Tag Archives: Technologies

Supporting modern technology policy for the financial services industry – guidelines by the European Banking Authority | Transform

The financial services community has unprecedented opportunity ahead. With new technologies like cloud, AI and blockchain, firms are creating new customer experiences, managing risk more effectively, combating financial crime, and meeting critical operational objectives. Banks, insurers and other services providers are choosing digital innovation to address these opportunities at a time when competition is increasing from every angle – from traditional and non-traditional players alike.

At the same time, our experience is that lack of clarity in regulation can hinder adoption of these exciting technologies, as regulatory compliance remains fundamental to financial institutions using technology they trust.  Indeed, the common question I get from customers is: Will regulators let me use your technology, and have you built in the capabilities to help me meet my compliance obligations?

A portrait of Dave Dadoun, assistant general counsel for Microsoft.
Dave Dadoun.

With this in mind, we applaud the European Banking Authority’s (EBA) revised Guidelines on outsourcing arrangements which, in part, address the use of cloud computing. For several years now we have shared perspectives with regulators on how regulation can be modernized to address cloud computing without diminishing the security, privacy, transparency and compliance safeguards necessary in a native cloud or hybrid-cloud world. In fact, cloud computing can afford financial institutions greater risk assurance – particularly on key things like managing data, securing data, addressing cyber threats and maintaining resilience.

At the core of the revised guidelines are a set of flexible principles addressing cloud in financial services. Indeed, the EBA has been clear these “guidelines are subject to the principle of proportionality,” and should be “applied in a manner that is appropriate, taking into account, in particular, the institution’s or payment institution’s size … and the nature, scope and complexity of its activities.” In addition, the guidelines set out to harmonize approaches across jurisdictions, a big step forward for financial institutions to have predictability and consistency among regulators in Europe. We think the EBA took this smart move to support leading-edge innovation and responsible adoption, and prepare for more advanced technology like machine learning and AI going forward.

Given these guidelines reflect a modernized approach that transcends Europe, we have updated our global Financial Services Amendment for customers to reflect these key changes. We have also created a regulatory mapping document which shows how our cloud services and underlying contractual commitments map to these requirements in an EU Checklist. The EU Checklist is accessible on the Microsoft Service Trust Portal. In essence, Europe offers the benchmark in establishing rules to permit use of cloud for financial services and we are proud to align to such requirements.

Because this is such an important milestone for the financial sector, we wanted to share our point-of-view on a few key aspects of the guidelines, which may help firms accelerate technology transformation with the Microsoft cloud going forward:

  • Auditability: As cloud has become more prevalent, we think it is natural to extend audit rights to cloud vendors in circumstances that warrant it. We also think that audits are not a one-size-fits-all approach but adaptable based on use cases – particularly whether it involves running core banking systems in the cloud. Microsoft has provided innovations to help supervise and audit hyper-scale cloud, including:
  • Data localization: We are pleased there are no data localization requirements in the EBA guidance. Rather, customers must assess the legal, security and other risks where data is stored, as opposed to mandating data be stored strictly in Europe. We help customers manage and assess such risk by providing:
    • Contractual commitments to store data at rest in a specified region (including Europe).
    • Transparency where data is stored.
    • Full commitments to meet key privacy requirements, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
    • Flow-through of such commitments to our subcontractors.
  • Subcontractors. The guidelines address subcontractors, particularly those that provide “critical or important” functions. Management, governance and oversight of Microsoft’s subcontractors is core to what we do.  Among other things:
    • Microsoft’s subcontractors are subject to a vetting process and must follow the same privacy and governance controls we ourselves implement to protect customer data.
    • We provide transparency about subcontractors who may have access to customer data and provide 180 days notification about any new subcontractors as well.
    • We provide customers termination rights should they conclude a subcontractor presents a material increase in risk to a critical or important function of their operations.
  • Core platforms: We welcome the EBA’s position providing clarity that core platforms may run in the cloud. What matters is governance, documenting protocols, the security and resiliency of such systems, and having appropriate oversight (and audit rights), and commitments to terminate an agreement, if and when that becomes necessary. These are all capabilities Microsoft offers to its customers and we now see movement among leading banks to put core systems into our cloud because of the benefits we provide.
  • Business Continuity and Exit Planning. Institutions must have business continuity plans and test them periodically for use of critical or important functions. Microsoft has supported our customers to meet this requirement, including providing a Modern Cloud Risk Assessment toolkit and, in addition, in the Service Trust Portal documentation on our service resilience architecture, our Enterprise Business Continuity Management team (EBCM), and a quarterly report detailing results from our recent EBCM testing. In addition, we have supported our customers in preparing exit planning documentation, and we work with industry bodies like the European Banking Federation towards further industry guidance for these new EBA requirements.
  • Concentration risk: The EBA addresses the need to assess whether concentration risk may exist due to potential systemic failures in use of cloud services (and other legacy infrastructure). However, this is balanced with understanding what the risks are of a single point of failure, and to balance those risks and trade-offs from existing legacy systems. In short, financial institutions should assess the resiliency and safeguards provided with our hyper-scale cloud services, which can offer a more robust approach than systems in place today. When making those assessments, financial institutions may decide to lean-in more with cloud as they transform their businesses going forward.

