November 2010 Archives

HP Software Chief: We don't have a concept of "over the wall", ALM goes on...

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HP Software VP for EMEA Neil Weston has been pressing the flesh with the press this week as part of HP Software Universe 2010, which is being held in the Catalan capital of Barcelona. Weston made one comment in briefings that in many ways sums up what the company is trying to say about its software business unit.

To put it into context - as most readers will know, there is a well known saying to describe the process where software application developers finish up (or, arguably, have had enough of) their build process and at that point they, "throw the application over the wall to the operations team" - who must then manage the rest of the application's lifecycle from that point onward.

"You see, we don't have a concept of 'over the wall' in terms of application lifecycle management, for HP the ALM (application lifecycle management) process goes on and on," said Weston.

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HP says it is not here to shake up Java, or re-write the application development methodology handbook and that it is here to be platform, language and hybrid environment agnostic.

Does HP think you should opt for Agile development methodology? Yes!
Will HP still support you if you insist that Waterfall is best? Sure.

So is this unit of the company's business just a little bit bland? Is it an all-things-to-everyone somewhat peripheral offering that offers no true disruptive or innovative technology?

Not quite - in fact if HP Software was a stand alone business, the company insists that it would be sixth biggest software company in the world. As a unit within HP, the software "business within a business" is the fastest growing division overall.

I pressed some HP spokespeople on the suggestion of blandness that I was hinting at above. This is arguably a misconception as the company has over 20,000 global consultants working down to the level of declarative language integration issues, for example.

So to reiterative the comments made by the chief earlier. This is what ALM (application lifecycle management) means to Hewlett Packard.

The SDL (or SDLc) software development lifecycle element is "just the code" - and this is probably somewhere around 20 percent of the total ALM universe that we need to be aware of. The other 80 percent include much of the modeling and planning and architectural design processes.

But HP defines ALM as being stretching from this pre-deployment stage, to operations (being most of the 80 percent chunk of the pie) and finally on to retirement for the applications and the code that supports them.

... and so, OPERATIONS for HP will inclide:

  • application enhancement
  • security provisioning
  • upgrades
  • application maintenance
  • capacity upgrades

Developers are important says HP, but they are just one part of the total application management lifecycle. An application will live seven to ten times in production as it does in the design and build period of its life insisted our keynote speakers.

Is HP saying that just because it doesn't work closely enough to the command line? No, I am not suggesting that, I am merely asking the question.

HP Software Universe Day #1: the secret "service" sauce

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Welcoming 3000 attendees here in Barcelona to HP Software Universe 2010 this morning was Neil Weston, VP & GM HP Software EMEA. The big news later today is the release of HP Application Lifecycle Management version 11.

But before the news (which I will cover later), I think it's worth mentioning some of the stickier points brought up in our welcome preamble. HP is talking about three global IT mega-trends: evolving business models (more firms becoming more global); a changing mobile workforce; and technology advancements in terms of devices that are changing the way we work.

Everything and everyone is connected. Technology needs to deliver automation for scalability. I could drop in a few more corporate one liners for you here - but I think two is more than enough don't you?

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Business Insight - huh?

Of all the terms we hear banded about far too much in IT, the quest for so-called "business insight from technology" has to be one of the more perplexing terms, so what does it mean?

For HP, this is defined as something along the lines of the the need to control information and exploit it for the enterprise... data volumes are growing, so we need to - capture, manage, retain, find - and this is the shape of the process - HP is aiming for reductions in "e-discovery" times of up to 80%.

Did they just say "e-discovery"? Yes, I think they did!

The challenge of building a proportion of rigid physical infrastructure - and yet balancing this with the "inevitability" of virtual sprawl that may be driven by the cloud is going to be one of our major challenges says HP.

HP likes to use its breadth of services to talk about hybrid delivery - no surprise really given the push for BTO business technology optimisation tools that the company currently has.

On this point the company says this is very important because things have changed a lot over the last three years - a CIO now has to act as an "information broker" in the enterprise says HP, he (or she) pushes the services from his division to the board in the most profitable way possible for the company.

The CIO then has to manage the service interfaces, the service quality and the service effectiveness.

