An Internet of Health developer platform in iHealth

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We talk a lot about the so-called Internet of Things and now the Internet of Everything even... but the next wave of development will depend on actual devices and tangible platforms that software application developers can physically target.

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If there is indeed an Internet of Health (really, it's just another part of the IoT with a close faily relationship to 'wearable' technologies of course), then we need more than just FitBits (as lovely as they are) to facilitate the next phase of growth.

The iHealth line of personal mobile blood pressure monitors is one of the higher quality new IoT devices to hit the market.

As I have written elsewhere, the build quality is high, the readout results are accurate and the user experience is good.

The devices come with a free mobile application and sync with iPod, iPhone and iPad - plus Android devices.

As already noted, we could perhaps suggest that the point of a product like this is its portability and ease of use -- essentially, it encourages the user to track personal blood pressure and start watching their health on the same device that they use to check Facebook.

According to the company, "The free iHealth MyVitals app automatically keeps a history of your data and gives you the option to share your information with your doctor or caregiver. Our devices work with both Apple and Android devices.

The system itself is as intuitive as any user would want and naturally expect in this age -- it's easy to set up a profile and the Bluetooth sync ability to iPad and iPhone is good (in fact it's so good that you don't need to fuss around pairing or even turning the armband device on again for subsequent uses - opening the app on the device is enough).

Cardio-opinion

As stated by the devices top reviewer, "As a cardiologist, I have used this machine over the past five days, taking a manual blood pressure and then using the iHome blood pressure machine on my patients. I admit surprised in that the machine is very accurate. In one patient (with a thick shirt on) it was 10mmHg off, but otherwise, it is usually within 5mmHg of my independent reading."

Using the 'Trends' function a user can review your history in both a graph and list format.

The machine charges via a USB cable and battery life is said to be enough for 100 uses.

According to its makers, "In addition to keeping your data on your mobile device, you also receive a free and secure cloud account. Accessible from any computer, you can log on to view all of your vitals, as well as share readings with your healthcare provider."

What needs to happen next is third party application integration and this if anything is the only criticism levied at this product and the software presented here.

Third-party app integrations will be key to making the Internet of Health in the IoT actually work for all of us humans.

Devices in this category are becoming increasingly sophisticated and the iHealth line is worth tracking for wider developments.

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Lytro light-field Power Tools (LPT) go beta for programmers

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Lytro, Inc. is giving users new access to its products with news of Lytro Power Tools (LPT) now going to be beta.

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Lytro Power Tools are a set of Python camera, image control and web tools and support for Android Debug Bridge (ADB) command line interface.

The new tools are developed for programmers, developers and researchers, or anyone who is interested in experimenting with light field imagery using a Lytro camera.

A light field camera (also known as plenoptic camera) captures information about the intensity of light in a scene, and also captures information about the direction that the light rays are traveling in space.

The platform was developed for programmers, researchers and artists control with this technology from capture on the camera to post-processing light field data.

Light field exploration

"By taking the most advanced light field camera and turning it into a platform, we're giving our community the tools to explore the technology and pursue their creative vision in a way never before possible" said Sam Tellman, Lytro product manager. "This is something that no other camera company has done, and we will continue to push light field exploration, experimentation and creativity forward."

With LPT Beta, programmers can create new tools for camera control and light field image processing using the Python-based tools and Android Debug Bridge (ADB) command line interface.

These tools can be downloaded and shared via SD card - the real power of LPT Beta lies in the root level access to the camera's Android operating system - and the opportunity for users to create whatever tools they want, specific and unique to each project.

Alpha participants have created and shared tools to generatetime-lapse video as well as panoramic video that can be viewed with virtual reality headsets like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR.

You can find a great demo of light-field images here https://pictures.lytro.com/

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Lenovo: a Legend New(ovo) in hyperconverged infrastructure?

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The dot com boom is over, so we no longer need to start spelling company names starting with lower case letters.

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If anything, firms in this decade seem to think they can capitalise their entire moniker for extra (virtual) print points -- and yes Nvidia, we do mean you.

SimpliVity is aiming to establish a new trend: random capitalisation in the middle of a word if you can find a letter that looks best as a stand out character in a corporate designation.

Unnecessary grousing and faultfinding notwithstanding then, what has the company with the random V been up to?

PartNersHip timE!

It appears that the firm has announced a partnership with Lenovo to deliver hyperconverged infrastructure solutions based on their joint technologies.

SimpliVity comes forth with its OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform which will now be available as an integrated solution with Lenovo System x3650 servers.

