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Cloud consultants set for massive workload shift to cloud

Cloud consultants take heed: Customers are pushing the bulk of their workloads to cloud infrastructure and a significant number are adopting related technologies such as containers.

AllCloud, a cloud and managed service provider based in Tel Aviv, Israel, said 85% of the 150 respondents to its cloud infrastructure survey expect to operate the majority of their workloads in the cloud by the end of 2020. Twenty-four percent of the IT decision-makers polled said they plan to be cloud-only organizations. The respondents work for companies with at least 300 employees and represent a range of industries.

AllCloud’s survey, published Jan. 15, also points to growing acceptance of containers, a trend other cloud consultants view as accelerating. More than 56% of respondents reported at least half of their cloud workloads use containers or microservices.

AllCloud CEO Eran Gil said cloud adoption, as reflected in the survey sample, is further along than he anticipated. He also said the amount of containers adoption surprised him.  

“It is interesting to see how many organizations are leveraging them,” he said of containers. “It’s far more than I expected to see.”

Eran Gil, CEO at AllCloudEran Gil

For cloud consultants, the transition from small-scale, individual workload migrations to more decisive shifts to the cloud may open opportunities for IT modernization.

“We are talking to [customers] about modernizing their infrastructure — not just simply taking what they have on premises and hosting it on AWS or other vendors,” Gil said.

Amid broader cloud adoption, AllCloud plans to expand in North America. The company in 2018 launched operations in North America, acquiring Figur8, a Salesforce partner with offices in San Francisco, Toronto, New York City and Vancouver, B.C. AllCloud is a Salesforce Platinum partner and an AWS Premier Consulting Partner.

“We are focusing on growing North America in particular,” Gil said, noting the company has received a new round of funding to support its expansion. “You will hear us announce acquisitions this year in either one of our ecosystems.”

The funding will also help AllCloud grow organically. Gil said the company plans to hire an AWS practice leader, who will report to Doug Shepard, AllCloud’s general manager for North America. Shepard previously was president of the Google business unit at Cloud Sherpas, a cloud consultancy Gil co-founded in 2008. Accenture acquired Cloud Sherpas in 2015.

Gil said the fundamental drivers of cloud adoption have changed dramatically since the launch of Cloud Sherpas. Back then, he said, cost was the main consideration, and security and reliability concerns were obstacles to acceptance. Security, however, emerged in AllCloud’s survey as the top consideration in cloud selection, followed by reliability. Cost ranked fourth in the list of adoption drivers.

“All the factors 10, 12 years ago that were the determents are now the drivers,” Gil said. 

New channel hires

  • DevOps lifecycle tool provider GitLab has appointed Michelle Hodges as vice president of global channels. GitLab, which plans to go public this year, said Hodges’ hiring is part of an initiative to ramp up the company’s channel strategy. Hodges joins GitLab from Gigamon, where she served as vice president of worldwide channels.
  • Avaya named William Madison as its vice president of North America cloud sales. Madison’s prior roles included vice president of global channel development and channel chief at Masergy Communications.
  • Managed services automation company BitTitan hired Kirk Swanson as its corporate development associate. Swanson will help BitTitan pursue acquisitions in the enterprise cloud market, targeting companies with SaaS products and relationships with IT service providers and MSPs, the company said. Prior to BitTitan, Swanson served as an associate at investment firm D.A. Davidson & Co.
  • Exclusive Networks, a cloud and cybersecurity distributor, named Christine Banker as vice president of North American sales. Banker will lead vendor recruitment, inside and field sales, and Exclusive’s PC and server business, among other departments and teams, the company said.
  • Anexinet Corp., a digital business solutions provider based in Philadelphia, has appointed Suzanne Lentz as chief marketing officer. She was previously chief marketing officer of Capgemini Invent NA.
  • Workspace-as-a-service vendor CloudJumper named Amie Ray as its enterprise channel sales manager. Ray comes to CloudJumper from PrinterLogic, where she was national channel account manager.

Other news

  • WESCO International Inc. has agreed to acquire distributor Anixter International Inc. for $4.5 billion. WESCO outbid Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC. The deal is expected to close in the second or third quarter of 2020. According to Pittsburgh-based WESCO, the combined entity would have revenue of about $17 billion. The pending deal follows Apollo Global Management’s agreement to acquire Tech Data Corp., a distributor based in Tampa, Fla.
  • Lemongrass Consulting, a professional services and managed service provider based in Atlanta, has completed a $10 million Series C round of financing, a move the company said will help it build out its senior leadership team, boost product development, and expands sales and marketing. Rodney Rogers, co-founder and general partner of Blue Lagoon Capital, joins Lemongrass as chairman. Blue Lagoon led the new funding round. Mike Rosenbloom is taking on the group CEO role at Lemongrass. He was formerly managing director of Accenture’s Intelligent Cloud & Infrastructure business. Walter Beek, who has been group CEO at Lemongrass, will stay on with company as co-founder and chief innovation officer. Lemongrass focuses on SAP applications running on AWS infrastructure.
  • Strategy and revenue are getting a heightened focus among CIOs, according to a Logicalis survey. The London-based IT solutions provider’s poll of 888 global CIOs found 61% of the respondents “spent more time on strategic planning in the last 12 months, while 43% are now being measured on their contribution to revenue growth.” The emphasis on strategy and revenue comes at the expense of innovation. About a third of the CIOs surveyed said the time available to spend on innovation has decreased over the last 12 months.
  • IT infrastructure management vendor Kaseya said it ended 2019 with a valuation exceeding $2 billion. Kaseya added more than 5,000 new customers and had more than $300 million in annual bookings, according to the company. Kaseya noted that the company had an organic growth rate of about 30%.
  • Cybersecurity vendor WatchGuard Technologies updated its FlexPay program with automated, monthly billing for its network security hardware and services. Partners can acquire subscriptions from WatchGuard’s distributor partners in various purchasing models, including one- and three-year contracts and pay-as-you-go terms, WatchGuard said. In the U.S., WatchGuard Subscriptions are available exclusively through the Synnex Stellr online marketplace.
  • Copper, which provides CRM for G Suite, rolled out its 2020 Partner Ambassador Program. The referral program has four partner tiers with incremental incentives, marketing resources, and training and certifications.
  • GTT Communications Inc., a cloud networking provider based in McLean, Va., has added Fortinet Secure SD-WAN to its SD-WAN service offering.
  • EditShare, a storage vendor that specializes in media creation and management, signed Key Code Media to its channel program. Key Code Media is an A/V, broadcast and post-production reseller and systems integrator.
  • Accenture opened an intelligent operation center in St. Catharines, Ont., as a hub for its intelligent sales and customer operations business. Accenture said the location is the company’s third intelligent operations center in Canada and its second in the Niagara region.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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Microsoft Teams to add smartphone walkie-talkie feature