HP says it has an industry first runtime service model - designed to provide a unified view across the business of IT and hybrid delivery models.

HP's acquisition of Fortify was all about building more secure apps - so that final apps that reach the data centre floor have fewer flaws in running production use cases, overall HP is talking about delivering an average of a 24% reduction in security (and compliance) costs for its customer.

Services, traceability and manageability will clearly form many of the messages to come. More live show notes as this event progresses.

What to expect from HP Software Universe 2010

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Barcelona plays host to HP Software Universe 2010 this week from November 30th to December 2nd and, arguably for some, this "tier #1" tech player has been comparatively quieter than many of the other software-focused IT Goliaths in recent years.

So is the company's Business Technology Optimisation (BTO) and Fortify-enriched 'Software & Solutions' business doing enough to change HP's perception as a laptop and desktop OEM?

After all, as a Mac devotee that recently needed a good value Win 7 PC laptop, I gave HP (well, Best Buy at least) my business by selecting a Pavilion dv5.

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I'll be using the next couple of days to eat some octopus tapas and speak to so-called "C-level execs" from the BTO side, the SaaS side and the information management side of the business. There's a lot of spokespeople here with the words "head of product marketing" nestled comfortably into their job designations; so I'll be aiming hard to get some ground level messages if I possibly can.

The best hunting ground for the hard core info will no doubt involve speaking to the partners too and in attendance this year we see: Capgemini, SAP, Oracle, ORSYP, Alcatel.Lucent, Telcordia and Shunra.

Perhaps the best way of looking forward here is to look backwards to see what HP was talking about at the American version of this event in Washington DC back in June of this year. As well as discussing a new collaboration with CollabNet to streamline end-to-end development and quality assurance processes, the company also announced accelerated client adoption of hybrid application delivery models, new business service management software -- and (it says here) a set of "solutions" designed to reduce organisational risk and, "speed IT innovation with automated test data management."

Will we get more business service management software announcements this week? You'd be a fool not to count on it I'd say.

Windows Phone 7 & ladies in lingerie

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Just six weeks after the launch of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has announced it now has almost 3,000 apps and games on its 'Marketplace' website. Things are looking good then -- and there's also been an 80% increase in the number of registered programmers since September, with more than 15,000 developers currently creating apps for the platform.

Industry rumours suggest that Microsoft has poured a huge amount of marketing dollars into Windows Phone 7 to help ensure its success. I myself am currently playing with a test unit and haven't looked at the supporting paperwork once; it's clean, sharp, intuitive and easy to use.

So why does Microsoft feel it needs to use ladies in lingerie to help advertise Windows Phone 7? Isn't it sexy enough already?

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Well, being serious for a moment, the real initiatives underway to promote developer (and ultimately user) interest are a dedicated Windows Phone 7 developer blog, the option for developers to add so-called 'deep links' to their websites taking potential customers directly to the specific app or game purchase page, as well as Windows Phone devices, apps and games now being featured as prominent elements of the Xbox dashboard.

"This is just a sample of the type of work we're doing to get apps and games in front of customers. We will continue to generate more visibility in more markets across all of the screens that people rely on throughout their daily lives. Developers and the apps they create are central to the Windows Phone experience and we're doing our best to show people that Windows Phone 7 features a great list of quality apps that take advantage of the phones unique features to extend the phone experience," wrote Todd Brix on the Windows Phone 7 blog.

Brix was apparently not available for comment on the use of ladies in satin slips, hold up stockings and/or seductively lit bedroom environments at this time.

What's behind IBM Cognos 10?

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The fallout of attending the IBM Information on Demand conference last month in the USA is that the PR stream is somewhat of a case on 'More Information Than You Demanded', but then that's part of the game that we all play.

What I failed to report on at the time were the trends driving innovation in IBM Cognos 10 and what this means for developers and other IT professionals tasked with working in the area of business analytics.

So why is business analytics important anyway?

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Analyst reports propose that enterprise data growth over the next five years is estimated at 650% percent. Some 80% of this data will be unstructured generated from a variety of sources such as blogs, web content and email etc -- and the suggestion is that 70% of this unstructured data is stale after ninety days. If tapped (and by this we mean manage) this information could lead to competitive advantage for an organisation.