The EBA framework is a great step forward to help modernize regulation and take advantage of cloud computing. We look forward to participating in ongoing industry discussion, such as new guidance under consideration by the European Insurance and Occupational Pension Authority concerning use of cloud services, as well as assisting other regions and countries in their journey to creating more modern policy that both supports innovation while protecting the integrity of critical global infrastructure.

For more information on Microsoft in the financial services industry, please go here.

Top photo courtesy of the European Banking Authority.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Azure and VMware innovation and momentum

Since announcing Azure VMware Solutions at Dell Technologies World this spring, we’ve been energized by the positive feedback we’ve received from our partners and customers who are beginning to move their VMware workloads to Azure. One of these customers is Lucky Brand, a leading retailer that is embracing digital transformation while staying true to its rich heritage. As part of their broader strategy to leverage the innovation possible in the cloud, Lucky Brand is transitioning several VMware workloads to Azure.

“We’re seeing great initial ROI with Azure VMware Solutions. We chose Microsoft Azure as our strategic cloud platform and decided to dramatically reduce our AWS footprint and 3rd Party co-located data centers. We have a significant VMware environment footprint for many of our on-premises business applications.

The strategy has allowed us to become more data driven and allow our merchants and finance analysts the ability to uncover results quickly and rapidly with all the data in a central cloud platform providing great benefits for us in the competitive retail landscape. Utilizing Microsoft Azure and VMware we leverage a scalable cloud architecture and VMware to virtualize and manage the computing resources and applications in Azure in a dynamic business environment.

Since May, we’ve been successfully leveraging these applications on the Azure VMware Solution by CloudSimple platform. We are impressed with the performance, ease of use and the level of support we have received by Microsoft and its partners.” 

Kevin Nehring, CTO, Lucky Brand

Expanding to more regions worldwide and adding new capabilities

Based on customer demand, we are excited to announce that we will expand Azure VMware Solutions to a total of eight regions across the US, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific by end of year.

In addition to expanding to more regions, we are continuing to add new capabilities to Azure VMware Solutions and deliver seamless integration with native Azure services. One example is how we’re expanding the supported Azure VMware Solutions storage options to include Azure NetApp Files by the end of the year. This new capability will allow IT organizations to more easily run storage intensive workloads on Azure VMware Solutions. We are committed to continuously innovating and delivering capabilities based on customer feedback.

Broadening the ecosystem

It is amazing to see the market interest in Azure VMware Solutions and the partner ecosystem building tools and capabilities that support Azure VMware Solutions customer scenarios.

RiverMeadow now supports capabilities to accelerate the migration of VMware environments on Azure VMware Solutions.

“I am thrilled about our ongoing collaboration with Microsoft. Azure VMware Solutions enable enterprise customers to get the benefit of cloud while still running their infrastructure and applications in a familiar, tried and trusted VMware environment. Add with the performance and cost benefits of VMware on Azure, you have a complete solution. I fully expect to see substantial enterprise adoption over the short term as we work with Microsoft’s customers to help them migrate even the most complex workloads to Azure.”

