Cloud architecture means testing 'in the cloud' too, who knew?

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It couldn't be that logical, could it?

Cloud-centric software application development and the migration of IT shop operations to cloud-based environments demands that software engineerings teams also embrace the idea of using cloud-based testing tools.

(Ed - don't be ludicrous, no wait, really?)

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Mike Cooper is an quality-focused IT testing guru now working with QASymphony in an advisory role.

Cooper explains that he recently began advising one of the world's largest employers on its QA and software testing strategy.

Multi-million

The CIO was planning to move the entire ops platform to the cloud in a multi-year, multi-million pound effort involving dozens of people and hundreds of man hours.

"The company's hotshot dev team was using an Agile dev methodology and DevOps approach with continuous integration. Unfortunately, the company's current testing team was primarily comprised of old school testers using Word and Excel to manage test plans and test cases," said Cooper.

Given the massive scope and scale of this business-critical initiative, Cooper recommended an Agile testing approach involving highly skilled testers embedded in Scrum teams.

He also recommended the use of cloud-based tools for testing mobile apps, security, performance and localisation.

"The exec team was in shock for 10 minutes as they wrapped their heads around what I was saying. It hadn't occurred to them that cloud and Agile also demanded a new, futuristic platform for testing. Meanwhile, the dev team was celebrating," he said.

"To me the future of test is very clear: Agile methodologies combined with sophisticated cloud-based tools," added Cooper.

NOTE: QASymphony offers qTest eXplorer (among other core products) as a test case management documentation tool that supports exploratory testing and saves time when performing traditional manual testing

A word from the CEO, via his PR team

QASymphony CEO Dave Keil insists that today, testing is seen as a cost centre in many organisations.

"Companies don't necessarily see the value of testing until something breaks in production and the business is impacted as a result. In the future, we believe testing will get much smarter. At QAS, we're doing a lot of work on the ability to transform the historical data we collect during testing and turn that into actionable insights for the company. So rather than reacting when something breaks, IT leaders will be able to identify potential issues before they happen. Instead of a cost centre, testing will become a value provider."

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How 'social' peer benchmarking between applications makes better software

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Software analysis and measurement company Cast that spells its name CAST in an attempt to gain extra kudos but it doesn't actually stand for anything in terms of it being a valid acronym so it just looks (arguably) silly has updated its product set.

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The firm's new version of Highlight bids to analyse 'complex portfolios' of enterprise applications to identify areas of concern.

The software itself uses a benchmarking system to assess software risk and complexity.

Key new enhancements include:

• Benchmarking against peers -- Application key risk indicators can be benchmarked against a repository of 650+ anonymised custom enterprise applications, pulled globally from across all Highlight instances.

• Faster, more in-depth analysis -- Highlight's new agent scans deeper, wider and with more configuration flexibility, making risk profiling and cost saving easier than ever thanks to a "bubble diagram" user interface.

• Better technical debt estimates -- Highlight now delivers more pragmatic, quantifiable technical debt estimates than ever before. As a result, these estimates are more reliable, delivering actionable analytics to make fact-based decisions on which applications are most effective from a cost/benefit perspective.

• More accurate cost and effort calculations -- Using the industry-standard COCOMO model, Highlight provides maintenance effort estimates in terms of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees.

Prioritise and rank

The result, theoretically, is a situation where developer teams can prioritise and rank projects and programs, based on tangible data, more accurately.

"Previously, strategic IT initiatives were notoriously difficult to rank; a lack of visibility on costs and technical risks, together with competing demands on budget from within IT and other departments, hampered decision-making," said the company, in a press statement.

This software is ISO 27001-certified, therefore it complies with the industry-wide standard on information security management systems.

"As organisations engage in public-facing transformation initiatives, gaining visibility into and measuring the quality, risk and complexity of their application portfolio become more vital than ever," said IDC analyst Melinda Ballou, program director for IDC's Application Lifecycle Management and Executive Strategies Service.

Automatic for the WP Engine people

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WP Engine wants web developers to use its product, really, honest.

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As such, the SaaS content management platform (for websites and applications built on WordPress) company (Ed - phew! long intro) has announced a new automated migration product.

The software itself is intended to be used for the migration of WordPress websites to WP Engine's managed WordPress hosting platform.

WP Engine Automated Migration is available now as a 'plugin' piece of web software.

The tool claims to "cut out" the most technical steps it (typically) takes to fully migrate a site to WP Engine.

NOTE: The time it takes to complete a migration can be as little as 30 minutes.

"The tool reduces the costs typically associated with a full site migration and eliminates the need to pay an additional vendor to move your site from one platform to another," said the company, in a press statement.

What is application retirement?

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Application retirement is a thing.

Of course it is, software applications don't live forever, not even legacy ones.

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It is sometimes also known as application decommissioning, application sunsetting, application neutering, application big-banging or application euthanasia.

Circle of life

It's just one of the facts of life inside the so-called Application Development Lifecycle.

As IBM teaches us...over time, applications can outlast their value to the business, eventually costing more to maintain than they are worth.