Further analysis postulates that the global mobile workforce is expected to reach more than 1.19 billion by 2013 and mobile transactions are expected to grow 40 times by 2015, generating even more data for businesses.

IBM says that these facts (if we do not dispute them) were the drivers that lead to the innovations in IBM Cognos 10.

"In the last 4 years, IBM has invested more than $14 billion in 24+ acquisitions to expand our analytics capabilities. We've dedicated more than 7,000 business consultants with industry expertise to help clients understand their data and put this information to use and launched a network of analytics solution centers across the globe," says the company.

IBM projects $16 billion in business analytics and optimisation revenue by 2015.

According to Big Blue, "IBM Cognos 10 expands traditional BI capabilities with planning, scenario modeling, real-time monitoring and predictive results. It presents within a single, unified BI workspace and other products in our portfolio are 'Cognos 10 Ready', meaning they can all be implemented with IBM Cognos 10 to deliver even more value."

IBM wants us to get used to terms like 'collective intelligence', meaning built-in collaboration and social networking functionality to, in the company's own terms, "Connect people and insights to gain alignment."

Connecting people and insights to gain alignment -- IBM needs to be very careful if it is going to use contorted language like that to explain how it is going to make data analytics easier to do.

Developers: 35.5 million tablet users can't be wrong

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I have been working on a piece with esteemed blogger and corporate writer Eric Lai this week looking at predictions in the enterprise mobility space. The upshot of which was that Lai had taken the obvious by clever route to predicting that there could be as many as 35.5 million tablets sold globally in 2011 -- what does that mean for developers? Massive development opportunities of course

So how did Lai arrive at that ultra-precise number?

"By simply averaging the public forecasts of six researchers, ranging from a high of 55 million (Gartner) to a low of 22 million (ABI Research) -- hip social media types would call that 'crowdsourcing the experts'. Whatever you call it, that's strong growth: see the chart, based on pre-Thanksgiving forecasts," said Lai

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*'Moderate' forecast, from interview with ABI analyst Jeff Orr, Nov. 12, 2010
** Upwardly revised figures.

Nevertheless, says Lai, netbooks will still outship tablets for many years. The facts are, though, that netbooks still outsell tablets by a factor of 4 or so, according to ABI statistics. "Netbooks continue to grow at a very respectable rate," ABI's Orr says. "It's not the same as the last two years, but there's not decline."

Now I don't think any of the above is stating the obvious. Rather, I think it's a case of reminding ourselves of the reality we face -- and of course the consequences (and opportunities) that this brings to software application developers.

Burgeoning Bulgaria: VIVACOM telecom dials with Clarity

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Unified telecommunications player Clarity has said that Bulgaria's leading telecom operator VIVACOM has gone live with its Unified OSS platform in Plovdiv, southern Bulgaria.

VIVACOM .png

Initially concentrating on VIVACOM's fixed line networks, Clarity's OSS solution is being used to try and strengthen the operator's competitiveness, whilst improving its flexibility and ability to adapt quickly to change.

So is this a prudent business model for a country that may experience unpredictable (and probably positive) growth now that Bulgaria is in the European Union?

Clarity says that VIVACOM will be able to reduce costs by increasing operational efficiency through SLA and KPI management. The concept here is to quantify the business improvement derived from the OSS product (NB: which stands for Operational Support Systems and NOT Open Source Software) and to identify where latent efficiency improvements can be made.

VIVACOM says that key to meeting its deployment timescales was Clarity's pre-integrated suite, which provided much of the essential functionality required out-of-the-box, with minor configuration.

Jon Newbery, CEO at Clarity said, "Incumbent operators around the globe are increasingly under pressure from new competitors, who are able to exploit local loop unbundling to establish themselves in the market. As a result, it's critical that service providers can adapt to market demands quickly, whilst focusing on service quality and the customer experience. Our solutions enable operators to do precisely that and can be deployed rapidly to get immediate business benefit, as well as reducing the total cost of operations in the longer term."

Testing 1-2-3, finding application "value gaps" for business profit

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Much of the last decade's software application development publicity has been characterised by vendors at various segments of the application lifecycle telling us that a huge percentage of projects go bad and fail to deliver.

