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Amazon pushes DynamoDB into Europe

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Amazon is offering its DynamoDB NoSQL database service, in Europe to provide businesses with a scalable database system in the cloud.

Amazon says DynamoDB in the EU-West region, complies with European data regulations since data remains the European Union. The database stores data on Solid State Drives (SSDs) and replicates it synchronously across multiple AWS Availability Zones within the EU-West region to provide built-in high availability and data durability.

Trustworthy Computing has made MS a better company

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On January 15 2002, Bill Gates announced to the world that Microsoft would completely change how it developed software, putting quality as the main priority. Given its Windows and Office software runs on the majority of the world's desktop and laptop computers, any quality issues affected millions of users. Given Microsoft software is so widely deployed, hackers could target the quality issues, exploiting poor quality code using simple buffer overflow attacks, to gain access to millions of Windows computers. For instance the Code Red, attack in 2001, brought down Microsoft's IIS web server software, while SQL Slammer, in 2003, became the fastest spreading worm ever.
Image representing Bill Gates as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Trustworthy Computing, (TwC) the term Gates coined to describe the company's strategy on IT security and software quality, would have a profound effect on Microsoft products. Windows XP had to be redeveloped as Windows XP SP2. It is fair to say, that today, the extent of Trustworthy Computing, has made Microsoft a producer of high quality software. It has also led to Adobe, tying its patch releases in with Microsoft's Patch Tuesday, monthly updates.
Prior to Patch Tuesday, software companies were very secretive about security vulnerabilities. While it may have generated negative headlines about the risks and vulnerabilities in Microsoft software, Patch Tuesday has become an essential part of IT administration, allowing IT departments to plan and test updates to their Microsoft software.
Speaking to Computer Weekly, Steve Lipner, partner director of program management, TwC  group at Microsoft, said "We have made progress and learned a lot of lessons, but we know we are not done. Computing is part of the fabric of society and trustworthy computing is still something we have to focus on."
What TwC has achieved is raise the bar on software quality, and, at the same time, it has made the general public more aware of keeping their computers "up-to-date." In this age of greater and greater connectivity, such awareness will go some way to protect people from hacking and phishing.
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Microsoft embeds Bing's data centre admin into System Center 2012

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English: Bing_Brand_Logo,Microsoft

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Brad Silver is the Microsoft senior vice president in charge of the company's System Center management tool family. In a blog post today he said that while a business would typically have one IT admin for every 30-40 servers, "When we look at the Microsoft datacenters that host our cloud services (Bing, Windows Update, Hotmail, Windows Azure) we see a ratio of one employee to four or five thousand servers."

He says Microsoft has taken its experience of managing these large data centres, and applied what it learnt, to improve System Center 2012, which is now available as an RC1 download. In the blog he adds, "Cloud computing is the combination of great virtualisation and great management capabilities. With the right management, customers can transform their IT infrastructure into services the business can use to quickly and reliably deliver the all-important business applications from the cloud."

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What to Watch Out for When Migrating to Office 365

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In this guest blog post, Jeremy Thake, enterprise architect and Microsoft Sharepoint MVP at Avepoint looks at how to move onto Office 365.

Thumbnail image for JeremyThake.jpgOffice 365 is Microsoft's latest iteration of its online business productivity suite, potentially shifting many traditionally on-premises products and services from the server room to the cloud. With many businesses assessing the pros and cons of cloud computing, the issue of moving content is being highlighted as a key concern for potential users unsure of the complications associated with the migration process. So, what exactly are these challenges and what can businesses do to ease their way into the cloud without threatening business continuity?  

Limited Functionality
When considering tools like Office 365 for enterprise-wide collaboration, it is important to have very clear business goals upfront for the technology. Then, great care must be made to assess if the tools have all of the necessary functionality in order to meet those established goals and limit the threat of business disruption. For example, as it stands today, Office 365 doesn't offer all of the functionality that business users can expect from an on-premises SharePoint 2010 environment. Customisations can only be installed at site collection level and there are restrictions on what customisation can be done due to the multi-tenancy of the service. Consequently, most business users considering a migration of its business data to Office 365 are likely to do so utilising a hybrid approach, still keeping some data on-premises. While this allows businesses to benefit from both the functionality of SharePoint 2010 and the economic and scalability benefits offered by Office 365, challenges are presented around data flow between the two platforms. While it is possible for businesses to develop custom solutions internally that allow locally held data to integrate seamlessly with data stored in the cloud, this development process is highly complex and would require significant skill and on-going maintenance. Third-party solutions for hybrid management - which leverage fully supported Microsoft methodologies and APIs - can take this taxing, costly process out of the hands of in-house IT managers and allow them to concentrate on more business-critical tasks. 