"But companies are reluctant to retire obsolete, legacy, or redundant applications for fear they may someday need the underlying data. As a recommended best practice, organisations must evaluate application portfolios regularly to determine whether their investments are delivering maximum business value," says Big Blue.

Sexy time!

Who talks about application retirement?

Well Gartner has formulated what could possibly be its sexiest Magic Quadrant yet to celebrate this aspect of technology -- the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Structured Data Archiving and Application Retirement.

(Ed - ouch, sizzle!)

Celebrating its newly endued status inside this holiest of holy quadrangles this month is Informatica.

The firm's Amit Walia, senior vice president and general manager for data integration and security is clearly enthused.

"As organisations 'clear their decks' of legacy applications, they need unwavering confidence that the data remains readily available and is archived in a secure and cost-effective fashion," said Walia.

He continues, "Informatica Data Archive provides customers with an unrivalled range of advanced capabilities for performance optimization, application retirement, big data analytics, data security, retention management and compliance."

According to the Gartner report on this topic, structured data archiving addresses storage optimization, governance, cost optimization and data scalability.

"It (storage optimization) can reduce the volume of data in production and maintain seamless data access. The benefits of using this technology include reduced capital and operating expenditures, improved information governance, improved recoverability, lower risk of regulatory compliance violations, and access to secondary data for reporting and analysis," says Gartner.

The report projects that, "by 2017, archiving in support of big data analytics will surpass archiving for compliance as the primary use case for structured data archiving." It also predicts that, "by 2016, 75 percent of structured data archiving applications will incorporate support for big data analytics."

The report's authors also note that, "the desire to leverage archives as a secondary data store for big data analytics is driving the growth of the structured data archiving market." They continue to say that, "the growing use of Apache Hadoop, increasing data warehouse volume sizes and the accumulation of legacy systems in organizations are fostering structured data growth. These factors are leading enterprises to understand how to reuse, repurpose and gain critical insight from this data."

Retirement comes to us all, let's be respectful -- ok?

Asigra: how real cloud backup works

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The Asigra Cloud Backup Partner Summit 2015 runs this week in Toronto.

As a name, Asigra comes from the Spanish infinitive asegurar, meaning to assure.

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Asigra's branded 'Cloud Backup' architecture combines a scale-out architecture, a cloud backup and recovery software platform and a cloud API and management system.

Scale factor

Essentially we're talking about providing, managing and (crucially) scaling data protection services.

Where do we need cloud backup?

This event was populated by Asigra partners, who can typically be described as specialists in cloud backup and recovery, obviously -- but specifically these are firms who work to protect data in the datacentre on physical or virtual servers, enterprise databases and applications...

... but the protection factor we need to think about here goes further i.e beyond the datacentre onto:

• desktops,
• laptops,
• smartphones,
• tablets,
• in SaaS-based applications like Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce.com,
• and in IaaS-based platforms like AWS or Microsoft Azure.

Keynote commentary

How do you get more cloud backup into the hands of your targeted users then?

The company ran a schedule of sessions with titles such as: how to competitively position your cloud backup service with (i.e. against) traditional enterprise datacentre solutions.

CEO and founder of Asigra David Farajun explained that we should remember how cloud backup is in fact the second element of the cloud data spectrum (and indeed his firm's total Asigra recovery product spectrum:

1. VM Replication (DAS, NAS & SAN)
2. Backup / snapshot technology (file and object storage)
3. Archive (disk and tape)

A Bloomberg report from 2011 details the origins of Asigra as follows:

Founder David Farajun started Asigra in 1986 after a hard-drive failure doomed his previous company, which was building an operating system. With few options to save and recover his own files, Farajun founded Asigra to fill a market need and help other companies avoid the same fate. His early clients would transmit their data, using 300 baud modems, to a secure vault, where Farajun had stacks of foot-long hard discs that could store 10 megabytes -- a huge amount of data in the 1980s, now about the equivalent of a few MP3 song files.

A justification for cloud backup?

Gartner analysts spoke at this event to comment on suggestions that firms are trying to now "renovate the core of the business to cloud but still keep the lights on" today.

Analyst Tiffani Bova spoke at this event to suggest that when the Internet of Things works at full pace, we get to a point where products and services start to order themselves (at both a consumer and business level) automatically based upon user preferences...

... and this justifies the need for more cloud backup going forward as we start to become more reliant upon the cloud (and cloud-driven mobile devices) in our lives.

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Editorial disclosure: Asigra paid for a proportion of Adrian Bridgwater's travel expenses.







Checking (cloud) backups with BackupChecks

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We all love the cloud computing model of service-based IT delivery, obviously... but what about backup and failure scenarios?

There is a palpable sense of the cloud market now laying down more cloud backup technologies.

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Indeed, this week sees the Asigra Cloud Backup Partner Summit 2015 in Toronto.

If you weren't familiar with the term... DRaaS - disaster recovery as a service, then now is the time to fix that.

TechTarget defines DRaaS as the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers by a third-party to provide failover in the event of a man-made or natural catastrophe.

At the Asigra event itself today we find the launch of BackupChecks from Databarracks.

Peter Groucutt, managing director at Databarracks, says his team has been developing this software for the last seven years.

