Rackspace #PowerOfSearch: defragging the data supply chain with contextual intelligence

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As you will know, journalists love nothing better than a really early start -- as such, the global PR industry is fond of staging what are known as 'power breakfasts' now and again.

So it came to pass this week that Rackspace hosted another in its series of coffee- and croissant-fuelled get together(s).

Rackspace #PowerOfSearch

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Attendees at this event included: Nigel Beighton, VP technology, Rackspace; Chris Harris, VP of international at Hortonworks; Mark Harwood, a developer from Elasticsearch; Peter Owlett from Capgemini and Tony Duffy, e-commerce manager at Oddbins.

Beighton contended that most ecommerce websites have move on very little (or not at all) since the turn of the millennium.

Silos vs. centralised architectures

The problem here (the speakers suggest) is down to fragmentation and the fact that the "data supply chain" fails to exist as one single solid stream because it has not been unified.

This issue is further compounded by the fact that elements of IT sit so separately from each other:

• transactional processing sits apart from...
• analytics which sits apart from...
• bricks and mortar IT... and so on

According to a recent survey from Rackspace, almost half (45%) of UK consumers actually prefer to shop on the high street instead of online.

"Frustrated by long winded search functions and too much choice, over a third of shoppers will give up browsing a website after just 10 minutes if they can't find what they want. This demonstrates consumer frustrations at search capabilities and retailers inability to use big data to offer a truly useful experience online, beyond the best price," said the company, in a press statement.

Looking routes to defragmentation

So looking at data streams now and thinking about how software application development professionals will code to a data landscape that is fragmented with too many imprecise undefined elements - where do we go next?

Rackspace's Beighton argues that much of the challenge comes down to TRUST - and the question of where we are happier to provide access to personal information.

Contextual intelligence

Computer Weekly technology editor Cliff Saran suggested that he gets frustrated with search with regard to Amazon and the fact that the web services driving the site's offers keep promoting products to him that he had already purchased.

Surely the solution here comes down to contextual intelligence:

• If I buy an exercise bike (a high value item that may be a once in a lifetime purchase) then I should not see ads for this item again.
• If I buy a birthday present, then the systems used should offer the option to know that it is a once a year purchase.
• If I buy a food item or other similarly regularly repeatable product, then flagged promotions are more permissible

The lesson here for CTOs is one that should make them look back at their own data supply chain and their internal approach to information share - and we could be talking about in-company data usage.

Coming back to Beighton's point... we can not always expect all of this information to be available and it comes down to trust -- and perhaps, privacy, identity and security.

This debate may have highlighted some of the issues impacting search, the trouble is -- even if we do know how to make things better, privacy and trust may represent a barrier here.

The Chief Data Officer's job will always be a tough one.

Gut instinct drives more firms than big data analytics

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Big data is great, isn't it?

The rise of advanced analytics exerted upon big data stores and the opportunities for software application developers to engineer new 'insight-empowered' applications (and embedded application sub-elements) is taking the IT industry by storm.

This of course means that firms up and down the land must surely be now 'leveraging' the new opportunities that exist for operational intelligence and making more money and breaking into new markets, right?

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Data platform company Rosslyn Analytics suggests that perhaps only a quarter (23%) of decision makers closely align business strategy to data already held by their organisation.

Machine learning

A specialist in human-driven machine learning and NoSQL technologies such as Hadoop, MongoDB and ElasticSearch, Rosslyn further states that less than half (44%) of the business leaders it spoke to thought that data was considered a strategic asset.

This perhaps suggests that there is still some way to go for the importance of data to achieve widespread recognition.

"Most organisations continue to make decisions without data," said Charlie Clark, CEO, Rosslyn Analytics. "We believe business leaders need to renew their efforts and focus on improving the accessibility and quality of data required to make informed decisions that are aligned to business objectives. In today's age of intelligent, self-service data technologies, there is no excuse for data not to be in the hands of decision-makers."

The research coincides with the launch of Rosslyn Analytics' new business user report entitled, "Data: The Art of the Possible," a first-of-its-kind guide to understanding how all decision-makers can easily create value from multiple different data sources.

Other statistics identified by the recent Rosslyn research include:

  • When asked to identify the biggest barriers to using data, the single biggest challenge cited was that data was from too many sources and of different types was identified as according to 43% of the respondents.

  • Poor quality of data was cited as the second biggest challenge to data being used within the organisation.

  • Only 40% of respondents believe their organisation effectively exploits its internal data to gain competitive advantage.

  • When asked to rate what type of data was most valuable to the organisation, "product data" was considered, on average, the most valuable.

  • "Customer data" was rated as second most valuable type of data; "financial data" and "spend data" were seen as third and fourth most valuable respectively; "employee data" was seen as least valuable of the data categories.


  • Rosslyn Analytics' "Data: The Art of the Possible" report claims to detail how data already held by an organisation can be enriched to provide tangible value.

    "Our research shows that only 30% of business leaders explore data with a set question." Clark continues. "Understanding data is key to achieving data-business alignment, where data not only informs business strategy but the business strategy also dictates the type of data owned by the organisation."

    For example, by combining finance data with other types of internal and external data, the answers generated can propel growth, increase profitability and meet compliance standards. Enriching product data in a similar way will result in more efficient and more innovative software application and eventual product development.

    Synthetic DevOps: IT operations with bendiness

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    The new DevOps is more synthetic.

    In terms of real world workflows, the new approach to developer-operations intersections comes from a world that is more malleable, more pliable and altogether more bendy by far.

    DevOps: we have a problem

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    Rob Markovich is a networking technology executive at IT operations intelligence company Moogsoft.

    Markovich has said that software application developers and IT Ops managers have agreed that while DevOps is speeding the software deployment process, it's also becoming difficult to maintain service assurance -- so we have a problem.

    What he means is, as new code is being deployed, seeing how it might adversely impact other parts of software is becoming more tricky -- especially when speed is of the essence and Continuous Delivery principles rule.

