All posts by Sabina Weston

Google Cloud seeks to abandon its ‘Killed By Google’ reputation

Sabina Weston

27 Jul, 2021

Google Cloud is looking to turn around the tech giant’s reputation for sunsetting legacy tools despite their popularity among customers.

This is according to statements made by Google Cloud VP Kripa Krishnan, who told Business Insider that the company will be readjusting its approach towards killing off products:

“We want Google Cloud to be something stable that customers can rely on for a long-term time,” she told the publication on Monday, adding that the company was “obviously (…) not doing the right thing” by sunsetting fan favourites such as Picasa and Reader or even the less popular Google+.

“What we were doing was clearly not working. We are trying to address that head on,” said Krishnan, who leads Google’s Technical Infrastructure team.

The decision to address Google’s poor reputation was prompted by “Killed By Google” – a satirical website and Twitter account run by software engineer Cody Ogden, who keeps track of all the tools Google has decided to shutdown.

Google’s new approach now includes a new policy of notifying customers at least one year in advance that a product will be killed off, excluding instances of an intractable security bug or intellectual property issues.

However, even in these cases, the company will “do everything possible to make migration as effortless as possible for customers”.

“If we need to make a breaking change, we will make sure the burden is on us,” she said.

According to Krishnan, Google Cloud will try to win back the trust of developers by being more supportive of customer needs and “not just announce something”.

“My intent is we don’t have these issues going forward,” she said.

Krishnan’s announcement comes months after Google killed off Cloud Print, its cloud-based printing solution, without providing users with a clear reason for the closure. Last year, the tech giant also unceremoniously abandoned Hangouts, its most popular messaging app, with only a few weeks notice.

Despite this, Krishnan insisted that Google “already [has] dependability and reliability”.

“We just want to make sure we extend it to its fullest extent possible in Google Cloud,” she added.

Rackspace to lay off 10% of workforce

Sabina Weston

26 Jul, 2021

Rackspace Technology plans to lay off 10% of its workforce, with 85% of these roles set to be replaced through its offshore service centres.

That’s according to a regulatory filing submitted by the cloud computing services provider last week, informing the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US market regulator, of its plans.

The document states that on 21 July, Rackspace “committed to an internal restructuring plan, which will drive a change in the types of and location of certain positions and is expected to result in the termination of approximately 10% of the Company’s workforce”.

“The Company anticipates that approximately 85% of these roles will be backfilled in the Company’s offshore service centres,” it added. The affected employees were notified of the decision on the same day, and are expected to leave Rackspace over the next 12 months. The restructuring means that the company will spend between $70 and $80 million (£50-58 million) over the next 12-24 months on “severance payments, healthcare benefits and other exit costs”.

Rackspace will instead focus on “expanding its internal training programme to further develop expertise in cloud services”, such as cloud, data, and cloud native software engineering.

In another regulatory filing, the San Antonio, Texas-based cloud computing company also stated that it’s planning to invest between $65 and $70 million (£47-50 million) in expanding its offerings in areas including “cloud migration, Elastic Engineering, cloud native application development, data/artificial intelligence/machine learning and security services”.

The investments are expected to deliver the company “an estimated $95-$100 million of gross cost savings”.

Commenting on the decision, Rackspace CEO Kevin Jones said that the initiatives will allow the company “to take full advantage of current market trends, drive significant earnings leverage as revenue continues to grow, and compete even more effectively with other cloud service providers”. 

“In addition, we are more closely aligning our Rackers with next-generation service offerings that offer more compelling growth potential both for them and the company,” he added.

Besides its offices in Texas, New Jersey, California, Virginia in the US, Rackspace also has two facilities in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. IT Pro reached out to find out which out of these offices will be affected by the job cuts but the company has yet to respond. 

Google Cloud beefs up security following surge in ransomware attacks

Sabina Weston

21 Jul, 2021

Google Cloud has announced two new capabilities centred around bolstering cloud security measures, following the recent surge in ransomware attacks which many fear could lead to a global digital pandemic.

These include Cloud IDS, a managed intrusion detection system, as well as a stack of products, integrations and tools known as Autonomic Security Operations.

While Cloud IDS aims to help organisations detect malware, spyware, command-and-control attacks, and other network-based threats, the Autonomic Security Operations offers highly automated threat management and is marks the first stage in BT and Google’s new security partnership.