"The features of the software are three-fold. A service desk, a reseller management portal and a customer management portal. The most obvious benefits are seen in the Service Desk, which allows technicians to manage all of their backup accounts through a single portal. The dashboard shows engineers all of the errors to be checked across all accounts at a glance, any recurring issues, the amount of data stored by each account and information to help services providers manage their DS-Systems," said Groucutt.

BackupChecks automates the daily management of backups so, in theory, backup engineers have more time then to provide more support to their customers.

They have the tools to have helpful data reviews with customers and give advice on best practice from other customers and their internal knowledge base.

"Through the portal, customers have access to all their vital backup stats, such as how many backups have been successful, how many restores have been made and how much data they are storing. Customers can log in to a simple portal on their mobile on the way into the office to check on their overall backup health and then log in on their desktops for a more comprehensive view to really drill down into the details and their historical backup and recovery trends," added Groucutt.


Nutanix offers visibility into invisible infrastructure

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Cloud storage and operating system software company Nutanix has used its inaugural user event to launch its Xtreme Computing Platform (XCP).

Nice name, sure... but what does it do?

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The firm has concocted a 'message set' hinging around the suggestion that we call this technology something called 'invisible infrastructure', no less.

The concept here is... cloud infrastructure that you (being that "you" could be a whole development team) don't need to worry about.

What lies beneath

Consequentially then, the team can focus on applications and services --- not what lies beneath.

Inside this technology proposition we find two product families;

• Nutanix Acropolis
• Nutanix Prism

The XCP product set is intended to extend the firm's hyperconverged approach to enable application independence from infrastructure with an advanced app mobility feature.

Also here we find native virtualisation and consumer-grade search capability.

Dheeraj Pandey, CEO and founder of Nutanix argues that today, many business applications run on traditional storage and virtualisation products that are time consuming to deploy, expensive to manage, difficult to scale and challenging to migrate from.

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"Nutanix XCP makes the entire infrastructure lifecycle invisible and diminishes the innovation and financial burden borne by users of existing datacenter solutions. The most transformative technologies are the ones we don't even think about," he said.

What could this mean?

They work all the time, scale on demand and self-heal. In other words, they are invisible - this is the Nutanix proposition.

"Building on our foundations of web-scale engineering and consumer-grade design, we will make virtualisation as invisible as we've made storage and elevate enterprise IT expectations yet again," said Pandey.

"With a 52% market share in the hyperconverged infrastructure market, Nutanix has demonstrated its ability to radically simplify data storage for all size enterprises," said Matt Eastwood, senior vice president of IDC. "Its next big opportunity is to tackle the inherent cost and complexity of legacy virtualisation stacks, and elevate IT teams so they can focus on driving the business."

Acropolis

Nutanix Acropolis builds on the core capabilities of the company's hyperconverged product to incorporate an open platform for virtualization and application mobility.

This product offers teams the flexibility to choose the best application platform technology for their organisation - whether it is traditional hypervisors, emerging hypervisors or containers.

So then in turn... under Acropolis, infrastructure decisions can be made based on application performance and scalability and economic considerations, while allowing workloads to move more without penalty should requirements change.

Nutanix Acropolis is comprised of three foundational components:

1. Distributed Storage Fabric -- Building on the Nutanix Distributed File System, the Acropolis Distributed Storage Fabric will enable common web-scale services across multiple storage protocols.

2. App Mobility Fabric -- This is a newly-designed open environment capable of delivering virtual machine (VM) placement, VM migration, and VM conversion, as well as cross-hypervisor high availability and integrated disaster recovery.

3. Acropolis Hypervisor -- While the Distributed Storage Fabric fully supports traditional hypervisors such as VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, Acropolis also includes a native hypervisor based on the proven Linux KVM hypervisor.

Nutanix Prism

Prism features One-Click technology that streamlines time-consuming IT tasks, and includes one-click software upgrades for more efficient maintenance, one-click insight for detailed capacity trend analysis and planning and one-click troubleshooting for rapid issue identification and resolution.

Nutanix Prism delivers better value to IT administrators as a result of convergence of storage, compute and virtualization resources -- advanced machine learning technology with built-in heuristics and business intelligence -- and what the firm calls true consumer-grade user experience with sophisticated search technology.

Nutanix Acropolis and Prism are available now.

Nutanix partner Veeam, a lean mean DRaaS dream?

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Datacentres need availability, obviously.

Veeam Software is a company that directly positions itself as a provider of solutions that deliver availability for datacentres.

The firm is serious about this -- so much so that it has bothered to trademark the term Modern Data Center™, spin, puff and fluff notwithstanding... somebody in marketing thought it was a good idea.

This week Veeam (pronounced: veeeeeeeem, not really, just kidding) has appeared at the Nutanix .NEXT conference in Miami to announce news of its Veeam Cloud Connect product now being extended to include advanced image-based VM (virtual machine) replication capabilities as a part of the new Veeam Availability Suite v9.

It's a teaser story - agh!

Disappointingly for users, the product won't be generally available until later in the year - but the company has promised not to seek further press coverage at its full point of release.

