNs and do all the storage stuff,” he said. “Over the course of years, there’s a lot of salary involved there. So I started looking at new next-generation things.”

That led him to hyper-converged infrastructure, which requires no storage specialists. He checked out HCI players Nutanix, SimpliVity and Maxta’s MxSP.

Chapman ruled out SimpliVity after Hewlett Packard Enterprise bought the startup in January 2017. He worried SimpliVity OmniStack software would no longer be hardware-agnostic after the deal closed.

“I like the option to be hardware-agnostic,” he said. “I will buy my server from whoever can give me the best deal at the time. At the time I looked at SimpliVity; it was hardware agnostic, but I didn’t think it would be in the future.”

He liked Nutanix’s appliance, but its initial cost scared him off. The price seemed especially steep compared to Maxta. Chapman chose Maxta’s freemium license option, which provides software for free and charges for maintenance. He said the Maxta hyper-converged MxSP price tag came to $54,000 for four three-node clusters. After the initial three years, he will pay $3,000 per server for support.

“I had to look at the quote a couple of times. I thought they left something off,” he said. He said a comparable set up with Nutanix would have cost around $150,000 just for the HCI appliances.

After selecting the Maxta hyper-converged software, Chapman priced servers, picking three Dell PowerEdge R530 models with 24-core processors, 120 GB of RAM and four 10 GigE interfaces for a total of $24,000. Each server has 800 GB solid-state drives for cache and six 1 TB hard disk drives in a hybrid setup.

Throw in switching and cabling, and Chapman said he ended up with his entire infrastructure for a 450-seat call center based on the Maxta hyper-converged MxSP software for $125,000.

Chapman said he was a bit leery of installing do-it-yourself software, but he followed Maxta’s  checklist and did it himself anyway. Installation went smoothly.

“Forty minutes, start to finish, and boom, I was running hyper-converged infrastructure,” he said.

As part of the setup process, Maxta hyper-converged MxSP asks how many copies of data to keep on the virtual machines. Chapman said he selected three copies across his three nodes, “so no matter what combination of things I lose, as long as I have two of the servers up, the VMs will run like nothing happened.”

That bailed him out when a parity error brought down a server, but no one even noticed until an alert went out. “Everything was still chugging along,” Chapman said. A firmware upgrade fixed the problem.

Trusource now runs its production workload on the Maxta MxSP HCI appliances.

He said Trusource does not use dedicated backup software for the Maxta hyper-converged cluster but replicates between data centers.

Chapman said his setup allows easy upgrades at no additional software cost because of the Maxta perpetual license.

“I will just take the server off line, shut it down, put a new server in, turn it on and repeat the process for each new server,” he said. “If I need bigger drives, I can just swap out drives while the system’s running. If I need more processing power, I just add another node in the cluster, another $8,000 server and I’m done.”

New Cisco managed services seek to ease IT talent shortage

Cisco has introduced managed services that remove mundane networking tasks from engineers’ to-do list, freeing up time to work on projects to streamline and advance business operations.

Cisco unveiled this week Business Critical and High-Value Services the company said would let customers make better use of network managers’ time. The Cisco managed services are expected to help the vendor reach its goal of boosting software and services revenue to half of overall sales by 2020.

To entice companies, Cisco is marketing the services as a way to address the shortage in IT talent by making more efficient use of networking staff. In a Cisco-sponsored white paper, IDC found 69% of more than a 1,000 IT leaders surveyed worked in organizations lacking sufficient expertise to digitize business processes.

The latest Cisco managed services attack the problem by taking over routine networking tasks that take up roughly a quarter of engineers’ time. Similar services are also available through other vendors, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei and Juniper Networks.

“I wouldn’t say the features and functionality are new [in the market],” IDC analyst Leslie Rosenberg said of the latest services. “It’s more of an evolution of their existing offers.”

Cisco Business Critical Services

With Business Critical Services, Cisco is offering to remotely handle, for example, chores related to deploying new networking hardware. The tasks would include configuring the devices and applying already-defined policies.

The use of third parties to automate routine jobs is a trend Rosenberg sees in the overall services market. “In my opinion, it’s going to begin to change the way enterprise customers consume and drive value from services,” she said. “Anything that you’re doing twice manually, you should be automating.”