Jim Jordan, President and CEO, RiverMeadow

Zerto has integrated its IT Resilience Platform with Azure VMware Solutions, delivering replication and failover capabilities between Azure VMware Solution by CloudSimple, Azure and any other Hyper-V or VMware environments, keeping the same on-premises environment configurations, and reducing the impact of disasters, logical corruptions, and ransomware infections.

“Azure VMware Solution by CloudSimple, brings the familiarity and simplicity of VMware into Azure public cloud. Every customer and IT pro using VMware will be instantly productive with minimal or no Azure competency. With Zerto, VMware customers gain immediate access to simple point and click disaster recovery and migration capabilities between Azure VMware Solutions, the rest of Azure, and on-premises VMware private clouds. Enabled by Zerto, one of Microsoft’s top ISVs and an award-winning industry leader in VMware-based disaster recovery and cloud migration, delivers native support for Azure VMware Solutions. “

Peter Kerr, Vice President of Global Alliances, Zerto

Veeam Backup & Replication™ software is specialized in supporting VMware vSphere environments, their solutions will help customers meet the backup demands of organizations deploying Azure VMware Solutions.

“As a leading innovator of Cloud Data Management solutions, Veeam makes it easy for our customers to protect their virtual, physical, and cloud-based workloads regardless of where those reside. Veeam’s support for Microsoft Azure VMware Solutions by CloudSimple further enhances that position by enabling interoperability and portability across multi-cloud environments. With Veeam Backup & Replication, customers can easily migrate and protect their VMware workloads in Azure as part of a cloud-first initiative, create an Azure-based DR strategy, or simply create new Azure IaaS instances – all with the same proven Veeam solutions they already use today.”  

Ken Ringdahl, Vice President of Global Alliances Architecture, Veeam Software

Join us at VMworld

If you plan to attend VMworld this week in San Francisco, stop by our booth and witness Azure VMware Solutions in action; or sit down for a few minutes and listen to one of our mini theater presentations addressing a variety of topics such as Windows Virtual Desktop, Windows Server, and SQL Server on Azure in addition to Azure VMware Solutions!

Learn more about Azure VMware Solutions.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Data ethics issues create minefields for analytics teams

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — AI technologies and other advanced analytics tools make it easier for data analysts to uncover potentially valuable information on customers, patients and other people. But, too often, consultant Donald Farmer said, organizations don’t ask themselves a basic ethical question before launching an analytics project: Should we?

In the age of GDPR and like-minded privacy laws, though, ignoring data ethics isn’t a good business practice for companies, Farmer warned in a roundtable discussion he led at the 2019 Pacific Northwest BI & Analytics Summit. IT and analytics teams need to be guided by a framework of ethics rules and motivated by management to put those rules into practice, he said.

Otherwise, a company runs the risk of crossing the line in mining and using personal data — and, typically, not as the result of a nefarious plan to do so, according to Farmer, principal of analytics consultancy TreeHive Strategy in Woodinville, Wash. “It’s not that most people are devious — they’re just led blindly into things,” he said, adding that analytics applications often have “unforeseen consequences.”

For example, he noted that smart TVs connected to home networks can monitor whether people watch the ads in shows they’ve recorded and then go to an advertiser’s website. But acting on that information for marketing purposes might strike some prospective customers as creepy, he said.

Shawn Rogers, senior director of analytic strategy and communications-related functions at vendor Tibco Software Inc., pointed to a trial program that retailer Nordstrom launched in 2012 to track the movements of shoppers in its stores via the Wi-Fi signals from their cell phones. Customers complained about the practice after Nordstrom disclosed what it was doing, and the company stopped the tracking in 2013.

“I think transparency, permission and context are important in this area,” Rogers said during the session on data ethics at the summit, an annual event that brings together a small group of consultants and vendor executives to discuss BI, analytics and data management trends.

AI algorithms add new ethical questions

Being transparent about the use of analytics data is further complicated now by the growing adoption of AI tools and machine learning algorithms, Farmer and other participants said. Increasingly, companies are augmenting — or replacing — human involvement in the analytics process with “algorithmic engagement,” as Farmer put it. But automated algorithms are often a black box to users.

