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How technology has transformed my working life – Microsoft News Centre Europe

“We’re sorry to announce that the 07:12 Thameslink service to London St. Pancras International has been cancelled. Please stand by for further announcements. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused to your journey.”

A few years ago, my working life was very different. For six years, I spent four hours each day crammed across six trains, commuting to work and back. It was financially and emotionally draining, but it was simply the way that things were done.   

It was only two and a half years ago, when I joined Microsoft as editor of its European news centre, that I realised that the traditional way we work, and our accustomed routines, could be different. Today, I have the freedom and flexibility to work from home, with my cat Meze purring away beside me.

I want to share my experiences here, not because I work for Microsoft, but because I’m truly passionate about this new way of working, and am grateful for the hugely positive impact it’s had on my life. This is my future of work.

Microsoft MunichBuilding bridges
On my first day, I had some reservations. They say that no man is an island, but in a professional, geographical sense, I come pretty close – I’m the only one in my direct team that lives and works in the UK. Others are scattered across Germany, Ukraine, Turkey, Bulgaria, and even South Africa – not to mention all the other people I work with around the globe, from the USA to Singapore. Bar the occasional business trips, I attend meetings and work with everyone remotely. It was a daunting prospect. I worried about being isolated, and the quality of work that could be achieved with colleagues that were hundreds of miles away. Would I feel close to them? Would I achieve my best work? Would I make friends?

Three years on, I look back on my first day jitters and realise that they were totally unfounded. Thanks to Teams, I truly feel like I’m working in the same office with my colleagues. A quick question or discussion is a mere chat window away, allowing me to instantly solve problems and give/receive advice – not to mention sending the occasional cat gif or two.

Beyond ad-hoc chats, we use video calls – a prospect which I found daunting, until I actually tried it. There’s something vulnerable, I feel, about putting yourself on camera, and I was worried it would be a distraction. In fact, I’ve found it’s the opposite.

Being able to see the people you’re talking to increases personal connections and engagements. It transforms someone from an ethereal voice to an actual person, and it doesn’t take long for the technology to melt away and become invisible. You’re just a group of people, in a room, having a chat – nothing more, nothing less.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

7 smart tech developments for people who are blind or have low vision | Microsoft On The Issues

It’s estimated that there are about 36 million people in the world who are blind, and a further 216 million who live with moderate to severe visual impairments. Although the World Health Organization points out that up to 80% of vision impairment around the world is avoidable with better access to treatment, the number of people who are blind or have low vision is rising as the global population ages.

But technology is playing a vital role in tearing down barriers, and artificial intelligence is making real inroads into improving accessibility.

Here are seven examples of how smart technology can be a game-changer, allowing everyone to interact with the world in new ways.

[Subscribe to Microsoft on the Issues for more on the topics that matter most.]

The eye in AI

As we’ve reported, Microsoft’s Seeing AI is an app designed to help people with low vision or who are blind. It enhances the world around the user with rich audio descriptions. It can read a handwritten note or scan a barcode and then tell the user what the product is. Point a camera at something and the app will describe how many people it can see and where they are in the image – center, top left and so on.

3-D Sound Maps

YouTube Video

For a sighted person, walking along the street can mean taking in every detail that surrounds them. Microsoft Soundscape replicates that behavior by building a detailed audio map that relates what’s taking place around a person with visual impairment.

It creates layers of context and detail by drawing on location data, sound beacons and synthesized 3-D stereo sound to build a constantly updating 3-D sound map of the surrounding world.

Knowledge at your fingertips

Braille has been used for nearly 200 years as a tactile way of reading with fingertips. It has now jumped from the page to the screen with the updated version of Narrator, the screen-reader for Microsoft Windows, supporting digital Braille displays and keyboards.

Outside of Microsoft’s efforts, Braille touchscreens that work in the same way as tablets have already proved popular among students and teachers. At the Assistive Technology Industry Association’s 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida, innovations on display included the BraiBook, a Braille e-reader that fits into the palm of a hand, and even an electronic toy called the Braille Buzz, designed to teach Braille to preschoolers.

Beacons of change

Bluetooth beacons, such as those being used by the company Foresight Augmented Reality, act like highly precise, personalized guides for people who are blind or partially sighted. While basic GPS technology can take users to a location, beacons mounted in a store, restaurant or public building can guide them to the entrance of the building in question. And when the user is inside, other beacons can direct them to the bathroom or other important facilities.

