How the IT universe moves to software-defined data warehouse life, and everything

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Teradata has launched what it calls its 'Software-Defined Warehouse' as an enhancement to the firms own-brand Teradata Database.

As we move to a world of software-defined everything, this is clearly a play to enable firms to consolidate multiple data warehouses into one system without sacrificing service level performance.

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What is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse itself is defined by TechTarget as a central federated repository for all (or significant parts of) the data that an enterprise's various business systems collect - it may be both physical and logical.

"Today, many organisations maintain multiple, separate data warehouses to meet unique business unit requirements or to comply with data privacy regulations across countries," said the firm's Hermann Wimmer.

Here then we see Teradata moving to try and provide simpler data warehouse management and consistent performance.

The company also now tables an additional Teradata Database feature called Secure Zones, which separates data and groups of users for each entity, with secure boundaries between them.

This, says Teradata, enables organisations to comply with security and privacy laws that restrict the movement of personally identifiable information or co-location of data from multiple business entities or countries within a single data warehouse.

The Software-Defined Warehouse capability usesTeradata Workload Management, Teradata Data Labs and the Secure Zones feature of the Teradata Database.

These combined capabilities offer organisations the following functions:

• Multi-Tenant Deployment: to separately manage data and users from multiple business units or organisations -- and the Software-Defined Warehouse shields system administrators from viewing the tenants' data, if required for security or privacy purposes.

• Business-to-Business Analytic Services: to simplify the hosting and managing of business-to-business analytic services for partners of Teradata customers.

• Data Mart Consolidation: to consolidate multiple data marts into a single system, which reduces the total cost of ownership and carbon footprint.

NOTE: This also provides a simpler way for users to gain an enterprise view of the data, while continuing to segregate the data, users, applications, and workloads from each data mart.

• Production Analytic Sandboxes to set up user-focused, self-service data labs, enabling new levels of data-driven insights and agility, without data duplication or creation of new silos.

"'Software-defined anything' has become a hot industry topic for organisations looking to speed provisioning and better utilise infrastructure resources," said John L Myers, managing research director for business intelligence at Enterprise Management Associates.

"Teradata's delivery of a software-defined warehouse provides a level of agility and 'push-button' simplicity that empower organisations to quickly deploy their data warehouse and data mart resources and effectively manage security across environments."

Mini case study

For example, a European-based multi-national company is currently required to dedicate a separate, stand-alone system within its data centre for each of the countries served. The employees within each country have access to their own secured data, but this model is not cost-effective. With deployment of the Software-Defined Warehouse, the data from all countries can be brought into a single system while offering the same security controls and access restrictions. This consolidation saves both time and money, while also guaranteeing consistent performance across workloads based on business priorities.

Neo Technology CEO: What is a graph database... and why big data needs one

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CEO of Neo Technology Emil Eifrem guest blogs below for the Computer Weekly Developer Network to explain what, really, we mean by the notion of the graph database.

TechTarget's own definition states that a graph database (also called a graph-oriented database) is a type of NoSQL database that uses graph theory to store, map and query relationships -- but is it worth hearing a definition laid down by industry too?

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A brief history of (database) time

Back in the mainframe era there were a huge number of different types of databases - all with different ways of organising the data on disk. But by the time we got into the 1980s, one model became dominant.

Enter SQL: with data organised into tables - think Excel - it was initially very successful, mapping very well with the majority of business applications available at the time.

They might be (data) giants

This was a time when the tech giants ruled. With Oracle, IBM and Microsoft in the game you could choose your vendor but the method of structuring the data was not up for debate...

... it was the SQL way, or the highway.

So why are we moving away from this trusted model?

Put simply, data no longer works as part of a one-size-fits-all strategy. With the arrival of big data we are no longer talking in Mb or Gb and we're certainly not talking about structured information.

Businesses are collecting vast streams of data about anything and everything, often without much thought on how it will be managed, analysed or even stored. Trying to push these huge, irregularly-shaped data sets into the traditional SQL model is painful.

Not Only SQL

Hence we have the 'Not Only SQL' movement (also known as NoSQL).

Within NoSQL we have real choice over how data is structured, each model offering various strengths and weaknesses.

Ed -- exactly ! .. as recently explained on Forbes: "NoSQL is argued to be shaping our future because, as a database type, it depends on data structures that can (for certain use cases) operate faster than traditional relational databases. The NoSQL data structure taxonomy is defined by key-value stores, documents or graph databases. In other words, the database design can be structured around what can be a more custom-aligned DNA for the use case in hand."

Eifrem continues...

Graph databases are part of this movement. Focusing on the relationships between data-points, rather than on the values themselves, graphs are perfect for those big, messy and connected data sets. This is something that SQL databases simply can't do - at least without spending significant effort creating complicated join tables.

With the graph you can ask complex and abstract questions that look beyond the first data connection.

They can uncover patterns that are difficult to detect using traditional representations such as tables. It may be a social graph; it may be going from point A to point B; or it may be product recommendations, where you want to know what else was bought by the people who bought similar things to you.

Importantly, understanding the connections between data, and the meaning of these links, doesn't need new data. You can pull new insights existing data, simply by reframing the problem and looking at it in a graph.

CWDN notes: about the author's firm

Neo Technology is the creator of the Neo4j graph database that brings data relationships to the fore -- the firm recently announced Neo4j 2.2, with major updates to derive maximum value from the data relationships. Enhancements in Neo4j 2.2 include a new Cypher cost-based optimizer and the addition of a new in-memory page cache to improve application read performance and scalability.

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Image courtesy of Neo Technology.

Varnish buffs up glossy new API engine

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A sub-editor headline writer's dream, the highly-lacquered and beautifully-polished Varnish Software (Ed - did we use 'lacquered' yet?) has released its new Varnish API Engine.