    Mode 2 DevOps

    "IT support teams are recognising they must embrace new approaches in terms of how they operate as Agile DevOps practices help to speed the time it takes to develop and put new code into production. Gartner's Will Cappelli refers to this era as 'Mode 2' and calls for a new generation of enterprise IT tools to support this pace of change," said Markovich.

    Markovich identifies five characteristics that consistently come up as he talks to enterprise IT shops about what is needed in from the next generation of DevOps tools.

    The five principles of Synthetic DevOps

    The new DevOps needs to be...

    Data-driven - utilising the growing volume of data from throughout the IT stack and potentially other systems to layer intelligence on top of intelligence.

    Collaborative - facilitates cross-team interaction to solve complex, cross-domain challenges.

    Self-learning - incorporates algorithms that "learn" and further hone themselves over time, lessening the need for manual re-tooling.

    Anti-monolithic/proprietary (i.e. taking a fully open, modular approach) - easily integrated with other software and systems within the IT stack.

    Automated - short-cutting operational process that previously was manually performed, e.g. discerning service-affecting situations out of clustered alerts, alerting the right personnel to come together and collaborate to remediate the problem.

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    Open Norse: what to expect from Monki Gras

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    No not Las Vegas, but Shoreditch instead.

    Developer-focused analyst house Red Monk stages Monki Gras in London on January 29-30 2015.

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    Nordic scalability

    This year's event is themed around Nordic craft and culture, that zippy zeitgeist cornerstone of software application development.

    We jest, there's a reason for the Scandinavian slant and it's not just an excuse to chow down on some salmon and aquavit (although those are probably planned too).

    The Nordics have shown a distinctive ability to scale their tech start ups (arguably) better than London and perhaps even Silicon Valley where the urge to sell all too often overtakes the desire to refine, blossom, grow and develop.

    Vital Nordic Internet infrastructure, these guys build the web

    The Nordic region has given us Qt, Skype, Kazaa and Spotify -- to name just three.

    Let's also not forget that Linis Torvalds grew up in Finland.

    What makes Nordic Culture so productive asks Red Monk?

    "Education is clearly fantastic in the region, and the winters are long and cold, perfect for heads down coding," say the organisers.

    "Design and lighting are both very important in Scandinavian culture too. This all comes together. Code, design, liberal social values, education, great taste, modesty, skill, practice. This conference is going to explore all of these themes, and it's going to rock."

    Viking craftwork

    Red Monk's own Donnie Berkholz will use his knowledge and position as an open source developer and leader of Gentoo Linux to present 'Viking Reprise: Nordic Undercurrents in US Tech Culture'.

    Other speakers include Jason Hoffman, head of cloud at Ericsson, Joonas Lehtinen who is the founder and CEO of the Vaadin project, a Java-based framework for easily building great web UI in Java -- and Patrik Sallner, CEO of MariaDB (formerly SkySQL) who will be presenting 'Sibelius, Sauna and Sisu - Why The Nordics Trust the Community'.

    "Last year's Monki Gras inspired me to brew my own craft beer, so it follows that this year's event taps into the software craftwork coming from the Nordics," commented Per Buer, founder & CTO, Varnish Software - the company behind Varnish Cache, a trusted open source web accelerator enhancing web performance for businesses online.

    Per will present 'Fighting with Polar Bears and Other Challenges You Encounter When Running a Startup In Norway'.

    "Nordic companies can be a bit low key and bury their innovations under the snow. I'm glad that Monki Gras has come along with its shovel to expose these and share with the community. I'm really looking forward to the event, and also sampling new craft beer!"

    How many tech conferences have all girl post punk bands, roast reindeer and deep code goodness on the menu?

    Answer: not many, but there is one.

    Perforce's Über-cluster developer team: 10s of thousands of concurrent users

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    Version management and collaboration platform company Perforce is envisioning the shape of developer teams to come, which will feature tens of thousands of concurrent users.

    To do this, the firm has added server clustering capabilities to its version management engine, which now enjoys a more horizontally scalable architecture.

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    Tales from topographic software oceans

    The latest release also features new high availability (HA) deployment topology.

    Additionally, a new cluster management utility, catchily named P4CMGR, bids to streamline the addition of new Perforce servers and provides monitoring for automated switchover in case of failure.

    This server cluster distributes workloads across multiple nodes, but workload distribution is invisible to users, who connect normally while the cluster intelligently assigns workload to nodes.

    Standby depot server

    High availability is made possible by a standby depot server that ensures all users keep working when the master depot server must be taken offline for maintenance or fails.

    Automated switchover ensures a new level of uptime confidence vital for financial services, health care, manufacturing and other highly regulated industries.

    "Businesses today need a 24/7 development platform that supports distributed teams working together around the clock," said Christopher Seiwald, founder and CEO of Perforce. "Our server clustering brings the zero down-time ideal within reach while letting administrators expand capacity incrementally for on-demand growth at any scale."







    Optoma projectors: time for games programmers to think big again

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    The software application development industry's games segment has spent a good portion of the last decade (and more) looking to deliver playable games on ever-smaller devices.

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    The move to mobile is of course responsible for this trend.

    Mobile gaming requires that games are reengineered and re-architected with a consideration for devices with:

    • Less memory
    • Smaller screen sizes
    • Compromised input controls
    • Comparatively slower processing power etc.

    This is all great, but hard-core gamers still like consoles and dedicated gaming PCs.

    With this in mind, it came as something of a revalation to test out an Optoma 'short throw' gaming projector which produces a 100-inch picture on a screen or wall from just over a metre away.

    Usability note: As an Xbox360 gamer, I use a 50-inch Panasonic television for gaming and find this to be a quite explosive experience... the move to an Optoma machine was quite a pleasant shock, it's fairly impressive and the pixel quality is superb -- you can use the projection screen to get a pretty big image, but if you have a white wall in your house, then the size is literally mind blowing.

    This full 3D 1080p projector has built-in speakers and its colour production is down to its 2,800-lumen brightness -- and yes, an HDMI connection cable allows you to watch TV shows and movies.

    Optoma's head of product marketing Justin Halls spins his sales line on the basis that few of us have the space for a large-screen TV, but bigger is better when it comes to gaming he says - particularly for high definition systems.