The UK operator will help roll out the new Google Cloud products to the managed security services market, the tech giant has announced, with BT Security managing director Kevin Brown adding that the company is “thrilled to partner with Google to bring Autonomic Security Operations to the global market through a managed security service offering”. 

“The deep experience we’ve gained from protecting the world’s largest brands and our networks across 180 countries will combine with Google’s technology vision and capabilities through ASO, providing our customers with world-class security capabilities,” he added.

Meanwhile, for Cloud IDS, Google Cloud has enlisted Palo Alto Networks to power the tool within its advanced threat detection technologies. The stack, which targets regulated industries such as financial services, retail, and healthcare, aims to be easy to operate and deploy, with Google being in charge of managing scaling, availability, and threat detection updates.

These sectors are especially vulnerable to ransomware attacks, with hackers recently targeting both Irish and US health services, as well as US department store retailer Kmart late last year. 

Google Cloud Security VP and general manager Sunil Potti said that the new products have been launched due to the fact that cyber security has “risen to the forefront of concerns for enterprises and governments around the globe.

“Attacks ripping across the software supply chain, zero-day issues in widely used email services, and ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure industries all provide evidence that adversaries are getting bolder, more successful and more prevalent,” he added.

Cloud IDS is available for free for the duration of the public preview, while those interested in Autonomic Security Operations have been asked to contact Google Cloud’s Sales team.

AWS shuts down NSO Group infrastructure

Sabina Weston

20 Jul, 2021

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has shut down infrastructure and accounts linked to Israeli firm NSO Group.

The news comes after an investigation found that the company’s Pegasus spyware was used to target at least 50,000 journalists, government and union officials, human rights activists, business executives, religious figures, academics, NGO employees, and lawyers.

Pegasus was used to extract messages, photos, and emails, as well as to record calls and activate microphones on iOS and Android devices.

NSO Group denied the accusations, stating that its tools are used “for the sole purpose of saving lives through preventing crime and terror acts”.

“Our technologies are being used every day to break up pedophilia rings, sex and drug-trafficking rings, locate missing and kidnapped children, locate survivors trapped under collapsed buildings, and protect airspace against disruptive penetration by dangerous drones,” the company announced.

However, AWS has branded NSO Group’s actions as “hacking activity”.

A spokesperson for the cloud computing provider told IT Pro that it had shut down NSO Group’s infrastructure as it “was confirmed to be supporting the reported hacking activity”.

This was “in accordance with [AWS’] terms of use”, they added.

Amnesty International, a partner of the Pegasus Project, a collective of 17 media organisations investigating the spyware, found evidence to suggest that NSO Group had only been an AWS customer for a few months.

One Pegasus-infected phone that was dissected by the organisation sent data “to a service fronted by Amazon CloudFront, suggesting NSO Group has switched to using AWS services in recent months”.

Amazon CloudFront is a content delivery network (CDN) that provides customers with the ability to deliver content, including data, videos, and APIs, securely with low latency and at a high speed.

“Amnesty International suspects the shutting down of the V4 infrastructure coincided with NSO Group’s shift to using cloud services such as Amazon CloudFront to deliver the earlier stages of their attacks,” said the human rights NGO, adding that “the use of cloud services protects NSO Group from some Internet scanning techniques”.

AWS didn’t elaborate on whether the decision to ban NSO Group from its services could be reconsidered in the future.

Google Cloud customers can now select regions based on CO2 output

Sabina Weston

14 Jul, 2021

Google Cloud has announced an update to its data centre region picker that allows customers to reduce their carbon footprint by choosing a region based on its CO2 output.

Starting today, Cloud Run and Datastream users will be able to find a region with the lowest carbon impact inside the Cloud Console location selectors, with the tool being rolled out to other Google Cloud offerings over time.

Regions will receive labels such as “Lowest CO2” or a leaf symbol, which means that the region has a carbon-free energy percentage of at least 75% or, in case this information is not available yet, a grid carbon intensity of no higher than 200 gCO2eq/kWh.

Grid carbon intensity is estimated based on average lifecycle gross emissions per unit of energy and is used to compare the regions in terms of carbon intensity. For instance, although Frankfurt and the Netherlands have similar CFE scores, the Netherlands has a higher emissions factor.

The update is part of Google’s company-wide sustainability initiative which aims to achieve carbon-free status by 2030. The tech giant has been carbon-neutral since 2007.