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The software helps developers manage what the firm calls the "proliferation of API calls" in the modern age of apps and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Early customer trials suggest that the Varnish API Engine can handle up to 20,000 API calls per second, that's quite a lot.

As the Internet of Things nexus expands, APIs gain significance as the 'glue' that connects and enables all the 'things' to communicate.

What is an API?

As defined on Forbes, "Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) establish a vital communications bond between different software program elements and data streams. APIs define the route for a programmer to code a program (or program component) that will be capable of requesting services from an operating system (OS) or other application."

ABI Research forecasts that the installed base of active wireless connected devices will more than double to reach 40.9 billion by 2020.

The product itself takes the average developer less than 60 minutes to deploy.

Features include:

• Authentication - verifies the identity of the client. Varnish API engine supports a broad set for authentication drivers and can be easily customized
• Authorization - grants the client access to a specific API or API call
• Metering - counts the number of API calls towards a specific API or API call and can track e.g. the usage of a specific client or subscriber
• Throttling - places limits on usage such as number of calls from a certain client or subscriber or usage from a certain API
• Caching - caches read-only API calls to reduce call overload

"With Varnish Cache, we boosted website performance, making it possible to cope with high traffic and changing content," explains Per Buer, CTO and Founder of Varnish Software. "We observed in the market and learned from our customers that APIs are going down the same route as websites, with a proliferation of users, devices and applications causing serious performance problems for legacy and home-grown tools. With Varnish API Engine we have created a simple and easy to use API management tool designed to give digital businesses a truly competitive edge."

The next version coming in Autumn 2015 will include a graphical web interface and will also be available through the cloud.

Preparing campuses for Bring-Your-Own-Behaviour

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This is a guest post on the Computer Weekly Developer Network by Andy Butcher, higher education evangelist at Extreme Networks.

A new definition for BYOB

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The traditional education model of lecture-based learning and exams is changing as more distributive approaches hit our educational institutes.

With both colleges and universities requiring students to increase tuition fees in order to keep up with administration and other costs, both are now looking to new innovative ways of teaching to increase student enrollment whilst keeping costs down.

Simultaneously, new technology is also disrupting the traditional model. As new smart device technology is developed, its adoption rate continues to grow and fuel the proliferation of devices being brought into the learning environment.

Research from Gartner predicts that mobile data traffic will grow 59 percent in 2015, driven mainly by an increase in the use of mobile apps.

Such technology is supporting the creation of new ways of learning online and with students contributing to rising tuition fees, they now demand access to knowledge as and when they need to, anytime and anywhere, from technology that they are already familiar with. These financial and technology challenges are coming to a head as students demand more from their education, commonly termed as 'Bring-Your-own-Behaviour.'

Now, educational institutes must not only keep pace with this change but find a way to embrace it to keep students engaged in an affordable way.

Keeping pace with modern technology regardless of what technology may have already been implemented can be achieved by adding a high-speed and high performing WLAN solution that enables control and management of bandwidth so that students can learn at a time that suits them best.

The trend towards BYOB can help keep students engaged in learning but must work on the premise of familiarity - that means on the devices of their choice with anywhere access to learning material. Understanding student usage through a smart network application analytics tool can further better inform higher education of the best ways in which to keep students connected whilst on the move for competitive advantage and success.

Extreme Networks is a company specialising in high-performance switching and routing products for datacentre and core-to-edge networks, wired/wireless LAN access and unified network management and control.

To boldy code... IBM builds 'space apps' with NASA

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IBM is offering its Bluemix platform up for the NASA Space App Challenge virtual event to help developers build applications that contribute to space exploration.

Bluemix is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) -- it is an implementation of IBM's Open Cloud Architecture (OCA), based on the Cloud Foundry open PaaS project for cloud-centric software application development -- it taps into an ecosystem of other services and runtime frameworks.

The NASA Space App Challenge virtual event is a two day 'hackathon' for scientists, educators, artists, students and - software application developers.

IBM will offer mentorship, guidance and tutorials for challenge participants; the firm says it will grant free access to over a hundred cloud-based services such as Watson analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) tools through Bluemix.

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The NASA Space Apps Challenge exists to build applications, software, hardware, data visualisation and platform solutions to bolster space exploration missions and improve life on Earth.

This year, more than 10,000 developers are expected to participate across 136 cities and online through the virtual challenge.

Some examples of specific challenges include:

• Visualising Asteroids in the Sky: Participants are challenged to leverage data aggregators and analytics to create a system that can help NASA tracks asteroids.

• Sensor Yourself: Participants are challenged to put together a stream of senor data to guide movement for robots.

• Crop Alert - Learning from the Growers: Participants are challenged to develop a mobile/web app/SMS capability to help growers create more creative methods of growing crops.








Microsoft previews future Visual Studio 2015 product line up

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Microsoft has announced the Visual Studio 2015 product lineup that will be available when the version(s) ultimately release this summer.

While the Computer Weekly Developer Network does not cover 'projected releases' generally, the size of this forthcoming product does warrant some detail.

NOTE: Let's also remember that last November Microsoft made Visual Studio Community 2013 available for free - this of course is a 'full featured extensible' IDE for non-enterprise application development.

But a development environment is a development environment, isn't it?

Well... not so much.

The focus revolves around three principal offerings so that programmers can, "Select the tooling solution that best meets their needs," as they say.

This 'product diversification' (if you will) should make it easier to ensure all team members have access to the same tool set.

Microsoft's Mitra Azizirad explains that the firm is bringing Visual Studio Premium and Visual Studio Ultimate into one single offering called Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN.

"[This offering] includes all the high value features you're already familiar with in Visual Studio Ultimate, along with new innovation that's coming with the 2015 release. So, in addition to Visual Studio Community and Visual Studio Professional with MSDN, our new Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN rounds out the three primary Visual Studio 2015 offerings," blogs Azizirad.