Failing to deliver: on time, on budget, on spec or even at all, this phrase has almost become hackneyed by virtue of its overuse.

So given this tiresome exercise, it is worth taking notice of companies that still talk about application testing?

testcard BBC.jpg

Testing is now more complex than ever of course: these days we're talking about testing apps as we work to integrate disparate platforms; testing use case scenarios as we work with accelerated development methodologies; and (perhaps most crucially of all) we are looking at testing to help businesses discover the pockets of "value gaps" which they can act upon to increase productivity, optimise effort and reduce cost.

A recent IDG Research Services study found that 71 percent of CIOs and IT leaders say that testing and quality assurance are a critical or high priority. From the need to improve system reliability and responsiveness (61%) to meeting compliance requirements (42%) to reducing maintenance costs (41%), CIOs are taking software testing seriously. But they still face an array of challenges including difficulties associated with manual testing and quality assurance processes, gaps in staff skill sets, and the inability to quantify ROI.

"The last few years have been transformational for CIOs. From handling the impact of the recession on their organisations' infrastructure to managing increased compliance requirements and demands for quality IT services, CIOs have seen their roles evolve and mature. These factors are also shedding new light on the critical areas of software testing and quality assurance," says Sumithra Gomatam, senior vice president and global head of testing services at Cognizant.

Gomatam insists that there are a few key trends currently elevating the prominence of testing within the IT function:

• Agility: The emergence of tools and techniques such as online storyboarding, agile automation frameworks and agile customised project management platforms has enabled agile delivery in distributed environments across the globe.

• Increased automation and tool standardisation: As the size of the testing universe grows, so does the need to automate certain functions of the testing process and standardise tools for the diverse number of people that are involved. Standardisation provides organizations with the ability to streamline testing says Cognizant's Gomatam.

• Operational costs: The value of testing is not only seen in terms of more cost-effective systems or efficient processes, but IT leaders are also exploring ways to influence revenues. The service-on-demand model by leveraging cloud techniques and virtualisation is one way organisations are reducing capital expenditure.

Swiss car dealerships & attack of the (website) clones

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Information technology case studies generally play the role of Marmite in the marketing mix i.e. you either love them or you hate them. While some say that they show the role of true practitioners in practice; others say that they are nothing more than 'showboating' after a customer win.

Marmite.jpg

While I tend to fall into the latter camp more often than not, the story of AMAG Automobil-und Motoren AG (the largest chain of car dealerships in Switzerland) and its work with CA Technologies to ramp up the operational reliability of its websites and web applications -- did in fact catch my eye.

For this company, web apps not only play a key role in sales, vehicle configuration, financing and car insurance -- they are also of significant importance for critical business activities such as cooperation with employees and partners, managing the supply chain for cars and spare parts and monitoring and processing import orders.

"AMAG used to clone numerous websites from car manufacturers and sales and service partners onto its own site. The AMAG website environment was sometimes made up of 1,090 mini sites. This complexity made the various sites very unreliable and unstable, causing complaints from customers and partners but high support costs. With CA Wily Application Performance Management (APM), the company was able to take control of monitoring business critical web applications, the associated web servers and more than 56,000 transactions per day in real time, detecting the root causes of errors and therefore providing the framework needed to optimise transactions and business processes," says CA.

This news has been pushed out to accompany CA Technologies' recently published independent study entitled "Service Assurance: Accelerating Growth through an Exceptional Customer Experience", which you can easily find online.

Interesting points to note here are perhaps the prevalence and importance of (APM) as an enabling technology, the harsh reality of companies working with many multi-level suppliers and partners and the way AMAG "cloning & conglomeration" process took shape -- and ultimately how the company toook control of this spiralling application growth nightmare.

Delta's free email in the sky, but does the industry all travel at the same altitude?

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I am currently the happy holder of a set of Delta Air Lines tickets which I will be using next month to fly on a transatlantic and then domestic American pair of journeys.

Not only am I happy to report that Delta's cabin service is professional and friendly having been a recent previous customer -- but I am also happy to report that I will be blogging from 34,000 feet using the company's Gogo Inflight Internet service, which is free between Nov. 20, 2010 and Jan. 2, 2011.