    "Two HDMI inputs are a huge benefit of the GT1080. Games consoles, Blu-ray players or digital television set top boxes can be simultaneously connected via HDMI, making switching between sources literally the push of a button. It can even be turned it into a smart display by connecting a smartphone or tablet with a single cable using MHL to play games, stream videos and share photos on the big screen," said Halls.

    The gaming mode setting is designed to optimise the projector for lightning response times, maximum contrast and vivid colours.

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    Other personal thoughts

    There's a real wow factor here with this unit. We tested it with Tomb Raider Anniversary (ok sorry, we like some old titles) and also Battlefield 3. The game experience is certainly totally immersive, but if you do project up to (for example) 8 or 10 feet wide on a wall, then the game almost becomes too much for your brain to take in. The 3D shapes in Tomb Raider are too much for you to take in and compute in your own head and the action in Battlefield is almost too real. But that's not really a criticism, you have to try this and blow your mind just because you know you can. Does it replace a big TV (as it's around the same cost), yes it might do for some, this is a very interesting unit.

    Editorial disclosure: Adrian Bridgwater was lent an Optoma unit for one week.

    How to reboot a Smart Car software system

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    Editorial clarification: The Computer Weekly Developer Network blog primarily exists to cover enterprise-centric software application development and data management industry news and analysis -- we occasionally look at hardware products from a internal software perspective, hence the reason for today's post.

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    Over-engineering

    As we know, we have spent the last couple of decades and more putting more and more electronics into our automobiles.

    From an embedded software perspective this should all be good news i.e. more in-car entertainment, electronic central locking, satellite navigation units and system health intelligence... these are all good things.

    Well they are, if they work.

    But there comes a time when you just kind of wish that your car locks worked by plain old key-and-lock mechanisms, rather than via the 'point-and-click' wireless 'key fob' systems that we have all got so used to now.

    The story here is simple enough.

    A Smart Car's lock system goes haywire when started on Boxing Day after a trip to from London to Salisbury UK -- the ignition key can not be removed from the car without the central locking going into a sort of 'possessed dance' with itself, constantly clicking on and off.

    Your driver (that's me) has the foresight to a) initially leave the ignition key in the car so that the locks don't burn out and then b) disconnect one of the battery terminals so that they key can be removed.

    A dead car with disconnected battery is not an attractive option for a thief it appears, the car sat like this for two weeks untouched.

    So what to do?

    Green Flag Breakdown's superb fleet of (often Polish, thankfully, these guys are great) engineers are always on call and our mechanic suggested that it could be down to a 'rear lock solenoid burnout' -- he was close and in the right ball park.

    The problem was down to what is called the Smart's 'Zee control unit' -- and this is basically a piece of embedded software (firmware, if you like) that resides on a small motherboard located under the dash quite near to the fuses.

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    The Zee unit is accessible via a large port similar to the power input socket on the back on an xBox360 -- image credit http://www.evilution.co.uk/545

    Mercedes bends

    But here's the real killer part of this story, I took my car to the main London Smart centre which is Mercedes Brentford -- and these guys knew what was wrong.

    They presented me with a bill estimate for £960 to fix everything that was wrong with the car including the Zee unit (which was estimated individually at £264 inc VAT plus £156 plus VAT for key recoding -- so a total of £420 GBP).

    What is gut wrenching is that the fix was so simple, but I was not offered the option for a simple quick reboot.

    To Mercedes Brentford credit, they should have charged me for the consultation, but as my car is only worth £1000 and the estimate was £960 for fixing, even they felt bad.

    So to the fix

    After many web searches and Facebook discussion exchanges (thank you everyone!) it turns out that your best option (if you need to get any automotive software reinstalled) is not just a local garage, but an independent specialist that is not a main dealer.

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    Our saviour in this car was the Smart Clinic in Harrow.

    Has (that's his name) at the Smart Clinic saw our almost dead car, plugged in a Toshiba ToughBook thing, clamped in an Xbox 360 cable to connect it to our car, set out rebooting the whole automobile - started the engine, problem solved.

    Less than half an hour and £80 including VAT.

    So the moral of this story is...

    ... electric locks are more trouble than they are worth, always trust a Polish mechanic, never go to a main dealer if you can find an independent dedicated specialist and ask your friends on social media what to do if you have major mechanical issues with any piece of equipment because community knowledge is all-powerful.

    Smart Car? Well, sometimes.

    Fitbit defines 'Connected Health & Fitness' as formal application category

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    It's early on 2015, so things are changing.

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    To be clearer, most of us have convinced ourselves that the arbitrary definition point in space in time that we call the 'new year' should allow us to reevaluate the way we live our lives.

    For many, technology is both an instigator and a facilitator to a new way of being.

    We are visiting the doctor less and less as we start to strive for a healthier lifestyle and empower ourselves with:

    a) web based health intelligence
    b) ongoing personal wellbeing intelligence derived from so-called wearables

    The programmer opportunity

    The wider impact of both of these factors will now have a significant impact on the opportunity for software application development professionals who have obviously taken up the 'health app' opportunity with gusto...

    ... you want a blood pressure analysis app, a yoga app, a running/walking tracker app, a food analysis app, a weight loss goal app etc? No problem, they're all available.

    So just to be personal for a second, I recently moved from a Fitbit One to a Fitbit Flex and found myself 'without Fitbit' for a month or so during the transition period.

    How did I cope?

    Not well at all I can tell you -- can you get through a day without knowing how many calories you've burned and how many flights of stairs you've climbed? Well - I know I can't.

    Formal nomenclature

    New research released from Fitbit itself suggests that in the 'Connected Health & Fitness' category, almost 9 in 10 Brits (88%) would like to be fitter and healthier and 50% would like to lose weight in 2015.

    Furthermore, for 67% of Brits, feeling feel fit and healthy in 2015 is more important to them than looking good (11%) or earning lots of money (11%).

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    Whilst two thirds of Brits (65%) plan to do more exercise in 2015, it appears that they may be missing the mark when it comes to general fitness, with 73% of people underestimating the amount of time that should be spent exercising every week.