New Cisco managed services also include the collection of telemetry data from customers’ networks and using it to advise them on corrective actions to prevent potential problems. Cisco can also use the collected data to inform customers on how to keep the network running at its peak performance level.

Cisco High-Value Services

Cisco’s High-Value Services is an additional support option. Under the service, Cisco, or one of its partner, will install a new product and make sure all licensed features are turned on and running. Cisco would still offer more advanced services for more complex deployments that require, for example, integration with third-party software or hardware.

“If [companies] just want to get it up and running faster and right the first time, then they have the opportunity to buy the service from Cisco,” Rosenberg said.

Cisco acquires Perspica

Meanwhile, Cisco announced this week it would acquire Perspica, a company based in San Jose, Calif., that applies machine learning to analyze streaming data, rather than waiting until it is stored. Cisco plans to use Perspica technology and expertise with its AppDynamics software for monitoring and analyzing application data. Cisco acquired the company AppDynamics this year for $3.7 billion.

Perspica and its engineers will become a part of Cisco’s AppDynamics unit. Combining technology from the two acquisitions will provide analytics that is “infinitely scalable and ridiculously fast to keep pace with developments in the enterprise,” Bhaskar Sunkara, CTO of AppDynamics, said in a blog post.

Cisco did not disclose financial details of the latest acquisition.

Meet the Azure Analysis Services team at PASS Summit 2017


Members from the Azure Analysis Services team will be presenting two sessions at this years PASS Summit 2017 in Seattle, WA. Members will also be available in the SQL Clinic to directly answer your Analysis Services questions in a one-on-one setting. Sessions include the following:

Creating Enterprise Grade BI Models with Azure Analysis Services or SQL Server Analysis Services

Speakers: Bret Grinslade and Christian Wade

Level: 400

Microsoft Azure Analysis Services and SQL Server Analysis Services enable you to build comprehensive, enterprise-scale analytic solutions that deliver actionable insights through familiar data visualization tools such as Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Excel. Analysis Services enables consistent data across reports and users of Power BI. This session will reveal new features for large, enterprise models in the areas of performance, scalability, model management, and monitoring. Learn how to use these new features to deliver tabular models of unprecedented scale with easy data loading and simplified user consumption.

Deliver Enterprise BI on Big Data

Speakers: Bret Grinslade and Josh Caplan

Level: 300

Learn how to deliver analytics at the speed of thought with Azure Analysis Services on top of a petabyte-scale SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Data Lake, or HDInsight implementation. This session will cover best practices for managing, processing, and query accelerating at scale, implementing change management for data governance, and designing for performance and security. These advanced techniques will be demonstrated thorough an actual implementation including architecture, code, data flows, along with tips and tricks.

Learn more about PASS Summit 2017. We hope to see you there.

FedEx delivers on modern workplace vision with cloud computing

FedEx logo.

Today’s post was written by Robert Carter, CIO and executive vice president of information services at FedEx.

Profile picture of Robert Carter, CIO and executive vice president of information services at FedEx.Strategic technology is part of FedEx’s heritage and its key to our continued innovation in the future. In 1978, our founder and CEO Fred Smith said, “The information about the package is as important as the package itself.” This established a culture where technology functions as the central nervous system behind every single business process at the company. It’s behind every one of the 13 million shipments that we process each day. It supports our more than 400,000 team members working in 220 countries and territories as they connect 99 percent of the global GDP through our transportation, e-commerce, and business services.

This heritage of custom-built, innovative, end-to-end systems of record and engagement—including our invention of modern package tracking—enabled the business to expand globally while maintaining our focus on process quality control. However, as FedEx entered the modern computing era with a wake of legacy technologies, we had to re-evaluate the strategic IT that we need to move forward in an internet-enabled world. In 2009, we began a modernization journey that we called Project Renewal. It’s our ongoing vision for cloud computing where we are standardizing on today’s internet protocols—the scalable X86 datacenter platform and the “tap-into” world of software as a service.