Electric vehicles

The European Union is taking no chances with people’s safety. New legislation means electric vehicles have to be audible  at low speeds and while reversing. Some manufacturers are already incorporating artificial noise into their electric vehicles.

Smart Glasses

Researchers at Ajman University in the United Arab Emirates are working on the development of a set of smart glasses that can use AI to read, provide navigation information and potentially identify faces. Glasses are connected to a smartphone through a processing unit, allowing the system to function without an internet connection.

These smart glasses are still in the early stages of development but are said to work with a reading accuracy rate of 95%.

AI for Accessibility

Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program was launched last year, with a $25 million commitment to put Microsoft technology in the hands of start-ups, developers, researchers and non-profits in order to drive innovation and amplify human capability for people with disabilities. The program is continuously looking at new projects to support.

For more on these innovations and accessibility initiatives at Microsoft, visit microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility and follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Closing the rural broadband gap is an urgent national crisis – Microsoft on the Issues

It’s been clear to us for some time that the digital divide in this country is an urgent national crisis that must be solved. Since 2017, we’ve been working with internet service providers to do just that, through our Airband Initiative, and we’re on track to cover 3 million Americans in unserved rural areas by 2022.

It’s encouraging to see this issue rise in national prominence, through funding from the administration, congressional legislation and most recently new proposals introduced by several candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. While there’s been some progress already, solving the broadband gap will require active engagement as well as effective policy proposals from all parts of the public sector.

It’s time to recognize that inequal access to broadband translates into inequality of opportunity. People in rural areas that lack broadband face higher unemployment rates, see fewer job and economic opportunities and place children from these communities behind their suburban and peers in school. Of course, this is not just a rural issue – broadband deserts exist within very urban areas as well, where costs can be unaffordable and availability non-existent.

To be sure, there are efforts underway to provide the funding and assistance needed to expand broadband coverage for rural areas, by the administration, Congress, governors and the private sector, including Microsoft and our Airband partners. But much more needs to be done to translate proposals into action.

That’s why we’re at the Iowa State Fair this week as well. Microsoft is hosting a booth, where we’ll learn from Iowans about their digital realities, discuss what we can do through the Airband Initiative to help and what other opportunities can be unlocked with reliable, affordable broadband access. We hope to discuss the issue with political leaders attending the fair as well.

Solving the broadband gap should be a national issue because we are leaving millions of Americans behind. We look forward to working with both sides of the aisle to make meaningful progress on this important national issue.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Cisco security flaw leads to $8.6M payout in whistleblower case

Cisco agreed to pay $8.6 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that accused the company of selling video surveillance software to government agencies despite knowing for years that the product suffered from critical security vulnerabilities. The settlement was the first of its kind against a tech company for alleged cybersecurity fraud.

Hackers could have used the Cisco security flaw to gain access to a customer’s local area network, potentially giving them control over physical security systems such as locks and alarms. The hackers also could have exploited the weakness to view, modify and delete video surveillance feeds and to obtain user passwords that would mask their activities.

Federal agencies that used the flawed product to manage video surveillance feeds included the Department of Defense, the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to court documents unsealed Wednesday. Major airports, police departments and public transit systems had also deployed the product.

Cisco became aware of flaws in the product, called the Cisco Video Surveillance Manager, no later than May 2008 but did not issue a security advisory until July 2013, according to Cisco’s settlement agreement with 15 states and the District of Columbia. Offices of the state attorneys general provided a copy of the deal.

Cisco did not admit wrongdoing.

Cisco has made security a main selling point of its cloud products in recent years. This week’s revelations risk sullying that reputation at a time when consumers and businesses are becoming leerier of the threats posed by new technologies. The case underscores that vendors need more than just secure software — they need well-enforced protocols for responding to reported defects. 

In a blog post, Cisco said the settlement showed that software companies were increasingly being held to a higher standard on security. “In short, what seemed reasonable at one point no longer meets the needs of our stakeholders today,” said Mark Chandler, Cisco’s executive vice president and chief legal officer.

Whistleblower’s lawsuit

James Glenn, a former employee of Denmark-based Cisco partner NetDesign, sued Cisco in May 2011 on behalf of the federal government and numerous state governments who had purchased the product. Glenn acted as a whistleblower under the provisions of federal and state fraud laws that allow private citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of governments.