Interestingly for users, this kind of extended functionality is the type of technology that helps gives service providers the ability to provide cloud-based disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) -- this is achieved through the Veeam Cloud Connect Replication for Service Providers offering.

You mean you don't know what RTO means?

This is all about software tools designed to create replicas in the cloud.

Which, in turns leads us to protection for mission-critical applications.

Which, in turn leads us to better recovery time objectives (RTOs).

The company's technology proposition hinges around building a technology that securely bridges the Veeam customer to the service provider.

So, essentially, Veeam removes the requirement for customers to build and maintain a disaster recovery site for offsite protection, thereby theoretically offloading an amount of cost and complexity from their IT infrastructure.

Advanced image-based VM replication through Veeam Cloud Connect includes built-in multi-tenant support to securely share host or cluster CPU, RAM, storage and networking resource allocation between different tenants.

"It is critical to keep standby copies of data both on and off-site," said Ratmir Timashev, CEO of Veeam. "Veeam Cloud Connect not only enables our users to fulfill the offsite requirement without having to invest in offsite infrastructure or management, but also presents new opportunities for service providers to build recurring revenue from their existing customer base, expand their presence in the DRaaS market, and establish relationships with new customers."

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Nutanix .NEXT day zero: what is web-scale, anyway?

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Nutanix invites the great and the good to Miami this week for its .NEXT user, partner, customer (and all round cloud storage and cloud OS cognoscenti) conference.

How is the cloud growing now?

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Company CEO Dheeraj Pandey says that we should be considering 'hyperconverged' today as a notion of making storage consumption (and the wider notion of its infrastructure) invisible to the IT operation.

Invisible cloud storage is easier to consume, obviously - and this leads us towards what Nutanix is very keen to label as so-called 'web-scale' technology.

What is web-scale?

We need to be careful with this term, it's easily overused or wrongly presented.

Web-scale is NOT simple web-centric apps that can run on new cloud services - as in:

Developer dude #1: Hey man, I just built a new rate my hot dog app and it's cool enough to put it out over the wires.

Developer dude #1: Cool bananas, so you're really going to push this thing web-scale then.

WRONG - DO NOT PASS GO this is not web-scale...well, not as such.

Web-scale is a global-class of enterprise computing.

Web-scale is, architecturally, that level of computing infrastructure (with the Nutanix notion of invisible cloud storage intelligence) that you would expect a) a large scale cloud provider to offer or b) a large enterprise to offer capabilities in.

Web-scale is scale beyond size, web-scale is scale in terms of service flexibility and compute agility.

Web-scale is a mechanical base of compute, storage and transport interconnectivity where firms concentrate on their runtime intelligence, their process rules and data model.

Web-scale is mighty damn big yet pretty nimble - get it?

NOTE: The above definitions are presented by the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog and are inspired and derived from the technology proposition that Nutanix is today putting forward.

Gartner has released an article saying that by 2017, web-scale IT will be an architectural approach found operating in 50 percent of global enterprises.

Nutanix staff author Andre Leibovici has the below (italics) to say on the terminology.

Web-scale IT is more than just a buzzword, it is the way datacenters and software architectures are designed to incorporate multi-dimensional concepts such as scalability, consistency, tolerance, versioning etc.

Web-scale describes the tendency of modern architectures to grow at (far-) greater-than-linear rates. Systems that claim to be Web-scale are able to handle rapid growth efficiently and not have bottlenecks that require re-architecting at critical moments

Web-scale architecture and properties is not something new and have been systematically used by large web companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. The major difference is that now these same technology that allowed those companies to scale to massive compute environments are being introduced into mainstream enterprises, with purpose-built virtualization properties.

One final thought (although this story is really only just beginning) web-scale is not exclusively applicable to SDS (Software Defined Storage); rather it is an architecture model for very large distributed systems.

The (self-service) revolution will be analysed

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This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog written by Brian Gentile, senior VP & general manager for TIBCO Analytics.

The revolution cometh

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We're in the middle of a self-service revolution across all aspects of our lives, but... fortunately... those distinctly user-unfriendly self-service systems that pervade in our supermarkets are being countered by an altogether more positive type of self-service development.

Applied in the right sphere and powered by innovative technology, self-service techniques have quite simply come into their own and are now able to achieve significant business benefits while having a truly transformative impact on how we work.

BI plugs in, turns on

Independence, accessibility and greater productivity all conspire to achieve a far more efficient proposition and nowhere is this better evidenced than by the evolution of business intelligence (BI) in the workplace.

As information comes in thick and fast from multiple sources, so have the demands for an alternative to the stand-alone, costly and complex BI reporting and analytics tools of old.

Self-service analytics

In short, knowledge workers need a more agile and available approach and are increasingly doing it for themselves by embracing self-service analytics techniques.

Further, progress has snowballed by weaving and embedding a new breed of data analytics inside nearly any application, so they are seamlessly integrated into our daily business processes. Driven in part by the explosion of the cloud, embedded reporting and analytics have changed the way that business intelligence tools are accessed, all of which has made analytics cheaper, more accessible, and straightforward.

And, for the first time, we are seeing the benefits of having insightful data at everyone's fingertips, enhancing performance and informing key decisions with timely insight, which in turn can only create a more self-sufficient and informed workforce.

