IBM's data (architecture) developer gets new tools

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IBM makes a direct play for the "data developer" (or perhaps "data architecture developer") this month at its Insight 2014 conference.

Not quite a formalised term as such, IBM has previously talked about the "developer DBA", who is obviously a close relative if not in fact the same person.

The company is aiming to serve this new worker (by whatever name) with a new generation of data services on the IBM Cloud.

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NOTE: Analytics pays back $13.01 for every dollar spent - 1.2 times more than it did three years ago (Nucleus Research) -- yet, other studies show that data cleaning and preparation takes approximately 80 percent of the total data engineering effort (Taylor & Francis Group).

This above pain point, is what IBM is setting out to tackle.

The new cloud-based services promise options to :

• Simplify and automate the ability to find, refine and prepare data
• Warehouse data in the cloud, making it "instantly" available for analytics
• Curate unstructured data services to increase the confidence in analytics
• Enhance mobile and web applications with embedded analytics

"All the data in the world is useless if you can't put it to work. The new cloud-born services from IBM provide data professionals the ability to deliver data with speed and confidence as the fuel for applications and analytics," said Beth Smith, general manager, Big Data, IBM.

"The ability to source and manage the right data will help keep data management streamlined, while adhering to increasingly stringent regulatory demands, and produce results and analysis of real value."

The new services introduced by IBM claim to be able to provide capabilities to help shift from working on the data to putting data to work for their business.

IBM DataWorks is a set of cloud-based data refinery services that shape, cleanse, match and secure data. The new services enable business users to find, use and contribute data for analysis; application developers to embed data services into new applications; and IT and data professionals to enable self-service data access and instill confidence to act on the data.

IBM dashDB is a cloud-based data warehousing and analytics service with in-memory technology built-in. dashDB keeps infrastructure concerns out of the way of critical and time sensitive analytics. A new integration of dashDB with Cloudant, IBM's NoSQL database as a service (DBaaS), allows Cloudant clients to embed analytics in their applications.

IBM Cloudant - IBM is extending its portfolio with Cloudant Local, an on-premise edition of the fully managed cloud database-as-a-service that enables a fluid hybrid cloud data layer that spans private data centers, mobile devices and third-party cloud providers. This ensures customers can easily reconfigure their cloud data platforms over time to optimise the cost, security, reach and performance.

Mini case study

The power of these capabilities could enable, for example, a ride sharing service company to improve their customers' experience by ensuring their drivers are in the right place at the right time. The company can take taxi trip information, captured in a mobile application running on Cloudant, directly into dashDB, and then use DataWorks to refine and load additional weather and traffic data to provide more insight. With dashDB, Cloudant and DataWorks working together, new insights can be leveraged to improve customer experience and grow revenue.

Watson Curator

IBM also introduced Watson Curator, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering that increases confidence in the delivery of quality content collections and governance for IBM Watson Solutions.

For example, an individual insurance risk analyst can quickly review and add context to documents so that many underwriters across the enterprise can get higher quality responses on risk assessments from Watson Engagement Advisor. IBM Watson Curator actively guides subject matter experts -- in this case the risk expert -- through the entire curation process in order to minimise the time and effort required.

Analytical Insight my dear (IBM) Watson

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IBM is reaching out to so-called "data developers" with analytics tools across what is now an increasingly broad portfolio of products - the firm has detailed its news at the Insight 2014 conference.

IBM's cadre of products in this field now include:

• Cognos Business Intelligence,
• SPSS predictive analytics and, of course...
• IBM Watson Analytics.

To be fair, IBM is also reaching out to partners, customers and users at every level with these technologies.

The democratisation banner for all users

Firms today like to release products under what they call a democratisation banner - this simply means that they to see their products used by ALL TYPES OF USERS.

"Developers (and individuals) will have the ability to incorporate data-driven decision making into every business decision," says IBM.

If the programmers (and the users) get these technologies working properly, then (in theory) businesses will be able to use the insights gained from cloud-based analytics solutions to:

• implement new services,
• drive corporate performance,
• and manage governance, risk and compliance.

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Alistair Rennie, general manager for business analytics at IBM says that his firm has also announced five so-called "solution accelerators" for data professionals:

Customer Insight - to support sales, marketing and service.
Operations Insight - info on the condition and performance of assets to optimise operations and provide predictive maintenance and drive process efficiencies.
Security and Fraud Insight - for "situational awareness" to enable faster response and early warning of potential anomalies.
Risk and Compliance Insight - to better manage financial risk, operational risk and compliance.
Data Warehouse Modernization Projects - for quicker access to information generated across the enterprise.

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The program will provide clients access to pre-integrated software solutions and industry and technology-specific services expertise that is designed to enable businesses across a range of industries to incorporate five different types of data-driven insights to improve business performance.

IBM Cognos Business Intelligence on Cloud is currently in beta and is planned to be available in the first quarter of 2015. IBM SPSS Modeler is planned to be available via IBM's Cloud marketplace within 30 days.


IBM (superhero) intelligence cybercrime analytics

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IBM has announced new high-speed analysis and criminal investigation software.

The product is designed to uncover hidden criminal threats buried deep inside massive volumes of disparate corporate data.

Non-obvious relationships, it's complicated

IBM i2 Enterprise Insight Analysis (EIA) is said to be able to find "non-obvious relationships" masked within hundreds of terabytes of data and trillions of objects.

The firm's challenge to data developers (an increasingly prevalent term overheard at the Impact 2014 conference) is that they should now be able to fuse together multiple data sources and gain visibility into threats.

Hidden covert operations, for months at a time

Citing research from the US Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), IBM says that cybercriminals have the ability to hide their covert activity for months after an attack.

The company insists that i2 Enterprise Insight Analysis (EIA) analyses huge amounts of disparate data to discover weak-signal relationships that reveal the true nature and source of an attack.

"The solution unravels these hidden connections that can be divided by as many as six degrees of separation between disparate sources - from corporate records and social media chatter to data accessed by remote sensors and third-party applications. As developments unfold, EIA provides always-on recommendations that proactively alert analysts to new related abnormalities at the speed of attack," said the company.

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Maria Vello, president and CEO of The National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance (NCFTA) says that threat analysts and investigators need the ability to look at every possible data set and relationship - no matter how distant or unrelated they may seem - and be able to make key associations and correlations in seconds.

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According to Bob Griffin, general manager, i2, Threat and Counter Fraud, IBM, "With IBM i2 Enterprise Insight Analysis, we've changed the ability of investigators to find that illusive needle in a haystack that helps them detect a cyber attack. This provides any organization with always-on analytics that turns massive amounts of data into real-time insights in a way that simply wasn't possible before."

What to expect from IBM Insight 2014

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The first rule of technical conferences is: conferences start before the conference.