Mike Ferguson, managing director of U.K.-based consulting firm Intelligent Business Strategies Ltd., said the legal department at a financial services company he works with killed a project aimed at automating the loan approval process because the data scientists who developed the deep learning models to do the analytics couldn’t fully explain how the models worked.

We’ve gone from a bottom-up approach of everybody grabbing data and doing something with it to more of a top-down approach.
Mike FergusonManaging director, Intelligent Business Strategies Ltd.

And that isn’t an isolated incident in Ferguson’s experience. “There’s a loggerheads battle going on now in organizations between the legal and data science teams,” he said, adding that the specter of hefty fines for GDPR violations is spurring corporate lawyers to vet analytics applications more closely. As a result, data scientists are focusing more on explainable AI to try to justify the use of algorithms, he said.

The increased vetting is driven more by legal concerns than data ethics issues per se, Ferguson said in an interview after the session. But he thinks that the two are intertwined and that the ability of analytics teams to get unfettered access to data sets is increasingly in question for both legal and ethical reasons.

“It’s pretty clear that legal is throwing their weight around on data governance,” he said. “We’ve gone from a bottom-up approach of everybody grabbing data and doing something with it to more of a top-down approach.”

Jill Dyché, an independent consultant who’s based in Los Angeles, said she expects explainable AI to become “less of an option and more of a mandate” in organizations over the next 12 months.

Code of ethics not enough on data analytics

Staying on the right side of the data ethics line takes more than publishing a corporate code of ethics for employees to follow, Farmer said. He cited Enron’s 64-page ethics code, which didn’t stop the energy company from engaging in the infamous accounting fraud scheme that led to bankruptcy and the sale of its assets. Similarly, he sees such codes having little effect in preventing ethical missteps on analytics.

“Just having a code of ethics does absolutely nothing,” Farmer said. “It might even get in the way of good ethical practices, because people just point to it [and say], ‘We’ve got that covered.'”

Instead, he recommended that IT and analytics managers take a rules-based approach to data ethics that can be applied to all three phases of analytics projects: the upfront research process, design and development of analytics applications, and deployment and use of the applications.

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Exten Technologies releases 3.0 version of NVMe platform

Exten Technologies has released the third generation of its HyperDynamic storage software, which was designed with the aim of bringing more resiliency, performance and management to data center customers.

New features in generation three include node-level resiliency with synchronous replicas, shared volumes with replicas for supporting parallel file systems, dual parity resiliency, and integrated drive management and hot swap.

Exten software is deployed on the storage target and does not require proprietary software on compute clients.

According to Exten, HyperDynamic 3.0 aims to improve TCP performance with Solarflare TCP acceleration that provides TCP performance near remote direct memory access.

It also has new features designed to simplify NVMe-oF storage management and deployment, Exten claims. These features include declustered RAID, which enables the configuration of resilient volumes that use Linux multi-path IO software to provide redundancy in both networking and storage. Exten’s interface provides node- and cluster-level telemetry. Users can also set quality-of-service limits in order to manage performance during drive or node rebuilds.

Exten Technologies is part of a batch of newer vendors making their way in the NVMe market.

Apeiron Data Systems offers a handful of NVMe storage products, including enterprise NVMe. It is NVMe over Ethernet, as opposed to over fabric, and was designed with the goal of delivering the performance and cost of server-based scale-out but with the manageability of enterprise storage.

Vendor Vexata also touts its RAID-protected NVMe and claims it has ultralow latency at scale. According to its website, the company was founded in an attempt to provide better performance and efficiency, while at a lower cost than other flash storage solutions.

Exten Technologies’ HyperDynamic 3.0 is available now.

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Analyst, author talks enterprise AI expectations

For years, promoters have made AI technologies sound like the all-encompassing technology answer for enterprises, a ready-to-use piece of software that could solve all of an organization’s data and workflow problems with minimal effort.

While AI can certainly automate parts of a workflow and save employees and organizations time and money, it rarely requires no work or no integration to set up, something organizations are still struggling to understand.