    "Our mission at Fitbit is to inspire people to lead healthier, more active lives so it's really encouraging to see that so many British people want to improve their health and fitness in the New Year. There are many different ways to become fitter, whether it's gardening or competing in a triathlon, Fitbit can help you to achieve your goals and challenge you to do more," said Gareth Jones, VP and general manager for Fitbit EMEA.

    NOTE: The NHS recommends that people undertake 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, however 83% of people surveyed did not realise that everyday tasks such as carrying a bag of shopping, gardening (74%) or washing the car (65%) count towards this weekly goal - this means they could be missing a trick when it comes to improving their health and fitness.

    Microsoft and the continuously delivered multi-platform interoperability dream

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    Tel Aviv is famed for, as we know, its vibrant software application development community.

    Truth be told, some of the most vibrant web-focused start-ups on site at the recent Le Web conference in Paris last December we from the Holy Land.

    It's incredible, apparently

    In this vein we hear news this week of the immodestly named IncrediBuild, a provider of continuous delivery acceleration technology and its new version 6.0 release which fully supports Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 Preview.

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    Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 is distinguished by its support for cross-platform mobile development, web and cloud development -- and its IDE productivity enhancements.

    IncrediBuild CEO Eyal Maor assertively claims that this release is "only a taste" of what is planned in 2015 to accelerate multi- and cross-platform development.

    "With the combination of IncrediBuild and Visual Studio 2015, continuous interoperability is possible across multiplatform development for Windows desktops and Windows and Android tablets and mobile devices," said Maor.

    Incredible or insipid?

    Microsoft's Tom Lindeman went on the record with an arguably somewhat flavourless statement paying lip service to "tremendous developer pressures" -- and to remind us that there IncrediBuild's technology "further enhances" (he claimed) the cross-platform offerings built into Visual Studio.

    Where this gets interesting is that the latest version of IncrediBuild adds support for shared projects, allowing developers to build applications for Windows and Windows Phone simultaneously, sharing code, user controls, styles, strings, and other assets between the two projects in Visual Studio. Supporting cross-platform development.

    Parallel pleasures

    IncrediBuild allows builds to execute in parallel over an entire network.

    It makes Android compilations faster by offering parallel compilation at the project level.

    So for example, a standard build takes more than 3 minutes on an 8-core machine with 100 two-second Android compilation tasks. With IncrediBuild, the same task takes 12 seconds.

    Also here, IncrediBuild offers additional productivity features such as build visualization, easy error detections, the ability to inspect build output per project, build management and replays.

    What is a workload?

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    What is a workload?

    It's such a simple question that surely it doesn't need answering, does it?

    But this is the age cloud, so perhaps it does.

    We are using cloud technologies to "separate out and compartmentalise" tasks in new hosted, virtualised cloud environments -- often between private and public clouds to create the notion that we call hybrid.

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    The need to know what workload goes where, in the service-based world of cloud computing is more pressing now.

    At the most obvious and simplistic level we can say that the term workload simply describes an amount of work attributed to a defined computing block at any moment (or, more accurately, period) in time.

    But onward from here we may also consider that workloads can be considered self-contained entities, often with no inter-related programmatic dependencies.

    In simpler terms this means that a workload is a computing task that exists with a discrete, isolated and detached set of application logic (with specific policies, rules and behavioural characteristics) that can be executed independently (and autonomously if needed) of a specific parent (or related) application so that a specific computing function can be carried out.

    From here we can start to talk about Intelligent Workload Management (IWM) and how software application development can take advantage of a higher level of workload-aware intelligence.

    Workload means something more in 2015, get used to it.







    Santa uses ERP (Elf Resource Planning) system

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    Christmas-focused technologists will need to remind themselves of the most pertinent acronyms this season.

    As a quick refresher...

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    • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP),
    • Enterprise Asset Management (EAM),
    • Enterprise Service Management (ESM)
    • ... and also
    • Elf Resource Planning (ERP) -- not to be confused with Enterprise Resource Planning.

    Not afraid of a bit of shameless PR-spun marketing silliness this holiday period is ERP specialist (of the first kind) company IFS.

    The company has playfully suggested that Santa uses an ERP system (the elf kind) to strategically plan the logistics for his trip on a magic sleigh that travels at 25 times the speed of sound to deliver 120 million presents worldwide

    Every year Father Christmas sets off from his HQ in Lapland tasked with delivering presents to children the world over.

    Go with it, it's a tech joke

    Using IFS Mobile Workforce Management with dynamic scheduling, it's calculated that Santa would need to travel at 19,210* mph from bedtime to sunrise in in order to travel the 144,000 miles required to deliver presents.

    Santa's brandy ration

    Rudolph and team will need 3,660 tonnes of carrots to fuel them through the night.

    The reindeer, in turn, will pull over 180,000 tonnes of toys (and packaging) in the magic sleigh.

    Assuming a standard shot of brandy is served up at the households Santa visits he will consume over 4.7 million pints of brandy over the course of the night putting him roughly 60 million times over the legal limit.

    "Businesses of all sizes face logistical challenges; granted, not every business has a magical CEO capable of circumnavigating globe overnight squeezing down chimneys of all shapes and sizes to hand-deliver individually gift-wrapped presents, but then not every company has a CEO who only works nine hours of the year and drinks more than enough brandy to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool," said a Santa believer at IFS.

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    Oh okay then, they did all the work and it's Christmas -- here's the plug.

    IFS Dynamic Scheduling Engine (DSE) is deployed around the world by more than 6,000 users to optimise the scheduling of all kinds of field resources from technicians to assets using algorithms to automate and optimise scheduling decisions based on configurable and reconfigurable business constraints.

    Virtual mince pie anyone?

    SAP Press continues commitment to Sybase (sorry, SAP) ASE 16

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    SAP has used its 'Press' publishing division to release a new volume entitled SAP ASE / Sybase ASE 16 Administration.

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    Written by Jeffrey (Jeff to all that know him) Garbus, the book encourages readers to "skip the marketing jargon" and jump right into the heart of the major tasks for administering SAP ASE 16.