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The product breakdown is as follows:

Visual Studio 2015 Enterprise with MSDN: As quoted above, this 'coming together' of Visual Studio Premium and Visual Studio Ultimate is optimised for teams delivering high-scale applications and services.

Visual Studio Professional with MSDN: Slightly lower calorie than the above high-scale turbo charged product, this is a collection of tools and services for individual developers and development teams building professional-grade applications.

Visual Studio Community 2015: will give developers free access to the Visual Studio toolset for non-enterprise and open source development.

But here's the really interesting part, Microsoft tells us that key features of Visual Studio will be more broadly available across the 2015 product set.

For example, CodeLens - a feature previously available only in Visual Studio Ultimate - will now be provided as part of Visual Studio Professional and Enterprise. PowerPoint storyboarding will be provided for free to Community, Professional, and Enterprise users.

More colour will no doubt be provided at the forthcoming 'Build' Microsoft developer event next month.

What is a block chain?

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Software application development professionals working on security related technologies touching so-called cryptocurrencies will be aware of the block chain (or blockchain).

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This is a network-based 'inviolable ledger' that, in terms of form and function, is fully public and is constantly being updated and confirmed by autonomous computers.

In line with this technology, a sequential transaction database technique is used to keep a ledger of cryptocurrency monies.

Completing the picture here (or at least adding another layer of colour) is the fact that transmission of 'bits' of data can performed using Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) where a sequence of bits are encrypted with a cipher key applied to a single block.

Notable cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin, Ripple, Litecoin, Peercoin and NXT/Nextcoin -- these are the brands with the highest current levels of market capitalisation.

Computaris: dialling into the ugly truth on SS7

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Telecommunications is rife for hacking, or at least that's what people say.

The problem is, many of our telco-level communications protocols, systems, subsystems and substrates have been around a long time -- and that's what makes them vulnerable.

Razvan Rusu, Computaris presales manager says that, as of now, a massive security flaw exists in the way all mobile networks operate and communicate with each other.

As firm, Computaris specialises in system integration, BSS technical consultancy and software development for software vendors and communication services providers (CSPs) -- basically, this is stuff like mobile broadband data policy management and provisioning etc.

Computaris says that there is an ugly truth at the heart of mobile networks and its not confined to a small, unused part of the network -- it's down to SS7.

According to searchnetworking.techtarget.com, "On the public switched telephone network (PSTN), Signaling System 7 (SS7) is a system that puts the information required to set up and manage telephone calls in a separate network rather than within the same network that the telephone call is made on."

Basically it is a set of telephony signal protocols that handles almost every function in a mobile network, including voice calls and text messages.

The problem is (says Rusu) that SS7 was developed over 30 years ago without including any security mechanisms.

At the time of its design, SS7 network was considered a trusted network offering as it was designed with the possibility for a Network Element to pretend to be and to respond on behalf of any other Network Element.

The problem is (says Rusu), these design features are actually the flaws that can be exploited by hackers. The suggestion here is that SS7 was conceived at a time before hacking was even called hacking.

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Rusu writes as follows:

"To make matters worse, because of roaming agreements, SS7 messages flow freely between mobile operators. This means that an on-net call (calling and called part from the same network) that should never leave that mobile operator can be controlled by or redirected to any other mobile network operator. This allows hackers to target a mobile subscriber from anywhere in the world."

"Hackers use messages normally exchanged between mobile operators, which make SS7 attacks very difficult to detect. By sending seemingly normal requests they can obtain the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI), a unique number associated to every SIM card. Using the IMSI, the hackers can target their attack on a single mobile phone, sending only a couple of SS7 messages per targeted IMSI."

"Every mobile network is potentially at risk and consequently, every mobile user is as well. Mobile operators can secure the access to their own core network but do not have control over what happens with other mobile operators. The challenge for mobile operators is to block attacks while allowing normal messages exchange between operators."

"The current equipment used for routing SS7 (STP) are not capable of detecting and blocking these types of attacks. A solution is not easy, but nonetheless, it exists. First, mobile operators can hide the subscriber's real IMSI and MSC/VLR address. By home routing SMS messages, the real IMSI can be hidden while the SMS messages are still delivered. Hiding the IMSIs is a great step towards network security, since all the attacks need the subscriber's real IMSI. However, this first step is not enough, as hackers may already know the IMSIs of their targets from previous attacks. The IMSI is linked to the SIM card, so it changes very rarely. In addition to hiding the real IMSIs, mobile operators could enhance their STPs routing features. Messages received from other mobile operators can be sent to an external application that can decide, based on the data carried in that message, if the request is a genuine request or an attack."

The zeitgeist for the Internet of Things: 'thingalytics'

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The Internet of Things, The Internet of Everything, The Internet of Connected & Embedded Things and The Internet of Data...

... take your pick, they all mean (mostly) the same thing.

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The notion of connected devices and the IoT is now becoming quite familiar to us and many users have started to adopt these technologies already.

In 2015 in the UK it is not uncommon to have British Gas Hive electronic heating controls, a home video monitoring system such as Piper or others and perhaps most obviously of all, a FitBit as a personal health tracker.

Time for thingalytics

The IT world is of course fond of a jazzy acronym or buzzword, so why not a buzzword title for a book about the Internet of Things?

Written by Software AG's Dr. John Bates, thingalytics is intended to show businesses how to take advantage of the fast big data that flows from the digital planet.

But how?

Thingalytics describes how to use real-time analytics and algorithms to seize the opportunities that flow from IoT while simultaneously minimising threats.

According to the book's promotional notes, "As each device from tractors to refrigerators to ships is digitized and connected to the Internet, it presents an opportunity for innovative businesses to learn from (and take advantage of) the digital data it creates."