In this Q&A ahead of the publication of his new book, Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder of market advisory and research firm Deep Analysis, describes enterprises’ AI expectations and helps distinguish between realistic AI goals and expectations and the AI hype.

An AI project is different from a traditional IT project, Pelz-Sharpe said, and organizations should treat it as such.

“One of the reasons so many projects fail is people do not know that,” he said.

In this Q&A, Pelz-Sharpe, who is also a part-time voice and film actor, talks about AI expectations, deploying AI, and the realities of the technology.

Have you found that business users and enterprises have an accurate description of AI?

Alan Pelz-Sharpe: No. It’s a straightforward no. I’ll give you real world examples.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, AI ExpectationsAlan Pelz-Sharpe

A very large, very well-known financial services company brought in the biggest vendor. They spent six and a half million dollars. Four months later, they fired the vendor, because they had nothing to show for it. They talked to me and it was heartbreaking, because I wanted to say to them, ‘Why? Why did you ever engage with them?’

It wasn’t because they were bad people engaged in this, but because they had very specific sets of circumstances and really, really specific requirements. I said to them, ‘You’re never going to buy this off the shelf, it doesn’t exist. You’re going to have to develop this yourself.’ Now, that’s what they’re doing, and they’re spending a lot less money and having a lot more success.

AI is being so overhyped; your heart goes out to buyers, because they don’t know who to believe. In some cases, they could save a fortune, go to some small startup [that] could, frankly, give them the product and get the job done. They don’t know that.

Are these cases of enterprises’ having the wrong AI expectations and not knowing what they want, or they are cases of a vendor misleading a buyer?

It’s absolutely both. Vendors have overhyped and oversold. Then the perception is I buy this tool, I plug it in, and it does its magic. It just isn’t like that ever. It’s never like that. That’s nonsense. So, the vendors are definitely guilty of that, but when haven’t they been?

From the buyer’s perspective, I think there are two things really. One, they don’t know. They don’t understand, they haven’t been told that they have to run this project very differently from an IT project. It’s not a traditional IT project in which you scope it out, decide what you’re going to use, test it and then it goes live. AI isn’t like that. It’s a lifetime investment. You’re never going to completely leave it alone, you’re always going to be involved with it.

Technically, there’s a perception that bigger and more powerful is better. Well, is it? If you’re trying to automatically classify statements versus purchases versus invoices, the usual back office paper stuff, why do you need the most powerful product? Why not, instead, just buy something simple, something that’s designed to do exactly that?

Often, buyers get themselves into deep waters. They buy a big Mack Truck to do what a small tricycle could do. That’s actually really common. Most real-world business use cases are surprisingly narrow and targeted.

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

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Watch Communications and Microsoft announce partnership to bring broadband internet to Indiana, Ohio and Illinois – Stories

Deployment of technologies, including TV white spaces, is expected to cover more than four million people in the region, including 815,000 people in rural areas currently without access to broadband

REDMOND, Wash. — July 9, 2019 — On Tuesday, Watch Communications and Microsoft Corp. announced an agreement aimed at closing the broadband gap, and the rural digital divide in particular, in the states of Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. The partnership is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which is focused on extending broadband access to three million people in rural America by July 2022.

The FCC reports that more than 21 million Americans lack broadband access. According to Microsoft data, 162 million people across the United States are not using the internet at broadband speeds, including approximately 17 million people in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Watch Communications will deploy a variety of broadband connectivity technologies to bring these areas under coverage, with an emphasis on wireless technologies leveraging TV white spaces (e.g., unused TV frequencies) in lower population density or terrain-challenged areas to achieve improved coverage. The areas expected to benefit include 50 counties in Indiana, 22 counties in Illinois, and most counties in Ohio.

“Every person deserves the same opportunity. But too often and in too many places, these opportunities are limited by where people live and their access to reliable and affordable broadband access,” said Shelley McKinley, general manager, Technology and Corporate Responsibility, Microsoft. “Microsoft is working across the country to close this gap. We’re partnering with Watch Communications to improve broadband access in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio and build on the incredible work being done by state and local leaders on this issue on behalf of their citizens.”