    One step to (data) developers

    Closely related to what used to be Sybase's (now SAP) Rapid Application Development tool offering PowerBuilder, SAP ASE 16 continues to represent a fully functional relational model database server product for many businesses.

    According to reading notes for the Garbus book:

    "Starting with an introduction to the database and an installation overview, this book is packed with information you'll use on any platform. Get the details you need to define database storage areas, create database elements, work with security and user roles, manage backup and restoration, achieve high availability."

    • Learn about all important ASE tasks, from installation and configuration to security and disaster recovery
    • Work with ASE add-ons and tools: Resource Governor, Query Processer, SAP Replication Server, and more
    • Understand how ASE fits into the SAP landscape

    Commenting on the publication, Garbus made the following statement, "This book has the dual intent of making your job easier by offering method and reasons to the long list of tasks you to perform; and also to help you, if you've never worked with SAP ASE, to learn what that list of tasks is."

    About the author

    Jeffrey Garbus is a database consultant and CEO of Soaring Eagle Consulting, an RDBMS consulting and training firm. A consultant and trainer for more than 20 years, he currently focuses his work on very large databases, data warehousing, training, and remote database administration.

    Editorial disclosure: Adrian Bridgwater works for ISUG-TECH, the wholly independent technical user group for SAP technology users - he is not an employee of SAP and receives no salary or financial benefits from the company.

    There's not enough Dev in DevOps

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    The 2014 technology marketing manual page #65718 advocates that IT vendors of all disciplines culture and refine a positioning statement on the portmanteau DevOps.

    DevOps (as a combination of Developer & Operations) is widely talked up by:

    a) firms selling software orchestration services who like this new label
    b) software automation and management specialists
    c) so-called specialist DevOps consultants
    d) firms who like the idea that DevOps is media-chic and want to get in on the act
    e) the Devon Operatic Society cream teas division, who coincidentally share use of the term

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    DevOps is less widely talked up by:

    a) core software application development professionals
    b) deep dive programmers
    c) Agile specialists who see their manifesto as already accommodating for change
    d) programming and code centric website

    So you get the idea i.e. there's a lot of spin in DevOps.

    The CW Developer Network therefore approaches some of the industry's end of year DevOps comments with a highly sceptical eye and has (we hope) featured only those who have embraced the DEVELOPER end of the DevOps debate.

    Chris Jackson, CTO of DevOps services, Rackspace

    First up, its Chris Jackson, CTO of DevOps services at managed cloud company Rackspace.

    Jackson says that in 2015, DevOps will get practical and real as it looks to bigger enterprises -- and that we should see that. already, the majority of the real DevOps implementation success stories are still coming from small and medium sized organisations.

    "In 2015, I'm looking for the first high-profile FTSE-250 organisation with large compliance or audit requirements to use DevOps and demonstrate how to help overcome the complexities of working with highly sensitive data with more cloud and automation. These organisations with more complex internal structures will realise it's not just the relationship between developers and operations that matters. It could be the relationship between developers and corporate security, or between operations and sales. Applying the principles of DevOps to other relationships in the business will help large enterprises come out with a really successful DevOps story," said Jackson.

    (Ed -- he specifically said 'developer' twice, he missed mentioning 'code' or 'software', but it's good)

    Simon Crosby, CTO and co-founder, Bromium

    "DevOps today is an emergent reality that has grown from the need for application developers on IaaS clouds like AWS to operate their apps in practice - as well as writing them of course. That's because there is no IT function to operate many such apps. But DevOps in an enterprise segment is not a natural fit. IT is chartered with Ops, security and compliance and the Devs are not that familiar with IaaS or Ops. So there will be a lot of push and shove as next-gen, cloud first apps are built and deployed in production. And the Ops folk will have a lot to say - perhaps rightly the most to say - because Devs are bad at the hard, long tail problems of Ops."

    DevOps-infinity-loop2.png

    Image credit: AppDynamics

    TK Keanini, CTO, Lancope

    "DevOps is just another step in the evolution of software development. Since the very beginning, companies fundamentally want to deliver products and services at a higher quality and in a more timely manner. As technologies changes, so do organisational charts and processes: DevOps is a way to structure process around changes in the deployments models and meet the demands of the marketplace who wants things faster, better, and more secure."

    "Call it DevOps or anything you want, if you want to be more adaptive to threat and market changes, one thing is certain, you can't keep use the old methodology where you shrink-wrapped or appliance-wrapped software. The name DevOps suggest that it is just about erasing much of the line that was drawn separating Development and Operations but lines in the organizational chart must also disappear or be redrawn with a dotted line: product marketing, legal, PR, etc. If you focus more on the customers' needs and desires, and less on what things are called, you will meet your objectives for your business."

    James Brown, director of solutions architecture EMEA, Alert Logic

    "Looking at the current DevOps landscape, it is weighted towards change in the management and orchestration software - however that is where it needs to be. Developers are by very nature people who are inquisitive and like to take a complex problem and solve it, make it easier. Reuse and automation are heart of development, and have been since the very beginning.Ops however comes from a very different world. This is a world of process, caution, change freezes, documented changed requests. In triplicate. And the software that they have been using to do their jobs over the last few decades matches that."

    "DevOps is about bringing these two worlds together to live in perfect harmony, to allow a more agile and flexible approach to designing and delivering software. This means companies can iterate fast and produce Apps and Software that amazes people and changes the way that we live. People talk about DevOps being about bringing Developers and Operations folk together so that they can work better together. However the reality is, it is all about getting operations teams and the software they are running out of the brittle world they used to live in, into a more agile world that shows that IT can be an enabler not a millstone around the neck of the business."

    7 reasons to love the BlackBerry Passport

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    Okay so hands up, guilty as charged, I didn't think I would be writing this post.

    As a lifelong BlackBerry user I never 'rubbished' the Alicia Keys reinvention years and the decline of the brand, but I did turn away from an old friend and adopt the use of an Android and Windows Phone with gusto as I joined the band of ex-BlackBerry pickers.