Workers will soon be able to turn their smartphones into a walkie-talkie using Microsoft Teams. The feature is one of several Microsoft unveiled this week targeting so-called frontline workers, such as retail associates, nurses, housekeepers and plumbers.

The walkie-talkie feature will let groups of employees speak to each other by pressing a button in the Teams mobile app. The audio will travel over Wi-Fi and cellular networks, meaning users will be able to communicate with colleagues anywhere in the world. The feature will be available in private preview in the first half of 2020.

Many retailers, hospitals, airlines and hotels still rely on physical walkie-talkie devices. In recent years, startups like Orion Labs and legacy vendors like Motorola Solutions have begun selling smartphone walkie-talkie apps. Those mobile apps come with benefits like location tracking and integration with other business technologies.

Microsoft’s smartphone walkie-talkie feature is not innovative. But if it works well, the capability could help Microsoft boost adoption of Teams among workers who otherwise wouldn’t use the app. Microsoft has made targeting frontline workers a priority since late 2018.

In addition to the walkie-talkie app, Microsoft said Thursday it would add to Teams a task feature for creating and assigning small projects to employees. The system will give businesses a dashboard to track tasks in real time across multiple departments or store locations. It will launch in the first half of 2020.

Microsoft will also expand the scheduling capabilities of Teams by integrating the app with popular workforce management platforms by Kronos and JDA Software. Those integrations will let businesses keep existing scheduling software in place while giving workers the ability to swap shifts and request time off through Teams.

Microsoft is not the only collaboration vendor targeting frontline workers, said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. But Microsoft has a leg up on competitors because it can offer businesses so many complementary cloud services. Those include the customer relationship manager Dynamics 365 as well as e-commerce and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms within Microsoft Azure.

New identity and access features for Microsoft Teams

Additional features targeting frontline workers include SMS sign-in, off-shift access controls and shared-device sign-out. These features will roll out between now and the middle of the year. 

Workers will soon be able to sign into their Azure Active Directory account (which controls access to Teams) using only a mobile phone number. IT admins will decide which groups of employees use the method.

IT admins will also be able to prevent frontline workers from accessing Teams when they are not on the clock. Temporarily blocking access will help businesses comply with labor laws.

Finally, for Android, Microsoft will add an “end shift” button to shared mobile devices and tablets that will clear app logins and browser sessions. Purging that data will prevent employees from accessing information they shouldn’t.  

Collectively, the latest features show that Microsoft wants to take Teams beyond the 30% of corporate employees who work in offices, Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, said. “I think Microsoft is aggressively trying to expand the reach of Teams.”

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8 new ways to empower Firstline Workers and transform the way they work with Microsoft 365

Companies at the forefront of digital transformation recognize how critical it is to enable all of their people with the right technology and tools. That’s why, in industries like retail, hospitality, and manufacturing, there’s a movement underway to digitally empower the Firstline Workforce—the more than 2 billion people worldwide who work in service- or task-oriented roles.

With Microsoft 365, the world’s productivity cloud, we’re in a unique position to help companies of all sizes and across all industries provide their employees the tools and expertise they need to do their best work, without sacrificing the security of their organization or customers’ data. Giving Firstline Workers the tools they need requires companies to address unique user experience, security and compliance, and IT management.

Microsoft 365 for Firstline Workers

Microsoft 365 combines intuitive best-in-class productivity apps with intelligent cloud services to empower your Firstline Workforce.

Learn more

It’s inspiring to see how industry leaders, like IKEA and Mattress Firm, are driving higher levels of employee engagement and enhancing the customer experience by putting tools like Microsoft Teams into the hands of their Firstline Workforce. IKEA is connecting everyone in the organization with familiar features like chat and video calls and digitizing firstline processes such as shift management to save time and cost.

This video was created by Microsoft, with the agreement of Ingka Group.

Mattress Firm is empowering Firstline Workers with real-time access to the information, resources, and expertise they need to delight customers and provide a better shopping experience.

Ahead of next week’s National Retail Federation (NRF) tradeshow, we are excited to introduce new capabilities for Firstline Workers coming to Microsoft 365. Here’s a look at what’s coming soon:

New tools that make it easier for Firstline Workers to communicate and manage tasks

  1. Walkie Talkie in Teams—This new push-to-talk experience enables clear, instant, and secure voice communication over the cloud, turning employee- or company-owned smartphones and tablets into a walkie-talkie. This functionality, built natively into Teams, reduces the number of devices employees must carry, and lowers costs for IT. Unlike analog devices with unsecure networks, customers no longer have to worry about crosstalk or eavesdropping from outsiders. And since Walkie Talkie functions over Wi-Fi or cellular data, this capability can be used across geographic locations. Walkie Talkie will be available in private preview in Teams in the first half of this year.