James GlennJames Glenn

Glenn alerted Cisco to the vulnerabilities in October 2008. In March 2009, while attempting to get Cisco to patch the flaws, Glenn’s position with NetDesign was terminated because of “economic concerns,” according to the lawsuit. NetDesign did not respond to a request for comment.

Glenn first alerted federal authorities to the security issue in September 2010, asking a family member to tell the FBI that the Los Angeles International Airport was using the software. Glenn later spoke to a detective for the airport who served on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The settlement marks the first instance of a citizen-initiated whistleblower lawsuit prompting the U.S. government to successfully seek a financial penalty against a tech company for cybersecurity fraud, according to Constantine Cannon LLP, a law firm that represented Glenn.

As part of the $8.6 million settlement, Cisco will pay Glenn $1.6 million. Separately, Glenn is asking a federal judge to order Cisco to reimburse him for attorneys’ fees and other costs related to bringing the action. Nevertheless, the penalty is a tiny drop in the bucket for Cisco, which brought in $49.3 billion in revenue last fiscal year.  

The settlement — representing a partial refund for those who bought the product — covers only the government agencies involved, meaning Cisco could still be subject to lawsuits by private companies that used the software, which the vendor sold between 2008 and 2014.

“My view is that there are likely international governments, as well as domestic and international private companies, who could be impacted here for sure,” said Mary Inman, an attorney for Constantine Cannon LLP’s whistleblower practice group. “I would expect to see follow-on lawsuits from class-action attorneys representing some of the private customers here.”

Cisco’s handling of the security flaw

Cisco inherited the technology behind the product through its 2007 acquisition of Broadware. Cisco released a best practices guide in 2009 that the company claims addressed the security vulnerabilities in question. However, in an interview Thursday, Glenn disputed the guide’s helpfulness. “I didn’t see a version of the guide that would have been effective in mitigating those issues,” he said.

Cisco released an advisory in July 2013, shortly after a security website posted publicly about the vulnerabilities. The company released a software update in December 2012 that eliminated the flaws, but customers were not forced to upgrade. Cisco continued to sell vulnerable versions of the product until September 2014. 

The lawsuit accused Cisco of violating the federal False Claims Act by knowingly selling a product that failed to comply with security standards for government computer systems. The company also allegedly failed to warn customers subscribed to its premium security service about the flaws.

“We’re increasingly seeing whistleblowers from around the world alerting the U.S. authorities to fraud,” Inman said. “[This is] the first of what we believe will be … many whistleblower-initiated lawsuits which are helping to hold the tech community accountable.”

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New Gurucul network traffic analysis tool debuts

Gurucul has launched Network Behavior Analytics, a new network traffic analysis product that uses machine learning analytics to identify cyberthreats.

This tool identifies and monitors unusual behavior from any entity, including workstations; servers; firewalls; robotic process automation tasks; IoT devices, such as CCTV or vending machines; operational technology infrastructure; and point-of-sale devices.

Using machine learning algorithms on network flows and packet data, Network Behavior Analytics identifies unknown threats by creating behavior baselines for each device on a network. The product uses network flow data such as source and destination IPs, protocol, bytes in and out, and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol logs to correlate IP-specific data to machines and users.

Network Behavior Analytics is integrated with the Gurucul User and Entity Behavior Analytics platform to give users a full view across the network, including identity, access and activity on enterprise apps and systems. The tool comes with prepackaged machine learning models designed to run on high-frequency network data streams.

According to Gurucul, Network Behavior Analytics can identify threats such as zero-day exploits, fileless malware and ransomware. It does this by detecting behaviors that are unusual to the baseline it created, related lateral movement within the network, command and control communication, suspicious account activity from a compromised account, and access misuse. The framework can detect threats in real time, in addition to advanced persistent threats or stealth attacks that are dormant between various stages of cyberattack.

Monitoring network traffic to identify threats has become more common in recent years, with new tools emerging to help enterprises understand their network activity. In July, Datadog added a product called Network Performance Monitoring to its cloud monitoring program to give admins visibility into network connections and data flows.

The Awake Security Platform is another product that continuously monitors a network environment and can detect and respond to threats. It provides a complete view of each user, device and application, and it is able to detect malicious intent.

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Diversity and cybercrime: Solving puzzles and stopping bad guys – Asia News Center

Diana Kelley bristles at suggestions that cybersecurity is a dry or dull career choice – after all, she’s dedicated most of her working life to protecting data and blocking digital wrongdoers.