Whether related to the logistics business or not, there’s a massive amount of disruptive activity in today’s e-commerce world, with venture capital pouring into both first-mile and last-mile solutions. So, we need to refactor our systems to stay competitive. On the infrastructure side, we have a hybrid compute environment where we burst containerized transaction traffic between our on-premises implementations and the public cloud. With Microsoft, we found a vendor that’s compatible with our approach to multi-cloud and platform services and the protection of our data through intelligent security services. For our same-day service for retailers, we built an API-first, cloud-native application using Microsoft Azure. This competitive, last-mile solution extended our business—with fewer IT resources required.

And when we talk about our renewal journey and software, we’re moving from a legacy of deep vertical applications toward a world where we can tap into and integrate software services to meet our needs and stay connected with customers. This is the essence of “everything as a service,” which dismantles the complexity of constant upgrade cycles, versioning, and patching. Now, instead of installing software across the many thousands of places where we operate, we are taking a different approach. We chose Microsoft 365 so our more than 400,000 team members can take advantage of the cloud in ways that make us more collaborative and creative, driving a new era of innovation.

The diversity of cloud-based business solutions that we can deploy to meet our associates’ needs, no matter where they work, is a huge advantage for FedEx. Now, frontline workers such as our mechanics can take their tablets and access the engineering diagrams they need while they’re seven stories up on a scaffolding, servicing the tail engine on one of our aircraft. We see it as key to our future to provide this modern “tap-into” world, where everything is accessible and where we operate as collaborative virtual teams in highly secure digital environments.

And at FedEx, we’ve always promoted a culture of empowerment because we believe it’s the wellspring of innovation. We got where we are through our heritage of technology innovation, but we cannot afford to rest on that reputation. Since 2009, we’ve been working diligently to stay relevant, re-engineering our legacy software for the cloud so we can engage with next-generation fulfillment systems. Whether you are shipping apparel, or flowers, or car parts from the other side of the world, FedEx will continue to innovate in a cloud-based computing paradigm, so we can make good on our promise to move everything to everywhere—just as we’ve always done.

—Robert Carter

Sibos 2017

The financial services industry banks on the Microsoft Cloud for digital transformation

Financial services organizations are at a transformational tipping point. Faced with fierce market pressures – nimble disruptors, complex regulations, digital native customers – technology transformation in the industry is essential, and it’s increasingly becoming a competitive edge. Firms leading the charge into this new era are transforming customer experiences, fostering a new culture of work, optimizing operations and driving product innovation, and they are using Microsoft cloud, AI and blockchain technologies in their journey to become digital leaders of the future. TD Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui and Credito Agricola are among the organizations that have embraced this digital transformation happening in every part of the world.

Read more

DOJ’s ‘responsible encryption’ is the new ‘going dark’

Calling on tech companies that offer encrypted services to deploy those services using “responsible encryption,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein picked up the anti-encryption baton from former FBI Director James Comey.

Rosenstein’s comments at the United States Naval Academy Tuesday echoed Comey’s position on the use of encryption by criminals and others to evade law enforcement or national security agencies. In an attempt to rebrand the debate around “going dark,” Rosenstein urged tech companies to deploy what he called “responsible encryption,” or encryption that can be bypassed by the tech company in order to provide law enforcement agencies access to encrypted data subject to a court order.

“Responsible encryption can involve effective, secure encryption that allows access only with judicial authorization,” Rosenstein said, adding that it was not necessary for the government to mandate any particular key management or escrow service, but rather for individual companies to deploy encryption or encrypted services in a way that supports a “lawful access” to encrypted data on demand by law enforcement or national security agencies.

“Look, it’s real simple. Encryption is good for our national security; it’s good for our economy. We should be strengthening encryption, not weakening it. And it’s technically impossible to have strong encryption with any kind of backdoor,” said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), when asked about Rosenstein’s proposal for responsible encryption at The Atlantic’s Cyber Frontier event in Washington, D.C.

“This is a conversation we’re going to be involved in forever,” Hurd said. “You can protect our digital infrastructure, chase bad guys and protect our civil liberties all at the same time. It’s hard, but we can do it. And our civil liberties are not burdens — they’re the things that make our country great. So, you can call it whatever you want, but make sure you have strong encryption.”