Lenovo VP & GM Brian Hamel claims that, "These high-performance systems will exponentially reduce datacenter complexity and costs for cloud-based services and mission-critical transactional systems."

What's inside hyperconvergence?

The SimpliVity OmniStack Solution running on Lenovo System x3650 M5 is a hyperconverged IT platform that provides all IT services below the hypervisor, including compute, storage and networking, real-time data de-duplication, compression and optimization functions along with built-in backup, disaster recovery and WAN optimization capabilities -- in a single device.

Intel IDF: the human side of 'affective computing'

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The Computer Weekly Developer Network is fond of the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) show.

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Reporting from afar this year we see that CEO Brian Krzanich has highlighted new products, tools and programmes that support the growing personalisation of computing.

The human side

Krzanich said computing has become increasingly personal, enhancing nearly all aspects of lives.

"Computers are on our desks, in our bags, in our clothes, in our homes and on our bodies. They are not only growing smarter and more connected, but gaining senses and becoming an extension of ourselves."

The firm says an ecosystem is emerging around Intel to address these growing opportunities for computing.

Affective computing, defined

Intel's comments lead us to consider what many are now calling affective computing.

According to MIT, "Affective Computing is computing that relates to, arises from, or deliberately influences emotion or other affective phenomena."

Back at Intel IDF... Krzanich unveiled a number of updates to Intel RealSense technology that the firm claims will bring depth sensing to more devices and applications.

It also announced new collaborations for securing the Internet of Things (IoT), in addition to programmes and toolkits for developers to help speed industrial IoT solutions to market.

For the highly personalized world of wearable computing, Krzanich provided updates on the Intel Curie module -- technology designed to provide a low-power solution designed for companies interested in developing wearable technology solutions.

CoreFit: a broadcast 4.0 application-inside-publishing model

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This is the age of the Internet of Things and the so-called 'wearable' technology device, this much we already know.

This is also the age of online news, the Amazon Kindle (other e-readers are also available) and a digital publishing shakeup that sees the old school 'Broadcast 1.0' model of media consigned to a quieter (but still appreciated by some) life. So just for the record:

• Broadcast 1.0 -- users consumed media (from TV to magazines to newspapers) when they were available at a time set by the networks and publishers.

• Broadcast 2.0 -- on demand programming and the Internet arrived; we could consume what media we wanted, whenever.

• Broadcast 3.0 -- in the third age of media we plugged in 'social' and this meant we could consume what we want, when we wanted it, but (and here's the crucial difference) we started to select media based upon the recommendations of others in our trusted personal circles.

Broadcast 4.0

If there is a fourth age of media -- or a broadcast 4.0 to extend the analogy -- then it could be the coming together of media channels with the software application development space.

Yes obviously publishers often have their own 'app', which individuals can use to access content (some on subscription, some not) and these can provide quite interactive experiences. But the next level is just one step further.

CoreFit is a venture capital stage startup based in the UK.

NOTE: The firm is currently actively seeking investment to expand the brand into the UK and America after launching in Spain in 2014.

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The firm's market proposition is intended to be seen as an advertising and publishing content integration platform -- and a software application in its own right. CoreFit describes a kind of broadcast 4.0 world where its technology is used to provide content targeted at male and female millennial sports and fitness enthusiasts -- but with additional 'application functionality' integrated into the content that is delivered.

So in terms of usage, how would software developers align application design to be empathic of the needs of an individual user?

"CoreFit integrates advertising from commercial vendors with what is relevant magazine-style health, sports, fitness and lifestyle content for its readers. What this means (and some of this technology is still in the embryonic stage) is that a user could access all of his/her favourite fitness content -- then, connect, integrate and cross-reference that content with data tracking their own physical wellbeing," said Nathan Berkley, director of strategic content for CoreFit. "The end result being content, advertising and even other application suggestions that correspond with not just who the user is, but how their body is performing as well."

How it works (out)

The application itself is free to download on the Google App Store for Android and the Apple Store for iOS, but the firm will (obviously) target other platforms in the long run.

As a company, CoreFit explains that it does not own the technology platform underlying its model -- what the firm brings forward is the integration, the upper presentation layers, the health & fitness publishing expertise (the team has a specific track record in print) and what is effectively an avenue to allow software developers to work with extracted user-generated data that is of personal importance.

"Technically speaking, CoreFit first looked for a platform that it didn't own in terms of IP ownership... but one that has the potential to finally close a gap and deliver what we call a pure-play digital magazine application experience that isn't tied down by the constraints of a big brand that is still following its print edition," explained Berkley.