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Generally on social media and also in terms of events often now labelled as "day zero" gatherings, we know that events start before they start.

IBM's big blue data

What was once called IBM Information on Demand (IoD) is now called IBM Insight.

Insight works better right -- after all, let's consider the accepted flow of information today...

i. internet of things & wearables & sensors
ii. big data
iii. analytics
iv. IBM Watson
v. insight

Somehow replacing point v. with Information on Demand doesn't work anymore.

Surely it could have been called IBM Analytics -- but that makes a better hashtag so there you go:

#IBMInsight
#WatsonAnalytics

The conference is will bring together more than 13,000 attendees, 300 customer and business partner speakers and many IBM executives and what IBM likes to call "distinguished engineers" (and they actually always are) to discuss big data and analytics.

During the show, IBM will unveil new products and services while highlighting new client success stories. IBM executives will also provide attendees with the skills (and... wait for it...) the "insight" and resources necessary to understand how to effectively tackle big data for competitive advantage.

So onward to the sessions...

How to make real-time decision making real -- may be the biggest challenge for any organisation seeking to obtain the greatest value and insight to improve business performance from volumes of data at its disposal says IBM.

IBM promises to discuss the relevance and role of analytics across different lines of business.

"Supported by IBM client examples, we'll show how business leaders are capitalising on big data and analytics to transform their industries, and changing their customer's experience," says the firm.

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Speaker microphones and clips are pre-baked & ready to go/eat

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The stage is set: but will IBM offer up spin or substance?

How to build a community application platform

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Social reality number #1: companies today need individual employees to be ambassadors of the firm's brand.

Social reality number #2: the job title 'head of community' is now very real.

Social reality number #3: the IT industry is selling software to build professionally branded and 'gamified' communities.

Why the reality check?

Because Jive Software has announced the fall (they're American, they just mean November) cloud release of its JiveX external community platform.

The software is an 'external community application platform' designed to be used for building partner and customer engagement communities.

JiveX works to give community managers (and participant users) ROI-focused analytics and so-called "brand affinity" with interactions across both mobile and web.

"In the digitally connected world, an engaging community for customers and partners is a business imperative. However, in order to unlock the true potential of these communities, brands need to deliver user experiences that create meaningful engagements and interactions with their audiences," said Clara Liang, chief product officer, Jive Software.

"Our latest update to the JiveX platform provides companies with even more ways to put their users first, enabling brands to better encourage and increase participation and discussions within the community," she added.

By showcasing 'top and relevant' activities, users can scan for the most important posts, questions, announcements and discussions.

New role badges provide a visual cue of a user's role (such as community administrators, moderators, experts and champions) so members can easily associate what someone is saying to their role in the community.

With new 'Most Helpful' ratings, users can effectively identify the most helpful replies to questions with a yes or no vote to guide other community members more quickly to which content was the best and most helpful.

With new ROI analytics, community managers can access new reports providing quantitative data enabling them to demonstrate the value of their community.

Community managers can now take advantage of new simplified management capabilities to customize their community's mobile browsers to deliver the best browsing experience possible while providing the same flexible layouts equivalent to the desktop experience.

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Social reality number #4: a real company being social

"At Sidecar, our community is arguably one of the most important elements of our business - providing a shared voice among our corporate offices, network of drivers and our valued customers especially on mobile devices," said Maria Ogneva, head of community, Sidecar.

Sidecar is marketplace for people to give (and get) rides from their mobile phone

Ogneva says that she uses this software to 'encourage and empower' each individual employee to be ambassadors of the firm's brand.

Social reality number #5: Jive CEO Tony Zingale is nothing if not social.

Social reality number #6: Social systems are now part of the CIO/CTO roadmap.

Sean Dahlberg, community manager at Spiceworks insists that his opinion here is relevant as he represents an IT community with six million users where brands such as Dell, Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dropbox Box and 3,000+ others connect with their customers and prospects.

"Professionals in all industries are using specialised communities to connect and engage with each other whether the brands trying to sell to them are actively participating in those conversations or not," said Dahlberg.

"We see it every day in the Spiceworks. Brands have an enormous opportunity to join the conversation in an open, honest way on their customers' turf. Doing so can help humanise the brand and create a one-to-many discussion on topics both parties care about," he added.

Social reality number #7: The anti-social company is dead, eventually.

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JiveWorld 14: notes from day zero summit

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Jive Software kicked off its JiveWorld 14 event this October with an informal 'day zero' style executive summit.

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Initial sessions focused on using communication and collaboration solutions like Jive to span the communications challenges arising between baby boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y & the so-called millennials generation.

Defining success culture

A later panel featured Mark Boncheck, founder (and his PR people say also 'chief catalyst') at social business strategy company thinkORBIT, a firm with capital letters in its name that are not an acronym.

Boncheck was joined by Jeff Hayzlett from Bloomberg TV's C-Suite and also the very magically named Azure Antoinette who lists herself as a commissioned poet and author as well as being a millennial advocate.

Snappy one liners

"As soon as something becomes a hashtag it becomes a t-shirt," said Antoinette.

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The poet was explaining how different the world is for millennials who she says use truncated syllables, acronyms, bad spelling and, basically, all the things that the core theories of business management would not advise.

Boncheck argued that this is no open and shut case, he was one of the 'first thousand' people to sign up for Twitter, but he is definitely outside of the millennials age bracket.

"Millennial is not a generation, it is a mindset," said Boncheck.

Jive worktypes

Unsurprisingly, the line from Jive here is that when you create a community around a common purpose, all the generational differences start to blend into the background.

Jive has hosted its own free to use worktype finder for users to assess themselves as classify themselves into one of the following groups

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  • As a COACH, you are adept at growing relationships.
  • As a CONNECTOR, you are a matchmaker, bridge and catalyst.
  • As an ENERGISER, you bring excitement and enthusiasm.
  • As an EXPERT, you create the systems and structures to make things flourish.
  • As an EXPLORER, you are the creative spark and wellspring of ideas.
  • As an OPTIMISER, you organise and coordinate the activities of others.
  • As a PLANNER, you like to create the processes that establish and streamline.
  • As a PRODUCER, you take great pride in bringing vision into reality.

In the wider conference

In addition to notes above, this event offered more than sixty breakout sessions and hands-on training workshops about topics such as advanced community management, customer and partner communities and internal collaboration.

New this year is JiveWorld14's Developer Conference will include an open hackathon.

JiveWorld 14: one language for baby boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y & millennials

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Jive Software kicked off its JiveWorld 14 event this October with an informal 'day zero' style executive summit hosted by the firm's sharply dressed man CEO Tony Zingale.