Image displaying the intuitive push-to-talk experience to connect team members in Microsoft Teams. Three phones are displayed at various stages in connecting a manager to her team of cashiers.

Intuitive push-to-talk experience to connect team members across departments and locations.

  1. Tasks targeting, publishing, and reportingWith Tasks in Teams, now customers can drive consistent execution of store operations at scale across all of an organization’s locations. Corporate and regional leadership can send task lists targeted to the relevant locations, such as specific retail stores, and track their progress through automatic real-time reports. Managers have tools to easily direct activities within their stores, and Firstline Workers have a simple prioritized list available via their personal or company-issued device showing them exactly what to do next. Tasks targeting, publishing, and reporting is coming to Teams in the first half of this year.

Image of tasks being assigned to teams in Microsoft Teams.

Corporate headquarters can target, assign, and track tasks across locations. Firstline Workers can view tasks assigned to them and across the store.

  1. Workforce management integrations—Customers using leading third-party workforce management systems—such as Kronos and JDA—for scheduling and time and attendance can now start integrating directly with Shifts via Shifts Graph APIs and SDK. Supported scenarios include management of shifts, schedules, schedule groups, swap requests, time off requests, and open shift requests. The JDA connector for Shifts is open sourced and available on GitHub. The Kronos connector for Shifts will also be available on GitHub later this quarter.

Enhanced identity and access management features that make it easier for IT pros to keep Firstline Workers productive and secure

  1. SMS sign-in—With SMS sign-in, Firstline Workers are able to sign in to their Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) account using one-time SMS codes—reducing the need to remember usernames and passwords for all their Microsoft 365 and custom applications. Once enrolled, the user is prompted to enter their phone number, which generates an SMS text with a one-time password. SMS sign-in is a single sign-on (SSO) experience, enabling Firstline Workers to seamlessly access all the apps they are authorized to use. This new sign-in method can be enabled for select groups and configured at the user level in the My Staff portal—helping to reduce the burden on IT.

Image of one-time SMS codes being used to sign in to a device. Three phones display a code received and used by a Firstline Worker.

One-time SMS codes on mobile devices to streamline the sign-in experience for Firstline Workers.

  1. Shared device sign-out—Many Firstline Workers use a single tablet or mobile device that is shared between shifts. This can pose unique security challenges to the organization when different employees who have access to different types of data use the same device over the course of a day. With shared device sign-out, Firstline Workers will be able to log out of all their Microsoft 365 and custom applications and browser sessions with one click at the end of their shift—preventing their data as well as any access to customer data from being accessible to the next user of that device.

Image of shared device sign-out used on a shared Android device used as a scanning tool.

With one click, Firstline Workers can sign out of a shared Android device and log out of all applications and browser sessions to prevent sensitive data being shared with another device user.

  1. Off-shift access controls for Teams app—IT administrators can now configure Teams to limit employee access to the app on their personal device outside of working hours. This feature helps ensure employees are not involuntarily working while not on shift and helps employers to comply with labor regulations. This feature will begin rolling out to customers this quarter.

Image of off shift being used in Microsoft Teams. Three phones display various messages from the new feature.

Display a message and/or disable access to Teams app when Firstline Workers are off shift.

  1. Delegated user management—Firstline Managers can approve password resets and enable employees to use their phone numbers for SMS sign-in, all via a single customizable portal enabled by IT for Firstline Managers. Delegated user management can give Firstline Managers access to the My Staff portal, so they can unblock staff issues—reducing the burden of identity management on IT, and keeping employees connected to the apps they need on the job.

Image of the My Stage portal accessed from a tablet.

Through the My Staff portal, delegated user management enables a Firstline Manager to manage their team’s credentials and assist with password resets.

  1. Inbound provisioning from SAP SuccessFactors to Azure AD—Azure AD’s user provisioning service now integrates with SAP SuccessFactors, making it easier than ever to onboard and manage Firstline Workers’ identities at scale, across any application using Azure AD. This feature—in public preview—builds upon the ability to provision users to Azure AD from Workday, another popular human capital management (HCM) system, already generally available. Integrating with these systems of record helps IT to scale Firstline Workers’ onboarding and productivity from day one.

Image of Azure AD's user provisioning service integrated with SAP SuccessFactors and Workday used to check status on a laptop.

With Azure AD’s user provisioning service now integrated with SAP SuccessFactors, as well as Workday, it’s easier than ever to onboard Firstline Workers user identities at scale. Shown here, you can start the provisioning cycle and use the progress bar and provisioning logs to track the provisioning process.

All of these capabilities are expected to roll out in the first half of this year except where noted.

Empowering Firstline Workers to gain a competitive advantage

New research in partnership with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services highlights the untapped potential of Firstline Workers in retail.

Learn more

Looking ahead

This is just the next step in our journey to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We aim to build tools and experiences for the modern workplace and for workers at all levels of the organization. We’ll continue to develop and bring to market purpose-built Firstline Worker capabilities and experiences in partnership with our customers and industry leaders. And we’ll continue to innovate and build features that simplify work, bring people together, and help organizations big and small achieve more. Come see us next week at NRF 2020 in booth #4501.

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Meet the 2020 Imagine Cup Asia Regional Finalists

For 18 years, student developers have brought their unique technology solutions to life with Imagine Cup to make a difference in the world around them. Starting with just an idea, students form teams of one to three people and leverage Microsoft technology to develop purpose-driven applications from what they’re most passionate about.