There are several methods - and subsequent challenges - by which organisations can attempt to migrate existing enterprise content onto Office 365. Two of the more commonly considered methods are staged migrations and blanket migration with policy management. Businesses should be aware, however, that migrating data to the cloud is like any other more traditional in-house migration - doing a 'spring clean' and deleting unused or old files and archiving records at the outset will avoid wasted time spent migrating unnecessary data. This also has cost implications, as without proper planning, you could find yourself storing unnecessary data in the cloud. This can become costly if it goes beyond Office 365's storage parameters which they charge at a 1 GB per user, per month extra. 
Once any data cleansing process has been completed, businesses need to consider how much time the migration is likely to take. Moving on-premises content into the cloud will invariably result in a certain amount of delay for users to be able to access the content. With that in mind, organisations must decide whether a staged or blanket approach would best meet their business needs. For example, large organisations often have significant data footprints, meaning the migration of content onto cloud platforms like Office 365 is likely to take more than just a weekend. A blanket migration of data is therefore likely to creep into office hours, potentially causing disruption to business-critical operations. 

To get around this, businesses may consider a staged approach to migration, but cross-dependencies within content mean that employing tools which facilitate integration are essential. As an example, if site A is migrated on day 1 of the project as a priority, but site B is identified as data that can be migrated on day 3 or 4, third-party solutions from vendors including AvePoint can ensure any changes to content in site B that impact site A will be identified. Certain files can also be set as 'read only' during the migration phase, depending on business preferences. With such tools in place, business and IT staff can be confident that all content is kept up-to-date throughout the migration process, even if that process is staggered over the course of a week, for example.  Security policies such as access rights and authentication management can also be automatically updated into the new cloud-hosted platform, further removing the need for manual intervention by IT staff once the migration is complete. 

It's clear that Office 365 is appealing for businesses, and its feature set will evolve quickly as upgrades and patching processes are dramatically simplified when compared with on-premises software.  With improvements in constant development, and third-party tools helping businesses to make the most of their on-premises and cloud SharePoint environments, businesses can continue striving toward its day-to-day business goals while confidently providing IT assurance without overburdening IT administrators. 

Microsoft's Gordon Frazer comment leads to Dutch rethink on US cloud providers

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On September 5th Dutch Minister Ivo Opstelten (Security and Justice) responded to questions relating to US cloud companies storing Duth data and the impact of the US Patriot Act. The minister's response has major implications on data jurisdication. Here is a Google translation of the questions and answers:


Question 1:  Are you familiar with the message "Microsoft admits Patriot Act, can access EU-based cloud data"?

Answer 1: Yes.

Question 2: How do you assess the statement of Gordon Frazer, managing director of Microsoft UK, that all data are managed by an American company...can be requested by the US government under the Patriot Act?

Answer 2: ...The statement that all data can be retrieved always seems to not reflect reality.

Question 3: Does the Dutch government,  Dutch agencies or institutions store semi-public data with (or in association with) a US company (or several US companies)? If so, what parts of the (semi-) government agencies or what are these?

Answer 3: Yes... experimenting with Google Docs and Dropbox.

Question 4: Is there at present scenarios where the US government, under the Patriot Act, may request information on Dutch citizens? If so, what data are involved?

Answer 4: Such scenarios are not known to me.

Question 5: Are there other foreign countries that currently have laws similar to the US Patriot Act and are therefore not eligible to Dutch manage [data]?

Answer 5: There are no other governments I know thatapply  similar laws.

Question 6: Is there a policy designed to prevent a foreign power from getting access to information without the permission of the Dutch government?

Answer 6: There is no policy that specifically focused on the possible consequences of applying foreign law. However, the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations takes into account the possible consequences of the application of foreign law in the policy...To prevent information from the government (also public) from being requested under the Patriot Act by the United States, the supplier for outsourcing data centres is not allowed data from the government (also Citizens).  This basically means that companies from the United States are excluded from such bids



IBM third-party maintenance breathes new life into mainframes

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The European Competitions (anti-trust) Commission has ruled that IBM must publish information on mainframe spares for third party maintainers.

