Tag Archives: summer

Chief data officer skills tested by AI ad blitz

If they’re watching a sporting event such as the PGA Championship, the summer afternoon isn’t totally restful for chief data officers. As the players chase the golf ball around the course, the IT pros at home must keep one eye on the leaderboard and one on the advertisements, and anticipate honing their chief data officer skills.

The ad spots often tout new technology. They use quick-cut imagery of futuristic cities and data centers and feature notables ranging from rapper Common to troubadour Bob Dylan. The technology for sale could be cognitive computing, blockchain technology, IoT or other trendy tech. The result is the exec in the C-suite who has a Monday morning question to test chief data officer (CDO) skills to the max.

These days that question is often, “What’s our plan for AI?”

Because AI can encompass almost anything magical, it can be a tough question for the chief data officer (CDO) to field. A look at a reporter’s notebook from last month’s MIT Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Symposium (MIT CDOIQ) in Cambridge, Mass., may provide a clue or two.

Kaizen and AI

At an MIT CDOIQ symposium panel sponsored by data platform vendor AtScale, the topic of BI on the data lake turned to a discussion of the imp called AI. Chris Crotts, group manager for enterprise data at Toyota North America, said business users tend to bring up questions on AI — questions that can test data strategy and chief data officer skills.

“Someone will call and say, ‘I need to do AI tomorrow.’ We look into it and find that what they are doing is reporting,” he said. In these cases, he said he asks the line-of-business user to describe the actual problem they are trying to solve. His teams then show them ways of analyzing the data to find answers.

“Part of going digital is to have data competency,” Crotts said. That means users have to be prepared to successfully employ something like AI. If people aren’t ready to analyze the data, Crotts said, it is not worthwhile to spin up a host of new tools.

So, his enterprise data group endeavors to prepare users to understand “how data consumption works.”

For their part, Crotts said, users become increasingly helpful in digging in and discovering issues in the data, such as the complex data that has begun to populate Toyota’s data lakes.

He said Toyota’s lineage in continuous improvement — the company is regarded as the birthplace of Kaizen, a work culture philosophy that focuses on understanding problems firsthand — infuses his and colleagues’ approaches to realizing the kind of change that AI can bring.

Stonebraker’s take

Michael Stonebraker, professor, MITMichael Stonebraker

In a separate presentation at the MIT conference, database veteran and MIT professor Michael Stonebraker also touched on the interest AI is garnering these days.

The guiding technical founder behind such database companies as Ingres, Illustra and Vertica, Stonebraker spoke under the auspices of one of his more recent foundlings, Tamr, a maker of advanced data preparation software.

Stonebraker, like others of late, highlighted the issues influencing chief data officer skills that stand between big data and AI-style analytics. These include the difficulty involved in getting varied data ready to ply for AI insights.

Getting training data is always a problem. Deep learning needs way too much training data.
Michael Stonebrakeradjunct professor at MIT and Tamr co-founder

“The hot button now is to talk about AI, machine learning and the data scientist,” Stonebraker said. “But if you are saying data scientists are going to save your butt, you are going to have this problem: They get 10 minutes a week for doing the job they were hired for.” Preparing data for the new engines, in short, is the first step toward AI.

On deep learning for the enterprise — the hallmark of what is new in AI today — Stonebraker was not optimistic. There, a lack of data volume, rather than a surplus of data, can become a determining issue.

“Getting training data is always a problem,” he lamented. For traditional business enterprises, as opposed to web juggernauts like Google and Facebook, “deep learning needs way too much training data,” he said.

Deep learning “works fine if you are doing image data, natural language [processing] or machine translation,” Stonebraker said.

It is not an entirely bleak outlook, however. He indicated that Tamr customers are seeing success with “conventional machine learning using random forest techniques at scale.”

The AI landscape

The admonitions of Stonebraker and Crotts suggest CDOs need to know their way around enterprise data. That is true whether the technology is AI or BI.

Sure, a good understanding of one’s data is a useful club to have in the golf bag of chief data officer skills. But things do change; an organization’s data must be seen in new contexts, as technology progresses and big data, AI or whatever comes next makes inroads.

A symposium takeaway: CDOs must focus on the people side of data and analytics, and be doubly sure to understand the nature of their data and how malleable it is for newer AI techniques.