IoT simples?

But it's not all going to be easy... the book warns us what happens when algorithms go wrong and cites a famous stock trading debacle thrown up by erroneous software code.

Bates also insists that this stuff is all new, "Because the volume and complexity of data have expanded exponentially in recent years, a thingalytics platform needs to be based upon completely new software architecture," he writes.

Digital Darwinism, digital disruption

"Digital Darwinism is unkind to those who wait," says R Ray Wang, who has written the forward to the book before listing a nicely complete description of what his firm Constellation Research does.

Using real stories from some of the most tech-savvy retailers, banks, transportation and soft drink providers, thingalytics delves into the world of analytics and algorithms to show the reader how to seize the opportunities buried within IoT.

Chapters include:

• It's all about me - the birth of personalised marketing
• Machines with feelings - smart industrialised and retail machines
• Home is where the smart is - yes, there is such a thing as a 'smart meal' - and yes, your TV might start only advertising to your exact demographic if you sign up within agreed privacy terms
• Take two smart pills and call me in the morning - your pancreas controls your endocrine system which acts as your body monitoring control, so why give it some help with an electronic monitoring sensor, in a pill
• Planes, trains and automobiles - yes, it's about those things
• The technology behind thingalytics - think big data, think streaming analytics, think cloud

CWDN opinion

Add thingalytics to your spellchecker now, this is the kind of phrase that sticks.

This book describes the zeitgeist of information technology today at the intersection of big data analytics and the change to a new information-empowered dynamism for consumers and businesses at all levels.

Dr. John writes with a cadence and spirit that reflects his real life persona; he is a techie original who just happens to hold a doctorate in software engineering and a C-level board position at Software AG.

This is an easy and enjoyable read and one that you can dip into randomly page by page if you don't want to start on page one.

About the author

Dr. John Bates is a forerunner in the fields of the Internet of Things and big data streaming analytics -- he holds a custom-engineered napkin neck attachment device and a PhD from Cambridge University.

Software AG: Vorsprung durch cloud-Technik

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As already reported on the Computer Weekly Developer Network, the team at Software AG is using this year's CeBit 2015 exhibition and conference in Hannover Germany to talk cloud.

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Specifically, the firm has launched a "Transformation to the Cloud" initiative.

Software AG has made the decision to deploy its entire cloud portfolio on the AWS cloud over the course of 2015.

Already running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) are the company's Alfabet Cloud and ARIS Cloud.

Alfabet is for IT planning and portfolio management as well as business process analysis.

Cloud-by-cloud breakdown

The Alfabet Cloud

Alfabet Cloud combines portfolio management with cloud technology to put IT portfolio management expertise in two editions i.e. it lets teams decide which option best fits their needs based on budget, portfolio management maturity, program goals and stakeholders.

The ARIS Cloud

This technology exists to design, analyse, share and collaboratively improve processes in the cloud with integrated social collaboration. The firm insists that it comes in three editions -- basic, advanced and enterprise -- to support the widest implementation of BPA projects...

... it's BPA cloud (Business Process Analytics)-as-a-Service, if you like.

So to this year's main event and the firm's international main press conference held on a Sunday afternoon.

At a gathering entitled Stand out in the Digital World - with the first Digital
Business Platform, chief technology officer Dr. Wolfram Jost chaired the proceedings together with CEO Karl-Heinz Streibich and Eric Duffaut, who is Software AG's chief customer officer -- the assembled collective wanted to show how their technology platform enables organisations to master digitisation.

Software AG now positively names and brands its latest offering as The Digital Business Platform - bus is this just a brand name for some cloud application services, or is Software AG doing anything tangibly different?

NOTE: The European Commission estimates that the digital economy will reach €3.2 trillion (in the G20 countries alone) by 2016 and already accounts for 8 percent of GDP.

Why old software is "broken"...?

The suggestion here is that old software doesn't work - it is:

• standard,
• conventional,
• packaged
• based upon old business logic

... and, very crucially, it is designed for relatively stable and predictable business situations.

This is the old world of software and it can not provide the flexibility needed for today's world of real-time business and rapidly changing market requirements.

NOTE: By way of clarification, Software AG is NOT contending that all old software should be "ripped and replaced" -- we know very well that a lot of legacy software exists because it is software that STILL WORKS. So rather then, the firm is talking about new digitisation programmes and new software developments for the most part.

"Today's enterprises must become digital to have maximum visibility into changing market behaviour, individual customer requirements, its own business operations across the entire supply chain as well as changing external parameters such as new government regulations or even weather conditions", said Software AG CTO, Wolfram Jost.

"The Digital Business Platform provides the foundation necessary to develop and deploy differentiating business applications, developed together with the business departments, in short and easily foreseeable release cycles," added Jostr.

He underlines that traditional packaged applications are not designed for this type of development approach.

"The benefits of analysing data from the Internet of Things, from the social end of the spectrum to machine to machine communication (M2M), making in-depth business decisions based on the information provided and dynamically adapting business processes and models to react to 'live' events are enormous", continued Jost.

"Providing a holistic approach that can manage and govern IT assets and automated business processes, on-premise and cloud integration and advanced
analytics, based on an in-memory and event driven architecture, is the only way that enterprises can fully utilize digitization. This is our philosophy behind the Digital Business Platform".

It's a question of PRODUCTS vs PLATFORMS ... with products, you have a piece of software and it will go out of date... but is you run a platform, you have the option to pull things in and out.

If we ask whether Software AG doing anything tangibly different - and the answer is yes, but it's a subtle yes.

The company has brought together its own recipe for combined IT in its own special way, this is the difference.