Look, it’s real simple. Encryption is good for our national security; it’s good for our economy. We should be strengthening encryption, not weakening it.
Rep. Will Hurd(R-Texas)

Unlike previous calls from the Department of Justice to curb secure, end-to-end encryption and put government-accessible backdoors on all data, Rosenstein suggested tech companies that offer encrypted communications services incorporate the ability to access encrypted data in response to court orders.

Rosenstein concluded by saying, “There is no constitutional right to sell warrant-proof encryption. If our society chooses to let businesses sell technologies that shield evidence even from court orders, it should be a fully informed decision.”

In other news

  • The latest company to accidentally expose data in an Amazon Web Services Simple Storage Service bucket is Accenture, a global management consulting and professional services giant — and cloud service provider. Chris Vickery, cyber-risk analyst for UpGuard Inc., a cybersecurity company based in Mountain View, Calif., reported the exposure in a blog post. “Accenture, one of the world’s largest corporate consulting and management firms, left at least four cloud-based storage servers unsecured and publicly downloadable, exposing secret API data, authentication credentials, certificates, decryption keys, customer information, and more data that could have been used to attack both Accenture and its clients,” Vickery wrote. “The servers’ contents appear to be the software for the corporation’s enterprise cloud offering, Accenture Cloud Platform, a ‘multi-cloud management platform’ used by Accenture’s customers, which ‘include 94 of the Fortune Global 100 and more than three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500’ — raising the possibility that, if valid, exposed Accenture data could have been used for critical secondary attacks against these clients.”
  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) suffered as many as 54 data breaches of personal information from the start of 2015 to the end of 2016, according to an audit by the FDIC Office of Inspector General (OIG). The FDIC, a government agency formed in the wake of the Great Depression to protect bank customers, insures all deposits at participating banks up to at least $250,000. To accomplish its mission, the FDIC collects large amounts of data, including personally identifiable information about bank customers. Writing in the audit report, which included in-depth reviews of some of the reported FDIC data breaches, the FDIC OIG “initiated this audit in response to concerns raised by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs regarding a series of data breaches reported by the FDIC in late 2015 and early 2016. Many of these data breaches involved PII.”
  • Trustwave’s SpiderLabs researchers reported a sophisticated hybrid cyberattack against banks netted thieves as much as $40 million. According to the report, the scam involved people opening bank accounts, while also breaking into the banks’ computer systems to manipulate overdraft limits on those accounts, and then having other people withdraw large amounts from ATMs abroad. While the attacks described in the SpiderLabs report were mostly against banks in post-Soviet states, the researchers warned the techniques would spread. “Currently, the attacks are localized to the Eastern European and Russian regions. However, in cybercrime, this area is often the canary in the mineshaft for upcoming threats to other parts of the world.” SpiderLabs warned: “All global financial institutions should consider this threat seriously and take steps to mitigate it.”
  • Rapid7 reported a SQL injection vulnerability in the SmartVista end-to-end banking payment software offered by Switzerland-based BPC Banking Technologies. Rapid7 first notified BPC of the vulnerability in May and, after receiving no response from BPC, notified the U.S. CERT Coordination Center in July. Rapid7 recommended SmartVista users contact BPC support directly for assistance, but in the meantime, users should limit as much as possible access to the SmartVista management interface. The security vendor also recommended performing regular audits of successful and failed logins and using web application firewalls to prevention attacks using SQL injection.

The financial services industry banks on the Microsoft Cloud for digital transformation – The Official Microsoft Blog

Financial services organizations are at a transformational tipping point. Faced with fierce market pressures – nimble disruptors, complex regulations, digital native customers – technology transformation in the industry is essential, and it’s increasingly becoming a competitive edge. Firms leading the charge into this new era are transforming customer experiences, fostering a new culture of work, optimizing operations and driving product innovation, and they are using Microsoft cloud, AI and blockchain technologies in their journey to become digital leaders of the future. TD Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui and Credito Agricola are among the organizations that have embraced this digital transformation happening in every part of the world.