It's fair to say the mainframe is not going away. Some systems, such as the core banking and insurance applications, are too complex to migrate. These systems have been running for years aware and companies and government departments should not be locked into one supplier for hardware or software maintenance on these legacy systems.

IBM will continue to sell shiny new z-series mainframe servers as data centres in or box, or cloud computing in a box. But for those organisations who do not require such leading edge, premium technology, the fact that third party maintainers will have access to IBM spares, is a breakthrough, allowing businesses to keep their trusty legacy systems operational.

Outsourcers, particularly those who operate in India or Eastern Europe,  will be able to expand their mainframe businesses,  Mainframe users will be able to selectively offload legacy mainframe computers to these suppliers. And IBM may even be able to sell more z-series hardware, as budgets are freed up which can be deployed  on modern  mainframe applications.

VMWare puts Windows in a browser

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At this year's VMWorld, VMWare is killing off desktop computing. Well, it is at least trying to convince the world, that thin client virtual desktop infrastructure is the way forward.

There have been plenty of attempts at getting users to dump desktop PCs in favour of thin client. As a thin client user, I find the technology is still far from seamless and very much bandwidth constrained. But if VMWare can truly make the virtual desktop experience as good as a physical PC, then there is no reason why I wouldn't switch to VDI.

Project AppBlaster, also unveiled at VMWorld, looks particularly interesting, especially if it makes it possible for tablet device users to access Windows applications using just an HTML 5.0 browser. Basically, it puts Windows in a browser. Citrix and Wyse should certainly be worried.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Software testing firm in Glasgow offers work opportunities

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A few years ago I attended a presentation given by Thorkil Sonne, the founder of Specialisterne, who formed the Danish software company in order to make use of the special skills that people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can bring to the workplace.

When I spoke to Thorkil he said:

"The main benefits that autistic individuals bring to the workplace are they are methodical and exhibit great attention to detail."

Other attributes that people with ASD can exhibit include motivation, focus, persistence, precision and the ability to follow instructions, making individuals excellent at testing and spotting errors in software code.

Three years on and it's good to see that Thorkil has managed to establish operations in Glasgow, and has hired 10 people with ASD to work as software testers. The company has just won its first contract >>

UKOUG shuffle

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This week the UK Oracle user group is reorganising. Chairman, Debra Lilley takes on a new role as president of the council and leader of the user group. In a statement UKOUG said:


"For members, the changes mean better representation of a diverse membership, concentrated focus on member needs and ultimately a more influential relationship with Oracle."


The user group has done extremely well at bringing on-board people following Oracle's acqusiion spree, which has meant that along wit the traditional Oracle stable,  it is now a user group for PeopeSoft users, JD Edwards users, Siebel users, BEA WebLogic and now Sun hardware users.


The challenge it faces is whether UKOUG can be focussed enough to support this diverse community of users.


The idea of a traditional user group is perhaps a tad old-fashioned. User groups represent people who push software hard and struggle to get their opinions and views heard by major suppliers. But blogging, Twitter and Facebook along with the extensive developer forums run by major software suppliers, does make the user group a bit of a pre-internet legacy. User pressure is still important but arguably, it needs to be refreshed to User Group 2.0.


As for the UKOUG, let's hope it can remain focussed, embrace social media and build on its strengths as an independent group repesenting all Oracle users.



Cloud will remain a tiny proportion of overall IT market

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New research from Gartner shows that businesses are beginning to spend on IT again after a freeze on spending due to the economic downturn.

I spoke to Richard Gordon, research vice president at Gartner, about the areas where IT spending was increasing in the enterprise.  No suprises here: Windows 7 upgrades, servers and storage.

He said, "There has been a healthy investment in data centre," suggesting that businesses are also investing to make their IT infrastructure cloud-ready. But cloud computing is just 2% of IT spending, and will not grow significantly short-term, in spite of everything the IT industry is saying.

Gartner expects the software as a service market to accout for 4% of overall IT spending by 2015,  "We are unlikely to see a wholesale move to the cloud," said Gordon.


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