• It has core cloud functions such as Alfabet and ARIS.
• It has systems integration technology from its WebMethods products.
• It also draws upon WebMethods for its Agile software application development and process intelligence.
• It has capabilities to manage big data in-memory with its Terracotta line.
• It has real-time insight technology with Apama.

Now Software AG would tell us that this ingredient list makes the firm "unique", but we all know that only snowflakes and John Lennon are unique.

The company has also said that with this week's news it has launched the first ever digital business platform, but headlines like that on press releases don't help much to be honest, it's just PR showboating isn't it?

What we need to ask is whether there is real substance here behind the use of the term PLATFORM.

Jost further states that a "platform beats a product every time" - and what Jost means by this is firms should approach software applications that they may only end up using for say a couple of years in their initial form.

Software application development must move to reach a new level of ADAPTIVE APPLICATIONS that can be changed and tuned (often rapidly) says the firm.

This is because no software vendor can foresee the business logic of a company for more than a couple of years -- this is a good point.

So what we have here is a focused set of tools and technologies delivered in an efficient and logically packaged package.

Software AG has thought about how it has put these component ingredients together... it's a layer of advancement through intelligent cloud design.

Or perhaps Vorsprung durch cloud-Technik, yah?

Editorial disclosure: Software AG paid for most of Adrian Bridgwater's travel expenses to attend CeBit 2015.








What can Xerox Services do to make work simple?

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Xerox photocopiers are still on the market -- as are the company's multi-function systems, digital production printing presses and other products.

But try as we might, we couldn't find a place to talk about paper on the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog.

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Xerox Services

More software-centric by far is the Xerox Services division, which now (according to the company itself) commands something of a market leadership position in document and business process intelligence.

This business division of the firm has two focal points.

Xerox calls the first element "horizontal client processes" -- and these elements are business functions that any example firm might look to execute by working with partners irrespective of the industry vertical in question: examples include human resources, finance and also customer care.

Then there are "vertical processes" -- these are business functions specific to the industry usage, so for want of an example... a transportation tolling system (this is in fact a strong area for Xerox Services) or for example in healthcare where the process is even more particular to the use case.

Did you know Xerox ranks #1 as a provider of worldwide transportation services to governments? Well, no... nor did we to be honest.

What Xerox Services specialises in is BPS - Business Process Services (which many would call Business Process Outsourcing, or BPO).

Business processes are changing, faster than many people realise and with a software-driven engine behind them.

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Xerox Services now boasts of 50,000 call centre operatives around the world to form the firm's customer care services offering -- the world of professional services has never looked quite this shape before.

What we see now is a world where business outcomes are shaping in new ways as they are driven by more Business Process Management (BPO) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

Xerox Services says that by outsourcing the right elements of operational management effectively, firms can:

• Drive more innovation from managed services
• Run traditional and digital environments simultaneously
• Mitigate risk in the new digital economy

Rich experiences

All of this comes back to firms needing to apply big data analytics to drive omni-channel care strategies, identifying high potential areas for care automation and developing what vendors love to call a "rich" customer experience.

Xerox has sold its own IT "traditional" outsourcing division to Atos and so is effectively following its own mantra for concentrating on core competencies.

Xerox Services works with data at a variety of levels -- voice, social media interactions, email attachments, images, video and more.

But what matters here is the degree to which firms can implement analytics upon this data to help make the customer using the customer care services more efficient.

As I have written elsewhere before, if a user tries to update his or her car insurance online in what we would call a "self service" format and fails, then they will very typically call and speak to a human being. This is not as profitable for the firm using the service, so Xerox will layer in a variety of data analysis technologies including Natural Language Processing (NLP) to study voice calls. The results and this analysis can then be fed back into the way the customer operates (both online and offline) to drive towards greater profit.

There's a learning dynamic that needs to go on here between clients and providers to make the changes happen as we move to these new models -- but it is happening in the marketplace now as firms are transforming their business to new service based models of operation where "supplier partners" are leveraged as part of what should form progressive business models.

President of Xerox Services Robert Zapfel calls this -- Business Process Economies Of Skill... and it must just form part of the new economics.

Editorial Disclosure: Adrian Bridgwater has worked on sponsored blog materials for Xerox Services.

Software AG's cloud migration double-play: migration cloud-to-ground & cloud-to-cloud

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When is the best time to break news at CeBit in Hannover, Germany?

Answer: late on the Friday afternoon before the show even starts, natürlich!

Software AG today explains that it is launching a "Transformation to the Cloud" initiative.

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Ed -- it's about cloud migration then, obviously?

A more colourful way of putting that would be to say that it centres around an objective to help enterprises to identify and implement their optimal cloud adoption strategies.

To support and validate the initiative, Software AG has made the decision to deploy its entire cloud portfolio on the AWS cloud over the course of 2015.

Already running on AWS are Software AG's Alfabet Cloud and ARIS Cloud product suites for IT planning and portfolio management as well as business process analysis.

These services are supposed to allow enterprises to identify those IT assets that can make optimal use of the cloud from ease of access, cost, regulatory and security perspectives and how to transform business processes to the cloud.

Natural 'cloud citizens'

Yes of course some of those assets will be natural (or even obvious) so-called 'cloud citizens' such as those apps with a high degree of cyclicality and those that scale well in vertical terms...

... but if cloud migration was that clear cut then we wouldn't spend so much time discussing it and firms wouldn't launch initiatives like this one.

Cloud-to-Cloud and Cloud-to-Ground

Software AG will also deploy webMethods Integration Cloud on Amazon Web Services this year -- this system offers application integration capabilities for Cloud-to-Cloud and Cloud-to-Ground use cases as a public cloud service.

Software AG CTO Wolfram Jost insists that Software AG can offer a portfolio of cloud services to help design an optimal hybrid IT architecture and deploy suitable processes, domains, systems and applications on the AWS cloud.