“Public-private partnerships, collaboration and understanding local initiatives are key to enabling connectivity success. Providing rural broadband can be difficult, so working as a team to solve the digital divide requires partners. We are excited to partner with Microsoft on this initiative,” said Greg Jarman, chief operating officer, Watch Communications.

Improved connectivity will bolster economic, educational and telehealth opportunities for everyone in the region, and could be particularly impactful for this region’s farmers. Together, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio account for more than $38.5 billion in agricultural value, with all three ranking in the top 16 states by agricultural output, according to the USDA. With broadband access, farmers can take advantage of advanced technologies such as precision agriculture which can help better monitor crops and increase yields.

In addition, Watch Communications and Microsoft will work together to ensure that once connectivity is available, people know how to use it and can get the training needed to fully participate in the digital economy, access educational opportunities and access telemedicine.

***

State by State View

Indiana

This is Microsoft’s first Airband Initiative deployment in Indiana. The need for improved connectivity is acute — the FCC broadband mapping report shows that more than 673,000 people in Indiana do not have access to broadband, and Microsoft data suggests that more than 4.3 million people are not using the internet at broadband speeds in the state. The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover more than 1 million Hoosiers, more than 440,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved.

Watch Communications was a recent award winner of funds from the FCC to extend broadband services in Indiana. As a result, Watch Communications has been working with Indiana counties to develop the deployment approach that best meets the needs of the local communities. In addition to broadband, Watch Communications has been working to use its network to design an IoT network to serve Indiana businesses.

This also builds on Microsoft’s presence in Indiana. Last October, Microsoft and the Markle Foundation announced the launch of Skillful Indiana, focused on bringing investment, training, tools, and innovative methods to support workforce development in the state. In addition, the Hope FFA chapter in Indiana was recently awarded Microsoft FarmBeats Student Kits, which will help FFA students develop essential digital skills for precision agriculture and IoT technologies.

Ohio

Watch Communications was a recent award winner of funds from the FCC to extend broadband services in Ohio. As a result, Watch Communications has been working with Ohio counties to develop the deployment approach that best meets the needs of the local communities.

“You can’t be a part of the modern economy or education system without access to high-speed internet, and we are taking steps in Ohio to extend broadband to those who are underserved across the state,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “Thank you to Microsoft for being among the leaders on this and for being willing to consider innovative solutions to help extend opportunity to people in Ohio who need it.”

This is Microsoft’s second Airband Initiative deployment in Ohio, following an August 2018 agreement between Microsoft and Agile Networks. The need for improved connectivity is acute — the FCC broadband mapping report shows that more than 621,000 people in Ohio do not have access to broadband, while Microsoft data suggests that more than 6.9 million people are not using the internet at broadband speeds in the state. The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover approximately 2.5 million people, more than 288,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved.

This also builds on Microsoft’s presence in Ohio. Microsoft’s TEALS program is helping to deliver computer science education to Ohio students. In addition, the Arcadia FFA chapter and Triad-OHP FFA chapter in Ohio were recently awarded Microsoft FarmBeats Student Kits, which will help FFA students develop essential digital skills for precision agriculture and IoT technologies.

Illinois

This is Microsoft’s second Airband Initiative deployment in Illinois, the first being a September 2018 agreement between Microsoft and Network Business Systems to bring broadband internet to people in Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota. The need for improved connectivity is acute — the FCC broadband mapping report shows that more than 680,000 people in Illinois do not have access to broadband, while Microsoft data suggests that more than 6.6 million people are not using the internet at broadband speeds in the state. The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover more than 275,000 people, more than 80,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved.

About Watch Communications

Founded in 1992, Watch Communications is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) using a combination of fixed wireless and fiber technologies to serve residential and business customers throughout Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Watch Communications began as a wireless cable TV provider and expanded service offerings in 1998 to include Internet. Since its creation, Watch Communications has focused on unserved and underserved small and rural markets.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Lindsey Gardner, Watch Communications Media Requests, (419) 999-2824, [email protected]

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Kontron heeds carrier demand for software, buys Inocybe

Kontron has acquired Inocybe Technologies, adding open source networking software to the German hardware maker’s portfolio of computing systems for the telco industry.