    Passport pleasures

    1 -- So then, the BlackBerry Passport with a large square 4.5-inch screen. Oh dear it's too wide and big right? No, it's not -- you don't have to be Coco the clown to fit this into your pocket and the touch-enabled QWERTY keyboard works just fine.

    Passport_black_front.jpg

    But what it REALLY does well is (and you won't believe this) email.

    As an "information worker" (if I may be so bold) who needs to READ (and then, shock horror, write a lot) this is a bit of a relief to see something smaller than a tablet or phablet, but with enough screen real estate to actually get things done.

    As some commentators have written already - don't believe the naysayers and haters. Yes it's niche and one-handed operation takes some learning!

    But so what?

    It's nicely niche for the number one two-handed core productivity application on the planet -- and yes there are maps and space invaders if you want them for goodness sake.

    2 -- It's like riding a bike. If you have been training yourself on Android and Windows Phone like me but you USED to use BlackBerry, it's not hard to pick it back up. The BlackBerry HUB introduced in the last OS upgrade is still there and, in general, the access route to applications and settings is faster than on other devices.

    3 -- The option to install and run Android applications via SNAP is good and the battery life is second to none. I think you could go away for the weekend without charging it -- but you would probably want to restrict yourself to email only.

    In fact, it is the 'purity' of QNX operating system underneath the BlackBerry that (for many) makes it a Microsoft beater if you accept that Microsoft has been trying to 'spread Windows 8 too thin' across desktops and tablets to try and make them behave the same way; what BlackBerry did was to concentrate on building an enterprise mobile backend and operating system layer proposition that was truly impressive. Okay it might have been like sticking a Ferrari engine in a Trabant if you didn't like the BlackBerry Z10 handset (and I didn't), but the Passport can arguably reach a higher top speed.

    QNX does a lot of smart things in areas like memory protection so that software applications can function with 'reloadable process' and 'adaptive partitioning' -- and developers like this kind of granular control of drivers and file system attributes.

    4 -- BlackBerry spoke to the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog to detail what has happened with what it calls "a major OS update" which brings together a refreshed visual design along with dozens of new features.

    All new features are designed to boost productivity, collaboration, communication and security, or so they say.

    According to BlackBerry, "Highlights include: BlackBerry Blend, which allows you to access messages and content from your BlackBerry smartphone on your computer and tablet; a text and voice BlackBerry Assistant to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls and more. Instant Actions in Hub makes email management more efficient so that the a user can quickly file, delete or flag messages. An enhanced Calendar UI with views improved for day, week, month appointments showing events and tasks where notifications will automatically go on silent mode for the duration of a meeting."

    5 -- It's true that BlackBerry World isn't as populated as the Apple Store or Google Play, but the fact that the device first boots up with just a small selection of apps including Dropbox. But this is a business user device and you don't want six screen's worth of application bloatware just for the bling factor if you are running a small business (okay mine is just a partnership plus an occasional +1) and want to get stuff done.

    6 -- BlackBerry has BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) division at the backend doing what it does and gaining more respect by the day.

    I have personally followed CEO of BlackBerry John Chen since his time at Sybase (remember Sybase?) this division's relative health is clearly something that makes him happy.

    "[BlackBerry's BES division] delivers comprehensive EMM, communication and collaboration, and identity and access solutions to adapt to changing needs," said the firm.

    7 -- BlackBerry still has a solid software application developer proposition at http://developer.blackberry.com/ and the firm is (arguably) more fully developed in this area than others in the Android arena -- despite Android's obvious dominance at mass-market user level.

    Is BlackBerry still out on its own (or out in the cold)?

    The Passport will support devices running Mac Apple OS X 10.7 and iOS 7, Windows 7 and Android 4.4 or later -- so interaction and integration in the workplace shouldn't be too painful.

    ... and finally, the REFRESH function for email synchronisation works better than in days of old -- and guess what, that's an email related function again.

    Would I be seen dead with a BlackBerry Passport? Yes - and alive too, thanks for asking.

    HP and the giant big data beanstalk

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    By 2020 there will be a x50 increase in the volume of data (a lot of it big) that we need to manage... and, of course, this increase brings with it new and bigger security challenges -- this was part of the opening address delivered by HP CEO Meg Whitman at her firm's HP Discover 2014 event in Barcelona.

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    HP's time is a changin'

    Whitman said that HP has turned a corner is now, "Coming back really strong on a clear path where we have done much of the heavy lifting needed to keep us at the forefront of our industry."

    She says there is some real evidence of this being so as the firm is now engaging in R&D investments up 10% year on year.

    Ceaseless information flows

    Whitman's "new computing architectures" (as she puts it) see the company reverberate around a central message where users can "thriving in the face of ceaseless information flows" today.

    Spending a brief while talking about the new structure of HP with some of the divisional segmentation that the firm has gone through since its founders started the firm in a garage, Whitman suggested:

    "You can now think of us as a two-garage family."

    HP Enterprise Services + HP Inc. = HP

    As the new bi-divisional HP now moves forward, the firm will continue its focus on big data, security and services.

    Whitman says that we should not consider the road ahead as one fraught with challenges - instead, it is one filled with what she calls "abundant opportunity" today.

    "We need IT that brings customer experiences forward, but also technology that increases employee productivity while also reducing costs and (if needed) also managers mergers and wider strategic business activity," she said.

    On the product side then, HP unveiled HP Haven OnDemand during the show.

    The company also unveiled new enterprise products and services that it hopes will enable customers to transform operations across the datacenter to enable growth, improve profitability and increase business agility .

    So what does that mean?

    According to HP, "Infrastructure is the foundation for the rich, impactful next-generation applications, web services and user experiences that are enabled by trends in big data, cloud, mobility and security. As the business requirements for infrastructure multiply at an exponential rate in coming years, a strong foundation will be more important than ever to help customers compete and succeed."

    The products in focus here include:

    Servers: HP Integrity Superdome X and HP Integrity NonStop X, which promise to allow customers to deploy mission-critical workloads in a scalable, available and cost-efficient x86 environment.

    Storage: Faster and more flexible converged storage with a new portfolio of multi- protocol flash-optimised HP 3PAR StoreServ systems featuring flat backup to HP StoreOnce -- not a subject we cover on the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog, but mentioned here for completeness.