Democratized analytics

Business analytics traditionally managed by IT specialists at larger enterprises are now accessible to a far wider audience; for example, at smaller businesses, where cost and complexity would have previously proven to be prohibitive.

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Consequently, we are seeing a shift: analytic applications that were purely the responsibility of IT are increasingly shifting to business functions, which must take the lead to ensure their needs are best accommodated.

Crucially, the latest analytics software not only offers the mechanism, but the direction to steer users towards the most appropriate options. It's part of our ongoing commitment to build and maintain a broader analytics dialogue rather than simply providing the tools -- an approach that will drive much broader consumption, ultimately reaching everyone with the right amount of analytic insight to make an improved decision and drive a superior outcome.

Re-imagination

By entirely reimagining business analytics, we will enable anyone to have a personalised or tailored experience that is exactly fit for purpose. It's an exciting vision and when we discuss this directly with customers, it never fails to capture their excitement, as well.

Our approach reflects the fluidity of a less-structured flow of data coming through the cloud with a commitment to continually evolve and improve the platforms. From boosting the embedding of reporting to creating a more powerful and visual use of data, an ongoing priority is to ensure that the data is as meaningful as possible.

It's a commitment to delivering accelerated insight for everyone, not just a chosen few. It's also a quest to take analytics out of the tool and put them into the conversations that are had each day within an organisation. That will be one big step closer to an ideal analytic experience.

Your suggestions and comments are welcome here so this analytic conversation can continue.

About TIBCO Analytics

At the heart of the firm's vision are two primary platforms, Spotfire and Jaspersoft, both designed to address the analytic problems that our customers face and to give them the answers they need through the best analytic recommendations.







Invstr: Facebook-style stock market trading app

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Deutsche Bank executive Kerim Derhalli quit his job -- the next thing he did was launch invstr.

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Short on vowels, big on the markets?

This mobile application is designed to give 'novice traders' a chance to compare their market predictions with other stock market players and also share these thoughts on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

It's all about the 'the wisdom of the crowds', as they say.

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The idea is that users can use the app to learn the fundamentals of trading without risking any real money.

Although a free download, users can pay for extra functionality options.

According to the iTunes promo text, whether you are an aspiring investor or a financial professional, invstr brings you all the financial information you need in a fun and easy-to-use app.

Users can explore invstr as a guest or join the community to access crowd-sourced predictions, free and on demand live market data, high quality news and research reports etc.

invstr features a crowdsourced game that predicts the prices of individual stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities, enabling investors to weigh the strength of market convictions immediately when making real-world investment decisions.

"We created invstr to give even the most casual investors fast, mobile access to in-depth market data, news and analysis," said invstr CEO Kerim Derhalli, adding, "now we're expanding invstr into a true financial social network by streamlining the app, making it simple to take part in financial conversations."

This month a 'major' iOS app update also combines a new 'future' chart allowing users to compare their predictions to other users and the ability to 'analyse' detailed charts, news, calendar information and discussions for any financial instrument.

What to expect from Nutanix .NEXT 2015

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Nutanix is the 'web-scale converged infrastructure' company, or at least that's what the firm uses as its opening gambit.

The company now hosts its .NEXT user conference in the US -- the event runs from Monday June 8 in Miami, Florida... so what should we expect?

Firstly, .NEXT is truly a "user" conference insists the firm.

Most technical sessions feature experienced IT professionals from enterprises who will share what works (and what doesn't work) in their datacentres.

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What does Nutanix do?

The firm has developed a hyperconverged solution intended to simplify the creation of enterprise datacentre infrastructures by integrating server and storage resources into a turnkey platform.

As we have said before on the CWDN blog, basically this technology makes building clouds and datacentre resources a whole lot easier.

The industry momentum toward building web-scale datacenters has further validated our Nutanix vision, says the company.

According to Nutanix, now is the perfect time to bring together the community of passionate builders and shapers of this historic technology shift.

So what of the conference?

Founder and CEO Dheeraj Pandey insists that this event is designed for those of us who believe in melding web-scale engineering and consumer-grade design to build beautiful and scalable datacentres.

(Ed -- that's all of us, isn't it?)

"We promise an experience that will be nothing short of transformational. Prepare to learn, share, and unite in a common vision of building software-defined infrastructure that will be a joy to interact with and administer," said Pandey.

Hands on Labs

For the coders and engineers, the firm has provided hands on labs to learn about Nutanix capabilities users can implement in your environment.

nuExperience Lab

The company asks... are you passionate about consumer-grade management for enterprise IT? Let us show you the latest from our development labs, and provide feedback directly to our engineers. This is your chance to help shape the user experience for the next generation of datacentre infrastructure.

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Image caption: Fontainebleau Miami Beach, slightly upmarket from the local 'Econolodge' we think.

The event website is found here.

Cowboy 'wranglers' & (big) data preparation

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So let's get this straight from the start; you enjoy tracking the rise of big data and the analytics that we now impress upon it to derive new insights in everything from retail to the Internet of Things - but you're not familiar with the term data preparation?