This competition year is no different, and the journey to the 2020 Imagine Cup World Championship is kicking off with the selection of the Asia Regional Finalists! From hundreds of teams who submitted projects to the Asia Online Semifinals, 10 teams have been chosen to advance to the Asia Regional Final in Singapore this February. Encompassing solutions tackling a drug scanning app to monitor authenticity and allergens, to a real-time computer vision physiotherapy tool, to an immersive virtual reality experience so young students can learn about different cultures, these student innovations are truly incredible and have the chance to create global impact.

At the Regional Final, all teams will participate in an Entrepreneur Day and receive in-person pitch training from the U.S. Department of Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST), and compete for prizing totaling over USD20,000 in cash plus Azure credits. The top two teams will win spots in the 2020 Imagine Cup World Championship in Seattle, Washington to present their projects live for the chance to take home USD100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.

We’re excited to introduce this year’s Asia Regional Finalist teams!

Altruistic

Indonesia

Tanah Airku: Tanah Airku is immersive learning media using books, AR, and VR to deliver a complete cultural learning experience for children from 1st to 3rd grade.

Blume-India

India

Seguro Droga: The team developed an Android application which lets patients scan a drug’s RFID card to determine authenticity using Hyperledger Fabric on Azure VM, manage their drug purchases, and set filters for allergens.

EDVR

Nepal

EDVR: EDVR is a voice-controlled immersive Virtual Reality experience for dyslexic students enrolled in STEM education. EDVR aims to solve the problem of imparting STEM education for students with learning disabilities by enabling them to visualize, comprehend, and conceptualize.

Hollo

Hong Kong

Hollo: Hollo is a Social Technology Enterprise based in Hong Kong. The team is developing a comprehensive tool for NGOs, therapists, and youth living with mental illness to advance therapy practices using technology such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.

Muses

China

AI Composition System: Using AI, The Muse Artificial Intelligence Composer is a low-cost solution to create music for commercial use, providing a new solution for some commercial music creations that have lower creative requirements and are more cost effective. 

Nutone 

Japan

NUTONE: The team’s device restores the ability to speak for patients who have lost their voice (through reasons such as laryngectomes).

TAZS

India

FaceTag: The team created a solution for bottlenecked gateways in a daily commute: specifically the entry and exit points at metro stations. FastTag tollways enable commuters to simply walk in, have their face scanned, and have the toll deducted automatically from their wallet.

Team Zest

Singapore

Dr. Rehab: Dr. Rehab is a mobile application for real-time physiotherapy supervision through computer vision. Users can access the rehabilitation exercises assigned to them, follow guided instructions, and receive feedback while completing their exercises.

Tulibot Team

Indonesia

Tulibot: Tulibot is an integrated assistive device to bridge the communication gap for the deaf by providing a smart glove (gesture to text) and smart glasses (speech to text).

Vibra

Singapore

Vibra-Intellisense: Vibra-IntelliSense aims to help companies transition from traditional preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance through the use of sensors. The sensors capture machine vibrations to detect anomalies and recommend maintenance efforts.

Congratulations to our finalists! Follow their competition journey on Twitter and Instagram as they head to Singapore in February to compete in the Regional Final, co-located with Microsoft Ignite | The Tour. Students will have the opportunity to connect with the tech community and get hands-on with the latest in developer tools and cloud technologies.

Are you passionate about using tech for social good to solve some of today’s most pressing challenges? Imagine Cup Asia and EMEA submissions are now closed but Americas regional submissions are open until January 15! Register now for a chance to join students across the globe making an impact with technology.

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Connected medical devices experts highlight IoT remote monitoring

BOSTON — Healthcare facilities can advance their patient care with IoT remote monitoring if manufacturers understand how to develop and use connected medical devices.

Medical IoT remote monitoring “will change the way you do service, the way your customers perceive you, not just you, but your products. They become reliant on the network of things that you provide them, not just the transaction,” said Anthony Moffa, senior director of ThingWorx IIoT Platform at PTC.

IoT remote monitoring gives manufacturers access to real-time information from the field that is unfiltered and unbiased, which they can use to secure and maintain connected medical devices. Devices can transmit data back to manufacturers on key performance indicators — such as power settings or the number of times a device was turned on and off — that they can use to improve connected medical devices. Engineers don’t have an easy time observing their devices in the field consistently, but anyone can sit in front of their laptop and see how devices perform, said Paul O’Connor, director of medical development at Boston Engineering.

Moffa and O’Connor were among the experts discussing considerations for connected medical device manufacturers during the panel “How to leverage IIoT to improve medical device innovation and user insights,” which was held on Dec. 10. It was hosted by Boston Engineering, the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council and PTC.

[Medical IoT remote monitoring] will change the way you do service, the way your customers perceive you, not just you, but your products.
Anthony Moffaenior director, ThingWorx IIoT Platform at PTC

Here is a rundown of the event’s expert advice on how to address problems before IoT development begins, how to secure medical devices and the importance of identifying the needs that remote monitoring connected medical devices can address.

How to get started with remote monitoring for medical IIoT devices

Organizations often introduce IoT remote monitoring for connected medical devices with the intent to improve their products and differentiate themselves from the competition. Remote monitoring with IoT might have to overcome resistance.

“Somebody has to own [the project] and you have to have coordination between all your team members, so service, marketing operations, the R&D side; they all have to work together. If they don’t, it’s going to be an uphill battle,” Moffa said.

During IoT remote monitoring, developers should try to answer several questions:

  • Do you really know how your customers are using the product?
  • What settings do they actually use?
  • What is the optimal proactive maintenance schedule?
  • Do the components perform in a way that meets their needs?
  • How has device use changed since introduction?
  • Is the product over-engineered?

Developers can now track the data to answer these questions from around the world and apply the real-time insights and feedback to the next generation of the product.

“Think of your own product line and what you want to know about how your products are being used. Think about what you need first versus how [IoT remote monitoring technology] can help me,” O’Connor said. “You can test for years and not actually get real-time data on a global basis.”