“I think it is the most interesting part of IT. It can be a fascinating puzzle to solve. It can be like a murder mystery on that show, ‘Law & Order,’ except that when they find a dead body, we find a network breach,” she says.

“As we investigate, we go back through all these twists and turns. And, sometimes we discover that the real culprit isn’t the one we had suspected at the beginning.”

As Microsoft’s global Cybersecurity Field Chief Technology Officer, she wants to erase misconceptions that might be stopping people from more walks of life from entering her profession – which, she argues,  needs new ways of thinking and innovating.

Successful companies know that by building diversity and inclusion within their ranks, they can better understand and serve their many and varied customers. Cybersecurity teams need to read from the same playbook so they can better anticipate and block attacks launched by all kinds of people from all sorts of places.

“Cybercriminals come from different backgrounds and geo-locations and have different mindsets,” Kelley says. “They collaborate and use very diverse attack techniques to come after individuals, companies, and countries. So, it helps us also to have a very diverse set of protection and controls to stop them.”

Knowing how attackers might think and act can be difficult for any cybersecurity team, particularly if it is made up of people from similar backgrounds with similar viewpoints. It is the kind of conformity that can even lead to a sort of “groupthink,” which results in blind spots and unintended bias.

The power of different viewpoints

“If people think in the same ways again and again, they are going to come up with the same answers. This only stops when different viewpoints are raised, and different questions are heard.”

Kelley says attackers come from, and operate in, many different environments, and cybersecurity teams need to match this diversity as much as they can. However, the make-up of today’s international cybersecurity community remains surprisingly homogenous.

“About 90 percent are men and, depending on where you are in the world, they are often white men,” she says. “In Asia, it tends to be a little worse. Only about nine percent are women.”

The need for change comes amid unprecedented demand for cybersecurity and a chronic shortage of skilled specialists across the world. Kelley sees this an opportunity.

“We’ve got this big gap in hiring, so why not create a more diverse and inclusive community of people working on the problem?” she said in an interview on her recent visit to Singapore, one of many global cities vying for talent in the sector.

One major concern is gender imbalance. Even though many well-paying jobs are up for grabs, relatively few women are taking up, and staying in, cybersecurity roles.

Fixing the gender imbalance

“When I got into the field almost 30 years ago, women had very low representation in computer science in general,” Kelley says. “Back then, I just assumed it would change over time. But it hasn’t.”

Studies show that girls often drop out of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects in middle or high school. Some women university graduates do enter the profession. But a lot end up leaving – many for cultural reasons in the workplace.

“There is a high attrition rate. We need to promote the value of studying STEM. And, we also need to work for the people who are in the field now by creating inclusive work environments.”

Kelley joined Microsoft about two years ago. Since then, she has been struck by its strong culture of respecting diverse viewpoints and encouraging inclusion – things she hasn’t seen stressed in some other companies.

“Not every idea is a great idea. But that doesn’t mean it should be mocked or dismissed. It should be respected as an idea. I have spoken to some women elsewhere who say because they didn’t feel heard or respected, they didn’t want to stay in IT.”

Bringing in all sorts of people

Kelley says more can be done to build up diversity and inclusion beyond fixing the gender mix. Again, she is impressed by Microsoft’s efforts. “Yes, we need to engage more women. But we also need to bring in all sorts of people from different social and career backgrounds.

“For instance, our team – the Cybersecurity Solution Group at Microsoft – is looking for people who may not have worked in cybersecurity in the past, but have a great interest (in technology) as well as other talents. So we are creating diversity that way too.”

Kelley recounts her own sideways entry into the field. She fell in love with computers and software during her teens when she discovered for herself how vulnerable networks at the time could be.

Later she graduated from university with a very non-techie qualification: a degree in English. Her first few jobs were editorial roles, but being tech-savvy soon meant she became the “go-to IT guy” in her office.

“Finally someone said to me, ‘Hey, you know what? IT is your calling, and we are hiring.’ So, what had been a hobby for me then became a career.”

She eventually moved into cybersecurity after an intruder broke into a network she had just built. “I pivoted from being a network and software person to someone very much focused on creating secure and resilient architectures and networks to thwart the bad guys.”