Delta 1.jpg

Fortunately, all I have to do to avail myself of this service is download Google Chrome. Unfortunately, the service is only available on the domestic leg of my trip - although the company does say that I'll be on one of more than 540 Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft flying more than 2,200 domestic flights each day.

Fortunately, Delta began installing Wi-Fi on its domestic fleet in fall 2008 and today operates the largest fleet of Wi-Fi enabled aircraft in the world. Unfortunately, its back end systems supporting its web services driven front end do not always work as fluidly as they should do.


There's nothing more frustrating than filling in every line of your airline booking forms-based web application and selecting WINDOW and LOW CARB meal; only to find that you have been given a middle central seat at the back of the aircraft when there are still plenty of forward window seats available.

... and this is what happened to me.

Fortunately, Delta allows you to change your seat before you fly. Unfortunately, the systems don't always work and the user (me in this case) can get stuck in an endless loop of SAVE CHANGES that don't tie the web front end in with data centre back end.

But why is this so? - is it a question of poor software application integration and a shoddy approach to interoperability provisioning?

Fortunately, Delta provides the @DeltaAssist Twitter profile for you to follow if you have the same kind of problems as me. Fortunately, they are listening and were able to help me. Fortunately, there is also an accompanying blog on Delta Assist. Fortunately, it's nearly Christmas so this story has a happy ending.


STOP PRESS BLOG NOTE: As an additional note to end this story, I did receive some information that made me change the title of this entry. It turns out that although my own impression (and supposedly the impression any user would get) was that it is Delta's systems that were performing poorly - my seat selection issue was a result of the seam that is formed with Delta's joint venture partners. Delta is currently in an agreement with AirFrance, KLM and Alitalia and the companies say they are, "In an on-going process to align their policies and procedures across the airlines."

So one final nod to Delta for positively identifying where challenges lie ahead in what is obviously a complex integration process - and an additional note to question the processes by which major multinational corporates align their IT systems to that of their partners when joint ventures are embarked upon. Safe travels and safe online checks ins all round for the future then - the only way is up we hope.

Serena and Nolio orchestrate & automate app management for speedy release cadence

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Serena Software seems to be stepping impressively out of the 'Where Are They Now' file after a couple of years in the mashup/configuration management/what exactly do we do, backwoods of IT ignominy.

Helped by what is described as a global technology and services partnership with application service automation company Nolio, the company is now aiming to supplant a heavier Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) footprint than at any time previously.

Serena and Nolio are hedging their collective bets on what they hope will be perceived as a comprehensive release management solution. Described somewhat hopefully as an "industry first", the joint offering claims to give IT teams a process-focused solution that allows their deployment operations to accommodate the greater release cadence driven by agile software development and escalating requests for change.

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Serena: go easy on the mashups (free image Wikimedia Commons)

"For the first time, release automation is working seamlessly as part of an end-to-end ALM suite. We continue to expand and grow together into production by integrating the two to close the gap between development and operations, bringing together an advanced solution to the market and customers," said Eran Sher, co-founder of Nolio.

Serena points out that due to the growing number of critical applications, agile-driven sprint releases and requests for changes, release deployments have grown dramatically in frequency and complexity. Manual processes and lack of release automation technologies lead to unnecessary deployment errors and increased application service costs. Together, Nolio and Serena insist that they are providing a solution that combines release control, vault and automation, enabling release managers, dev/ops and IT operations teams to manage and automate the deployment of application releases and changes in the data centre and to the cloud.

"We recognised the value and power of this partnership immediately because Nolio shares Serena's core commitment to customer success," said Steve Brodie, VP of ALM development for Serena Software. "By integrating Nolio with Serena's release management components, we enable our clients to get a true process that improves visibility and alignment across business, IT and application development by implementing an effective practice - managing a release as a program."

The Serena Release Management Suite delivered with Nolio ASAP, launched today, is asserted to be the only solution to provide automated, end-to-end release management that makes it possible for companies to release across platforms, environments and application tiers.

Fontself develops handwriting fonts, but what about the security risk?