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Jive is a company that specialises in modern communication and collaboration solutions for business - it produces an enterprise platform level product set with a core piece of technology simply known as Jive, plus also the JiveX external community application and Producteev, a social task management app for teams.

A 'fireside chat' (two execs playing talking heads) between two representatives from PwC Digital Services Consulting Group focused on the issue of employing and working with the new stream of so-called 'millennials' i.e. the demographic cohort used to denote those born from somewhere around the decade before year 2000 and onwards.

Spanning the generation gap

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PwC Margaret Burke talked about the problems associated with getting 'baby boomers', plus also Generations Y and X all being able to talk to the millennials out there today.

Saying that "when you are born makes a difference", Burke said that her firm is using Jive technology to help span the generation gap and allow her firm to instill values such as corporate responsibility across the employee base.

If younger users refuse to use email as a primary communications stream (and they do) then a firm needs to look at other ways to connect across the age gaps that exist.

Why the why factor matters

"We know that we need to be honest with people [so transparency is really important], but it's not just about the what, it's also about the why factor. We looked at our compensation scheme and realised that we didn't give employees a proper contextual explanation of why pay sits at a certain level and why (or not) bonus payments might have been made to certain individuals," said Burke.

If you can't explain the why factor behind a certain piece of communication then you fail says Burke.

Flexibility matters too

As well as the need to be transparent and be able to engage with employees at any level - firms need to be flexible.

The work life balance has a significant impact upon the way firms will experience employees turnover and satisfaction today, so (argued the speakers) firms will need the tools to be able to give workers the option to be able to work from anywhere.

PwC says it is transforming its workforce to meet the needs of millennials and (no surprise) the firm is a Jive customer - but this session was not overly peppered with product selling, so that part is assumed.

Image (top) credit: http://www.pwc.co.uk/

What to expect from JiveWorld #jw14 2014

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JiveWorld 2014 kicks off next week, so what should attendees (and watchers from afar) expect?

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As those hip to the groove with Jive's beat will know, the company is a collaborations and communications solutions specialist.

Jive itself is the eponymously named social collaboration software - this is not just messaging and chat, this is software that is supposed to "drive strategic alignment and employee productivity" (as they say in marketing-land).

JiveX (note a 'superscript' x please) is an out-of-the-box external community application to connect collaborate with customers and partners that is supposed to go beyond Q&A forum software.

Producteev (PRON: proh-duck-teev) is the firm's social task management app for teams -- and it's completely free.

The firm's annual customer, partner, employee, social business strategist, technical user and software application developer symposium is held next week in Las Vegas.

Workstyles, that's just one word now

JiveWorld14 will teach us all about what "collaborative workstyles" means in the 21st Century -- an age when the term work styles is now one word i.e. workstyles.

The event will feature TED speakers Adam Sadowky and Azure Antoinette and executives from FICO, Schneider Electric and Mylan .

Azure Antoinette will use performance poetry to explore the way people's individual workstyles are reshaping business and humanity overall.

They're zany, they're socially mind-bendingly bonkers

TED speaker Adam Sadowsky who is founder of Syyn Labs, will take the stage along with his team of "mad scientists" to share how they collaborate and mix up their creative ideas into mind-bending machines.

"Jive [helps] employees' insights, ideas and impact - and we're excited to bring so many of them together in one place to not only celebrate and share their success, but get inspired by some of today's most creative and collaborative minds," said Elisa Steele, executive vice president of marketing and products, Jive.

Preferred workstyles for preferential perfection

Steele will be aim to showcase how today's businesses can identify the "preferred workstyles" of their employees,

Also at the show, Todd Moran, director of social enterprise at Schneider Electric, a global energy management specialist and last year's winner of Jive's "New Way to Business" award, will share how Schneider is building momentum to organically modify the company's workstyle one business group at a time.

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... and for developers

The accompanying JiveWorld14 - Developer Conference features a keynote by Matthew McCullough @ GitHub.

Matthew is a 15-year veteran of enterprise software development, open source education, and co-founder of Ambient Ideas, LLC, a Denver consultancy.

He is currently is VP of Training at GitHub.com, author of the Git Master Class series for O'Reilly, speaker at over 30 national and international conferences, author of three of the top 10 DZone RefCards, and President of the Denver Open Source Users Group.

The developer track features Jive engineers presenting on each integration disciplines including:

• Tiles, Streams & Templates
• Jive Apps
• Analytics
• Cartridges
• External Storage
• Mobile SDK (iOS + Android)
• Producteev
• & more ...

Oh ... and there's OK GO to.

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Salesforce.com partner FirstRain gets personal with analytics

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Silicon Valley data specialist FirstRain is at Dreamforce 2014 to put what it calls personal business analytics power into the new predictive data offerings from Salesforce.com.

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Joining the Salesforce Analytics Cloud ecosystem now, FirstRain brings its branded to the central Salesforce Analytics Cloud to produce a tool that explores structured data that has been enriched with personalised company-specific analytics drawn from the unstructured web and social media.

Users direct this software to find and highlight hard-to-find changes in their business performance and determine what action to take.

"We're excited to see the productivity gains the combination of Salesforce Analytics Cloud with FirstRain's personal business analytics will give our mutual customers," said Penny Herscher, FirstRain president and CEO.

Salesforce hopes its customers will use the firm's new Wave self-service analytics technology on structured customer and market data. Then, from that point, combine it with FirstRain analytics from the wider world of unstructured data.

This will allow users to explore risks and opportunities says the firm. For example, sales management can explore which deals are being delayed in a current quarter, use FirstRain to show the reasons why and then predict which future deals are being impacted by the same risks.

"FirstRain uses deep data science, unstructured text analytics on the web and social media with sophisticated personalisation to create the deep personal understanding of the customer's business that is critical to every business professional today," said Herscher.

FirstRain says it is broadly used by externally-facing teams i) to provide sales units with customer understanding for enterprise sales methodologies ii) to equip global executive teams with real-time analysis of their top customers or iii) to help strategic marketing teams analyse the dynamics of vertical markets and competitors.

FirstRain works across manufacturing, telecommunications, healthcare and financial services to combine structured and unstructured analytics into insights to drive fact-based decisions.

Progress: the 'application ice age' ends in 2015

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With just a hint of PR spin, Progress Software has attempted to coin the 'end of the application ice age' as a period we are about to experience in 2015 given the coalescing forces coming together in next-generation cloud environments.

Technology has reached a tipping point says Progress (Ed - isn't it always?).

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The firm has been understandably overexcited given it is hosting its 'Exchange' annual user, customer and partner event in Orlando this week.

The trends defining the start of a new era for application development are:

1. Citizen Developers

Citizen developers (or the BYOA generation) are technically adept business users that understand the business and have enough technical experience to build apps or to effectively participate in the development process.