We need diverse thinkers

Looking to the future, she wants a broader pool of job seekers to consider careers in cybersecurity, even if they did not like STEM at school.

“We need diverse thinkers … people who understand psychology, for example, who can help understand the mindsets behind these attacks. We need great legal minds to help with ethics and privacy. And, political minds who understand lobbying.”

The cybersecurity world needs individuals who are altruistic and have a little more. “We go into this field because we want to do the right thing and protect people and protect data. That is a critical part. And, it also really helps to have a sort of a ‘tinkering mindset.’”

She explains that when cybersecurity professionals create systems, they also have to produce threat models. To do that, they need to think about, ‘What if I was a bad guy? What if I was trying to take this apart? How could it be taken apart?’ That is the point where they can start to work out how to make their system more attack resistant.

Meanwhile, she is eager to debunk a few myths swirling around the subject of cybercrime.

For starters, the days of the smart lone wolf kid in a hoodie hacking for fun from his bedroom are more or less over. Nowadays, only a tiny minority of perpetrators cause digital mischief and embarrassment just for the bragging rights or are “hacktivists” who want to advance social or environmental causes.

Ominously, there are sophisticated state-sponsored actors targeting the vulnerabilities of rival powers. Governments around the world are rightly worried about their citizens’ data. But they also fear for the security of vital infrastructure, like power grids and transport systems. Accordingly, military strategists now rate cyber as a field of warfare alongside land, sea, and air.

That said, most of the bad guys are simply in it for the money and do not deserve the glory and headlines they sometimes get.

“They are not glamorous. Many are in big criminal syndicates that just want to grab our data – hurting us and hurting our loved ones.”

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Beyond overhead: What drives donor support in the digital era – Microsoft on the Issues

One of the greatest challenges to running a successful nonprofit organization has always been that donors look at nonprofits’ stewardship of funds as a primary way to assess impact. While there is no doubt that nonprofits must use donor funds responsibly, tracking to see if a nonprofit maintains the highest possible ratio of spending on programs-to spending on overhead is a poor proxy for understanding how effective a nonprofit truly is. In fact, the imperative to limit overhead has forced many organizations to underinvest in efforts to improve efficiency. Ironically, this has long prevented nonprofits from utilizing innovative digital technologies that could help them be more efficient and effective.

Now more than ever, cloud-based technology can have a transformative effect on how nonprofit organizations increase impact and reduce costs. The same technologies that give for-profit businesses insights about customers and markets, create operational efficiencies and speed up innovation can also help nonprofits target donors and raise funds more strategically, design and deliver programming more efficiently, and connect field teams with headquarters more effectively. This means smart investments in digital tools are essential to every nonprofit’s ability to make progress toward its mission.

The good news is that a major shift is underway. As part of our work at Microsoft Tech for Social Impact to understand how nonprofits can use technology to drive progress and demonstrate impact, we recently surveyed 2,200 donors, volunteers and funding decision-makers to learn how they decide which organizations to support, what their expectations are for efficiency and effectiveness, and how they feel about funding technology infrastructure at the nonprofits they support.

The results, which we published recently in the white paper “Beyond overhead: Donor expectations for driving impact with technology,” make clear that people donate to organizations they trust and that donors are increasingly looking at data beyond the ratio of program spending to overhead spending to measure impact. We also found that those who support nonprofits now overwhelmingly recognize the critical role technology plays in driving impact and delivering value. Nearly four out of five supporters (which includes both donors and volunteers) and more than nine out of 10 funding decision-makers told us they support directing donations to improve technology at a nonprofit. An overwhelming majority — 85 percent of supporters and 95 percent of funding decision-makers — are more likely to contribute to organizations that can show that they are using technology to improve how it runs programs.

At the same time, the survey found that most people expect organizations to use donations more efficiently and to advance the causes they work for more effectively than in the past. Among supporters, for example, 79 percent believe nonprofits should be better at maximizing funding than they were 10 years ago. Just over 80 percent of funding decision-makers believe nonprofits should be more effective at achieving their goals and advancing the causes they work for now than in the past.

To give you a better sense of what potential donors are looking for as they consider where to target their nonprofit contributions and how much they weigh technology into their thinking, we have developed a tool using Power BI so you can look at the data in greater detail. Within the tool, you can see how people responded to questions about overall effectiveness and efficiency, the importance of technology as a driver of success, how likely they are to support organizations that use technology to demonstrate impact, and their willingness to fund technology improvements at the nonprofits they support.