"Using Software AG's Alfabet Cloud and ARIS Cloud on AWS will enable customers to gain the maximum value from the cloud through a managed business and IT transformation to a customer centric digital business," said the company, in a press statement.

Software AG will also deploy webMethods Integration Cloud, an integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) for cloud-to-cloud integration and seamless connections with private cloud or on-premise enterprise service bus installations on AWS.

webMethods AgileApps Cloud

Finally, webMethods AgileApps Cloud, a PaaS and on-premises solution for creating situational and case management apps will also be run on AWS. Designed for easy visual customisation, webMethods AgileApps Cloud enables subject matter experts to change processes, business rules, e-forms, reports, dashboards, connect with Facebook or Twitter, collaborate with team members and access information from any mobile device.

"Today, more than ever before, leading ISVs are looking for IT solutions that allow them to move quickly, reduce costs, and better serve their customers," said Terry Wise, Vice President, AWS. "Software AG is a leading example of an innovative software vendor going all in on AWS to leverage our secure, robust infrastructure platform, and expanding global footprint to build highly differentiated, value-added solutions for their customers."

Software AG says it will now expand the portfolio of cloud transformation services and solutions through its partner program in 2015.

The focus will be on delivering strategic cloud adoption consulting services.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum, 'recreated' for iPad & maybe a new generation of BASIC developers?

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Emulators and clones have come and gone over the years, but those of us who grew up with the real thing have long bemoaned the disappearance of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and its 'rubberised' keyboard.

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'The recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum' (note use of official name) is a full-size recreation of the 1980s personal computer.

The machine will be available in the UK and elsewhere this Spring 2015 at less than £100.

The new (sorry, recreated) ZX Spectrum ships with

1) 'Recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum' iOS / Android apps which include the
classic Sinclair ZX Spectrum game 'Chuckie Egg'.
2) 'Sinclair BASIC'
3) A large game bundle

'Sinclair ZX Spectrum' games will also be available ONLINE, via 'The recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum Online' web app website.

The recreated device uses are not limited to Sinclair ZX Spectrum applications as its Bluetooth keyboard it can be used with other devices.

'The recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum' has been redesigned in the UK for Elite Systems Ltd, one of the UK's oldest developers and publishers of computer and video games.

Sinclair for developers

Co-founder of Elite Systems Steve Wilcox told the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog that, "Sinclair / Spectrum BASIC is credited by some as inspiring a generation of world-class developers in the 1980s."

"[Today then] 'the recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum' ships with the same BASIC programming language and coupled with the wealth of resources now available on the web will, we hope, inspire a new generation to enjoy the benefits of becoming a developer," added Wilcox.

It supports 'Apple AirPlay' and 'Google Chromecast'; enabling wireless streaming of what's on the screen of a phone, tablet, Mac or PC to an HDTV.

The recreated device's 'GAME' layer has been perfected for iOS / Android apps and for games in general ... its 'QWERTY' layer has been honed for applications requiring access
to all the functionality of a full-size keyboard.

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What (d!conomy software) to expect at CeBit 2015

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Fortunately, for those of us that enjoy a good tech trade show, CeBit 2015 is on.

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Fortunately, this year's show is one again (as always) held in the comparatively sleepy German town of Hannover.

... and fortunately, there is German efficiency, excellent beer and all round fresh air for those that venture between the show's 30-something or so halls from time to time.

d!conomy?

Unfortunately, you can't word search the http://www.cebit.de/home website for very much specific software discussion (although it will bring up a list of the 200 exhibitors who list themselves as software firms) -- so we obviously just have to go to the show.

Unfortunately the promotors have taken to using the term d!conomy (noun -- /ɪD -ˈkɒn.ə.mi/ ) presumably to denote just how important DATA is to the ECONOMY -- d!conomy, geddit?

NOTE: Software developers will no doubt find this use of ! amusing as of course ! denotes (not) in program code -- so the connotation is negative.

Fortunately, the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog spoke to a handful of firms to get the inside track on what kind of software we can expect at this year's show.

Software AG

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Eric Duffaut, chief customer officer at Software AG thinks that CeBIT is a special and unique event.

"CeBit is an opportunity to present and discuss Software AG's latest developments and the development of the European software industry, with customers, partners, regional and national politicians and industry analysts," he said.

"This year we will be demonstrating how enterprises and government services can stand out in the digital economy. We will also be emphasising how the current digitisation revolution presents Europe with an incredible opportunity to take the lead in the development of the global software industry," added Duffaut.

... and also?

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Who else is saying what?

Jennifer Healey, senior research scientist & IoT analytics lead at Intel Corporation, is holding a keynote speech to detail the company's future visions for automation in factories by using new technologies.

Intel is exhibiting what it calls "an extensive showcase" of technologies and end-to-
end solutions for the datacenter, Internet of Things, embedded and security.

"Together with OEM partners, Intel will also be presenting a range of demonstrations and use cases that make tomorrow's vision of a clutterfree workplace a reality today," said the firm.

Also at the show -- Developer World

The first-ever of Developer World display and event area will feature a wide range of exhibits, networking events and themed conferences that are specifically targeted at software developers.

Digitalisation drive

Mark Darbyshire, chief technology advisor, SAP UK & I has this to say, "The on-going digitalisation of the business world is pushing traditional IT approaches to their limits, forcing organisations to rethink the way in which they operate."

"Whether it's start-ups provoking changes to a traditional business model or transport hubs finding bottlenecks and removing them, our focus at CeBIT showcases how businesses can take advantage of the new opportunities SAP's, Run Simple, approach provides. A perfect example of this is SAP S/4HANA, a single platform for companies to operate their business, drive their digitalisation efforts and implement the insights they discover as a result," added Darbyshire.