‘Defining moment’ for Seattle as Microsoft, Amazon, others support Special Olympics USA Games

Michel Kozoris raises his arms after competing in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 2011. (Photo via Special Olympics)

Seattle-area tech companies are making a statement about building an inclusive workforce as the city hosts one of the largest sporting events in the region’s history.

More than 3,000 athletes will arrive in the Emerald City next week for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games and compete across 14 sports. The event, now in its 50th year, not only spotlights the talent of athletes with intellectual disabilities, but perhaps more importantly promotes inclusion beyond the playing field.

“In many ways, this can and should be a defining moment for the Seattle community,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in an interview with GeekWire. “It’s a great opportunity to show the nation that we aspire to be a real city and region of inclusion.”

This group raised a Special Olympics flag atop the Space Needle in Seattle on Friday morning. From left to right: Beth Knox, CEO, Special Olympics USA Games; Allen Stone,singer/songwriter; Devon Adelman, Special Olympics athlete; Brad Smith, Microsoft President; and Taye Diggs, singer and author.

Microsoft is the presenting sponsor of the games. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant is a long-time supporter of the Special Olympics through donations of software, technical assistance and even cell phones over the years.

But the company is stepping up even more with the games in its backyard this year. It’s a reflection of Microsoft’s broader focus on accessibility — one that got away from the company until Satya Nadella took over as CEO in 2014, Smith said. “We lost our industry leadership position in terms of meeting the needs of people with disabilities,” he said.

That renewed commitment has helped spur a larger culture shift across the company, Smith said. He pointed to products like the new Xbox Adaptive Controller and the company’s $25 million AI for Accessibility Initiative as examples.

More than 2,000 employees will be volunteering at the games next week. Microsoft’s Xbox division is also hosting the first-ever video game tournament at the USA Games.

“If you think about our mission of empowering everyone, then fundamentally we have to do a good job of meeting the needs of the billion-plus people on the planet that have some kind of disability, temporary or permanent,” Smith added. He and Nadella will speak at the Opening Ceremony on Sunday at Husky Stadium with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Devon Adelman, a Special Olympics USA Games athlete and ambassador, speaks at Microsoft’s Ability Summit in May. (Photo via Microsoft)

Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and other companies are participating in the first-ever job fair at a Special Olympics USA Games this year called “Journey of Employment,” where athletes will gain career advice and meet with potential employers. It’s designed to raise awareness for a talent pool that organizers say is often overlooked.

“These partners are committed to creating inclusive work cultures and to helping improve the unemployment rate for people with disabilities,” said Special Olympics USA Games CEO Beth Knox.

The unemployment rate of people with disabilities was 9.2 percent in 2017, double that of the rate for those without disabilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And even with government support, nearly 29 percent of disabled, working-age Americans live below the poverty level, according to U.S. Census data. That line is set at $12,082 for one person.

Artists known as “They Drift” created a mural that was placed on Amazon’s campus in Seattle as part of the “Choose to Include” campaign for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. (Photo via Amazon)

Amazon will also be heavily involved next week. The e-commerce giant is sponsoring the closing ceremony near its campus in South Lake Union and will have more than 400 employees volunteering throughout the games. It is also donating boxed lunches for athletes throughout the week via FareStart and launched a neighborhood restaurant campaign this month called “Choose to Include.”

Amazon says it is committed to inclusive hiring. It runs an Alternative Workforce Supplier Program that identifies people with disabilities for hire in the company’s fulfillment centers. The company also partners with Northwest Center, a Seattle-based nonprofit supporting mentally and physically disabled adults and children that provides employees to Amazon. Many of its products and software services offer accessibility features, too.

“At Amazon, diversity and inclusion are an inherent part of our culture,” said Beth Galetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of human resources. “The unique talents, experiences, and backgrounds of our employees are the driving force which enables us to build and innovate on behalf of millions of customers around the world.”

Amazon’s Spheres glow purple in Seattle this past March as the company joined others in marking 100 days until the Special Olympics USA Games begin in the city. (Amazon Photo / Jordan Stead)

Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless carrier T-Mobile and coffee giant Starbucks are getting involved as well. T-Mobile, which has more than 7,000 members in its Access for Disabilities Network, created a text-to-give program that enables donations for the games.