IT will start responding to this trend and leading organizations will help promote this concept by enabling citizen developers to be more self-sufficient in building complex business applications without exacerbating shadow IT.

2. The Internet of Things Bridge

Organisations will start to deliver on the hype of IoT across a wide array of industries. Initial steps will be taken to assimilate IoT processing into internal and customer facing applications, including increased use of IoT friendly languages like Node.js.

3. Developers Get a 1-2 Punch with Low-code + Agile

While organisations strive to build smooth enterprise architecture concepts -- silos often exist between different development efforts.Moving forward, organisations will react to the diversity of applications and their mix of developer skill sets by using a combination of development approaches that include both low-code (high-productivity) and agile (high-control).

NOTE: This will allow different skillsets to be applied in an effective and collaborative fashion without the constraints of a one platform approach.

4. Node.js Will Supercharge JavaScript Adoption

JavaScript's rapid growth will continue and will be buoyed by the success of Node.js on the server side, along with the power of MongoDB. Another key driver will be the adoption of PaaS solutions that allow Node.js developers to focus on developing applications instead of worrying about the deployment, scaling, management and monitoring of Node.js and MongoDB applications.

"This will parallel the rise of DevOps as it automates key processes and enables small development projects to take off while also providing the infrastructure for large, mission-critical applications. One of the major indicators of this trend will be the release of Node.js 1.0."

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5. The Enterprise will Start Drinking from "Data Ponds."

Issues with disparate data sources should be solved by now. 2015 will bring the next step in the evolution of data usage. As an increasing number of data streams feed the so-called "data ponds," the enterprise will take their newfound ability to integrate these data sources and start building business applications that transform the data into actionable insight. This will not only increase the value of that data but it will also incentivise businesses to ensure all of their business critical data is integrated and flowing into the same pond.

6. The Transaction Superhighway

Tech Savvy Consumers Will Begin to Travel in the Retail HOV (high occupancy vehicle) Lane.

According to a Progress Software press statement, "2015 will be the year that tech savvy consumers say goodbye to standing in long lines. The proliferation of online ordering and in-store pickup will continue but the trend will become more widespread as the user experience becomes more streamlined and reliable."

Retailers will also start exploring the crossroads of the Internet of Things and predictive analytics to enable "predictive selling." For example, the connected home will enable certain retailers to break down even more additional road blocks and offer consumers products they may have not realized they needed, such as milk or water filters. With an alert to the consumers phone followed by home delievery, the only action needed from the consumer was to open the alert and press buy.







What to expect from Progress Exchange 2014

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Every vendor, user group, Special Interest Group (SIG) and technical community seems to have a conference/symposium/convention (delete as applicable) these days doesn't it?

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Time then for Progress Exchange 2014, this year's annual gathering from the application platform-as-a-service (aPaaS) company that talks about data connectivity at the heart of where it sees the vision of its technology proposition.

Version 2 of the firm's application development platform Pacific arrived last year and the firm will use this year's event to explain how to navigate its model-driven, point-and-click interface that promises to let users build apps without much coding -- or no coding at all in fact.

Pacific generates user interfaces automatically, so users can focus on the application and it combines app development with data integration.

All data sources combined, nice

From one interface, connect to all the data sources available, no matter where they reside, in the cloud or on-premise says Progress.

"Simply add new data sources without rewriting code. It's really that easy," says the sales blurb.

Progress will also focus on OpenEdge.

This is the company's scalable open platform for building dynamic multi-language applications that is compatible with any database, user interface and operating system.

Not afraid of meaty claims with weighty stats, the firm claims that -- OpenEdge is 40% more productive and provides a 30% cost savings versus the competition whether you deploy on-premise, to mobile devices, or in the cloud.

What happens in Orlando, get's shared outside Orlando

Progress Exchange 2014 workshops are instructor-led, hands-on and there are BYOD sessions designed to introduce technical users to the latest Progress technologies through real-world exercises.

Examples of sessions include:

  • Advanced Business Applications for the Cloud
  • Agility through Business Rules Management
  • OpenEdge Progress Developer Studio Business Applications for a Mobile World
  • OpenEdge Advanced Development
  • Rapid Application Development for the Cloud

Progress insists it has brought together tools, tips and (ah-hem) so-termed 'visionary ideas' to explore every stage of the application lifecycle.

Every stage of the app lifecycle?

That would mean from building to managing, from integrating data to defining rules, to using it to drive business.

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According to a day zero pre-event show blog, "Each year, the Showcase@Exchange features event sponsors and Progress partners and customers who have built applications using Progress technologies. This year, we're doing something even cooler, we're featuring an Innovator Row where some of the coolest apps built on Progress technology will be on display for everyone to see and learn about. On this year's Innovator Row you'll find companies including DataPA, Franchise Technologies, GMT Europe BV, Infor, Jungle Lasers, Ypsilon who will be sporting point of sale systems for major food/beverage retailers, apps designed for the Internet of Things (IoT) and more."

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The secret underworld of games cheats, detectives & aimbots

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The Computer Weekly Developer Network this weekend features a guest post from Paco Hope at software security firm Cigital on the subject of the specific types of hacks suffered by online gaming sites -- and what games developers need to do to make their software more resilient to attacks.

TECHNICAL NOTE: Common attacks include aimbots, triggerbots, radar hacks and texture hacks that are specific to this industry segment.

The worldwide video game market is a multi-billion dollar market, generating an estimated £58 billion of revenue in 2013 -- however, only about 20% of released games generate any profit and cheating is one reason for this. Games that don't do enough to protect players from "cheating" risk alienating and restricting their potential pool of players.

Security in gaming helps protect the integrity of the gaming experience and the revenue that comes with it.

Hope speaks...

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This is a subject close to the heart of myself and my colleague, technical manager, Amit Sethi so we've shared our views on what it looks like to do the right amount of security in gaming.

Regardless of the business model - from single/multi-player packaged games to multiplayer online and freemium games - most are built in some form of client/server architecture.

It's a fair game

A perfectly fair game would make all decisions centrally at the server, never trusting the client at all (since a cheating player can change how his or her local system works). In reality, however, such a naïve design cannot be implemented in a practical way.

Games need to provide immediate feedback to user inputs. There isn't enough time for the server to receive the inputs ("fire!"), make decisions ("did I hit?"), and respond to the player quickly enough ("you missed"). Instead, game servers trust game clients to handle many parts of the game experience that players shouldn't see.

Moreover, game servers often trust game clients to adjudicate outcomes.

This is called a "client-side trust" problem. Unfortunately, given the high latency and low bandwidth of many players' network connections, this will be part of games' designs for many years.

How do people exploit these trust issues?

Attacks range from simple "lag switches" to complex hardware and software attacks.