The application itself features interactive content covering topics from fitness news and trends, sportswear and technology innovation to nutrition and diet plans. It also includes interactive workouts tailored to an individuals' activity types and goals. There are also sports, fitness and lifestyle articles.

What developers should think

"What we are saying to developers is that here is a platform to create a tailored interactive reader experience that can be fully enjoyed on both smartphones and tablets. There's a new 'intersection' point here where the Internet of Things, wearable fitness tracking technology and the ubiquity of connected devices can meet personalized content inside user applications. Programmers should think of a new breed of application that has arguably even greater device-to-user proximity than even email perhaps," said Berkley.

This is not a fitness application that you use alongside a fitness magazine; this is a fitness application bridging the divide between an app and a magazine, with enhancements for readers to interact with the content. CoreFit agrees that this a model that could suit some other industries, but personal health shares a special suitability here and is of course the fastest growing area when it comes to wearable technologies.

"Digital magazine publishers absolutely must move on from the print mindset and monthly format in order to create content-rich, engaging experiences in line with other app models - Spotify, iPlayer, YouTube, Pinterest and so on. Whether the user dips in for five minutes every day, or perhaps once a week for a longer form read - the experience must be fluid, customisable - to a point - and fresh," said David Hicks, digital product consultant at Hicks Digital.

The problem with a monthly digital publishing model is that in 99% of apps, the app 'library' or the first screen seen, never changes - and the lack of value that a digital subscription within this model provided to the customer. I've always thought that an 'aggregator' app experience free of pop-up advertising and consisting of a user-specified choice of publishers, brands or stories is the way forward - and one that crosses over subject matter and country boundaries - and consistent on all devices," added Hicks.

CoreFit is currently available in Spanish and is intending to launch in the English language inside of 2015.

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Thingsee One, an IoT developer device

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Thingsee is a manufacturer of developer devices and platforms from Oulu (yes, it's a real place) in Finland.

The firm has announced the commercial availability of its Thingsee One device -- a 'smart' developer device for Internet of Things (IoT) application development.

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The CEO speaketh

"Thingsee allows a new range of developers to start building IoT products & services.You don't need to know C or C++. Just get the data you need using Thingsee One and build your applications server side with PHP, NodeJS or any other programming language," claims Pasi Jokinen, Thingsee's CEO.

Pret-a-coder

Unlike other developer devices on the market, such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino, Thingsee One is ready for immediate use and is both weatherproof and impact resistant.

The unit has fully programmable sensors - including:

  • accelerometer,
  • magnetometer
  • humidity,
  • temperature and.
  • pressure sensors - plus,
  • extensive cellular connectivity.

Battery life lasts up to one year, or so we are told.

Thingsee One was first introduced to the market via a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign run in late 2014.

The manufacture of the device began in Finland in July this year.

Thingsee is also launching Thingsee Creator, a visual programming tool as a public beta -- Creator is supposed to enable the creation of prototypes and new practices in just minutes.

Thingsee One is currently used globally by multiple companies and project groups of differing sizes. For example, large companies like Cisco Systems are using Thingsee One for prototyping new IoT concepts, and smaller teams like GPS-Speedsurfing.com have used the device to develop complex new applications.

The Internet of cardiovascular diagnostic Things

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Obviously the Internet of cardiovascular diagnostics Things (IocdT) is really just the IoT with a specific bent towards healthcare implementations -- but the question is, at what point do we start looking at wellbeing-focus software application development streams above and beyond the health benefits of, say, wearables like the Fitbit?

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NOTE: No disrespect to Fitbit, even if my ex-beloved Fitbit One did indeed die a death after 18 months of constant use.

To reemphasise our initial point, if products like iHealth CardioLab exist (the first connected diagnostics system for the early detection of cardiovascular disease), then at what point can we start making these products (and their corresponding and supporting software applications) more accessible?

iHealth presents a wireless monitoring system that allows general practitioners to obtain a detailed cardiovascular assessment of patients in less than two minutes.

With two measuring modules simultaneously positioned on the arm and ankle, this device provides early detection of arterial disease by measuring blood pressure and calculating several cardiovascular markers such as ABI (Ankle Brachial Index).

Curative health to preventive

The tipping point here is... at what point can the healthcare focused IoT technologies that we use start (as this product sets out to do) anticipating many health problems so we can switch from curative health to preventive health?

"Because of the current differing medical procedures for measuring the ABI (should the doctor use the posterior tibial artery, anterior tibial artery or dorsalis pedis artery?), we decided to unify the results by introducing an oscillometric measuring system to standardize ABI and make it accessible to all physicians," says Uwe Diegel, CEO of iHealthLabs Europe.