Starbucks has hundreds of employees who are volunteering at the event. For the past three years, Starbucks has received a 100 percent score on the Disability Equality Index survey sponsored by the American Association of People with Disabilities and the U.S. Business Leadership Network.

“Going forward, I would like in my lifetime to see where you hire somebody – a barista who has autism and it goes viral and it’s on the “Ellen” show – that that doesn’t get the attention anymore. That it just is commonplace,” Starbucks manager of Equal Opportunity Initiatives Marthalee Galeota said in 2016. “We have one world – one accessible world where disability is adaptability, it’s humanity, it’s innovation and it’s our global responsibility.”

Smith, Microsoft’s president, said the tech industry should consider how products take into account the needs of people with disabilities, while pursuing new breakthroughs that meet their needs in new ways.

He also said employers should involve people with disabilities in the creation of products. One phrase used in the community is “nothing should be created for us, without us.”

“The key to long-term product improvement for this important community is actually to do a much better job of bringing them into our workforce and making them a key part of our overall ecosystem,” Smith said.

You can get tickets to the USA Games or sign up to volunteer here.

New Fall Update for Xbox One Available for Everyone Today

It’s been a busy and exciting summer for everyone at Team Xbox. Back in August we gave you a first look at the fall update for Xbox One, and we showed off the new Home, Guide and Community tabs. Since then, we’ve been working with Xbox Insiders to gather feedback, test and refine new features that we’re releasing worldwide starting today. As gamers, we like to play and watch content the way we want, with the people we want. With this update, our fans asked for more personalization options and we’ve put more control in their hands. Here’s a rundown of the new features.

Content Block Xbox One

You can personalize your “Home” more than ever before: You can…

  • Make Home uniquely yours. Add your favorite games, friends, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass, and more directly to your Home screen with a new concept that we call blocks. Once you’ve added blocks, you can remove or change the order of the blocks as you see fit.
  • Have up to 40 pins!  All these pins will appear in the Pin block on Home, as well as the Pins flyout in the new Guide!
  • Easily discover new things, such as friend activities, leaderboards, LFG posts, tips, quick links to Game Hubs, across both your console and Xbox Live at the top of Home.
  • Choose dark, light, or high-contrast theme option in Settings.

 Updated Xbox Guide

You’ll experience a fast, powerful and convenient Guide:

  • It’s now faster and easier to move left and right through horizontal tabs with the left thumb stick or bumpers.
  • When you bring up Guide while in an active party or broadcast, Guide will automatically open the party or broadcast section by default for faster access to controls.
  • New “Friends in games” flyout informs you of friends playing the same game.
  • Game invites will show up in the Multiplayer tab of the Guide.
  • The new Tournaments section in the Multiplayer tab of the Guide provides a quick portal into the official and community tournaments that you’ve joined. Enjoy more Xbox Arena tournament options with the addition of new titles.

Community Feed on Xbox One

Don’t worry about missing any actions when you step away from your console:

  • With the enhanced notification system, when your Xbox One is idle, time-sensitive activities and status are visible from far away.
  • The screen-dimming functionality has also been updated to better prevent screen ghosting, both when the screen is dimmed and when it’s showing notification snapshots of what’s happening on Xbox Live.
  • The newly redesigned Game Hub Welcome tab now features a summary of all the great content around the game on one page.
  • Profiles now enable faster access to recent activity. You can now easily manage who sees your activity feed content through the “Others can see your activity feed” privacy setting.
  • See more content at a glance with new Community feed, and view screenshots and game clips in an immersive, full-screen view.

Video forNew Fall Update for Xbox One Available for Everyone Today

Get a head start on Xbox One X (Launch Day Nov 7): Your console setup experience will be quicker for both new users and upgraders.  There are new options to help save time when moving from one Xbox One to another (including Xbox One X), so you can get back to playing faster.

  • Transfer your games to an external drive so you can connect it to your new console and play immediately. Just unplug the drive from your current console, plug it in to your new one, and you’re ready to go.
  • Existing Xbox One owners can back up their games and console settings to an external drive so that they’re ready to be applied to the new console during setup.
  • Copy your games and apps over your home network from one console to another via network transfer.
  • Bulk transfer will allow you to select and transfer as many games as you want all at once.
  • You’ll be able to download 4K content for some games ahead of time to your Xbox One or Xbox One S, so that you’re ready to transfer Xbox One X Enhanced games to your new console on day one.
  • You can easily discover Xbox One X Enhanced titles in the Store, and developers can optimize game delivery by making sure that 4K assets are installed only for Xbox One X.
  • You’ll be able to sort and filter your Installed and Ready to Install games library to find Xbox One X Enhanced titles.