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Image credit: GeekNative

A "lag switch" adds artificial slowness to a user's network connection, which can delay other players' actions in the user's game client, giving the user an unfair advantage. People use cheating programs that modify game clients and data files on disk and in memory. They intercept and modify messages between their game client and the game server. They modify their operating systems and device drivers. They even modify hardware; for example, to repeatedly send an input ("fire!") faster than a player ever could.

Perfect aim, but you're going to hell for this

The ultimate goal of many hacks is to gain an unfair advantage. For example, an "aimbot" ensures that a weapon always aims perfectly; a cheater can use "texture hacks" to make walls invisible and enemies brightly coloured.

This ain't a scene, it's an arms race

Defending against these attacks is complex, and ultimately is in effect something of an "arms race" in the real world.

Cheaters develop attacks; game developers develop corresponding responses. Game developers often defend the integrity of the client's execution by adding surveillance technology outside the game.

These modules don't contribute to the game play, but rather monitor the other programs on a user's PC or device, looking for processes that the developer believes threaten the game's integrity.

Surveillance programs can create privacy concerns among users, who may not want to send a steady stream of information about their PC and their actions back to the game's developer. This surveillance approach also represents an after-the-fact approach to securing a game.

Security that is built into a game is more effective.

Since we need to provide real-time feedback to players, we cannot rely on traditional preventative security controls. Detective controls, that rely on server-side statistical analysis, offer a valuable compromise, helping to identify some cheaters. Players with nearly perfect aim or movement in unusual patterns are candidates for extra scrutiny.

Game operators can act on that information centrally by, for example, banning players.

Rich statistic gathering is just one example of a security control that cannot be added to a game easily after the game is launched. Security needs to be built into games early to ensure that a small number of users do not ruin other players' gameplay experience and steer a title towards that 80% of unprofitable games.

About the author

Paco Hope is a principal consultant with Cigital, Inc. and has 12 years of experience in the security of gaming systems (lottery systems, online gaming, casino gaming devices), web applications, operating systems, and embedded devices (e.g., mobile phones, smart cards).

Can we hack our way out of a doomed Dark Web future?

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Software application developers tasked with shoring up the buttresses of our national and corporate defences may have been disheartened by recent reports forecasting nothing but future doom for data security.

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The Gartner risk and security summit in London last month featured a range of speakers all warning of impending threats, increasing instances of malware and future vulnerabilities.

Hey, no surprise, these people were selling security technology, what do you expect?

One spokesperson at the Gartner summit explained how he used a dedicated machine with a "clean image" to access his Internet banking services from his home insisting that that was the only safe way to do it.

Then we hear news that the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) warning that the Internet itself will never be fully secure.

Arati Prabhakar of DARPA spoke at the Washington Post Cybersecurity Summit suggesting that we need to seal the web off and only make it available to selected individuals if we want to be able to use it safely.

It really is a doomed data future then.

Prabhakar argued that securing the internet is impossible and said that DARPA is focused on the so-called Dark Web.

The Dark Web?

Also called the Deep Web, Deepnet, the Invisible Web and the Hidden Web, the Dark Web is a term that we are starting to use to describe that layer of the Internet (thought to harbour a good proportion of malicious and criminal activity) which is not indexed by standard search engines which operate only at the Surface Web layer.

So there's no future for us then?

Cloud-based risk management systems company Contego recently featured an interview with Michael Hagen, CEO of ID Checker to look at his views on the future of data breaches.

Hagen asserts that the fact of the matter is, attackers will always find their way into systems that offer a high enough reward - they will devote the resources to make it happen.

Hagen says the public is aware of data breaches, yet at the moment there is little they can do to prevent them.

"Merchants ask their customers for all sorts of data and store it behind their own firewalls. They often think: the more data we have on our customers, the more value we create. This might be true on one hand, however on the other, they become valuable targets for fraudsters and hackers," he said.

Contego for its part says it works closely with a variety of trusted data providers including law enforcement and credit reference agencies.

The company's systems include information sharing from multiple sources to help clients to see the bigger picture.

"By incorporating shared intelligence from multiple sources, including trade association alerts, Contego helps clients to benefit from best-of-breed protection against fraudulent applicants and is able to clearly demonstrate commitment to the highest standards of integrity, compliance and professionalism across its business," said the company, in a press statement.

We have a long way to go if we're going to hack our way out of the Dark Web and its encroaching threats, below are some of the key operational tactics offered by Contego as a means of combating security threats:

• Enhanced due diligence checks on individuals and companies
• Verification and secure storage of ID documents
• Reduced risk of compliance failures, fraud and reputation damage
• Improved speed and effectiveness of customer on-boarding processes
• Secure cloud-based storage of data to support audits and investigations
• Screening for high-risk companies, developed with input from UK Trading Standards
• Checks for high-risk keywords and screens against BCA alerts

What to expect from #Interop New York 2014

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Interop is an annual information technology exhibition and trade fair that takes place in five locations around the world, this month's event is in New York.

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Interop is a show that (unsurprisingly perhaps) promotes the core virtues of interoperability, interchangeability and openness.

The conference and exhibition also sets out to champion:

  • networks,
  • mobile and mobility,
  • the Internet of Things,
  • cloud and Software Defined Networks (SDNs),
  • other levels of virtualisation,
  • security,
  • social computing and so on.

The Computer Weekly Developer Network spoke to a 'glutch' (Ed - that's the collective noun for a gathering of vendor spokespeople right?) of commentators in advance of the event to try and get a feel for what to expect from the show.

NCP: a new connected future awaits

Elizabeth Flammini, director of marketing at NCP engineering says that the Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hot topic.

"As enterprises are starting to think about the business opportunities that connected devices present, as well as the associated security concerns. Secure managed services based on virtualization / cloud hosting will also be discussed quite heavily, due to enterprises looking for more cost-effective ways to manage and secure their business."

NCP engineering delivers software that allows enterprises to "rethink their remote access" and overcome the complexities of creating, managing and maintaining secure network access for staff.

According to the company's website, NCP's product line spans the spectrum of remote access, from IPsec / SSL VPNs to endpoint firewalls and network access control (NAC) functions.

The company's products support organisations with complex remote user needs and that want to leverage the latest end-devices to increase staff productivity, reduce network administration and adapt policy changes on-the-fly.

SDNs are coming

Fiber Mountain's CEO, M.H. Raza (doesn't like to tell you his first name) said that with continuing device, data and network sprawl he expects to see and hear quite a bit about the proliferation of the hyperscale datacentre and Software Defined Networking.

"We are reaching the limits of sustainability under current network architectures, and I expect that a number of companies will be discussing or demonstrating ways to address the challenges associated with the ever-expanding datacentre," said Raza.