Besides the region picker’s Carbon footprint indicator, which was first previewed earlier this year and works by measuring the amount of carbon-free energy supply for each region, users can also filter regions based on cost as well as latency. The latter is estimated based on the physical distance between the customer’s headquarters and the city or country of the data storage region.

Commenting on the announcement, Carbon-free for Google Cloud Platform (GCP) product manager Steren Giannini said the tech giant wanted to empower its customers “to make more sustainable decisions and progress with us towards this 24/7 carbon-free future”. 

“Earlier this year, we published the carbon characteristics of our Google Cloud regions. Later, we introduced a simple tool to help you pick a Google Cloud region, taking variables like price, latency and sustainability into account. Our next question was: what’s the best way to surface that sustainability info when you’re actually picking a region for your cloud resources?” he added.

“By sharing and displaying carbon information of Google Cloud regions, together we’re making tangible progress towards our goal of a carbon-free future.”

Pentagon scraps Microsoft’s $10bn JEDI contract after AWS dispute

Sabina Weston

7 Jul, 2021

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has cancelled its $10 billion (£7.25bn) Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project and scrapped its Trump-backed contract with Microsoft.

The deal had been long challenged by Microsoft’s cloud rival Amazon Web Services (AWS), which alleged that then-president Donald Trump had influenced the DoD by ordering them to “screw Amazon”, thus unfairly affecting the outcome of the bidding process.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon hinted that it might scrap JEDI altogether, with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks saying the DoD would have to consider the project in the context of Amazon’s litigation.

However, on Tuesday, acting DoD CIO John Sherman said that the decision was due to the Pentagon’s changing needs:

“JEDI was developed at a time when the Department’s needs were different and both the CSPs technology and our cloud conversancy was less mature. In light of new initiatives like JADC2 and AI and Data Acceleration (ADA), the evolution of the cloud ecosystem within DoD, and changes in user requirements to leverage multiple cloud environments to execute mission, our landscape has advanced and a new way-ahead is warranted to achieve dominance in both traditional and non-traditional warfighting domains,” he said.

As a replacement for JEDI, the DoD announced a new project, known as the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC), which is to be “a multi-cloud/multi-vendor Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract” that will consider both AWS and Microsoft.

“The Department intends to seek proposals from a limited number of sources, namely the Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) and Amazon Web Services (AWS), as available market research indicates that these two vendors are the only Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) capable of meeting the Department’s requirements,” said the DoD.

The first awards are expected to be announced by April 2022, according to Sherman, who wouldn’t provide an estimated value “yet”.

“I wouldn’t latch onto the $10 billion figure,” he added.

Commenting on the news, Microsoft’s president of US Regulated Industries, Toni Townes-Whitley, said that the tech giant is “confident” that it will “continue to be successful as the DoD selects partners for new work”.

Meanwhile, AWS, headed by new CEO Adam Selipsky, told Reuters that it looks “forward to continuing to support the DoD’s modernisation efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions”.

Zoom acquires AI translation startup Kites

Sabina Weston

30 Jun, 2021

Zoom has announced the acquisition of Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions (Kites) – a startup focused on the development of real-time AI-powered translation technologies.

Founded in 2015 by members of Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology faculty, Kites is comprised of 12 research scientists who will now assist Zoom’s engineering team in advancing in the field of machine translation (MT).

The technology will be used to improve the video conferencing experience by providing real-time, multi-language translation capabilities for Zoom users, enabling the company to increase the efficiency and accessibility of virtual meetings.

Commenting on the news, co-founders Dr. Alex Waibel and Dr. Sebastian Stüker said that Kites “emerged with the mission of breaking down language barriers and making seamless cross-language interaction a reality of everyday life”.

“We have long admired Zoom for its ability to easily connect people across the world. We know Zoom is the best partner for Kites to help advance our mission and we are excited to see what comes next under Zoom’s incredible innovation engine,” they added.

Waibel and Stüker are to remain based in Karlsruhe following the acquisition, with Waibel set to become a Zoom Research Fellow – a role which will include advising Zoom on MT research and development.

The video conferencing giant also announced that it “looks forward to investing in growing the [Kites] team”, while also “exploring opening an R&D center in Germany in the future”.

Velchamy Sankarlingam, president of Product and Engineering at Zoom, said that the company is “continuously looking for new ways to deliver happiness to our users and improve meeting productivity”.