"Easy to use, allowing for quick measurement - less than two minutes - with very low margins of error associated with handling errors, the iHealth CardioLab is aimed to be used as a prevention tool by general practitioners to detect problems before they translate into external events".

The app factor

To operate the iHealth CardioLab and other iHealth Pro devices, iHealth has created the iHealth Pro App, used on an Apple iPad -- iHealth Pro is intuitive to use and correlates the data from the iHealth CardioLab with other risk factors for a better overview of the patient's health.

The connection between the iHealth Pro App and the iHealth CardioLab is made by Bluetooth, allowing healthcare professionals to easily import the results of the patient and incorporate them in his medical records.

Pulsant: a cloud is not a cloud, until it's a value added cloud

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Pulsant (pron: pull-sunt) is a company already known to us on the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog.

The firm specialises in managed cloud hosting, colocation and application hosting services.

The firm's raison d'être (or 'core competency', if you prefer) is adding value to cloud services -- as such, Pulsant promises it will quite literally hand hold customers migrating to cloud computing deployments.

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So what does this entail?

In terms of practical elements, this hand-holding means technical consultancy designed to help re-platform, re-architect and ultimately re-deploy existing applications as well as provision new ones.

Pulsant very typically works on hybrid platforms, but is comfortable on dedicated private cloud and the public arena -- the common denominator always being that it is 'enterprise cloud'.

The whole process typically incorporates the use of hardware-based load balancing, caching, application servers and database servers.

The company owns and operates a 10Gbps core network connecting its 10 wholly owned ISO 27001 compliant datacentres across the UK.

Security classifications - still a value-add

A number of these sites are aligned to government security classifications and PCI DSS certified, and have a range of services on the G-Cloud 6 Framework -- again, it's all about added value at a very high level.

In more recent news, the company says that hosted desktop and cloud services provider, WorkPlaceLive is set to move its Voice over IP (VoIP) service provision from its current location in Caterham, Surrey to Pulsant's recently-upgraded enterprise class datacentre in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

Once the move is complete, the Maidenhead facility will also perform a disaster recovery (DR) back-up function for WorkPlaceLive's hosted desktop service, currently supported from the company's headquarters in Croydon. In exchange, the Croydon HQ will provide a DR capability to support Maidenhead's VoIP service.

Royal approval

... and the funny thing?

While we never look at company boilerplates, Pulsant hides one of its most interesting facts way down the bottom on all its communiques.

In 2013 Pulsant was awarded the Royal Warrant as a provider of hosted IT and datacentre services to the Royal household.

As Bob Tarzey notes on Computer Weekly, "Pulsant clearly has existing momentum inherited from the companies that have been bought together to create it."

Tarzey adds -- if you think the UK Crown is a mid-market organisation to take a lead from, then Pulsant may be the IT service provider for you.

Software AG: the smart data layer runs on 'banana logic'

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This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog by Matt Smith.

Smith is chief technical officer for UK, Germany, Nordics and South Africa region at Software AG -- the company sells big data, integration and business process technologies designed to drive operational efficiency, modernise IT systems and optimise processes.

1 banana, 2 banana

To start with, please think of bananas.

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Yes, the curved yellow fruit beloved of athletes and regularly bought by millions of shoppers.

It is often said that if a supermarket doesn't sell any bananas within a given ten minutes on any chosen day, then something is seriously wrong with the balance of life.

But how can a store manager stacking beans seven aisles away know whether his or her banana-sales are drooping?

Further, how can that same manager do something about it immediately?

Fruity algorithms, oh-err missus

The answer, as I'm sure he or she would tell you, lies in event processing and advanced algorithms.

(CWDN Ed -- Do store managers really a perception of advanced algorithms, or are they more concerned about Mrs Miggins in aisle 16 asking if the tuna is dolphin-friendly? Oh okay we get it, Software AG is painting a picture of the connected future.)

This should not sound like a sexy sales gimmick and it isn't -- it's more scientific and involves analysing all the data that pours into and out of a supermarket throughout its working day.

By putting these technologies to use, it's possible to match the current level of sales against the historical patterns, without anyone having to sit watching a screen -- or a diminishing stack of bananas.

How banana logic works

As soon as the till receipts indicate an unexplained plunge in banana sales, the algorithm triggers a stock-take, which can be conducted using in-store sensors. If it turns out that stocks are low, an alert is automatically sent to the manager's smart badge and he knows he or she has to drop the beans and crack on with the bananas, restocking those shelves.