To make the tool as useful as possible for your organization, you can sort the data by supporters and funding decision-makers, and you can explore how responses varied by region. As you move through the data, you will see how these critical groups of supporters and funders think about these important questions in the region where your organization operates:

The ultimate goal of this survey was to get a clearer picture of what motivates people to contribute to an organization and how technology can help nonprofits meet supporters’ expectations. Overall, I believe our research provides some important insights that can help any organization be more successful. Fundamentally, we found that people donate to organizations that are perceived to be trustworthy, and that trust is achieved though operational transparency and effective communications. More than ever before, donors recognize that using data to measure and demonstrate impact is the foundation for trust.

I encourage you to read the full report and learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to support nonprofits.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Naveego launches tool for analyzing data quality and health

Naveego has launched Accelerator, a tool that analyzes data accuracy and checks the health of multiple data sources.

Naveego Accelerator checks data health by auto-profiling and doing a cross-system comparison. It calculates the percentage of data with consistency errors that would affect a business’s operations and profitability by doing a cross-system comparison.

The tool then delivers analysts results and data health metrics within minutes, according to the vendor. Users can also have Accelerator set data quality checks to investigate issues further.

Data cleansing has long been an important part of data management for businesses. The process fixes or removes data that is wrong, incomplete, formatted incorrectly or duplicated. Data-heavy industries, such as banking, transportation or retail, can use data cleansing to examine data for issues by using rules, algorithms and lookup tables.

Naveego’s flagship product is the Complete Data Accuracy Platform, which aims to prevent issues stemming from inaccurate data. It is a hybrid, multi-cloud platform that manages and detects data accuracy issues.

Naveego has also expanded its Partner Success Program, partnering with Frontblade Systems, H2 Integrated Solutions, Mondelio and Narwal. The Partner Success Program provides a support package for partners that includes sales personnel, technical training and expertise, and marketing and promotional support.

As an emerging vendor in the data quality software market, Naveego must compete with market giants such as Informatica and IBM.

Informatica offers a portfolio of products designed for data quality assurance, including Axon Data Governance, Informatica Data Quality, Cloud Data Quality, Big Data Quality, Enterprise Data Catalog and Data as a Service. Informatica Data Quality ensures data is clean and ready to use, and it supports Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

IBM offers a handful of data quality products, as well, including InfoSphere Information Server for Data Quality, InfoSphere QualityStage, BigQuality and InfoSphere Information Analyzer. These products work to cleanse data, monitor data quality and provide data profiling and analysis to evaluate data for consistency and quality.

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IFS, Acumatica take aim at top-tier ERP vendors — together

The not-quite-merger between IFS AB and Acumatica Inc. could result in a coalition that challenges top tier ERP vendors.

The two ERP vendors became corporate siblings in June when IFS’s owner, EQT Partners, acquired Acumatica. IFS board chairman Jonas Persson is expected to be chairman of both companies, but they will operate independently, according to Darren Roos, IFS CEO. Roos will serve on the Acumatica board.

IFS and Acumatica both sell manufacturing ERP products, but they serve different markets, which will lead to collaboration opportunities, according to Roos. The companies will not compete for the same customers.

Darren Roos, CEO, IFSDarren Roos

“There are loads of areas where IFS can bring value to Acumatica customers, and vice versa,” Roos said. “It’s a case of trying to sustain the growth in each of the businesses separately, while leveraging those opportunities to help each other.”

Based in Linkoping, Sweden, IFS targets large enterprises, with customers primarily in the aerospace and defense, energy and utilities, manufacturing, construction and services industries. Acumatica, based in Seattle, is a cloud-first ERP that targets mid-market companies. IFS is strongest in Europe and has a growing presence in North America, according to Roos.

Although Acumatica is about ten times smaller than IFS, each company can take advantage of the other’s strengths to grow and improve their products, according to Jon Roskill, Acumatica CEO. On the business side, IFS uses a direct sales approach while Acumatica sells through a value-added reseller channel network, Roskill explained. Acumatica can use IFS’s direct salesforce to expand into Europe, and IFS can use the Acumatica channel to grow its North American presence.

“In technology [Acumatica is] strong in cloud and cloud interfaces, and IFS is accelerating in that direction, so that’s a place where they can leverage some of Acumatica’s skills,” Roskill said. “IFS has a robust set of technologies in manufacturing and field service that are localized to many countries, so we think we can take some of that technology back to Acumatica.”