Xbox One X Enhanced Titles UI

Discover and Create Engaging Content:

  • The Mixer tab on the dashboard will now display broadcast previews so you can see what’s going on in popular streams before you join them.
  • If your bandwidth supports a 1080p broadcast, we will upgrade it automatically for your Xbox One family of devices.
  • The Broadcast & Capture tab in Guide is also now more deeply integrated with Mixer. Once you start a Broadcast, a new flyout will appear that includes your profile stats.
  • You can also use a USB webcam to broadcast yourself alongside your gameplay on Mixer, or to have a 1:1 or group video chat with friends using Skype.
  • GameDVR will now be able to capture up to 4K/HDR screenshots and game clips on Xbox One X, and you’ll be able to capture content directly to an external hard drive.

Xbox Assist

Other big features include…

  • You can get personalized tips & help, smart notifications, community tips, & troubleshooting through the new Xbox Assist App.
  • You can also change your console language to select right-to-left languages – Arabic & Hebrew – in the Xbox Settings menu.
  • You will also see a new Microsoft Store logo and name in the Xbox dashboard, providing you with a simpler experience when you download and buy the latest products and content from Microsoft and its partners, including hardware, games, entertainment, apps and more.

It’s been an incredible journey for the entire team at Xbox as we worked to bring you this update. Thanks as always to our fans and Xbox Insiders for the valuable feedback. Be sure to keep letting us know what you think at Xbox feedback.  We’ll have even more great features coming very soon! See you on Xbox Live.

Mike Ybarra
Gamertag: Qwik
Twitter: @XboxQwik

AWS and VMware venture caters to the well-heeled enterprise

When the fruits of the AWS and VMware partnership are released later this summer, customers will gain a gateway to hybrid cloud, with the compute, pricing and ease of use that these large enterprises demand.

But a split has emerged between VMware’s enterprise and small- to medium-size business (SMB) customers as the VMware Cloud on AWS service — still in beta — will appeal largely to those with enterprise workloads and demands — the core of VMware’s lucrative customer base. SMBs get short shrift.

“They’re going for the low-hanging fruit,” said Gary Chen, analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass. “It makes sense with the initial version [of the service].”

VMware is eager to tap into a new revenue strain with its hybrid cloud partnership, as it senses a demand among its customers.

“Within our customer base, 80% to 90% — if not more — are interested in high-level hybrid cloud,” said Mark Lohmeyer, vice president of products for VMware’s cloud platform business unit, during an interview last month. “Fifty million workloads already run on top of vSphere in these customers’ data centers, and hundreds of thousands of people know how to run and operate those environments — they made a significant investment to optimize their applications to run on top of those platforms.”

But that investment — and associated applications — vary greatly depending on the size of the business. And while VMware Cloud on AWS is a fit for some customers, it’s not for everyone. “From my perspective, it’s not aimed at small to midsize customers,” said Rory McNeelance, director of infrastructure operations at Rail Europe, at last month’s AWS Summit in New York City. Rail Europe is a distributor of European railroad products based in White Plains, N.Y.; the company runs some production workloads and data analytics in AWS and wants to cut colocation costs.

IDC’s Chen agreed that the initial VMware Cloud on AWS does not scale well for SMBs because many SMBs use only four nodes for their deployments — the base level required for the AWS offering. VMware Cloud on AWS could force them to double down on their computing investment.

“Imagine asking that of an enterprise, ‘You have to buy the same amount that you have on prem.’ That’s a very big chunk,” Chen said. “So it’s not scaled that small. They can’t just buy an individual VM or node, which would probably fit in better with SMBs.”

And many of those customers don’t use the full VMware stack, Chen said. “[What] you get with the offering is pretty much the complete VMware stack. It’s going to be the storage, networking and all of their management technologies. For a lot of SMBs, some of those things will probably be unfamiliar to them.”