    "The new style of IT requires organisations to have a technology infrastructure in place that drives innovation and business outcomes," said Antonio Neri, senior vice president and general manager, HP Enterprise Group.

    "Today, HP is bringing to market innovations across our enterprise portfolio that will enable our customers to capture new possibilities for profitability and growth, while reducing datacentre costs and risk."

    Converged Systems: Also newly announced was new software-defined converged infrastructure portfolio powered by HP OneView, HP Helion CloudSystem CS200-Hyper-Converged StoreVirtual, and HP ConvergedSystem 700 merges converged infrastructure, hyper-convergence, and software-definition to manage workloads in infrastructure as a service (IaaS), cloud, mobility, and big data.


    Image credit: Event Prop Hire







    HP Discover: how big data developers use HP Software & HP Haven OnDemand

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    Computer Weekly has reported on the 'look and feel' (and flavour perhaps) for those lucky enough to attend the HP Discover Europe 2014 conference held in Barcelona this week.

    With a set of "polished" keynotes designed to win over the hearts and minds of customers, industry partners and anyone with a vested interest in the new and forthcoming split-division iteration of HP, CEO Meg Whitman said the the company was now more stable, with an enhanced products and services catalogue reflecting what it terms the "new style of IT".

    1 hp dhowiqdh.png

    Favourite phrases: business transformation & new style of IT

    Yes HP likes its enterprise-friendly "business transformation & new style of IT" terms and it likes its systems and policies, but there is serious software engineering message behind the corporate gloss that doesn't always come across at first glance.

    The firm's HP Software division now exists not to produce software applications down to runtime, library and components levels as such (although its engineers obviously are comfortable with such granular detail)...

    ...instead we should think of HP Software as an infrastructural proposition that exists to architect and manage software based upon HP's breadth of enterprise experience.

    HP Haven OnDemand, for big data programmers

    In terms of new news from the software division, HP used the show to unveil HP Haven OnDemand, an element of its big data play to give users cloud-based access to components of HP's own analytics platform.

    HP Haven OnDemand, which runs on the HP Helion cloud (obviously) analyses all forms of data, including business data, machine data, and unstructured, human information.

    1 hp dedewdfwefwefwhowiqdh copy.png

    Developers can use this web service to create applications and services.

    EVP of HP Software used his keynote address to explain that HP has broken down big data into three types:

    1. Business information - this is where Business Intelligence (BI) data was born and is the heart of the ERP system

    2. Machine data - log files, clickstream information that is vast in quantity but extremely difficult to analyse. We know that traditional BI tools won't keep up with this level of complexity s0 we need more specialist fine grained tools that will be able to look at massive log files and look for anomalies.

    3. Human information - email traffic, videos, photos etc. is also vast in quantity, massively unstructured and spiralling upwards all the time.

    HP also announced that it will embed its Haven assets deeper into the HP Software application portfolio with new offerings that use big data analytics to help businesses power information governance and compliance and achieve greater levels of information security.

    "To succeed in today's marketplace, businesses must be able to leverage all forms of data, at high speed and in context, in order to capitalise on emerging opportunities and manage risk and costs," said Youngjohns.

    "With today's announcement, we are making our big data platform more accessible and adaptable than ever before, giving customers, partners, and developers an unmatched set of assets that can help them create winning, data-driven businesses."

    Aruba: what Heathrow could learn from the San Francisco 49ers

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    Amazingly, the 2015 technology conference season isn't over yet.

    With HP Discover in Barcelona and Le Web in Paris still to come, the battle for public WiFi access will continue for another couple of weeks yet.

    Amazingly also, it is easier to get free WiFi on semi-deserted beaches in Madeira or in Sardenia's Olbia airport than it is in London Heathrow, but we live in hope.

    1 rouetr.png

    Is the situation improving?

    We are seeing technologies come forward such as Aruba's Mobility-Defined Networks technology. This is software designed to automate performance optimisation and security that adds controls with real-time data about users, devices, apps and the location of a network.

    Aruba's Meridian is a mobile-app software platform designed to deliver location-relevant information such as indoor mapping, turn-by-turn directions, venue-specific information, and proximity-based notifications to mobile-app users.

    The sophistication levels are rising.

    The firm's product set features the Aruba Mobile Engagement Solution -- this lets venues engage with guests by offering them high-performance WiFi access via a custom-branded web portal, as well as through location-aware mobile apps that deliver onsite search, indoor wayfinding (Ed -- Aruba's own term, we think!) and personalised push-notifications based on who they are and where they are.

    Which would you prefer?

    A custom-branded web portal for WiFi with indoor wayfinding, or a bounce around Heathrow's paltry set of services?

    The solution uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to provide passive, granular location-based information to consumers' mobile devices.

    NOTE: According to a recent Business Insider report, there is an estimated 570 million Android and Apple smartphones in-use that are compatible with BLE.

    Aruba says that consumer adoption of "beacons" is leading to 16.5 times more app usage in-store and a 6.4 times increase in app user retention.

    1 wqiudgiquwgd.png

    Mini Case Study

    The new home of the San Francisco 49ers and one of the world's most advanced open-air sports and entertainment venues, Levi's Stadium seats 68,500 spectators inside a 1.85 million square foot facility. Levi's Stadium's state-of-the-art network was built on Aruba mobility technology to deliver exclusive content, venue information and wayfinding services to visiting fans. The beacons have a few advantages. Among them is a three-stage opt-in process that's designed to protect users' privacy and ease concerns about being tracked via WiFi. The firm developed Aruba Mobile Engagement software to help IT managers enable such beacon monitoring through its own Meridian network management console. Aruba also provides a Software Development Kit for building mobile apps that rely on the beacons, such as the app available at Levi's Stadium.

    "From a technology perspective, it is imperative that we engineered a network infrastructure that not only delivered ultra-fast connectivity to tens of thousands of fans' mobile devices, but also provided a mobile engagement experience like none other," said Dan Williams, vice president of technology for the San Francisco 49ers.