He concludes, "At the show, examples of this include a spectrum from machine-to-machine communications to analytics for professional golfers. CeBIT is one of the key platforms we have in Europe that brings together the industry's most innovative technology leaders and creative minds to tackle today's business challenges, share key insights and prepare for the data-driven, hyper-connected future."

Intel XDK HTML5 cross-platform development tool

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Memory maker turned chip maker turned chip maker who also makes a lot of software company Intel has released an updated Intel XDK -- an all-in-one HTML5 development environment.

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Not an SDK, an XDK

Intel uses the X to denote cross platform -- the DK still means Development Kit.

The latest XDK is aimed at accelerating the deployment of new mobile games.

This software application developer tool can be used by game developers to write a single app and automatically build versions for Android, iOS and Windows app stores.

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"Intel XDK gives gamers the ability to enjoy the same experiences across their PCs, phones, and tablets, and lets developers focus on creating new experiences instead of porting games to different platforms," said the firm, in a press statement.

Nice Asset, Management

This version adds popular game engine support for a range of code libraries and includes an Asset Manager to access, manipulate and manage game assets.

There is support here for the W3C Gamepad API for devices; and it also supports Google Play Game Services and Apple Game Center Services.

Intel XDK is available as a free download for Windows 7 & 8, Apple OS X and Ubuntu Linux.

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"Intel XDK HTML5 Cross-platform Development Tool provides a simplified workflow to enable developers to easily design, debug, build, and deploy HTML5 web and hybrid apps across multiple app stores, and form factor devices," said the firm.







What to expect from QCon 2015

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QCon is coming to London again on March 4 2015 -- this is a software development conference with guts not glitz.

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The event is described as a "practitioner-driven conference" designed for technical team leads, architects, engineering directors and project managers who influence innovation in their teams.

"This year's QCon continues our passion and commitment to providing a conference where software development innovators can learn more about innovator-stage topics from the best teams in the world, and from each other," said Floyd Marinescu, QCon conference Chair.

Highlights include a session entitled: Java - Not Dead Yet

The blurb says that Java is evolving to meet developer and business needs, from lambdas in Java 8 to built-in support for money types rumoured for Java 9.

Mobile is no longer the Next Big Thing say the organisers but a requirement for your business -- attendees can hear from those who have implemented successful mobile systems.

Emmanuel Marchal, managing director for EMEA at Basho Technologies states that although QCon is primarily a 'party' for developers, architects, engineers and other techy-types to trade thoughts on innovation and how they're achieving it -- there is no rule in the charter that states actual users of the tech are banned from proceedings.

"In-fact, a great deal of value can be found for those looking to spot the next innovative piece of software that may revolutionise their business. The speaker line-up, for example, sees an array of top end-user spokespeople, from CIOs to researchers, take to the stage with developers to discuss their use of tech," said Marchal.

He points to his session with bet365 and says that this should appeal not only to the developers but also the users, addressing the technical intricacies of next generation databases and the business value to be gained from a move to NoSQL.

What better for IT managers looking to tackle a persistent pain point than hearing how their peers addressed a similar issue?

Data Gravity

"Furthermore there are presentations from software providers that aim to enlighten both users and developers, with speakers such as Dave McCrory tackling issues such as data gravity and how very large volumes of data can negatively impact network performance. Data Gravity is an issue that can seriously impact a business, and such presentations can be vital learning tools for users' seeking to prepare themselves for the next onslaught of IT issues," said Marchal.

Other sessions include a look at how theories from neuroscience and psychology can help us better understand IT professionals and discover what really motivates them.

Speakers will also look at how to create reactive systems is more than simply learning a framework. Thinking in a reactive way helps you to design responsive architectures.

"QCon is a good event that acts as a pragmatic barometer, showing the evolution of software development. It does this not just in terms of technology innovation, but also by demonstrating how developers are becoming more 'connected' into the business as a whole through the growth of DevOps and Continuous Delivery," said Tulin Green, marketing manager, Perforce Software.

Perforce will present on the topic of 'High Performance Continuous Delivery - Versioning and Release Management Aligned', the session looks at the key requirements for optimising the pipeline from the developers' desktop to the customer.

The conference homepage is found at http://qconlondon.com/

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Ericsson: The (optimised) network is the (app experience) computer

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The jury is out on application experience optimisation, or AEO if you prefer.

As web pages now automatically deliver content to mobile devices in what they think is a 'mobile optimised' format, not all sites offer the option to revert to 'Desktop Version' as Wikipedia does.

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Given the size of an iPad or BlackBerry Passport screen, we don't always need it optimised thank you very much.

But application experience optimisation goes beyond screen size adjustments and websites -- it's a network level issue at the core.

Operators need to perfect network performance if they want customer loyalty -- and they know it.

But things are changing; Ericsson says that conventional network-related key performance indicators (KPIs) alone may no longer paint an accurate picture of the true user experience.

Fast-evolving app ecosystem

App Experience Optimization (note the caps and the Z to denote the branded product name) is a new service from the firm that claims to be able to "transform how operators optimise their networks" to meet the new demands created by a fast-evolving app ecosystem.

Not directly used by software application developers as such, but of interest to those who want to know how their apps are being served from the back end -- this service aims to create a picture of the local app experience and correlating this with network-related KPIs, which can then be acted upon.

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Jason Marcheck, service director for service provider infrastructure at analyst house Current Analysis has said that Ericsson has always paid attention to how user interaction with the network impacts its operators' customers.

"This latest launch brings end-users' app experiences into the mix, marrying network optimisation services with insights from collaborations with over-the-top service providers to help networks perform better in ways that end users value most," said Marcheck.

Mendix CTO: If developers want RAD, get aPaaS

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Mendix is a company that offers what we call an aPaaS -- an Application Platform As A Service (aPaaS).