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This admittedly, is not the most sophisticated demonstration of how the smart data layer works, but like bananas, the technology is a potent combination that boosts energy.

Just as bananas are attractive to athletes because they have three different types of sugar, the smart data layer combines event processing, complex algorithms with time-based rules, and low-latency messaging.

Having the right algorithms in place means the data can be combed 50 or 60 times faster than in a conventional system.

Yet until very recently it was only the banks and trading institutions that could afford to crunch through mountains of many different kinds of data in real time and then use it to make split-second decisions. Of course they need this capability to trade in the markets.

It's not just retail

Now, however, every sector has the chance to use the same technology, thanks to the falling cost of memory and the vastly increased power of parallel processing chips.

Telecoms, manufacturing or retail - they can all put this technology to work, storing data and using it in a completely transient way. A credit card company can employ it for quick-fire marketing campaigns, for example, and then if the data is no longer needed in that form, just chuck it in the bin.

In fact, the smart data layer is going to be indispensable in the drive towards omni-channel retail. It will automatically mash through data from multiple systems, providing the connections and fast decisions about inventory that guarantee full shopping baskets in-store or online.

Nobody needs to have a big shed full of expensive servers to do this work. It means that even medium-sized businesses can now enjoy the benefits of the smart data layer, conducting tasks that would formerly have been beyond their pockets.

So when someone senior tells you they are getting into the smart data layer, they are definitely not bananas. Their business is about to receive a big energy boost.

Cloud development, gone native

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The cloud computing model of service-based application delivery and storage is proving quite popular, or so they say.

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If we accept this proposition, then we must also embrace the fact that a logical move to more 'cloud-native' tools must also arise.

Security-as-a-Service company Alert Logic is following this need to go native.

Vulnerability pain point

The firm's own Alert Logic Cloud Insight is described as a cloud-native vulnerability and configuration management solution for cloud customers running on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The product integrates with AWS native security features -- so, more native connections there.

This action is taken to provide an integrated view of potential host and application level vulnerabilities for customers deploying on the AWS cloud.

Once identified, Alert Logic Cloud Insight is said to provide proactive remediation actions that help customers eliminate potential risks across their entire deployment.

The CEO speaketh unto us

"Managing security while maintaining the agility of the cloud is fundamentally different than in any other environment," said Gray Hall, CEO of Alert Logic.

"With Alert Logic Cloud Insight we are delivering an innovative solution that gives businesses an added layer of visibility for workloads running on AWS - actionable intelligence to identify and eliminate risk across instances and applications while not slowing the business down."

With traditional security technologies, companies must perform multiple manual steps to run scans and check configurations on a regular basis, which still only provides point-in-time results.

Even when IT remediates an application vulnerability, it is difficult to ensure the vulnerability has truly been eradicated. Cloud Insight moves away from what could be a manual, error-prone process to an automated, continuous, remediation-centric approach.







Cirba: without balance, the cloud is inefficient

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We know by now that software is eating the world -- we also know that open source will chew it up and swallow it.

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Logically then, we also know that software-defined infrastructures will dominate in terms of the way networks and IT stacks are built over the next half-decade and beyond.

Control factor

But what good is software-defined infrastructure without control? That is to say, you don't just build software-defined infrastructure and leave it roaming out to pasture.

Software-defined infrastructure is a living thing -- that's the whole point.

Why does it need managing?

Well (as I have written before) when it comes to cloud, any migration or new deployment will (in practical terms) have ragged edges of real world data will leave any system unbalanced after a certain amount of time.

Cirba has (arguably) one of the more established message sets in this space.

The firm's technology is capable of managing (which in this case means separating out) workloads that might be situated in dispersed datacentres all operating with different service level agreements (SLAs), latency, cost and total performance.

An inefficient cloud?

Without Cirba, the cloud is inefficient, or so the company wants to tell us.

The firm has now released support for NetApp storage solutions.

It is, again, basic logic i.e. build a software-defined infrastructure control proposition and extend the breadth of the back end storage capability.

The new integration to NetApp OnCommand Insight (OCI) enables organisations to optimise use of storage resources by leveraging Cirba to intelligently place VMs and achieve visibility into storage requirements and health.

Cirba's analytics automate VM routing decisions based on all the required constraints including:

  • workload utilisation,
  • business requirements,
  • technical requirements,
  • software licensing and,
  • complex storage requirements.