It's a crying shame, but this piece of terminology does not get the kudos it deserves.

Data preparation is sometimes called data pre-processing, still no clues?

It is the manipulation and transformation of data, from its raw core, to into a form suitable for analysis and processing.

Closely connected to (and often found within) the field of data mining, data preparation happens because its processes CAN NOT be completely automated - hence, it's very existence.

"The key ingredient of data preparation platforms is their ability to provide self-service capabilities that allow knowledgeable users, who are not IT experts, to combine, transform and cleanse relevant data prior to analysis," said Philip Howard, research director for data management at Bloor Research.

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Howard explains that data preparation is provided by a field of vendors that includes veterans and relatively new start-ups - and that a company called Paxata has attained the 'champion' position today.

Pataxta itself offers a purpose-built Adaptive Data Preparation application and platform.

The four kinds of big data tools

1. Tools designed to be used by end users (such as dashboards).
2. Tools for data scientists and developers (such as big data analytics engines)
3. Tools for big data orchestration and management (such as those used by DBAs)
4. Tools for data 'wrangling' (such as data preparation tools)

NOTE: Wrangling here is meant in the cowboy horse-handling sense.

Paxata was developed from the ground up to be an enterprise-class data preparation tool set and is currently being used by over 45 on-premise and cloud customers with stringent data quality and security requirements.

For further clarification:

• Adaptive, self-service data preparation solutions simplify, automate and reduce the manual steps of getting the data into a useable form. This is accomplished without risking loss of control over who uses the data, for what analytics, and how users prepare it for their own consumption.

• Self-service data preparation toolsets enable analysts within the business to collaborate and dynamically govern the data integration, data quality and enrichment processes at scale from their Hadoop-based data lake store.

• Self-service data preparation solutions can also offer a data library, which is a secure environment where business analysts and IT can share data sets with the business, as well as become the one-stop shop for all completed and in-process data prep projects.

What to expect from the Asigra Cloud Backup Partner Summit 2015

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If you hadn't guessed it already, June is the last push in the annual tech calendar's conference season before the summer slowdown.

Among those hosting the 'party faithful' during the warmer months is Asigra, a name you will know if you have looked at the 'increasingly preferred' data protection option of cloud backup.

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Canadian, eh?

The company itself is headquartered in Toronto and so this year hosts its Asigra Cloud Backup Partner Summit 2015 in the city.

Today Asigra says that many firms have already made the move (or are carefully considering) moving "data protection" to a private, public, or hybrid cloud i.e. don't just think cloud for SaaS and platform...

... but consider cloud resources as your go-to backup route solution -- or, at least, that's the Asigra theory anyway.

Asigra's Cloud Backup architecture combines a cloud-optimised scale-out architecture, a cloud backup and recovery software platform and a cloud API and management system to manage, scale and deliver data protection services.

The firm's cloud backup technology is described as a 'end-to-end' solution with built-in mobility support -- Asigra insists that it meets security standards and aligns the value of data with the costs of protecting it.

Don't look down

There's a welcome reception with local Toronto craft brews at the CN Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world reaching 553.33 meters in height (that's 1,815.4 ft).

The firm anticipates 200+ cloud backup professionals (they're members of the Asigra partner ecosystem) to attend and share best practices and experiences ranging from go to market strategies, sales compensation plans, infrastructure best practices and onward to strategies for efficiently onboarding new customers.

The main message here will centre on new revenue generating business opportunities for Asigra partners; and what's next for Asigra Cloud Backup.

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In total it is a 2 ½ day event that includes three tracks, 36 sessions, 10 keynotes, 1 hands-on lab and an Asigra Genius Bar.

Asigra today claims to have more than 1,000,000 installations -- plus we should note that Asigra V13 was just released at the beginning of this year with support for MS Office 365, Docker Containers, VM Replication etc.

According to an official statement, this summit sets the stage for two days of networking with like minded innovative IT professionals who are looking for ways to generate more monthly recurring revenue, gain market share and edge out the competition.

Partner commitment, executed openly

"Asigra is so committed to the success of its partners that it offers them an opportunity to network with their peers, and get a first hand glimpse into product enhancements, the direction of the company, the product roadmap and what marketing and sales tools will be available to partners at no cost," said the firm.

Asigra partners are specialists in cloud backup and recovery who work with organisations to manage their entire backup needs, or partially manage depending on how the customer wants to work with.

Partners can protect data in the datacentre on physical or virtual servers, enterprise databases and applications; and beyond the datacentre on desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, in SaaS-based applications like Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce.com and in IaaS-based platforms like AWS or Microsoft Azure.

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CWDN opinion: This looks like an interesting event. It's not a behemoth vendor 5,000 attendee megaladon, it is a more focused partner centric event with workshops to analyse real world implementation issues. What is often most interesting about these kinds of summits is how the CEO presents himself or herself i.e. irrespective of company size and industry specialism, we can expect CEO David Farajun to talk in big terms.

Food: expect something out of the ordinary? Canadians love poutine, beaver tails, maple syrup and Tim Hortons... at least that's what we've been told!

There is zero conference registration fee.