Next week at Sibos, the premier financial services industry event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, myself and others from Microsoft will speak alongside other innovative business leaders driving transformation. Here are some of the scenarios and solutions Microsoft customers and partners are implementing along their journey:

Fostering a new culture of work

Fostering a digital culture is a paradigm shift, one which financial institutions must embark. Jumpstarting this culture shift means designing a workplace where every work style can thrive – one that harnesses digital intelligence to improve experiences, unleashes creativity and enables mobility while keeping organizations, people and information secure. With modern tools, employees from the first line to the back office can do their best work.

State Bank of India, a 200-year-old institution, is working with Microsoft to create a modern workplace for its 263,000 employees across 23,423 branches servicing more than 500 million customer accounts, including some in the most remote locations of the country. SBI has adopted Office 365 to enhance communication and collaboration among its workforce, and believes that Microsoft is delivering the best productivity experience for its employees while ensuring the highest standards of security, compliance and adherence to regulatory requirements.

Emirates NBD is creating more creative and collaborative workspaces for their employees, and has selected Office 365 as well as Surface Hub to deliver on their digital transformation efforts.

Transforming customer experiences

Customer expectations have changed and will continue to evolve at the speed of technology. The imperative for financial services firms is to engage customers in a way that is natural, tailored and delightful at every turn. The most innovative firms will create experiences that harness data from customers to derive actionable insights and deliver greater market success.

TD Bank is known for legendary customer service and aims to match their marquee in-person experience through digital wherever customers may be – at home, at work or on-the-go. With more than 12 million digitally active customers and expectations evolving at the speed of technology, TD has turned to Microsoft Azure and data platform services to help deliver on their promise of legendary service at every touchpoint.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation is transforming their employee workstyles and enhancing their customer experience with the Microsoft Cloud. In addition to building a secure and highly productive office environment utilizing Azure and Office 365, SMBC has also introduced an interactive automatic response system for customer service, powered by the Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit and AI services.

Optimizing operations

Shifting line-of-business applications and other capabilities to the cloud is a foundational step along the digital transformation journey that enables banks to save big and reinvest dollars in more innovative, value-add banking services. It also enables firms to be more agile like their industry disruptor counterparts.

UBS is using Azure to power its risk management platform, technology that requires enormous computing power, to run millions of calculations daily on demand. The result — speeding calculation time by 100 percent, saving 40 percent in infrastructure costs, gaining nearly infinite scale within minutes — means the firm can have more working capital on hand and employees can make quicker, more informed decisions for their clients.

Société Générale is using Azure’s high-performance computing capabilities to power the credit value adjustment (CVA) intraday calculation, a critical front-office function, enabling cost-effective, almost limitless on-demand computing power.

Driving product innovation

Driving product and business model innovation allows organizations to harness data as a strategic asset, shifting from hindsight to foresight, automating manual processes, delivering personalization to customers, and innovating with new business models, services, products and experiences to differentiate and capture emerging opportunities.

Crédito Agricola considers open banking as a future standard for the financial services industry. The bank’s digital strategy on open banking seeks to leverage the cloud to provide seamless and frictionless interactions that delight their customers, while complying with regulation. Credito Agricola is using Microsoft Azure to deliver open banking capabilities like API management gateway, security and identity, as well as analytics and insights, with plans to extend their core banking services to third-party service providers.

Microsoft is collaborating with The Monetary Authority of Singapore and The Association of Banks in Singapore to support Project Ubin 2, using Azure to explore the use of blockchain for the clearing and settlement of payments and securities, a key milestone in Singapore’s ambition of becoming a Smart Financial Center.

For the financial services industry, a firm’s deliberate and strategic move to the cloud hinges on security, privacy and regulatory compliance. Microsoft is committed to earning the trust of our financial services customers. We engage with regulators in key markets to share information about our services, the related controls and our approach to enabling customer compliance. We also take input from leading banks and insurers across the globe on an ongoing basis to improve our offerings to help meet regulatory requirements. We do all of this to continue building our customers’ trust in cloud technology.

It’s incredible and humbling to be on this transformational journey with so many ambitious digital leaders. Come visit us at booth No. C46 if you’re in Toronto or follow our stories at our press site. You can also join my session at the Innotribe, “Creating Space for Innovation,” on Tuesday, Oct. 17, and see Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella provide the Sibos closing plenary on Thursday, Oct. 19. Satya’s plenary will also be livestreamed here.


Tags: financial services, Sibos