Kontron, which announced the acquisition this week, purchased Inocybe’s Open Networking Platform as telcos increasingly favor buying software separate from hardware. Kontron is a midsize supplier of white box systems to communications service providers (CSPs) and cable companies.

CSPs are replacing specialized hardware with more flexible software-centric networking, forcing companies like Kontron and Radisys, which recently sold itself to Reliance Industries, to reinvent themselves, said Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research, based in Wellesley, Mass.

“This is part of Kontron’s efforts to move in a more software direction — Radisys has done this as well — and to a more service-oriented model, in this case, based on open source,” Doyle said.

Inocybe, on the other hand, is a small startup that could take advantage of the resources of a midsize telecom supplier, mainly since the market for open source software is still in its infancy within the telecom industry, Doyle said.

While Kontron did not release financial details, the price for Inocybe ranged from $5 million to $10 million, said John Zannos, previously the chief revenue officer of Inocybe and now a general manager of its technology within Kontron. The manufacturer plans to offer Inocybe’s Open Networking Platform as a stand-alone product while also providing hardware specially designed to run the platform.

Inocybe’s business

Inocybe’s business model is similar to that of Red Hat, which sells its version of open source Linux and generates revenue from support and services on the server operating system. Under Kontron, Inocybe plans to continue developing commercial versions of all the networking software built under the Linux Foundation.

Open source is free, but making it work isn’t.
Lee Doyleprincipal analyst, Doyle Research

The Open Networking Platform includes parts of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), the OpenDaylight software-defined networking controller and the OpenSwitch network operating system. Service providers use Inocybe’s platform as a tool for traffic engineering, network automation and network functions virtualization.

Tools like Inocybe’s deliver open source software in a form that’s ready for testing and then deploying in a production environment. The more difficult alternative is downloading the code from a Linux Foundation site and then stitching it together into something useful.

“Open source is free, but making it work isn’t,” Doyle said.

Before the acquisition, Inocybe had a seat on the board of the open source networking initiative within the Linux Foundation and was active in the development of several technologies, including OpenDaylight and OpenSwitch. All that work would continue under Kontron, Zannos said.

Atlassian-Slack deal marks end of HipChat, Stride

Atlassian has sold HipChat and Stride to Slack Technologies, exiting the business chat market as Microsoft increases the competitive pressure with its Teams collaboration software.

As part of the deal, which was announced this week, Atlassian agreed to make “a small, but symbolically important investment” in Slack, the latter company said in a blog post. The companies did not release details of the investment or the purchase price.

Atlassian sold the products less than a year after it launched Stride to compete with Microsoft and Slack in the team messaging and communications market. Stride had all of the chat features of HipChat, plus file sharing and video and audio calling.

Despite being a “very good” product, Stride did not attract many customers, said Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research, based in Cupertino, Calif. “I think it was just not a business that Atlassian wanted to be in.”

Instead, the Atlassian-Slack deal shows Atlassian is more focused on the project management market, with products that include Trello, Jira Cloud and Bitbucket Cloud, Lepofsky said.

Atlassian had integrated the three products with Slack long before announcing the latest deal. In fact, the two companies have been friendly competitors for some time, sending each other cookies and cake when reaching milestones.

Microsoft aggressively markets Teams

Nevertheless, how helpful the strategic partnership with Atlassian will be to Slack in battling the much larger Microsoft remains to be seen. Microsoft is aggressively marketing its Teams software to its 135 million Office 365 customers, while providing others with access to a free version of the cloud-based software.

I think it was just not a business that Atlassian wanted to be in.
Alan Lepofskyanalyst, Constellation Research

Atlassian and Slack plan to work together in making both companies more competitive. Today, hundreds of thousands of business teams use Atlassian products from within Slack, the companies said. In the future, the vendors plan to deepen those integrations and work together in adding other Atlassian products.

Today, Slack and Atlassian team messaging are often found within IT and application development departments, so Slack is in a strong position to consolidate those communities under its brand and to hold on to those customers, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. “Replacing a team collaboration app that’s tightly integrated with app dev tools and workflows is a difficult sell in many of the companies we study.”