The balance factor

The firm's VM placements claim to be able to enable organisations to make better use of NetApp storage by balancing demand across virtual and physical storage resources, freeing up stranded storage capacity and ensuring the right match between workload requirements and storage tiers.

Cirba also provides virtual and cloud infrastructure management teams with visibility into when resource shortfalls might adversely affect associated VMs and where excess resources exist for NetApp and other storage infrastructure connected to NetApp OCI.

"Cirba enables organisations to optimise VM placements in a way that proactively balances demand to make the most efficient use of all IT resources, including storage assets. This helps leverage existing investments in element management frameworks and is a key step in moving forward automated cloud operational models and software-defined infrastructure," said Andrew Hillier, CTO and co-Founder of Cirba.

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Cirba says it provides NetApp storage customers with:

· Intelligent workload routing: Cirba's analytics optimise VM routing and placement decisions considering all workload requirements, including complex storage needs such as multi-disk requirements storage, tiering, and interconnect bandwidth usage.

· Physical and virtual storage reservations: Through detailed analysis of demand pipelines, Cirba can provide a picture of demand on storage assets today, as well as planned demand in the future.

· Ongoing control: Cirba models the complete storage picture linking NetApp physical storage to logical datastores and the VMs connected to those resources, alerting users to which VMs may be at risk of a shortfall and where excess resources exist.

TIBCO EMEA CTO: where (fast data) advanced analytics goes next

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This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog written by Maurizio Canton, CTO EMEA, TIBCO Software.

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This post is focused on content from the TIBCO Fast Data Platform.

The team asserts that firms need to integrate so-called 'fast data' (i.e. high velocity data payloads being generated by applications, systems, processes, customers, partners and now the Internet of Things) into modern data systems to make the right information available at the right time, powering services and APIs, as well as automating processes.

The Fast Data platform claims to be able to 'empower a business' by identifying situations of interest as they occur -- opportunities like customer interactions and process optimisation (and threats like software exceptions and security breaches) providing real-time awareness.

Driving us over the edge

Blanket assumptions around driving etiquette have long been a moot point for those who feel penalised by high car premiums that tar a whole demographic with the same brush.

While young drivers have traditionally born the brunt of the excess, examples are just as prevalent at the other end of the age spectrum.

Hancock's half hoodwink

One recent and high profile case concerned 82-year-old actress Sheila Hancock and the £1,400 hike in her car premium in spite of an exemplary driving record, which led to renewed calls to address the entrenched ageism in the insurance industry that leads to the discrepancies in charges.

As such, it isn't surprising that technology capable of producing an integrated and accurate picture of a driver's performance to separate the fact from the fiction is gaining significant traction, signalling major repercussions for both the driver and insurance industry.

In a similar way that Hawkeye technology has ended the ambiguity around close calls on the courts at Wimbledon, sensors that track speed, braking, steering, and mileage and collate the data into one definitive bundle has made the same impact.

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Usage-based insight

It's a level of insight based on habits, history, and degree of risk that can inform usage-based insurance and lead to more competitive and fairer premiums.

The technology that underpins it is evolving at a rapid rate. Not too far in the distant past, black boxes usually only entered our collective consciousness in the aftermath of plane crash, as the first port of call for investigators trying to establish the cause.

Now, fuelled by a European directive which is calling for a statutory black box style device in every new car, the technology is filtering down into more mainstream use to become part of a much broader rhetoric.

Shifting from a consideration that used to be a manufacturer's prerogative to something that will need to be fitted as standard by 2018, the latest solutions will feature even broader capabilities with the ability to automatically contact the emergency services in the event of a crash.

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The next logical analytics progression

Indeed this type of forward-thinking is the next logical progression in advanced analytics, where predictive capabilities are increasingly taking centre stage.

Enabling the driver and insurer to better forecast certain occurrences to pre-empt breakdowns and reduce the risk of accidents is a core benefit. And this level of insight and intelligence is significantly powering and adding value to the traditional offering from insurers, a crucial intervention for an industry that has had to up its game in response to a competitive climate in which drivers with a far greater number of insurance options at their disposal need to be enticed.

Real world examples

A major consequence of this digital makeover has seen insurers working increasingly in close partnership with technology vendors, to drive innovation. It's an approach in evidence at TIBCO through its relationship with four of the five largest insurers that deploy the company's technologies to increase revenue, mitigate risks and improve operational efficiencies.

By working together to harness the full potential of sensor technology and embracing ever more predictive capabilities brings the potential to anticipate the type of incident a vehicle is most likely to be involved in, leading to the kind of interaction that will replace a flashing red warning light on your dashboard with intelligence fed straight through to the driver's dealer, alerting them to an issue that needs to be remedied.