    "By partnering with Brocade for switching and Aruba for mobility, we were able to blaze new ground and create a platform that gave our fans the experience of a personal game day command center in the palm of their hands. Fans can now watch instant replays, receive precise turn-by-turn navigation, and order food directly from their mobile devices. Visitors get to experience the facility and game like never before by greatly enhancing their onsite experience," he added.

    Windows 10 Technical Preview, where is the START menu?

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    As the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog seeks to track the work of the global community of software application developers working on Microsoft's new operating system, this post is merely meant to serve as some informal additional hands-on reportage.

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    For a more fully prepared sequential step-by-step walkthrough of the install process you should read Cliff Saran's Windows 10 Technical Preview: Installing and test drive Build 9841.

    First impressions

    First impressions then -- "gosh that was easy and fast" wouldn't be overstating it.

    The install took around half an hour and worked without a single glitch -- all the stages described in the picture story above presented themselves.

    64-bit NOTE: Many users will sensibly opt to install the OS on a partitioned volume, but our installation here was carried out "all in" on a 64-bit Surface 1 machine.

    But -- it's not always seamless.

    As one journalist told me, "I tried it on an old Dell Latitude tablet. Not even the 32 bit preview would load."

    1 wihobd.png

    A few points of interest

    If you do install on a tablet (that includes Surface, of course) then you may be wondering when the fabled return of the start menu will actually appear.

    For tablets, the "START SCREEN" is enabled by default.

    For desktop installation, the "START MENU" is enabled by default.

    Perhaps Microsoft's Windows 8 developers still want us to think of the (infuriating for some) start screen as essentially still ideal for tablet use -- well, it's not 'perhaps' is it?

    So it's a simple enough process to get your START menu enabled.

    1. Right click on the taskbar (not the desktop) at the bottom of the screen.
    2. You can do this with a pen on a Surface by holding it in place, but a mouse if kind of easier.
    3. Open the bottom PROPERTIES option.
    4. Taskbar and Start Menu Properties will open up.
    5. Select the third tab along labelled Start Menu.
    6. Check the box that reads "Use Start menu instead of Start screen" at the top.
    7. Apply and close.

    ... and yes there are instabilities, I already have a "Recent Folders" shortcut on my desktop that I can't get rid of, but it's good to be on the Windows 10 journey.


    Apple Pay is easy peasy & never cheesy on Payeezy

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    Apigee is trying to developers integrate Apple Pay into their retail and gaming applications.

    The company (Apigee) itself is actually an API management and predictive analytics platform specialist -- and Apple Pay (in case you hadn't noticed) is Apple's "mobile digital wallet" for iPhone 6 and Apple Watch.

    1APIs for Dummies_0.png

    The company (Apigee again, keep up) is working with payment technology firm First Data's cheekily named Apigee-powered Payeezy.com online ecommerce payments platform, which gives merchants access to Apple Pay.

    Obviously there's now a big demand to integrate payments within apps, which means opening up payments platforms to the developer community -- so First Data is doing this with Apigee's API platform.

    NOTE: Apigee is API gee for API management i.e. API as in Application Programming Interface, get it?

    "There is high consumer demand for apps that can immediately support new mobile technology," said Chet Kapoor, CEO of Apigee.

    "Through an API-centric approach, First Data's Payeezy.com makes it easy and fast for software developers to build apps that support the new single-touch mobile payment capabilities for Apple Pay."

    Spell the facts out please

    First Data is a global payment processing company serving six million merchant locations, thousands of card issuers and millions of consumers worldwide.

    Payeezy.com is an eCommerce platform that provides an online tool for developers to deliver secure online and mobile payments.



    Payeezy.com utilizes the Apigee API platform, and First Data was able to significantly accelerate project development and time to market for Payeezy with Apigee. Through APIs, First Data is empowering developers to rapidly design apps for Apple Pay and new mobile payments.

    

Apigee Edge is an API platform to securely expose and manage data at large scale.

    "Apigee Edge is purpose-built for the digital economy, delivering technology businesses need to manage the digital value chain from API exposure to API consumption - and to measure the success of an API program with end-to-end analytics.

    Edge includes three components:

    API Services,
    Developer Services and
    Analytics Services.

    Apple Pay is easy peasy & never cheesy on Payeezy

    bridgwatera | No Comments
    | More

    Apigee is trying to help developers integrate Apple Pay into their retail and gaming applications.

    The company (Apigee) itself is actually an API management and predictive analytics platform specialist -- and Apple Pay (in case you hadn't noticed) is Apple's "mobile digital wallet" for iPhone 6 and Apple Watch.

    1APIs for Dummies_0.png

    The company (Apigee again, keep up) is working with payment technology firm First Data's cheekily named Apigee-powered Payeezy.com online ecommerce payments platform, which gives merchants access to Apple Pay.

    Obviously there's now a big demand to integrate payments within apps, which means opening up payments platforms to the developer community -- so First Data is doing this with Apigee's API platform.

    NOTE: Apigee is API gee for API management i.e. API as in Application Programming Interface, get it?

    "There is high consumer demand for apps that can immediately support new mobile technology," said Chet Kapoor, CEO of Apigee.

    "Through an API-centric approach, First Data's Payeezy.com makes it easy and fast for software developers to build apps that support the new single-touch mobile payment capabilities for Apple Pay."

    Spell the facts out please

    First Data is a global payment processing company serving six million merchant locations, thousands of card issuers and millions of consumers worldwide.

    Payeezy.com is an eCommerce platform that provides an online tool for developers to deliver secure online and mobile payments.



    Payeezy.com utilises the Apigee API platform, and First Data was able to significantly accelerate project development and time to market for Payeezy with Apigee. Through APIs, First Data is empowering developers to rapidly design apps for Apple Pay and new mobile payments.

    

Apigee Edge is an API platform to securely expose and manage data at large scale.

    "Apigee Edge is purpose-built for the digital economy, delivering technology businesses need to manage the digital value chain from API exposure to API consumption - and to measure the success of an API program with end-to-end analytics.

    Edge includes three components:

    API Services,
    Developer Services and
    Analytics Services.

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