Network monitoring needs love

Network monitoring and security tools company Apcon's president and CEO Richard Rauch spoke on the data security focus he's expecting to see at Interop.

"With almost daily news of data breaches at some of the world's largest companies, conversations among Interop attendees -- especially those participating in the Risk Management & Security conference track -- will likely centre on the evolving requirement for better network visibility and security. Businesses are learning that network monitoring is a process, and 100 percent data center visibility is essential for confronting the major security challenges of today."

She's a tough on Twitter, but has a soft ITSM centre

Sophie Danby, SysAid's VP of marketing was extremely vocal and said that Interop means a a heavy focus on networks and security -- and many of the common challenges currently faced by IT departments such as mobile, cloud, and the need for better analytics.

This all comes (says Danby, who is economically lean with her Twitter follows) against a backdrop of the consumerisation of IT, BYOD, shadow IT, and rising end user and customer expectations around the quality of IT services, IT support, IT costs, and the overall service experience provided by IT.

Stepping up to directly plug her firm, Danby asserted, "This is why SysAid is at Interop, in fact I believe that we are the only mainstream, pure-play IT service management (ITSM) tool provider here. We understand that IT professionals not only need an optimal and secure network and IT infrastructure, but also the ability to manage and support IT service delivery with a heavy focus on meeting end user and customer expectations of IT supply ... whether created internally or bought in from cloud service providers. We hope to be chatting with IT professionals beyond the IT itself and about how they are meeting their customers' needs."

"On a personal level, and as a female working in IT, I'm really looking forward to the Women in IT session and its conclusions and outputs," she added.

Also throwing in comment was Atchison Frazer, chief marketing officer of Kemp Technologies.

Dedicated developer lab

"With SDN part of the keynote agenda and with its own dedicated dev lab, Interop attendees can expect to benefit from more meaningful exchanges around what a more flexible, adaptive network can do to accelerate your strategic business imperatives with clear visibility for the first time from the networking infrastructure layer, how enterprise applications are capable of delivering and performing against those strategic business imperatives," he said.

Happy hour

They say it's 5 o'clock somewhere when it's time for a drink, well drinks happen at 3:30 pm in the Big Apple, so expect some pretty relaxed people by the time this show ends -- at least the cabs have now been banned from honking (Ed- at least we think it's law now) their horns in New York, so going to bed should be easier.

HP's SDN App Store went to market

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HP this month announced its HP SDN App Store, launching what the firm claims to be 'a new wave' of open software-defined networking (SDN).

So what is an SDN App Store?

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Borrowing its moniker from the 'app stores' of the consumer download world, HP is (arguably) being a bit retail-friendly by calling this new offering a store in this style -- in terms of form and function it represents a source for firms to be able to identify what HP calls out as 'integrated and validated' applications

Commercially then, there is supposed to be a strong HP ecosystem partners message here i.e. this is an application offering together with consulting and support services that is supposed to enable customers to 'uncover the business value' (as they say in marketing-land) of SDN.

NOTE: IDC predicts that the market for SDN network applications will reach $1.1 billion by 2017, increasing network application vendors' need for a scalable open marketplace to monetise their products.

As the 'first' (so says HP) enterprise-grade SDN application ecosystem in the market, the HP SDN App Store bids to offer the developer community a centralised area to connect to customers around the world.

Users can now purchase specific network applications and download them to their environment for testing and live deployment.

Time to talk to HP

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The Computer Weekly Developer Network blog spoke directly to HP's Stephane Kahloun for more insight on this story -- Khaloun is senior global product marketing manager, SDN, HP Networking.

CWDN: Does HP envisage a new tier of software application development resulting from this type of new go-to-market channel for programmers?

Stephane Kahloun: ----- Yes, with general availability of the HP SDN App Store, we are fuelling rapid innovation in networking and arming a new wave of developers with the tools they need to develop specifically for SDN. In addition to the eight curated applications available in the store today, we currently have 30 ecosystem partners in the process of developing applications. We expect to see an increasing number of applications populate the store in the coming months.

CWDN: HP talks about new power transform network architecture into a competitive advantage for firms of all sizes - what does that really mean in simple terms?

Stephane Kahloun: ----- The network itself has never been used as a competitive advantage - but SDN has changed that. The capabilities SDN enables - scalability, seamless policy delivery and prioritization of network traffic - all contribute to a more efficient workflow for end-users. The true value of SDN lies within the applications though, so as we continue to build our ecosystem we will see more ways that organizations can derive bottom-line value from their networks.

CWDN: Will we soon see a time when certain programmers define themselves directly as SDN application developers (as opposed to games developers, database developers etc)?

Stephane Kahloun: ----- SDN is still in its early days, and we do expect to see a wave of developers define themselves by SDN. Now that the HP SDN App Store is generally available, developers have an easy way to monetize their applications and connect with customers around the world. Analysts also predict significant market growth for SDN applications, so it represents a good opportunity for developers.

A major transition

With major industry technology transitions for enterprises to address, such as security, cloud, mobility and big data, HP says that SDN makes good business sense.

Examples of these offerings include the HP Virtual Application Networks (VAN) SDN Controller, which has been downloaded more than 3,000 times, and HP SDN Software Development Kit, which has been downloaded more than 5,000 times.

To help customers easily navigate the HP SDN App Store, HP will offer four different categories of applications defined by their support and test process:

• The HP Circle: with applications built and tested by HP.
• The Premium Circle: containing applications that are top sellers and jointly tested by HP 
and its partners.
• The Partner Circle: encompassing applications that have been self-tested by HP 
partners and reviewed by HP.
• The Community Circle: offering open-access and community-supported applications to 
demonstrate open source and concept SDN applications. 


CWDN: As part of the HP SDN App Store launch, HP is introducing six partner applications, in addition to two applications developed by HP - how did you define the parameters by which these six were chosen and why did you stop at six?

Stephane Kahloun: ----- We are continuously expanding our partner ecosystem, and have 30 additional partners currently developing new applications. We expect to see more applications added to the SDN App Store in the coming months. One of the more important parameters that we use to qualify our 6 partners at launch has been the readiness of their solutions. We have been through extensive test cycles to make sure that what we are providing to our customers is enterprise ready.

CWDN: We know that after purchasing SDN-enabled architecture, customers work with channel partners to determine the right SDN applications for their environment - how much custom coding can still go on at this point to ensure a tight fit to customer need?

Stephane Kahloun: ----- SDN is fully programmable,(100+ APIs) so we can imagine that channel partners with the right skills to develop around our SDN infrastructure will be complementing an existing offer with integration software to further customize the app to a specific customer need.

HP says it will demonstrate the HP SDN App Store and available applications at Interop New York.