Sharing is good

Sharing resources makes sense for both companies, and the two companies are not likely to step on each other’s toes competitively, according to Cindy Jutras, president of Mint Jutras, an ERP analysis firm based in Windham, N.H.

“This is more about Acumatica than IFS. I don’t see a lot of overlap in target markets, but I think there will be some synergies here,” Jutras said. “IFS already has a strong solution in their target market — asset-intensive industries — which is not overly broad.”

Acumatica’s cloud-first origins should help IFS broaden its cloud deployment efforts, an area where it was relatively weak compared to some competitors, Jutras explained.

“As a cloud pioneer, Acumatica has developed a strong, scalable business model, while IFS lags behind many of its competitors in moving from [on-premises] solutions to delivering software as a service,” Jutras said in an analysis she wrote. “In this sense, IFS stands to gain more from Acumatica.”

Acumatica adds Phocas BI

Acumatica has added functionality through partnerships with independent software vendors (ISVs), and according to Roskill, there are more than 150 ISVs that have built integrations into Acumatica’s ERP platform. These include DocuSign for digital contract management and Smartsheet for collaborative workflow management, as well as Microsoft Power BI and Tableau for business intelligence (BI).

Acumatica recently added more BI capabilities via a partnership with Phocas Software, a cloud-based BI application designed specifically for manufacturing.

Jon Roskill, CEO, AcumaticaJon Roskill

Roskill described the Phocas partnership as a good fit for Acumatica because the two companies are aimed at a similar mid-market manufacturing base. Acumatica already has partnerships with some of the larger, more well-known BI platforms including Microsoft Power BI and Tableau, but Roskill said Phocas’ ease of use is an important factor for mid-market companies that may not be able to afford data analysts.

“You can do almost anything with Tableau, but you’ve got to put a lot of emphasis into your expertise,” he said. “The difference with Phocas is that it gets very specific manufacturing and distribution oriented analytics and lets you tune that out of the box.”

The goal of Phocas’ BI software is to take industry-specific data from ERP systems like Acumatica and “make it consumable for business professionals so they can make better data-driven decisions,” according to Jay Deubler, president of Phocas’ U.S. division.

“We’ve aligned ourselves with Acumatica, which is an ERP provider, for what we would call our perfect prospect profile in the mid-market business,” Deubler said. “Because we now have a pre-written integration, the implementation becomes much easier and less expensive for customers.”

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Arrcus upgrades ArcOS to support Jericho2-based routers

Arrcus has introduced a version of its ArcOS network operating system that supports Broadcom’s StrataDNX Jericho2 system-on-a-chip for switches and routers. As a result, ArcOS supports Jericho2-based commodity hardware for hyperscale cloud, edge and 5G networks.

Key features supported by ArcOS when used with Jericho2 include the following:

  • network speeds up to 10 Tbps switching capacity, which is five times more than the previous generation;
  • a fourfold increase in port density per chip;
  • up to 2.6 million IPv4 routes on chip;
  • real-time flow visibility at scale;
  • support for IPv4, IPv6, MPLS and segment routing forwarding;
  • standards-based BGP Flowspec;
  • visibility into access control lists and routes to help with traffic distribution; and
  • selectable scale profiles.

In January, Arrcus introduced an ArcOS upgrade that supported 400 Gigabit Ethernet white box switches powered by Broadcom’s StrataXGS Tomahawk 3 chipset. Hardware available with the ArcOS upgrade included 400 GbE and 100 GbE switches from Celestica and Edgecore.  

Arrcus competitors include Pluribus Networks, which in June debuted a no-frills edge router for co-location and service providers. Pluribus is marketing its Freedom Series 9532C-XL-R edge as a more cost-effective option to a traditional router.

Another competitor, Cumulus Networks, recently revamped its data center tool set by adding a graphical dashboard. Cumulus offers two core networking software products: Cumulus Linux and Cumulus NetQ.

Arrcus also launched ArcIQ, an analytics platform that uses artificial intelligence in an effort to provide real-time visibility, control and security. ArcIQ detects anything unusual and shows corrective actions to create more uptime.

Additionally, Arrcus has raised another $30 million in Series B funding, bringing the total capital raised to $49 million. The funding enables Arrcus to expand its operations and reach of ArcOS.

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