AWS and VMware plan to adjust host sizes and other details in time, but it might not be fast enough for some customers, especially those trying to escape colocation costs. McNeelance said he doesn’t expect the service to fit his needs for another year and might look to another hybrid cloud offering.

SMBs might be better off with the vCloud Air Network, which VMware will continue to support, according to VMware’s Lohmeyer. The partner network offers more SMB-focused software and services that could address some concerns until the VMware Cloud on AWS service evolves. Partnerships with IBM and Rackspace could also help bridge the gap on a temporary basis. This might allow companies to remain on VMware and re-evaluate their needs later versus switching over to another hybrid offering, such as Azure Stack.

Enterprises see a fit, if the price is right

VMware’s enterprise customers have questions of their own, and the virtualization provider has been cagey on the particulars. But enterprises are encouraged by the details they’ve seen thus far.

“I think [VMware Cloud on AWS] is going to fit our needs,” said Dwayne Salmon, a systems administrator at Equinox, a luxury fitness company based in New York. Equinox uses VMware in a hyper-converged data center hosted by Sungard Availability Services. The company has a 10-host VMware cluster that runs 300-plus Windows- and Linux-based virtual machines, as well as workloads in AWS and Azure.

As Equinox downsizes its data centers, the VMware Cloud on AWS service offers a potential fit, which lets the company keep critical apps on premises and move other workloads to the cloud. It currently uses Vblock hyper-converged infrastructure on premises but would like to move entire workloads into the cloud.

“I think I’m sold on [the service],” Salmon said. “It means I won’t have to worry about doing the patching, updates or ESXi hosts. Salmon welcomed other emerging features, including encryption for files that move through vMotion to the cloud.

But ultimately, the decision to buy will come down to cost.

“If [we cannot] justify the cost to move to VMware Cloud, it’s not going to make sense,” Salmon said.

AWS and VMware have yet to offer pricing details, though Lohmeyer said it would offer a consumption-based model similar to how AWS charges for Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances. Also, VMware customers can apply loyalty discounts.

It’s unlikely that VMware will charge less per host than AWS does for access to its infrastructure. AWS puts a premium price on its EC2 Dedicated Hosts over instances, and VMware’s bare metal AWS offering is most closely related to those Dedicated Hosts. VMware enterprise customers will likely appreciate that extra workload isolation more than SMBs, easing some concerns with regard to cloud security and bandwidth. But it won’t be inexpensive.

Amazon’s in the driver’s seat

VMware will sell, support and deliver the service. Amazon provides the infrastructure and coordinates on the back end with VMware on support but otherwise lets VMware take the lead in managing the service and its customers.

Experts said they believe that this AWS and VMware partnership will provide cloud-shy enterprises with an easy onramp to cloud services. Once they get a taste, AWS can entice them with other AWS services such as serverless computing with AWS Lambda, its AWS IoT platform, its content delivery network Amazon CloudFront and artificial intelligence tools.

“There’s definitely going to be an upsell opportunity for Amazon,” Chen said.

Better meetings with AI, teens focus on digital civility and advancing blockchain for enterprises – Weekend Reading: Aug. 11 – The Official Microsoft Blog

No dog days of summer here. This week, Microsoft worked on enterprise technology, modern workplaces and new ways to improve productivity and gaming. And that’s not including teens who gave up part of their summer to work on digital civility. Let’s take a look.

Logo for .future podcast

How can artificial intelligence (AI) make meetings less painful? This week’s .future podcast explores that question and others in a lively discussion on technology that’s changing productivity, collaboration and work in the 21st century. The episode is the last podcast in the series’ season.

Also this week, Microsoft introduced the Coco Framework to make blockchain technology ready for enterprises. The Coco Framework is a pioneering innovation that addresses the need for transaction speed, distributed governance and data confidentiality – ultimately advancing commercial adoption of blockchain and cementing its potential to transform business across many sectors.

Group of teens stand for posed photo
Microsoft’s first Council for Digital Good. Back row, from left: Bronte Johnson, Rees Draminski, Jacob Sedesse, Robert Buckley and William Fischer. Front row, from left: Katherine Choi, Miosotis Ramos, Champe Scoble, Judah Siegand, Christina Woodrow, Sierra Williams-Mcleod, Erin Roberts, Isabella Wang, Indigo Eatmon and Jazmine Harry. Photo by Chris Neir, digital media specialist.