Bitcoin developers, they're now a 'thing'

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As a piece of terminology, "bitcoin software application development" is not in many people's daily alerts -- as of now in 2015.

Bitcoin 'custodian' for the capital markets sector Elliptic (a so-called 'fintech' startup) thinks this situation may change and now plays a new card into the Bitcoin developer zone.

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The firm has partnered with API provider Gem to attempt to accentuate its multi-signature bitcoin wallets.

1 Bitcoin equals (27 May 2015) = 154.55 British Pound

The most important part of holding bitcoin currency is safeguarding the private keys (or passwords) to the account.

How bitcoin security works

A typical multi-signature wallet has three unique private keys, two of which must be submitted before a transaction is authorised.

In most situations the client is responsible for two of the keys and the wallet provider holds the third.

In the new partnership, Elliptic will act as a trusted and independent third party to provide insured storage of the third (backup) private key.

NOTE: Gem, Elliptic and the client will each hold one of the keys. If the client loses their private key, Gem and Elliptic will use their private keys to sweep funds into a new account.

Distributing private keys across two trusted parties, and the addition of Elliptic's insurance cover, provides clients with a higher level of security than can be achieved through a single multi-signature provider.

Winkelspecht speaks

"This is a leap forward for multi-signature technology. Now clients can know that even if they lose their private key, they can rely on two independent parties to secure their assets. Elliptic [works] in private key storage and our integration means that there is no single point of failure for Gem's multi-signature wallets," said CEO of Gem, Micah Winkelspecht.

Elliptic CEO Dr. James Smith says that his firm is focused is on bringing bitcoin to the enterprise by developing secure and convenient products and processes.

London-based Elliptic is a full-service bitcoin custodian for investment funds, banks and exchanges -- its offerings include compliance products, exchange integration services and fully insured bitcoin storage.







Keep your ergonomic device ideas, try an iBeani

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TechTarget defines ergonomics (from the Greek word ergon meaning work, and nomoi meaning natural laws) as the science of refining the design of products to optimise them for human use.

Human characteristics, such as height, weight and proportions are considered, as well as information about human hearing, sight, temperature preferences, and so on.

NOTE: Ergonomics is sometimes known as human factors engineering.

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Over and above this we talk about HCI (human-computer interaction) as the study of how people interact with computers and to what extent computers are or are not developed for successful interaction with human beings.

At a software level we also focus closely on HCI aspects devoted to input controls from mouse, to voice, to touch and now onwards to facial and body recognition technologies.

But all of this notwithstanding, nothing really beats a really clever piece of innovation that just works like a bean bag does it?

The iBeani is manufactured entirely in the UK.

There are 16 different variations of the iBeani with different materials and designs such as Harris Tweed tartan, faded blue cord, butterfly, techno black, denim and others to appeal to men, women and children.

Ashley Freer, director at consumer product and service specialists DeVancer Limited has said that the iBeani tablet stand bean-bag was created because it can be so awkward trying to hold with one hand and navigate or type with the other.

"Having looked at other tablet stands on the market it was clear that each one had their faults, so we decided to create our own. After a lot of research, head-scratching and prototypes, the iBeani tablet bean bag was created, providing a great solution for users of all ages," he said.

The iBeani bean-bag will fit any tablet device of any size - any way round.

Image: the iBeani family, clearly just very excited indeed to be here.

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CWDN opinion: Having personally used a pillow to 'prop' up my iPad mini in bed for the last few years I can honestly attest to the 'handiness' of the iBeani and say that it really honestly works. It's probably too bulky for any kind of desk based use, but on the sofa or coffee table and definitely in bed, this product is good. It also works well for long exposure time lapse photo taking from an iPad (for which there are many free apps) if that's your thing.

Salesforce kids learn code, teacher is 10-year old

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Salesforce melted a few hearts yesterday at its World Tour 2015 London event in the ExCel exhibition centre.

Developer zones are ALWAYS fabulously 'awesome', but this one takes some beating.

Kids around the age of 7-9 years were using the 'simple' Scratch drag-and-drop programming tool to create a 'Pong' style game.

But the best bit?

The enthusiastic little girls I spoke to at the back were loving the whole event and were being taught by a Harry Potter-esque looking 10-year old, who got to play teacher for the day.

Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is provided free of charge.

How hard can it be?

"It's not as easy at it looks and there is quite a lot of complexity involved in terms of understanding that if that ball hits the paddle then it had to be engineered to bounce back the other way. Kids are able to grasp the need to bring in the logic controls needed from the drag-and-drop menu and it is wonderful to see this happening," said Guillaume Roques, Salesforce head of developer relations for the EMEA region.


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Microsoft: goldfish beat humans, attention span now just 8 seconds

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Microsoft Corporation has 'suggested' that the human attention span is now just eight seconds long.

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This 'news' comes as a result of a survey of 2000 Canadians over the age of 18.

Are you still reading?

"We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Developers -- make your apps appealing within the 8-second window!

If there is any truth in these research report 'findings', then we humans now have an attention span less than that of a goldfish, which is thought be at around 9 seconds in your 'average goldfish'.

Blog ends, what did you expect?