Organizations might also see resistance from their customers. IT pros could see connected medical devices and remote monitoring as a threat to network security. The manufacturers must show how the device will bring value to the hospital, show how it’s secure and why it won’t put the network at risk, Moffa said.

Connected products typically have some built-in security processes. For example, all IT pros must make sure to encrypt communications and safely pair devices. When devices have basic security measures, adding remote monitoring security for post-market surveillance is a low security risk, said Elizabeth Couture, security software engineer at Geisel Software. Hackers won’t be particularly interested in data about what the current pressure on a sensor is or what firmware the device is running, which is the data that a device manufacturer would want from IoT remote monitoring. When manufacturers have continued access to deployed devices, they can increase the security of the product through processing device data with behavioral analytics to pick out deviations from the normal device use.

Create a culture of security

For something to be secure, the whole team must secure the product, including different engineering and support groups when it’s developed, designed and implemented outside of the facility.

“[Medical IIoT device manufacturers] need to have a culture of security. Security is not a thing you do once and then you are done with it. And it’s not a thing that you can slap on the end of the finished product,” said Elizabeth Couture.

Most hacks today are caused when attackers find bugs in widely used software from trusted organizations that are implemented on devices, said Couture. The organization that made the software announces that they have a fix for the bug, which makes applying updates critical. Organizations must plan how to update devices in the field, otherwise they will have a security hole that the entire internet knows about.

Steps to tackle security challenges
Follow these steps to prepare for security challenges.

Organizations must apply layered security and not treat medical devices as if they exist in a lockbox that no hacker will ever break into. A malicious actor should not be able to command the medical IIoT device to do dangerous things or access any patient data. By the time a medical device passes all Food and Drug Administration procedures, it’s usually 15 years old, Couture said.

“I wouldn’t trust a 15-year-old computer to buy it off the shelf. You have to be so sure that everything is safe, and that means that we need to assume that something will go wrong in the future,” she said.

When dealing with a larger number of connected medical devices, it’s important to make sure that devices have an incredibly narrow application to secure the multitude of endpoints that consumable items represent, Couture said. IT pros might be tempted to be lax on security for consumer devices, but they must tighten restrictions to prevent malicious actors from accessing the whole network through a device.

The best way to restrict application use on a medical device is to have very strict controls on the API, Moffa said. Limit the ability to use the device connection to go onto other networks, because as soon as a device connects to multiple different networks, malicious actors have a larger surface area to initiate a potential attack, he said.

Another way that organizations can improve their device security is to have other IT pros attempt to hack it. Smaller organizations might have to hire an outside expert if they don’t have people internally who focus on cybersecurity. Even having someone from a different group in an internal team attempt to hack a device will uncover security holes, Couture said.

“People used to approach cybersecurity as if ‘I am the best at building walls. I will build this wall around the product and everything is safe because I’m really good at that.’ But nowadays it’s not just about building good walls, it’s about learning the skills that a hacker would actually use to attack a product and attacking your product,” she said.

Keep the customer in mind, no matter the use of remote monitoring

Remote monitoring with IoT starts with user needs and adds value for them, said Raj Sivakumar, global product director at Hologic. Remote monitoring can improve the reliability of technology. When organizations use IoT remote monitoring for predictive maintenance, field engineers can identify when a component is going to fail and replace it without any downtime. With analytical tools, medical device users can take advantage of the device utilization rates to understand if their team uses the devices optimally or if they need more training.

“By adding IoT to this environment you’re able to increase the throughput of your technicians, because you can do some things remotely. You might walk a customer through a workflow on a screen, rather than physically,” Moffa said.

The data provided through remote monitoring gives engineers information for maintaining devices. IoT sensors can record the temperature and other variables that would inhibit or show the decline of medical devices. For example, without remote monitoring, an anesthesia machine in an operating room could fail when a patient is under. The patient must be moved to another room and hooked up to another machine. The time under anesthesia is increased, which means there is more risk for the patient. IoT predictive maintenance is critical from a risk management perspective in healthcare, Sivakumar said. If technicians know a machine will fail well ahead of time, they can apply this change. Eliminating downtime means patients spend less time in the hospital, which decreases their chances of getting sick from something they didn’t come in with.

“You could talk to people about the issues they have [with your device]. There’s no aversion to doing that; Everyone thinks it’s a good idea,” O’Connor said. “But it’s being able to define a starting point. Start small with something that you can control and have access to.”

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4 cloud UC partnerships to watch in 2020

In 2019, unified communications vendors forged partnerships to integrate their products and plug holes in their portfolios.

Avaya and RingCentral came together to deliver cloud telephony to the midmarket, while Microsoft and Cisco reached a truce in the hopes of making it easier for users to join meetings across platforms.

Slack and Zoom inked a deal to align roadmaps, while Zoom and RingCentral agreed to keep bundling their calling and video services for at least another couple of years.

These cloud UC partnerships could bring significant new features to users and help the vendors involved stand out from the competition. But questions remain about exactly how each of them will play out in 2020 and beyond.

Avaya-RingCentral

In October, Avaya and RingCentral announced a partnership to sell the latter’s UC-as-a-service offering to the former’s base of on-premises customers.

The new product, Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral, is supposed to launch in the first quarter of 2020. Avaya’s resellers will attempt to sell it to the small and midsize businesses that currently use Avaya IP Office.

The deal followed reports that Avaya was in advanced talks with private equity firms interested in buying the company. Ultimately, the vendor opted to partner with a competitor that had been stealing its on-premises customers for years.

The partnership brings together a leading cloud vendor and an industry stalwart with one of the largest bases of customers in the industry. But many remain skeptical about how much the deal will benefit the two companies.