It may be summer, but a group of teens were hard at work at the inaugural meeting of Microsoft’s new Council for Digital Good in Redmond, Washington. The youths came together to discuss how to advance digital civility and safer online interactions.

Screenshot of Outlook.com beta

Microsoft introduced the new Outlook.com beta, which has an improved photo experience, new personalization options and a smarter inbox that shows quick suggestions as you type. A toggle switch lets users easily move between the beta and regular Outlook.com experience.

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Xbox insiders got the first look at a major Xbox update to the Xbox One and Windows 10 PC gaming system. The release was designed to make Xbox gaming more fun, personalized and social, with better navigation, new customization choices and a more immersive community experience.

Meanwhile, the Xbox Live Creators Program rolled out on Xbox One and Windows 10 with its first wave of games from developers large and small. The program allows any developer to quickly and directly publish their games to Xbox One and Windows 10, with a simplified certification process and no concept approval required.

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The new MINECON Earth livestream event and related community events were announced this week to help more people celebrate “Minecraft” and its global community. Fans around the world will be able to watch the interactive livestream on Nov. 18.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 movie promo

Finally, in app news, Spotify became available on Xbox One in 34 markets around the world and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” arrived in the Windows Store two weeks before heading to Blu-ray.

Thanks for reading and see you next week!

Vanessa Ho
Microsoft News Center Staff

Tags: .future, AI, blockchain, Council for Digital Good, Outlook, Windows Store, XBOX

CodeFights offers a unique tool for developer recruiting

One evening last summer, software developer James Johnston was doing what so many people do: scrolling through his Facebook feed. Up popped an ad asking if he was interested in playing a coding game against others on a site called CodeFights. The Chattanooga, Tenn., resident thought it sounded like fun, and the rest is history.

His coding skills on the CodeFights platform were so strong, the developer recruiting site offered to connect him with potential employers. Within a week, Johnston had a half dozen interviews set up. And in three months, he found himself working at a well-funded, San Francisco-based startup, Thumbtack.

“I had thought about looking for a job, but I hadn’t done anything concrete about it,” Johnston said. “I hadn’t even started networking. Responding to that ad really kick-started the process.”

At a time when there is a worldwide shortage of software developers, it is perhaps not surprising it doesn’t take long to find a job when you’re a developer. But employers have to work harder on developer recruiting than ever before. So, the idea of being able to connect directly with experienced coders is intriguing.

Of course, that’s not what CodeFights founder Tigran Sloyan set out to develop. Sloyan, a math major and an enthusiastic participant in math competitions while in school, was working on a site for math geeks to compete against each other. As time passed, though, he realized he could use game theory to encourage people to come to the site and learn and practice coding.

“It’s all about practice,” he said. “I strongly believe any healthy person who puts enough practice in anything can become great at it.”

From there, it was a short step to realizing this tool for learning and practice might also be a good fit for developer recruiting. “What if people could discover developers … in a way that’s not from a recruiting firm, but more on the business side? What if we could grow talent at a global scale and not limit employers to the lucky few who are motivated and at the right place and the right time?”

Sloyan described CodeFights as like Angry Birds, but for coding. A developer can choose a world — that can be a language like Python or a concept like graphing — and then pick a location in that world to begin. Each task solved is a coding problem, and they get more complicated at each step. Johnston said it was all fun, but it was also very much like the kinds of problems you might be asked to solve during a developer recruiting interview. And it’s competitive.

“You can compete with real people and race to see who can code up a solution,” he explained. “Or you can compete against company bots, which is much more difficult. I competed against two of the company bots, and I beat them.”

Today, CodeFights is targeted at coders with some experience, but Sloyan said he hopes to expand in time to include content for beginners. Currently, the company is working with close to 200 potential employers doing developer recruiting, and the companies are mainly in the United States. At this point, very close to 1 million developer users from 200 countries have joined CodeFights, Sloyan said.

From Johnston’s perspective, this is much more than a coding game site. “This is not just about getting the attention of CodeFights,” he said. “This is very much about your coding skills. You need to be able to do well at these kinds of problems, because once you’re interviewing, you’re going to have similar kinds of problems to solve, so you’d better be good at it.”