Spiceworks now more developer-centric

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Professional sysadmin network company Spiceworks has hosted its Spiceworld technical user conference this week in Austin, Texas.

Focused on systems administrators (sysadmins) as a starting proposition, Spiceworks will now look to increasingly embrace sysadmins, software application developers and related tech family roles in areas such as database administration etc.

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The company has now formalized its developer program to allow vendors and independent developers to offer (free and paid) applications and services to members within the network.

Given the rise of what we might now call specialised vertical social networks (Ed -- would that be SVSN?), this is Spiceworks suggesting that GitHub itself is a social network for programmers as it now develops to become a wider resource in that same vein.

The firm has also used Spiceworks to highlight two new products to help IT professionals streamline how they manage their technology environment and support end users.

PRODUCT NOTE: Spiceworks Network Monitor is a free, real-time monitoring dashboard that helps IT professionals address potential issues within their environment before they happen.

Additionally, the company unveiled a hosted version of its Help Desk application for IT professionals looking to support end users without the management requirements of a traditional application.

"We continue to add new applications to the Spiceworks platform in a way that helps IT professionals everywhere do their jobs more effectively," said Scott Abel, co-founder and CEO of Spiceworks. "We'll continue to push the envelope with new Spiceworks and third-party applications that add value to IT professionals' days and enable them work more efficiently."

The Spiceworks Network Monitor is a free, real-time network monitoring solution that can be installed and set up in 10 minutes.

The Windows-based application provides a graphical view of network utilization and server activity including disk and CPU usage, active processes and services, system memory and other environmental data. Real-time alerting for a variety of server and network conditions is also built-in, and IT professionals will be able to address potential issues through a remote desktop connection.

"As an IT department of one, there's no shortage of tasks I have to perform every day," said Eric Chapman, network and systems administrator at Radiation Monitoring Devices. "The Spiceworks Network Monitor helps me simplify my day by giving me a convenient, centralized place to monitor my servers in real time. Email alerts help me address any issues that may pop up while I focus on other, more valuable projects."

Spiceworks' hosted Help Desk offering was built for IT professionals who need a help desk environment but prefer a solution that doesn't require existing or new hardware infrastructure or associated management tasks. The hosted edition will include the same great features current Spiceworks users rely on today to keep their technology environment and end-users productive and running in tip-top shape.

Existing Spiceworks Help Desk users interested in migrating to the hosted edition will be able to import their information.

What to expect from Spiceworks' SpiceWorld 2014

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This September sees the seventh annual SpiceWorld user conference staged by Spiceworks.

Nothing whatsoever do so with 90s girl bands, Spiceworks describes itself as a vertical network for IT that connects more than 2.5 million IT professionals with over 2,300 technology brands -- it's mission is to simplify the way we buy and manage technology products and services.

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So what of 2014?

CEO Scott Abel will no doubt remind us that Spiceworks' applications and community are 100% free to the IT professional.

Abel contends that Spiceworks has become the platform IT professionals use to connect with their peers (and vendors rely on to market and distribute) when evaluating the latest technologies.

Spiceworks reminds us that its users have submitted ratings and reviews on more than 40,000 individual IT products or services, making Spiceworks the largest repository of B2B technology product ratings and reviews in the world.

Review categories are broken down as follows:

Cloud & SaaS, DevOps, Hardware, Mobile Computing, Networking, Security, Software, Storage and Backup, Virtualization & VOIP.

Las year the company announced new IT profiles with projects -- a service which sets out to help IT professionals showcase their professional accomplishments, certifications and IT experiences.

Once again, this time last year Spiceworks had introduced more than 20 new social, advertising, content, video, email and other marketing offerings in the previous 12-months.

We can reasonably expect the same type and quantity of new news this year in terms of services and channels.

Ahead of the show kicking off properly Spiceworks has hinted that attendees will find the conference has a different vibe that's reflective of the relationships that have been developed over the last 8-years.

Bacon, costumes, technology -- what's not to like?

"You'll see plenty of bacon, costumes and other sights popular in the community," said the organisers

The conference is designed to be a celebration of everything IT, the things IT pros love, and an acknowledgment of the challenges they deal with day in, day out. This is about them.

"If you're going to Spiceworld - be it the one in Austin in the fall or the one in London in the spring - expect nerds," said Trevor Pott, professor emeritus of full-time nerdyness, systems administration, technology writing and consulting.

"Spiceworld - like Puppetconf - (Ed - and QCon surely?) hasn't yet been infected with 'community evangelists', 'technical marketers' or the onrush of desperate salespeople and haughty, out-of-touch executives. Spiceworld is a conference about systems administrators and it is principally peopled by them. They are odd, socially awkward, irrepressibly opinionated and above all, smart," commented Pott.

Apps, apps, platforms... and more apps

What Spiceworks didn't announce via a press release (but discussed quite often with IT pros and media) was its platform strategy.

Net net, the firm has millions of IT professionals who are using its applications (help desk, inventory, MDM, etc), and it is going to continue introducing new, internally developed apps.

Announced in May, Spiceworks Network Monitor, is a real-time network monitoring offering -- and we will more about it at SpiceWorld Austin.

Professor emeritus of full-time nerdyness Pott warns that we should never underestimate the attendees.

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"Never treat anyone - including the press that attend - as anything other than highly skilled practitioners. And most important of all, never generalise. The population of Spiceworld is so diverse that if you attempt to make a generalisation - any generalisation - they will eat you alive. Spiceworks is installed in companies of all sizes, and what works in the enterprise won't work in an SME...and there will be someone from every niche in between," he added, nerdily.

Where next?

Spiceworks has begun to talk about its broader vision and the idea of introducing an app store and developer programme.

This would allow independent developers to build IT-centric apps for IT pros.

"We've captured a massive audience and believe we can help them faster by opening our platform up to outside development," said the company.

Oh and it's in Texas, expect beef, BBQ sauce and beer.

HP's Mårten Mickos on Eucalyptus & cloud: in unambiguously Finnish terms

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Okay so we called out (now ex-) Eucalyptus CEO Mårten Mickos for changing his stance on OpenStack and his move to join HP as senior vice president and general manager of its cloud business reporting to Meg Whitman -- but what did Mickos have to say for himself?

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Many media channels (including this one) jumped on the immediate news with commentary resonating around:

a) Mickos' newfound affection for the OpenStack open-source cloud computing software platform.
b) HP's rebranding moves (in May 2014) with its cloud services stack now bolstered by new products and sat under the product family name HP Helion.
c) Some of the wider disquiet felt throughout the open standards cloud industry a the moment outside of HP's sphere.

Alkaenhevosen suusta

But what the story from Mickos himself, from the horses mouth in unambiguously direct Finnish terms (or -- alkaenhevosen suusta -- as he might say in his native Finnish) then?