Analysts have questioned whether it was smart for RingCentral to partner with Avaya when it was already successfully recruiting the vendor’s customers.

Meanwhile, Avaya’s customers are waiting to find out how different the joint cloud product will be from RingCentral’s standard offering. Avaya has said it plans to enhance the product with extra features familiar to on-premises users.

“The big question is, can Avaya really sell cloud? They have not really been successful in the past,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. “Another question is, will Avaya customers embrace this?”

Microsoft-Cisco

In November, longtime rivals Microsoft and Cisco revealed they were working together to enable better interoperability between their video conferencing room systems.

Businesses currently use third-party gateways to connect room systems. But the setup is unreliable and provides limited functionality in meetings.

In the future, Microsoft and Cisco room kits will load the other party’s app in a web browser. That will provide a native meeting experience and eliminate the need for a third-party gateway. The vendors expect to launch the feature in early 2020.

Microsoft is working with Zoom to enable the same kind of interoperability, a sign that the video conferencing industry could soon unite around the new method as a standard.

But cloud UC vendors have been promising to make joining meetings quick and easy for years. Large organizations will likely be taking a “wait and see” approach to the latest attempt to do so, said Dion Hinchcliffe, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also said it would certify Cisco as a partner providing traditional gateway services for interoperability. Plus, it will let customers use Cisco’s session border controllers to support calling in Microsoft Teams.

The cooperation between Microsoft and Cisco is welcome news to the many large organizations that use a mix of technologies from both vendors. For Cisco, the initiative could be crucial in helping convince customers to keep their Webex video gear in place.

“What this shows you is that Microsoft is no longer afraid of Cisco,” Hinchcliffe said. “The bottom line is, Cisco wants to stay in the game. We are seeing Microsoft and Zoom winning a lot and having Cisco being pulled out.”

Slack-Zoom

In April, Slack and Zoom announced that they would align product roadmaps and develop joint marketing strategies.

The team collaboration vendor and the video conferencing provider have maintained a close association for years. The deal reached in April made that relationship formal, bringing together two upstarts that have disrupted their respective markets.

One aspect of the partnership involves better integrations between the two products. The companies have already made it easier to join Zoom meetings from within Slack. In the future, they are planning to power calling in Slack using Zoom Phone.

But analysts are still waiting to see whether Slack and Zoom will pursue joint sales activities, such as offering a discount for buying both products as a bundle.

A Slack-Zoom bundle could help the vendors compete against larger rivals Microsoft and Cisco. But the package would still be missing a calling service capable of appealing to the largest businesses. Zoom’s one-year-old telephony offering, Zoom Phone, does not yet offer everything those customers need, said Raúl Castañón-Martinez, analyst at 451 Research.

“While a combined offering is very compelling, I don’t think it poses a significant threat to Cisco or Microsoft,” Castañón-Martinez said. “Still, this could set the stage for Zoom and Slack to become disruptive in the near future.”

Zoom-RingCentral

For years, RingCentral has relied on Zoom to provide a video conferencing app to its UC-as-a-service customers. Zoom’s technology powers an offering called RingCentral Meetings.

In May, the two companies announced a “multiyear” extension of the partnership. But Zoom’s push into the cloud calling market is likely straining that relationship. Zoom has been rapidly building out Zoom Phone, a product that could replace RingCentral’s calling service within some organizations.

In launching Zoom Phone in 2018, CEO Eric Yuan suggested the company did not intend to compete with RingCentral. But Zoom was far less shy about pushing the product at its annual user conference in 2019, saying it was time for all customers to adopt it.

At the conference, Yuan told reporters and analysts he expected the relationship with RingCentral to continue. Given the multiyear extension announced in May, that may be true, at least in the near term. But analysts said it would make sense if RingCentral were developing a backup plan for video communications.

“It makes sense that RingCentral might consider its own meeting app and reduce reliance on Zoom,” said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research. “That doesn’t preclude them from continuing to support and partner with Zoom as well, for at least the time being.”

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Customer data platform tools top priority list for big vendors

Adobe, Microsoft and Oracle released their own customer data platforms in 2019 to compete with roughly 20 CDP vendors that had been serving their users for several years. Salesforce and SAP plan to follow with their own CDPs in 2020.

Those large customer experience (CX) platforms face challenges in the marketplace. Customer data platforms, which unify data across marketing automation, customer service, sales and e-commerce applications, solve a problem the big vendors created: A lack of data flow between CX applications, according to David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute.

“Nothing else has solved it; nothing comes close to solving it,” Raab said.

That data is siloed, typically, because the vendors built their CX technologies via acquisition and continue to have difficulty integrating the marketing, sales and service clouds comprising their platforms. But users demand it, as they see value in real-time access to customer data from all channels at once. They want machine learning and analytics running with those systems, pulling data from across the platform in order to create one-to-one customer offers, in real time, to drive sales and marketing campaigns.

Tech buyers must choose big vs. small CDPs

The question is, as many B2B companies are just starting to digitally transform their commerce, will they purchase new tools from the big vendors like Oracle and Microsoft, or go with more established and technically advanced CDPs from the smaller companies, such as Lytics, Lotame, Arm Treasure Data and RedPoint Global?

“Buyers are within their rights to be skeptical [of the big-box vendors],” said Gartner analyst Benjamin Bloom. “That vendor who might not have delivered the thing that you were looking for — or [caused] unintended challenges or consequences — now they are exactly the ones who are telling you how to clean up the mess [with their new CDP].”

Smaller CDP vendors tend to be nimble and more responsive to customer needs for features and integrations with analytics tools and outside applications, Bloom said. He sees them keeping their users for some time to come, as the larger platform vendors play catch-up, which Raab agrees with.