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In the spirit of a good Friday blog, I want to mention Fontself. This is a Software-as-a-Service venture that allows the user to create a font out of your own handwriting.

The PR push behind this is based on the fact that Fontself CEO Franz Hoffman believes that in common with other developed countries, Britons are eschewing the handwritten word in favour of technological alternatives. Which is quite a sweet notion, but the technology doesn't really rectify that problem.



The Fontself philosophy is 'to make handwriting cool again' by using technology to increase the perceived value of penmanship. The technology also has the potential to act as 'a silent handwriting exercise' and help teachers who are struggling with increasing levels of illegible script amongst students. 


OK, as an educational tool, it has some potential.

So the software programming behind this service works really well, you write out the alphabet, scan it, upload it and then tweak it. The coders could have done better if they had been a bit more intuitive with letter recognition and made sure that the letters q, y, p and g all sat on the virtual writing line so-to-speak. But they do not; they sit up in the air until you tweak them down yourself.

I personally wonder if there is a security risk here, if I host my own handwriting on Facebook, Blogger or MySpace (as the service allows) then isn't that a silly thing to do?

Speaking directly to Computer Weekly, Fontself CEO Franz Hoffman said, "Fontself is a fun tool that lets you express your personality in casual environments, extending your own identity over the web (just as a nickname or an avatar). While we may improve the resemblance with your real handwriting - think about ligatures that blend letters together - any graphologist will easily identify a genuine handwritten text from its digital counterpart."
 

"Our platform was built to provide a simple solution for the creation and use of handmade personal fonts. So we started with a home-brewed font distribution architecture (hosted on Amazon's Cloud), crafted some unique text rendering technologies to enable colourful and textured letters, and designed an intuitive font creation application (using Flex). Several showcase apps complete our offer to deliver such fonts in email, social networks or blogs, and we will support other technologies to bring cool fonts all over the web," added Hoffman.

AVG is programmed for mobile DroidSecurity

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AVG Technologies has added Tel Aviv-based DroidSecurity to its acquisition knapsack in an open source flavoured move to provide cloud-based mobile security for smartphones, tablets and other devices running on Google's Android operating system.

Now under the AVG anti virus wing, DroidSecurity is said to be the only company of its scale exclusively focused on protecting devices running Android.

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As popular as AVG is with its alleged "110 million" consumers and small businesses, this is clearly an important step for the company's Mobile Solutions Team (MST) who have arguably been working to catch up in this segment of the anti virus market.

AVG says that in October 2010, DroidSecurity's mobile security app surpassed the 4.5 million download milestone, making it one the most popular security applications on the Android platform.

"This milestone reflects important trends taking place in the mobile security arena, including the security consciousness of Android users, the explosive growth of the Android marketplace, and an exceptionally strong user demand for mobile security," says AVG.

"The potential that exists within the mobile space is extraordinary, and we predict that devices like smart phones will overtake PCs in 2012," said J.R. Smith, chief executive officer, AVG. "AVG acquired DroidSecurity to accelerate our delivery of sophisticated mobile security and provide users around the world with the reliable and secure technology they need to confidently mitigate the risks associated with using mobile devices."

According to a recent study by research firm NPD Group, the Android operating system continued to shake up the U.S. mobile phone market during the first quarter of 2010, edging out Apple's OS for the #1 spot.

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According to AVG's official blog post on this announcement, "The number of applications on the Android market is also expected to see massive growth as Google facilitates the development of mobile programs for the platform with do-it-yourself programs such as its recently-launched App Inventor for Android, which makes it simple for users of any experience level to create programs."

AVG insists that of the 100,000+ applications currently available on the Android market, DroidSecurity antivirus free consistently ranks in the top 50 of most popular apps -- according to company estimates, over 4.5 million Android mobile devices have downloaded DroidSecurity.

Windows Phone 7: is this the honeymoon period?

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It's just over a fortnight since Windows Phone 7 went on general sale in the UK on Oct 21 and Microsoft's app platform opened for downloads. In light of this largely welcome (it seems so far) new addition to the mobile device world, CWDN caught up with Will Coleman who is OS and mobile product manager for Windows Phone 7 to see how "Marketplace" has been received since launch.