F5 on working inside the 'dynamic cloud fabric', safely

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F5 Networks used its Agility 2015 conference in Edinburgh this week to launch a new 'cloud-delivered' managed service to defend against web application attacks.

The service also aims to "ensure compliance" across dynamic cloud and datacentre environments.

NOTE: F5 it's almost superfluous that F5 should use the term 'dynamic' there i.e. what cloud datacentre is NOT dynamic now? The firm's stance on application agility inside cloud environments with regard to its iRules product (keep reading down) is testament to this notion. Hence the saying, the cloud is a fabric, not a solid.

But back to the news, the Silverline Web Application Firewall service provides web application firewall (WAF) implementation and policy enforcement capabilities.

The service includes 24x7 support from F5 Security Operations Center (SOC) resources.

It is built on the company's BIG-IP Application Security Manager product and provides WAF services in both on-premises and subscription-based cloud offerings.

The company's WAF solutions incorporate cloud resources to protect apps and data from what F5 calls out as "increasingly sophisticated" security attacks, risks and vulnerabilities.

A lesson in web security history

Historically says F5, enforcing web application security and compliance policies across a variety of traditional and cloud environments has meant greater complexity, security gaps and higher costs.

As a result, a number of organisations choose to offload WAF administration and policy management, mitigating attacks that might otherwise lead to application downtime, revenue losses, and a damaged brand.

F5 insists that it is able to leverage its security efficacy to protect against advanced layer 7 attacks (such as those based on geolocation, DDoS, SQL injection, zero-day threats, AJAX applications, JSON payloads, OWASP Top Ten, and others) in this cloud-based service.

These WAF solutions offer automated, self-learning capabilities in a customizable framework that takes advantage of programmable iRules and iApps technologies to rapidly respond and adapt to evolving threats.

"With security needs outpacing the number of qualified WAF experts in the industry, many organisations find themselves under-protected. Silverline solutions expand F5's fabric-based Synthesis framework to include cloud-delivered services--giving customers the benefit of F5 experts proactively looking after WAF functionality. This approach effectively makes F5 the application security IT engineer for the customer, providing internal personnel the opportunity to focus on other priorities," said Mark Vondemkamp, VP of security and Silverline technologies, F5 Networks.

Consolidated security functions

With its integrated Silverline offerings, F5 provides a growing number of hybrid, on-premises, and cloud-delivered application security solutions, including focused solutions around WAF, DDoS Protection, IP Intelligence, and Secure Web Gateway Services.

Looking forward, F5 will offer additional services from its BIG-IP product portfolio through the Silverline platform, giving customers freedom and flexibility in how they combine owned, hosted, and managed IT resources.

In the context of broader infrastructures, customers will also be able to centralise policy control and orchestration capabilities through APIs and future integrations with F5 management solutions.

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Disclosure: F5 paid for Adrian Bridgwater's travel costs to attend its EMEA Agility 2015 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

What developers should expect from Salesforce World Tour London 2015

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Some companies make software.

Some companies would rather say that they offer a whole 'suite' of software -- and then again, some companies insist that they offer a whole 'platform' of apps and tools.

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Salesforce wants to go one better (Ed - obviously!) and says it offers an entire 'ecosystem'.

The Salesforce World Tour London is hosted in ExCeL next week to gives users the chance to "experience the Salesforce ecosystem" first hand, says the firm.

Benioff defers to his number #2 vice chairman & president Keith Block for the keynote duties here.

The event is free to register for, but attendees will have to get themselves to London's glittering ExCeL centre to indulge.

The programme itself features a full developer zone with plenty of Heroku and Visualforce content.

The firm describes the event as a chance for its product teams to convey the latest updates on the Salesforce1 platform and the various products built on top of it -- which include applications for:

  • sales,
  • marketing,
  • analytics,
  • services and,
  • community.

"Our customers will be on stage and at the breakout sessions, sharing their experiences using Salesforce while ISVs and SIs will be showcasing their apps/services built on top of our platform," said Guillaume Roques, Salesforce head of developer relations for the EMEA region.

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As mentioned, developers and admins will have a dedicated zone for them to learn the Salesforce 1 platform through talks and hands-on activities.

Code Consultations

"The Developer and Admin Zone features: two theatres filled with talks on a range of subjects (Lightning, Heroku, Force.com), given by experts from the Salesforce community. There are deep dive sessions on Lightning and Heroku by the product teams -- plus, we also offer 'Code Consultations' with our experts for developers to get some help with projects they're working on," said Roques.

He further enthuses that developers can get some hands on time with the firm's platform through what they call 'Quick Starts' and 'Mini Hacks'.

"We connect developers and admins to their local user groups. All the UK developer groups will be onsite with us in the DevZone on the day," said Roques.

Finally he says, Salesforce is running a Coder Dojo session with 30 children from East Bergholt Primary School during the afternoon, sponsored by Wind River.

CWDN opinion

The Computer Weekly Developer Network often runs preview tasters for shows that it will attend, but this is the first time a major vendor has specifically called out its developer track with some dedicated pre-show commentary from the relevant developer lead -- so all credit to Salesforce for a) having the tracks and sessions available in the first place and b) doing the (PR) math(s) and getting this info to us.

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