Graphic showing value of customer data platform technologies
Customer data platforms unify data from applications tracking customer web behavior, sales, e-commerce and other sources to create personalized marketing profiles and drive revenue.

Yet another option has become available for technology buyers tasked with building customer experiences: the digital experience platform. These typically arise from cloud content management vendors that are moving into customer experience. Acquia acquired CDP vendor AgilOne earlier this month to assemble a marketing automation and e-commerce platform with more sophisticated web content management than all the large CX platform vendors, with the exception of Adobe.

One of Acquia’s main competitors that also offers a CDP, Episerver, is moving more deeply into digital experience. It expanded its B2B e-commerce offering by acquiring InSite Software this month, and hired former SAP CX platform lead Alex Atzberger as CEO to oversee its digital experience technologies.

So many companies are building B2B e-commerce operations from scratch, said Gartner analyst Jason Daigler, that it doesn’t surprise him to see content management vendors challenge companies like Oracle and SAP for customers. He sees the appeal of combining strong content management with e-commerce.

Having the right data in the right time is really important to delivering a good customer experience. Does that require a single database? I don’t think it does, but it does require good understanding of data, where it is, and how to put it together.
Nicole FranceAnalyst, Constellation Research

“Most commerce platforms were not built with the best content management systems out there; they’re not known for their digital experience capabilities,” Daigler said.

Salesforce takes a different approach

Other experts wonder whether or not CDPs are the answer to collecting real-time data from disparate sources such as social media, sales and marketing channels. Because this data is always imperfect and the customer golden record is a mythical concept, said self-described CDP skeptic Constellation Research analyst Nicole France, the CDP may be a “fool’s errand.”

Salesforce is coming out with “a CDP that’s not a CDP,” as the company described it in analyst previews, France said. Salesforce may be solving problems that require customer data platforms to fix with upcoming features in Those could amount to integrations and APIs connecting data and unifying customer profiles with Mulesoft tools, instead of a whole new database itself.

“I do think that having the right data in the right time is really important to delivering a good customer experience. Does that require a single database? I don’t think it does, but it does require good understanding of data, where it is, and how to put it together.”

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Google expands multiple Chrome password protection features

Google’s Chrome browser will now warn users if their passwords have been exposed in a data breach.

Google this week expanded Chrome password protection features, which are intended to reduce the risk of phishing sites that prompt users to enter their passwords and other sensitive information, according to the company. New protections, which were introduced Tuesday for Chrome 79, include stolen password warnings, real-time and predictive phishing protections and new profile representations for shared devices.

Phishing attacks and data breaches are on the rise. According to the 2019 State of the Phish Report by Proofpoint, 83% of information security professionals surveyed said they experienced phishing attacks in 2018, up from 76% who said the same in 2017.

New Chrome password protection features

Previously, Google offered Chrome password protection extensions such as Password Alert and Password Checkup that warn users if they enter a username and password that are no longer safe because they appear in a data breach known to the company. In October, the Password Checkup extension became a feature in Google Account’s built-in password manager and the Chrome browser where users can conduct a scan of their saved passwords.

According to blog post by AbdelKarim Mardini, senior product manager, Google now offers warnings as users browse the web in Chrome. When users enter their credentials into a website, Chrome will alert them if their username and password have been compromised in a data breach and recommend that they change their credentials.

Chrome's stolen password warning on mobile
Chrome’s stolen password warning on mobile

Users can control this feature in Chrome Settings under Sync and Google Services.

In addition, Google enhanced its list of known phishing domains. Google Safe Browsing maintains a list of malicious websites that was previously updated every 30 minutes, which allowed some phishing campaigns that quickly switch their domains to slip through. With this week’s update, Chrome now checks any site a user visits on desktop in real time, removing the 30-minute delay, and offers phishing warning for unsafe sites.

Chrome's alert of suspected phishing sites
Chrome’s alert of suspected phishing sites

According to Google, this feature is enabled to users who turn on the “Make searches and browsing better” setting in Chrome.

Chrome also expanded its predictive phishing protection, which is intended to warn users who are signed in to Chrome and have Sync enabled if they enter their Google Account passwords into a site suspected of phishing by Google.

Tuesday’s update expands the protection to users who are signed in to Chrome but do not have Sync enabled. The feature will also work for all passwords stored in Chrome’s password manager.

The new sign-in indicator in Chrome
The new sign-in indicator in Chrome

Lastly, Chrome will now show the photo and username of the profile that a user is currently using on a device. The feature is intended to help users make sure they are creating and saving passwords to the right profile when using Chrome’s password manager, according to the company.

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Pivot3, Scale Computing HCI appliances zoom in on AI, edge

Hyper-converged vendors Pivot3 and Scale Computing this week expanded their use cases with product launches.

Scale formally unveiled HE150 all-flash NVMe hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) appliances for space-constrained edge environments. Scale sells the compute device as a three-node cluster, but it does not require a server rack.

The new device is a tiny version of the Scale HE500 HCI appliances that launched this year. HE150 measures 4.6 inches wide, 1.7 inches high and 4.4 inches deep. Scale said select customers have deployed proofs of concept.

Pivot3 rolled out AI-enabled data protection in its Acuity HCI operating software. The vendor said Pivot3 appliances can stream telemetry data from customer deployments to the vendor’s support cloud for historical analysis and troubleshooting.

HCI use cases evolve

Hyper-converged infrastructure vendors package the disparate elements of converged infrastructure in a single piece of hardware, including compute, hypervisor software, networking and storage.

Dell is the HCI market leader, in large measure to VMware vSAN, while HCI pioneer Nutanix holds the No. 2 spot. But competition is heating up. Server vendors Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have HCI products, as does NetApp with a product using its SolidFire all-flash technology. Ctera Networks, DataCore and startup Datrium are also trying to elbow into the crowded space.