NB: Windows Marketplace is an ecommerce reference site for registered developers to host apps and for users to cross-reference before visiting the Microsoft Store. With 13,000 registered Windows Phone 7 developers, the company says that the site already features over 2,000 apps compatible with Windows Phone 7 devices.

 Let's dig deeper.

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Microsoft's Coleman heads up the team responsible for building the Windows Phone 7 developer community in the UK. Launching into a well-established market, Coleman says he is well aware of the challenges he faces in competing against the likes of Apple's App Store, Google's Android Marketplace and BlackBerry's App World.

"The reception we've had over the past couple of weeks has been pretty amazing. There was quite a buzz around launch and the latest figures suggest there have been more than 500,000 downloads of the developer toolkit to date. Windows Phone is clearly selling well in the developer space - perhaps because people are excited about the fact that there is a new platform in the market. It's either that, or the fact that they recognise the effort we've put into producing an experience that suits the needs, preferences and skills of app developers."

Microsoft has said before that apps and games are central to the value it is offering end users with Windows Phone 7. To attempt to provide evidence of this commitment, just this week the company announced a partnership (yes, another one!) with code obfuscation specialist PreEmptive Solutions, to provide developers with what it describes as "access to tools that allow insight into how customers are using their applications".

But why would a developer migrate to Windows Phone, when there are more proven models out there already?

Tony Dong a developer at London-based Touchnote feels that the Phone's Metro UI is a key selling point: "The Metro design is a huge differentiator between Windows Phone and any other smartphone platform on the market. It drove our entire development process. For us, the fact that Windows Phone 7 is not yet established in the marketplace actually offers a great opportunity - it gives smaller companies like ourselves 'first move' advantage and a greater chance of standing out."

Microsoft is clearly hoping that a key developer attraction will be the fact "many" developers are already familiar with the skills needed (an understanding of Silverlight or XNA) to get their hands dirty with Windows Phone 7 development.

The company has also tried to whip up some buzz around Windows Phone 7 design elements and capabilities such as Live Tiles, Hub integration, panoramic views, notifications and the Bing map control.

According to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 marketing engine, there is also value (especially for smaller brands) in what the company describes as the "breadth of training and guidance" available on how to market an app, which can be found on the MSDN.

So is the smartphone battle just between Android and iPhone and BlackBerry? Will Windows Phone 7 cut a serious wedge of the market for itself in the months ahead? Early signs look good for Microsoft -- but is this a short-lived honeymoon period?

MathWorks' programming challenge: borrow code from fellow competitors

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Mathematical computing software company MathWorks has kicked off its 2010 online programming contest challenging MATLAB users to foster collaboration in engineering and science by encouraging participants to build on and borrow from the code written by fellow competitors.

MATLAB itself is described as: "A high-level technical computing language and interactive environment for algorithm development, data visualisation and data analysis."

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All participants have access to the code entered in the contest, and MathWorks says it is leveraging social networking platforms, including MATLAB Central, throughout the contest so that participants can discuss their solutions and strategies globally with peers.

Whether this real-time interaction creates a more innovative programming process is up to developers to decide. Interested programmers can visit mathworks.com/matlabcentral/contest to register for this twice a year event.

IBM and the ruptured brain aneurysm bleeding stroke machine

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IBM's latest move to put its streaming analytics technology towards some altruistic use is a new project in which researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (that's in New York, not Columbia) will utilise IBM technology to potentially detect severe complications in brain injured patients up to 48 hours earlier than traditional methods.



For patients that have suffered a bleeding stroke from a ruptured brain aneurysm, recovery can involve serious complications. IBM says that one of the most severe and frequent complications is delayed ischemia, a life threatening condition in which the brain does not get enough blood to function properly.

So how can data streaming and analytics help with such an "organic" human condition?

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Currently, detectable symptoms only appear once blood flood has been significantly reduced, forcing medical professionals to be reactive instead of preventative in their treatment. In 20 percent of patients with this complication, there are no observable symptoms at all and it is only after it is too late that their doctor realises that the patient needed treatment. 