Thanks to Fast Data, the road ahead has never been so clear.

Image credit: (woman with car) Confused.com

Developer antidote for Microsoft .NET -- SAP integration headaches

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In 2015, it's okay to start your company name with a smaller case letter and end with capitals.

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Taking this message to heart, enosiX (pron: EN-OH-SIX) has this month come forth with the 2.0 version of its own software framework.

The product is a means of integrating with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software -- and the team has just achieved SAP certification for the SAP NetWeaver technology platform.

SAP's NetWeaver enables the composition, provisioning and management of SAP (and non-SAP) applications across a heterogeneous software environment.

Microsoft .NET connection

Through integration with the SAP NetWeaver Application Server component, the enosiX software is supposed to enable Microsoft .NET developers to create mobile applications that access back-end systems running SAP software.

The technology is rooted in both the Microsoft and SAP platforms, allowing the framework to manage integration from a .NET solution into SAP software.

CEO at enosiX Charles Evans insists that his software helps simplify how companies integrate SAP software into their mobility and integration projects.

80% of integration built in

"IT departments across industries are being inundated with business requests for mobile apps, and the resources available to fulfill these requests are limited. By tackling the SAP software integration process, with up to 80% of integration built in, enosiX Framework 2.0 enables these departments to take full advantage of the more plentiful .NET resources while expanding the bandwidth of developers highly specialised in the ABAP programming language," he said.

The argument here is... with less time spent on integration, experienced front-end developers can focus on product "experience" excellence for SAP customers.

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When software encryption fails, use a PIN number

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Malware, phishing, hacking, BYOD risks and security vulnerabilities of all kinds are becoming more sophisticated every day -- this we know to be true.

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Equally, of course, the strength, robustness and resilience of encryption controls are increasing every day.

Yet still, software-based protection often fails us.

Fundamental finger-power

As a blog devoted to software application development and the mechanics of software engineering, we have to concede to being impressed with a piece of technology that relies upon a hardware-extension (if we can use that term for a PIN-entry number pad) for its power.

The ultra-secure portable datAshur SSD flash drive is a nice thing.

Military grade

When software encryption controls come into question and hackers still find their way in, doesn't a physical PIN number and military grade full-disk XTS AES 256-bit hardware encryption sound like a good idea?

CEO of the product's manufacturer iStorage is John Michael -- he explains that businesses and individual users are increasingly becoming targeted by threatening attacks that can have significant consequences and we continue to see new threats surfacing globally.

"The rise and proliferation of malware and other forms of cyberattacks is a growing concern for both consumers and organisations of all sizes, and leaves a question mark over certain data protection methods," said Michael.

Software-free

So is there a case for software-free portable data storage?

"When we look at the ever-evolving threat landscape that lies ahead, there is a strong case for software-free portable data storage technologies that combine military grade AES 256-bit hardware encryption with on-board PIN activation such as the diskAshur Pro ultra-secure portable hard drive or the datAshur SSD flash drive that we have developed to ensure robust data protection," argues Michael.

He asserts that the need for high level hardware encryption and cross-platform compatible portable data storage devices has never been greater and iStorage deliver products that are ultra-secure - packed with security features, easy to use and that work on just about any USB device.

The product also has a 'Brute Force' hack defence feature; capacities of 30GB, 60GB, 120GB & 240GB; plus crypto-parameters protected with SHA-256 hashing

A DevOps periodic table of elements

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Oh goodness, not more DevOps spin is it?

A DevOps periodic table of elements?

Surely this can't be anything more than another case of DevOps-washing i.e. contrived puff and fluff from a 'tangential vendor' sitting not that close to the core tasks of DevOps who wants to sneak up to the general level of industry comment.

In this case the 'table' as it is comes from XebiaLabs, a company that specialises in Continuous Delivery and DevOps tools.

Unlike other players hurriedly jumping onto the DevOps bandwagon, XebiaLabs claims to have been an active participant in the DevOps community since the 'early stages'.

According to the firm, "XebiaLabs' solutions include open, integrated tooling all the way across development, QA and Operations, helping globally distributed teams build a shared, accurate picture of all the systems they are building and running. Replace handover moments with shared visibility and responsibility for the entire system lifecycle, and empower team members through simple self-service options."

In fairness, XebiaLabs does indeed do real DevOps.

You know what they say, if your DevOps capability toolset doesn't include quantifiable tasks metrics and call stack analysis technology, then it's probably spin, puff and fluff.