Yes Mickos does that vendors spokesperson thing and has been well trained to repeat customers, customers, customers -- but this is a guy who has touched code and reminds us of his first startup company with two college buddies, which was an operation focused on client/server software development.

In 2001 he was invited to join MySQL as the CEO and got his hands dirty with the LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP/Perl/Python) stack -- and then it was Eucalyptus and the rest is history.

Today in 2014, Mickos talks on the HP website saying this of the cloud:

"Today we talk about public and private and managed and hybrid clouds as if they are all distinctly different. In the future we may treat them as providers to the same need. We will have application workloads that can migrate to whichever environment provides the most suitable environment for that moment. Our old thinking of 'this app runs on this machine'will be entirely outdated."

In an official blog on the Eucalyptus website he says that his team nurtures three key dreams that drive its behaviour:

1. To make open source win in cloud infrastructure environments.
2. To enable effortless application workload mobility between private and public clouds.
3. ... and to deliver what he calls "complete" clouds.

As generic and big picture (and arguably vague) as point #3 is, it may be the most telling because he clearly views cloud not as the notion of outsourcing compute cycles and storage -- it HAS to do more now.

Leaving aside the "we are honoured and HP is lovely" elements, Mickos does says that cloud should thought of as both:

• an IT architecture and...
• a way to build and deploy your own cloud

"Just like you may brew your own coffee or go to a café to let someone else do it for you, you must be able to run your application workloads on your own hardware or on someone else's. That's what customers are telling us, and we are now seeing enterprises increasingly deploy their own clouds," he said.

We're know you're sailing on the big ship now Mårten, but keep it technical and keep it real please.

Is software monetisation 2.0 a developer wake up call?

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As a committed reporting resource dedicated to examining the manifold machinations and manoeuvrings across the software application developer landscape, the Computer Weekly Developer Network recently sat down with the communications team for information security company SafeNet.

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Discussions centred around breaking the shell surrounding our existing perceptions of the way applications are built, secured, deployed -- and, quite crucially, monetized.

(Ed - surely we mean monetised with an s?) -- ok so we left it in this time.

So how does SafeNet think it has encapsulated the zeitgeist of the developer psyche at this time?

Here's the scenario...

The software application developer builds it i.e. the next big software application that's going to change lives -- so now needs to get it to market and wait for the demand to flood in.

This programmer is no no fool, though and he/she has built in basic software security features to stop unauthorised use of the software.

Monetization 2.0... not just 1.0

But SafeNet heeds, "What about taking into consideration how different types of customers want to purchase your application. Do they like all the features you provided or are they just using one? Can you segment these users into certain groups and offer different users different packages, and how much to charge for these packages?"

We need these questions answered:

• Do you have the internal resources to open the code and start re-writing, QA-ing, internal approvals, etc?
• How about the users that may want a trial first?
• Maybe users want only certain features?
• Maybe they want a per-seat license, how do we do that?

In order to maximise revenue, a programmer will need to offer all of these options and more -- and need automated management to minimise costs.

According to SafeNet, it's not only that, "You need to better understand how users use your software to help set the development roadmap, and you need to better understand usage to optimise pricing for premium features and create compelling feature bundles to address increasingly segmented markets. All this, and it needs to be like flipping switches for non-engineers. In fact, you need to stop annoying engineering altogether so they can focus on their core competency -- building the product."

Welcome to the new world

The company argues that from fledgling start-ups to seasoned legacy app developers, everyone needs to accept that there is more to the software business than just app dev.

In the highly competitive software industry, SafeNet says that license enforcement is just the tip of the iceberg - the real gravy comes with advanced customer analytics that not only improve profitability, they help create better relationships with customers.

This is what SafeNet does i.e. its Sentinel software monetisation solutions are sold on a promise of being able to help software developers grow their top and bottom lines, and provide the flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions.

IBM Watson Analytics versus Sarah Palin's modern anti-intellectualism

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There are IBM Watson lovers and haters.

Watson haters (aka "cognophobes") deride IBM for showboating its Watson analytics natural language-based cognitive service as a contrived route to making traditional old Big Blue look sexy again.

As the Economist wrote back in 2011...

"Watson, as the computer is called, is just a powerful machine with a vast store of data, they say, it still can't fully understand language, recognise objects, or appreciate human subtleties."

But it's a dangerous game to lay derisory comment down upon i.e. so-called 'machine learning' is a cutting edge element (or at least a very interesting part) of software application programming design (as we stand in 2014 at least) for those looking to engineer intelligent devices inside so-called Internet of Things (IoT)-based systems with increasing sophisticated Machine-To-Machine (M2M) and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) capabilities.

Modern anti-intellectualism

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The Economist went on to bemoan America's fascination with world domination, its national superiority complex and the 'modern anti-intellectualism' championed by Sarah Palin (she's no expert, but she knows the so-called experts are wrong) -- so let's get back to machine intelligence.

Back in Armonk, New York... the IBMers are waving flags (blue ones, presumably) to celebrate Watson Analytics, a natural language-based cognitive service that can provide access to predictive and visual analytic tools.

According to analysts (so the following statement must be true): only a small fraction of business people use analytics tools as part of their decision making today.

The first release of Watson Analytics will include a freemium version of its cloud-based service designed to run on desktop and mobile devices.

The product offers access to data refinement and data warehousing services that make it easier for business users to acquire and prepare data - beyond simple spreadsheets -- for analysis and visualisation that can be acted upon and interacted with.

Businesses are able to use this tool to ask questions such as:

What are the key drivers of my product sales?
Which benefits drive employee retention the most?
Which deals are most likely to close?

"Unlike analytics offerings designed primarily for data scientists and analysts predominantly focused on visualization, IBM Watson Analytics automates steps like data preparation, predictive analysis, and visual storytelling for business professionals across data intensive disciplines like marketing, sales, operations, finance and human resources," said the company, in a press statement.

Bob Picciano, senior vice president of IBM's information and analytics group has explained that with its 'Natural Language Dialogue' Watson Analytics speaks the language of business and people by enabling someone to simply type in what they would like to see.

This service, like other IBM Cloud solutions, will be hosted on SoftLayer and available through the IBM Cloud marketplace.

Founder and CEO of Platfora, Ben Werther isn't so sure on this news though...

"Watson Analytics is a novel approach to bringing simple data sets and natural language questions together for common business use cases. It is a piece of the puzzle, but doesn't directly attack the problems of big data analytics -- i.e. making sense of massive datasets across transactions, customer interactions and machine data and giving business analysts visual tools that are native to this scale to amplify their understanding."

Platfora's big data analytics software works in tandem with open-source Apache Hadoop to assist companies and government organisations with data analysis, data visualisation and sharing

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