"Developed at IBM Research Labs, IBM Streaming analytics analyses large volumes of data in motion. Using this technology, medical researchers believe they may be able to uncover the patterns in symptom progression not visible to the naked eye and possibly spot the onset of the condition up to 48 hours earlier than current methods," says IBM.

IBM says that the power behind this kind of development is its InfoSphere Streams, a technology that enables continuous and real-time filtering, correlating and analysis of massive volumes of information-in-motion -- normally used to help improve business insights and decision making.

The analytics software handles structured and unstructured streaming data sources such voice, video, databases, market feeds, medical equipment feeds, images from satellites and application data in real-time.

One question remains; how many other business-centric computing developments (such as virtualisation and cloud computing for example) are finding a home in the fields of science and medicine?

IBM: Iterative development saves on grey hair development

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This is a guest post by Kevin Bowkett from IBM's CICS TS Development - in this post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network, Kevin talks about the harsh realities of software development and how we should look to proven methodologies for support and process where it is available.

Kevin says that those involved in the development and delivery of technology projects - managers, developers, functional testers, information "documenters" - will be familiar with the stress of budget constraints and ever-changing client demands.

But is there an easier way? Is there a way to avoid additional stress and the software application development-induced development of grey hair?

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As project development evolves in line with the pace of technology managers need to keep abreast of the latest tools to ensure they can respond effectively to changing workflows and methodologies. One significant development for project managers has been the move away from the legacy waterfall approach to today's more iterative process, enabled by recent technological improvements.

IBM's CICS (Customer Information Control System) Transaction Server for zOS technology, the lynchpin of most electronic transactions (which now carries up to 30 billion electronic transactions per day) is a good example of a technology that has benefited from an iterative development process.

During its 40+ year evolution CICS TS has evolved its development, which was heavily influenced by the waterfall approach, to adopt best practices of the time. In the last five years or so, this has lead to CICS TS successfully adopting iterative development and the resulting benefits have been well received.)

Looking to quote his colleagues inside Big Blue's hallowed portals, Kevin references a recent quote by Nigel Hopper, CICS Development Team Leader at IBM. "The migration to Agile and Rational Team Concert (RTC) has enabled us to adapt to change more readily, track the work more accurately and identify defects much earlier in the project. This has allowed us to prioritise the work better, ensuring we can give the customer the new capabilities that they are looking for as well as improving the overall quality of the product."

RTC has brought significant benefits to the development of CICS TS. It provides the team with a single point of control to monitor progress, team dependencies and workflows, thereby enabling us to respond in a more agile manner to changing requirements.

Beta versions of CICS TS demonstrating the new capability can be provided more regularly than with previous approaches and new requirements and niggles can be addressed on an ongoing basis before they become bigger challenges. Clients also reap the rewards of iterative development as new ideas are easier to incorporate so value can be realised much quicker.

Ultimately, the sooner that a remedy is brought to bear upon the project, the smaller the headaches for all involved and the fewer the grey hairs!

Ah grasshopper, turn to the Agile Samurai developer!

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In honour of David Carradine's Shaolin monk character Kwai Chang Caine from seventies TV series Kung Fu, this story starts with a reference to Master Po -- the blind 'master' who named the young monk 'Grasshopper' after a famous scene in the series pilot which will be familiar to many fans.

Developers without the spiritual guidance of a Kill Bill style Kung Fu master may instead feel they can benefit from the assistance afforded by a technical training book. Agile Samurai: How Agile Masters Deliver Great Software is the latest offering from publisher The Pragmatic Bookshelf.

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Agile proponents tend to highlight the fact that software projects rarely go as planned; and that becoming a more "fierce" software-delivery professional can enable developers to develop pragmatic new skills, such as what to do when you discover your schedule is wrong and how to look like a pro when correcting it.

Author Jonathan Rasmusson shows the reader how to kick-start, execute, and deliver your agile projects with the finesse of a master. "By learning the ways of the Agile samurai, you'll be ready to kick some software project butt," says his publicity statement.

If kicking "some software project butt" is a bit too gung-ho for you, then at least it's interesting to see Agile advocates using fresh communication channels to try and ply their wares. The book itself appears to be filled with light-hearted illustrations and claims to, "Slice away at the padding and esoteric theory that make other books less-than-agile."

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