The table

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What XebiaLabs has done is kind of interesting, it has grouped 'elements of DevOps' into categories and then provides colour-coded links to descriptive web pages which explain where they fall in the total DevOps process.

Categories INSIDE DevOps as noted here include:

  • Database
  • Continuous Integration
  • Deployment
  • Cloud / IaaS / PaaS
  • BI/Monitoring
  • Software Change Management
  • Repository Management
  • Configuration and Processing
  • Release Management
  • Logging (log management)
  • Build
  • Testing
  • Containerisation
  • Collaboration
  • Security

A link to a fully interactive full page version of the table is included here for your enjoyment.







Sexy cloud apps? Mendix makes aPaaS at it

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Mendix has updated its application Platform-as-a-Service (aPaaS) software to make it, well, sexier.

Sexier how?

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The immodestly named Mendix Digital Experience (DX) release includes extensive pre-crafted UI templates for creating cloud applications faster, which is a good looking feature.

There's also OData support -- meaning 'open data'.

OData defines an abstract data model and a protocol that let any client access information exposed by any data source, so that's definitely attractive

There are also enhancements to the firm's online developer community; and an expanded Free Edition with full production capability.

New UI, what's inside?

The new UI Framework delivers a comprehensive set of UI patterns, themes, navigation layouts, and page templates. Using this framework, developers can create "pixel-perfect" fully responsive applications out of the box... says the firm.

According to a press statement, "Mendix now supports OData, an open protocol that enables simple creation and consumption of query-able and interoperable RESTful APIs for data. One click turns data into information by pulling live data from Mendix applications into BI and analytics tools, such as Tableau, SAS, R and Excel. A new streaming query mechanism features high performance and low memory usage."

The release offers an improved developer experience through upgraded sign-up flows, project wizards, instructional videos, how-to guides and an enhanced developer website.

These resources, collected in the new "Mendix Cookbook," help remove complexity, speed ramp-up time, and enable developers to focus on building applications that make a difference.

The appliance of converged infrastructure appliance, science

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OpenStack 'pure-player' Mirantis has launched Mirantis Unlocked Appliances, a portfolio of 'converged infrastructure appliances' built with its own version of OpenStack.

What are these things?

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They are single (or multi-rack) converged infrastructure appliances delivered in a pre-validated, pre-integrated and pre-certified form.

But that still doesn't tell me what converged infrastructure appliances are?

Okay sorry, converged infrastructure appliances are pieces of software (in the form of so-called 'appliances') that go towards creating Virtual Machine (VM) technologies used in cloud computing for the deployment, configuration and management of the systems they serve.

What do they look after?

As we said -- deployment, configuration and management -- but if you want more colour there, it's tasks like patches, upgrades, scale-out movements (when the cloud instance has to grow) and all the way back to the initial instantiation of the operating system for the cloud deployment and decisions about security options etc.

In other words, everything that pertains to the compute, networking, storage and management concerns of a piece of cloud.

NOTE: Just once again in harmony this time, there is no ACTUAL cloud, it's servers located in datacentres that we have started calling cloud computing, remember.

Anyway, back to Mirantis... about 20 percent of infrastructure is "consumed through the appliance form factor" in this case, because it is easy to set up and operate.

This is the claim made by said Alex Freedland, Mirantis president and co-founder -- or at least it's the one that the PR agency convinced him to put his name to in a press statement.

"Mirantis Unlocked Appliances combines ease of use with the openness and flexibility of OpenStack, delivered as a cloud-in-a-box. Our first appliance focuses on the most common OpenStack use case - developing cloud-native applications - and will be built and shipped by Certified Rack Partners across the ecosystem," said Freedland.

Mirantis Unlocked Appliance for Cloud Native Applications is claimed to speed development and production deployments of cloud-native applications at scale.

The first iteration is powered by Dell and Juniper Networks, enabling agile development of cloud native applications and production deployments of container-based services.

Keegan shoots, he scores

In relation to the appliances announced here, senior analyst at ESG Colm Keegan says that many organisations are opting to deploy pre-integrated computing solutions, like appliances and converged infrastructure, as a way to speed up deployments, accelerate time-to-value and simplify operational management.

"By offering a pre-integrated and fully certified Open Stack appliance, Mirantis is enabling businesses of all sizes to eliminate much of the cost and time typically required to integrate Open Stack into a datacentre environment. Furthermore, by coupling the Mirantis Unlocked Appliance with the OpenStack Community Application Catalog, businesses can accelerate the development and deployment of their next generation cloud applications," said Keegan.

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.

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