Pivot3 storage is used mostly for video surveillance, although the Austin, Texas-based vendor has focused on increasing its deal size for its Acuity systems.

Scale Computing, based in Indianapolis, sells the HC3 virtualization platform for use in edge and remote office deployments. The company has customers in education, financial services, government, healthcare and retail.

Hyper-converged infrastructure has expanded beyond its origins in virtual desktop infrastructure to support cloud analytics of primary and secondary storage, said Eric Sheppard, a research vice president in IDC’s infrastructure systems, platforms and technologies group.

“The most common use of HCI is virtualized applications, but the percentage of [hosted] apps that are mission-critical has increased considerably,” Sheppard said.

Scale HE150: Small gear for the edge

Scale’s HC3 system is designed for Linux-based KVM. Unlike most HCI appliances, Scale HC3 does not support VMware. Scale designed HyperCore to run Linux-based KVM.

Scale Computing's mini-HCI appliance
Scale Computing HE150 HCI appliance

The HE150 includes a full version of HyperCore operating system, including rolling updates, replication and snapshots. The device comes with up to six cores and up to 64 GB of RAM. Intel’s Frost Canyon Next Unit of Computing (NUC) mini-PC provides the compute. Storage per nodes is up to 2 TB with one M.2 NVMe SSD.

Traditional HCI appliances require a dedicated backplane switch to route network traffic, including Scale’s larger HC3 appliances. HE150 features new HC3 Edge Fabric software-based tunneling for communication between HC3 nodes. The tunneling is needed to accommodate the tiny form factor, said Dave Demlow, Scale’s VP of product management.

Scale recommends a three-node HE150 cluster. Data is mirrored twice between the nodes for redundancy. Demlow said the cluster takes up the space of three smart phones stacked together.

Eric Slack, a senior analyst at Evaluator Group, said Scale’s operating system enables it to sell an HCI appliance the size of Scale HE150.

“This new small device runs the full Scale HyperCore OS, which is an important feature. Scale stack is pretty thin. They don’t run VMware or a separate software-defined storage layer, so HyperCore can run with limited memory and a limited number of CPU cores,” Slack said.

Pivot3 HCI appliances

Pivot3 did not make hardware upgrades with this release. The features in Acuity center on AI-driven analytics for more automated management.

Pivot3 enhanced its Intelligence Engine policy manager with AI tools for backup and disaster recovery in multi-petabyte storage. The move comes amid research by IDC that indicates more enterprises expect HCI vendors to provide autonomous management via the cloud.

The IDC survey of 252 data centers found that 89% rely on cloud-based predictive analytics to manage IT infrastructure, but only 72% had enterprise storage systems that bundle analytics tools as part of the base price.

“The entirety of the data center infrastructure market is increasing the degree to which tasks can be automated. All roads lead toward autonomous operations, and cloud-based predictive analytics is the fastest way to get there,” Sheppard said.

Pivot3 said it added self-healing to identify failed nodes and automatically returns repaired nodes to the cluster. The vendor also added delta differencing to its erasure coding for faster rebuilds.

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Employing data science, new research uncovers clues behind unexplainable infant death – Microsoft on the Issues

Imagine losing your child in their first year of life and having no idea what caused it. This is the heartbreaking reality for thousands of families each year who lose a child to Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). Despite decades-long efforts to prevent SUID, it remains the leading cause of death for children between one month and one year of age in developed nations. In the U.S. alone, 3,600 children die unexpectedly of SUID each year.

For years, researchers hypothesized that infants who died due to SUID in the earliest stages of the life differed from those dying of SUID later. Now, for the first time, we know, thanks to the single largest study ever undertaken on the subject, this is statistically the case.

Working in collaboration with Tatiana Anderson and Jan-Marino Ramirez at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Edwin Mitchell at University of Auckland, we analyzed the Center for Disease Control (CDC) data on every child born in the U.S. over a decade, including over 41 million births and 37,000 SUID deaths. We compared all possible groups by the age at the time of death to understand if these populations were different.”

In our study published today in Pediatrics, a leading pediatric journal, we found that SUID deaths during the first week of life, were statistically different from all other SUID deaths that occur between the first week and first year of life. SUID cases in the first week of life have been called SUEND, which stands for Sudden Unexpected Early Neonatal Death. We have called SUID deaths between 7-364 days postperinatal SUID.

The two groups – SUEND and postperinatal SUID – differed by several factors such as birth order, maternal age and marital status. For postperinatal deaths, the risk of SUID progressively while the opposite was true for SUEND deaths where firstborn children were more at risk. Postperinatal SUID rates were higher for unmarried, young mothers (between 15-24 years old) at birth, while unmarried, young mothers of the same age showed a decreased risk of SUEND death. The two groups also had different distributions of birthweight and pregnancy length.

Our study concluded that SUID deaths in the first week differed from postperinatal SUID deaths and that the two groups should be considered separately in future research. Considering these two as different causes may help uncover independent underlying physiological mechanisms and/or genetic factors.

This research is part of Microsoft’s AI for Good initiative, a $125 million five-year program where we utilize AI to help tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges and helping some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. For this research, we leveraged our machine learning, cloud-computing capabilities and advanced modelling techniques powered by AI to analyze the data.

By pairing our capabilities and data scientists with Seattle Children’s medical research expertise, we’re continuing to make progress on identifying the cause of SUID. Earlier this year, we published a study that estimated approximately 22% of SUID deaths in the U.S. were attributable to maternal cigarette-smoking during pregnancy, giving us further evidence that, through our collaboration with experts in varying disciplines, we are getting to the root of this problem and making remarkable advances.

We hope our progress in piecing together the SUID puzzle ultimately saves lives, and gives parents and researchers hope for the future.

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Author: Microsoft News Center