Impress your guests with help from the Summer Entertaining collection in the Windows Store – The Fire Hose

You might get bragging rights to the best summer barbecue in town when you enlist the Windows Store and its Summer Entertaining collection.

This curated assortment of entertaining apps and books includes How to Cook Everything for kitchen basics and Recipe Keeper Pro for easily finding and saving recipes.

Try these and more apps in the Summer Entertaining collection to start planning your next shindig.

Also, keep up with what’s hot, new and trending in the Windows Store on Twitter and Facebook.

Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

Tags: Apps, cooking, food, Windows Store

Will new Salesforce Lightning features convince customers to migrate?

The summer release of the Salesforce Lightning platform offers new productivity and customization features, with the hope the upgrades will mitigate migration concerns — but some analysts and industry reports suggest that convincing existing customers to migrate will still be challenging.

Among the new Salesforce Lightning features are Lightning Console Apps, which allow administrators to create applications for their users quicker than previous Lightning iterations, and more customization features, including Path and Kanban, which allow organizations to manage and organize opportunities, accounts or other custom lists.

Other new features in the 2017 summer release include Einstein Powered Search, with type-ahead search capabilities and federated search, which allows users within Salesforce to search other databases that their data may be in. Lightning Report Builder, still in pilot, was also a new upgrade, and is expected to allow for better creation and management of Salesforce reports and dashboards.

‘Everything forward will be Lightning’

And while Ben Pruden, director of product marketing for Salesforce Lightning said that more than 100,000 customers have adopted Lightning, some of those adoptions could be because of shepherding customers toward using Lightning rather than the classic Salesforce platform.

How many of us want to use an old version of Facebook or Gmail? In the SaaS world, that doesn’t happen. When the vendor decides it’s time to go, it’s time to go.
Alan Lepofskyprincipal analyst, Constellation Research

“At the end of the day, Salesforce won’t be doing anything on the old style anymore,” said Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research. “If a customer is hesitant to move to Lightning, I don’t want to imply that Salesforce is pushing customers along, but you do want to get with the program and jump on the ship. Everything forward will be Lightning.”

The new Salesforce Lightning features may address some of the migration issues, with more customization and what Salesforce is calling a “human-first design approach” that Salesforce expects to boost productivity.

“We don’t have a crystal ball on how our customers want to customize,” Pruden said. “This release is about all the new functionality. We always wanted to make an experience that gives every Salesforce customer the ability to create layouts and customizations that serve their users.”

Migration to Lightning still a concern

Features like the Lightning Console Apps that allow administrators to quickly deploy applications, the Lightning Dialer enhancement that, according to a Salesforce customer survey, results in 23% higher outbound call volume, focus on productivity and improved functionality. But migrating to Lightning can still be a difficult task, according to Forrester analyst John Bruno.

“The Summer ’17 Release makes Lightning more appealing, but I don’t think it gets people over the hump with regards to migrating to Lightning,” Bruno said. “For new buyers, it makes the decision to start from Lightning really easy, but for existing customers it’s more about getting their existing functionality to work in Lightning — with little friction — than it is about these new features.”

Technology consultancy Gartner agreed with that sentiment, noting in its latest sales force automation Magic Quadrant that Salesforce — while still an industry leader — had to address Lightning migrations for its customers. According to the report, Salesforce customers Gartner surveyed expressed concerns about upgrading to Lightning because of functionality gaps and the amount of resources needed to implement the new UI.

A view of the Salesforce Lightning Dialer
New Salesforce Lightning features focus on productivity and customization. The release includes upgrades to Lightning Dialer (above), Path and Kanban capabilities, and an improved Lightning Console Apps builder.

Mobile, desktop offer consistency

Lepofsky agreed with the concern about resources, saying that anytime there’s a new UI or upgraded application, companies worry about additional training needed. But he also believes the new Salesforce Lightning features offer more consistency in mobile and desktop, which could quell concerns about functionality gaps.

“The biggest bonus people tell me [about Lightning] is it’s more consistent between desktop and mobile,” Lepofsky said. “Updating their web version of the application has been a big win.”

And as far as existing customers needing to keep up with their software providers when it comes to new UIs or applications, Lepofsky said that’s the way of the SaaS world.

“How many of us want to use an old version of Facebook or Gmail?” Lepofsky said. “In the SaaS world, that doesn’t happen. When the vendor decides it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”

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