Slack, however, could run into trouble if it follows through with plans to move Atlassian customers on the on-premises version of HipChat to the cloud, Lazar said. “If Slack ends support for on-premises HipChat, and those customers still aren’t willing to go to the cloud, then they are likely to turn to a vendor like Mattermost that supports on-premises and private cloud deployments.”

Also, Slack will still face “a tough battle against Cisco [Webex Teams] and Microsoft for the broad enterprise user base,” Lazar said. “But our research is showing that organizations are open to supporting multiple team collaboration apps if those apps provide value.”

Indeed, the team messaging and collaboration market remains wide open. Microsoft as a pure-play provider trails Slack, with 200,000 organizations using Teams versus 500,000 for Slack. The latter company said it has 3 million people paying to use the service every day, plus 5 million users of its free version. Atlassian won’t disclose the number of people using HipChat and Stride.

Slack has launched a website instructing HipChat users on how to switch to Slack and take their data with them. The migration tools for Stride are “coming soon,” Slack said.

TD Bank empowers employees with assistive technology in Office 365 and Windows 10 – Microsoft 365 Blog

Today’s post was written by Bert Floyd, senior IT manager of assistive technologies at TD Bank Group.

My journey with accessible technology at TD started more than 10 years ago, when I was called in to help incorporate a screen reader and Braille display into our retail environment for a new employee who was blind. Back then, it was a steep learning curve for the IT department. That’s not the case today. Over the intervening decade, we have created an inclusive corporate culture that celebrates everyone, including people with disabilities, and provides us with huge business potential. For example, one in seven people* in Canada identifies as having a disability, and there is an increasing incidence of age-related disabilities among our growing elderly demographic. Making sure our services are easily accessible is key to earning the business of this considerable segment of the population.

We are excited about introducing accessible technologies within Microsoft Office 365 and Windows 10 to empower our employees to help us work toward this strategic advantage. We find that most people can benefit from these accessible technologies, whether they identify as having a disability or not, because the technologies are built in to the Office apps. When employees can customize their environment and adapt to a wide variety of situations, they will be far more successful and productive.

And when we accommodate employees who identify as having a disability, we gain their insight and innovation to help us build accessibility right into our products and services. People with disabilities must think creatively about how to do things that other people don’t necessarily have to worry about, and we want to support that creativity in our workplace. We’re deploying Office 365 to all our employees and Windows 10 to almost 100,000 computers, which helps create an accessible workplace and ensure we will not miss out on hiring the best and the brightest.

From our websites to our brick-and-mortar branches and ATMs, we try to consider accessibility in every aspect of the customer experience. And we believe that with a more diverse and inclusive workforce, we’ll be in a better position to get there.

I’m excited about giving our employees the opportunity to leverage the accessibility features in Office 365 and Windows 10 in their everyday work lives. All employees need to think about accessibility, and everyone plays a role in creating a supportive, inclusive culture. When we all use the same inclusive tool set, there is enormous potential for improving productivity and driving awareness about the value of creating accessible documents and presentations for everyone to easily read and understand. Employees at TD already have access to Accessibility Checker, which makes it easy to spot problems and make content in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote more accessible. People are learning about Narrator and Magnifier in Windows 10 and about the built-in color filters.

We have come a long way since hiring that first employee who was blind. Today, approximately 6 percent of our workforce identifies as having a disability. Our Assistive Technologies Lab welcomes anyone to come and learn about inclusive design and the technologies we have available to support our employees. We work with technology projects to help them conform to our IT accessibility standards, and we rolled out a training program for our developers and testers—a number of them with disabilities—to ensure we fully consider accessibility in our customer-facing products and services.

Today, TD prides itself on its diverse and talented workforce, and I’m incredibly lucky to be part of a great team that works hard to put so many resources behind our employees. Along with our assistive technologies, we are using Office 365 and Windows 10 to help us remove barriers for people with disabilities to create a more inclusive workplace that’s as diverse and exciting as the communities we serve.

*A profile of persons with disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years or older, 2012.

—Bert Floyd

Read the case study to learn more about how TD Bank is empowering its employees with assistive technology in Office 365 and Windows 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About RTO Wireless

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

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

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

[email protected]

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

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.