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That doesn't tell us much.

So what is an aPaaS?

An aPaaS is meant for software application development pros to build business applications faster than by traditional methods.

Why and how?

Because an aPaaS is hosted so the operating system can be updated and upgraded more frequently by automatic controls -- and maintenance can also be performed from more of a backend position, plus there's also potentially better fault tolerance and (obviously) scalability, because this is cloud computing.

Mendix says programmers can use its aPaaS to design multi-device, multi-channel enterprise applications with their own data model, complex business logic, process flows and integrations using visual models and directly deploy to users.

Mendix's CTO Johan den Haan says that if programmers want to work in Rapid Application Development (RAD) environments today, they need aPaaS.

"Early RAD was great in theory, difficult in practice," says den Haan.

He argues that this is because the notion of fast, iterative development involving end users was years ahead of technology's ability to support it.

Thanks to the convergence of social, mobile, analytics and cloud, the promise of RAD is finally being realised.

Guest speaker content follows:

The following commentary comes directly from Mendixs CTO Johan den Haan.

Rapid application development's resurgence can be traced to the iPhone.

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The explosion of mobile devices has given rise to app companies that are disrupting industries and forcing traditional businesses to reinvent themselves as software companies. Business need more apps to compete and they can't afford to wait years for them to be built.

In addition, our experiences as consumers have radically transformed our expectations for business software.

We're now used to apps that are built rapidly and updated frequently; that work across any device; and that are simple and intuitive. When IT can't deliver, business users simply take matters into their own hands.

Rapid Application Development is the 'new black', and it's on everyone's radar, from analysts like Forrester and Gartner to the big enterprise software vendors.

For proof, look no further than the arm's race between major cloud platform providers. Some are bringing rapid application development capabilities to market organically, while others are partnering with established vendors to round out their cloud portfolios.

Clocked creates socially-holistic profile matchmaking app

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A London-based software application development shop has produced a new app designed to tackle online matchmaking with an altogether more integrated and socially-holistic approach.

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Clocked connects a user's various online profiles to form a 'compatibility score' for potential matches.

Each day users are matched with potential suitors, with a couple of wildcards thrown in for good measure.

Okay so what you say?

Clocked's predominantly Agile-centric team says it is the first app to reveal compatible people partially based on information automatically pulled from users' various online profiles;
including:

  • Instagram,
  • Facebook and,
  • LinkedIn.

So how was it built?

"We are an Agile shop," confirms Ben Lambert, CEO and founder of Clocked.

"The development was also done in Poland in two-week sprints... and using scrum. I have followed the whole thing on Trello (a free web-based project management application) and project managed from the UK."

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"The back end is built on Ruby/ PostgreSQL for high scaling potential. The front end in ObjC and Swift giving the nice UX/ UI," added Lambert.

Cinderella twist

The team also built in a function which it calls the Cinderella twist i.e. users need to act on suggested profiles by midnight or they disappear.

In addition to location & age, Clocked takes into account values and other online profile information when suggesting how suitable a match is -- when browsing through profiles users will be able to see where shared similarities exist, making it easier to start those initial conversations.

This is shown by the 'Clocked Compatibility Rating' out of 5 stars.

Clocked is free and can be downloaded at Clocked.co, Apple iTunes and is coming soon to Android.

Image credit: http://www.fanpop.com/

HP Haven Predictive Analytics: operationalising large-scale machine learning

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HP wants its new Haven Predictive Analytics product to be viewed as a route to operationalising large-scale machine learning and statistical analysis for today's big data volumes -- the technology is powered by HP's Distributed R programming language offering.

But isn't that all a bit of a mouthful?

Let's break it down.

Why predictive analytics and predictive modeling?

Because determining future outcomes and trends from existing data sets (potentially) allows firms to predict everything from customer buying behaviour to fraud detection to industrial plant machine downtime.

Why Distributed R?

Because distributed R is R itself, with new language extensions and a runtime to manage distributed execution i.e. in bigger enterprise environments.

Why is operationalising big data volumes a big deal?

Because none of this technology is easy from the get go, so HP is trying to kick start its use with out-of-the-box-algorithms (yes, sorry, that is a thing) as a set of proven parallel algorithms that produce accurate and consistent (so says HP) results with mature standard R algorithms.

The software itself enjoys native integration with the HP Vertica columnar massively parallel processing (MPP) database, which is supposed to increase overall data access performance and allow software application development professionals to start building software with predictive analytics inside.

ODBC parallel data loaders for dummies

Shilpa Lawande, GM of platform at HP's Software Big Data Business Unit suggests that when HP Distributed R is deployed with HP Vertica, overall data access performance is boosted by as much as five times over standard R ODBC (open database connectivity) parallel data loaders. According to a press statement, "Since Vertica fully supports industry-standard SQL queries, it enables a much broader community of developers and DBAs to employ the power of predictive analytics without the burden of learning an entirely new technology or tool."

HP reminds us that the open source R language is used by "millions of data scientists around the globe" to interpret, interact with and visualize data. It has been a powerful tool in tackling predictive modeling tasks such as drug discovery and financial modeling.

"Unfortunately, due to its inherent design, it has been challenged to process large data sets. HP worked out of HP Labs and HP Software to create its Distributed R extension and the result of this strategic initiative is the industry's first open source version of a distributed platform for R that is explicitly designed to address today's demanding Big Data predictive analytic tasks," said the company, in a press statement.

Comfortable warm R feelings

Now the global developer community can employ R to scale to more than a billion predictive records of data - and this is said to be 'an order of magnitude improvement' over traditional R-based performance. This offering from HP also retains the consistency with R and enables data scientists to use their familiar R console and RStudio to work with Distributed R -- and this could indeed be important for R converts.

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