“MT solutions will be key in enhancing our platform for Zoom customers across the globe. With our aligned missions to make collaboration frictionless – regardless of language, geographic location, or other barriers – we are confident Kites’ impressive team will fit right in with Zoom,” he added.

The acquisition of Kites, the financial details of which remain undisclosed, might be symptomatic of Zoom’s focus on expanding its offering to retain users as lockdown restrictions are eased and more workers return to the office. Earlier this month, the company unveiled a new range of desk phones fit for the office and the home that includes high-definition video as well as built-in collaboration software.

Windows 11 won’t arrive as a free update until 2022

Sabina Weston

29 Jun, 2021

The free Windows 11 update for Windows 10 devices won’t roll out until next year, and it might not arrive until mid-2022 for some users. 

That’s according to a tweet from Microsoft’s Twitter account for its flagship operating system, which responded to a query about the Windows 11 release date from computer science student Jure Zajc, under a post previewing a video trailer for the latest version of the OS.

“Windows 11 is due out later in 2021 and will be delivered over several months,” said the verified Twitter account, adding that “the rollout of the upgrade to Windows 10 devices already in use today will begin in 2022 through the first half of that year”.

The confirmation comes amid reports as Microsoft confirms it’s planning to review its stringent Windows 11 system requirements, which state that users must be using an 8th-generation Intel CPU or newer and a TPM 2.0 chip installed.

“In support of the Windows 11 system requirements, we’ve set the bar for previewing in our Windows Insider Programme to match the minimum system requirements for Windows 11, with the exception for TPM 2.0 and CPU family/model,” the Windows Team stated in a blog post.

“By providing preview builds to the diverse systems in our Windows Insider Programme, we will learn how Windows 11 performs across CPU models more comprehensively, informing any adjustments we should make to our minimum system requirements in the future.” 

The Windows Team added that it “look[s] forward to the product feedback and learnings” amid a backlash against its PC Health Check tool. The app had been recommended for users to find out whether their device would be compatible with Windows 11. However, those who had gotten a negative response from the tool were not provided with enough detail as to why their PC was incompatible with the latest version of the operating system. 

The Windows Team announced that it would be “updating [the] PC Health check app to provide more clarity”, as well as “adapt software and hardware to keep pace with people’s computing needs today and in the future”.

Intel data centre boss exits as CEO plots major shake-up

Sabina Weston

23 Jun, 2021

Intel’s executive vice president of the Data Platforms Group, Navin Shenoy, is to resign his role next month, after over a quarter of a century in the company.

The move is part of a wider restructure at Intel, which involves the creation of two new business units focused on software and high-performance computing (HPC) and graphics.

The Software and Advanced Technology Group will be led by former VMware SVP & CTO Greg Lavender, while the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group will be led by Apple and AMD veteran Raja Koduri.

Intel also announced that its Data Platform Group will be restructured into two new business units: Datacenter and AI as well as Network and Edge. The new groups are to be headed by Intel’s chief people officer Sandra Rivera and Stanford University professor Nick McKeown, respectively.

Lavender, Koduri, Rivera, and McKeown will report directly to CEO Pat Gelsinger, who said that, despite being “impressed with the depth of talent and incredible innovation throughout the company”, Intel “must move faster to fulfil our ambitions”.

“By putting Sandra, Raja, Nick and Greg – with their decades of technology expertise – at the forefront of some of our most essential work, we will sharpen our focus and execution, accelerate innovation, and unleash the deep well of talent across the company,” he added.

In an internal company memo, Gelsinger asked Intel employees to join him in “thanking Navin for his service and leadership at Intel over the past 26 years”. 

“We wish him well as he starts his next chapter,” he added, without further describing the reason behind Shenoy’s departure. 

Shenoy, who ran Intel’s PC business until 2017, will formally leave Intel on 6 July, which will also be the day that McKeown will assume his role as SVP and general manager of the new Network and Edge Group. Prior to this, McKeown has served as a part-time Intel Senior Fellow, having joined the chipmaker in 2019 following its acquisition of Barefoot Networks, which he co-founded in 2013.

The mass reorganisation is the first of its kind under the leadership of Gelsinger, who re-joined Intel earlier this year. However, the restructuring shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he said that his decision to return to the chipmaker was partly due to the attraction of leading one of the “great turnarounds” in tech

Fastly outage takes down Amazon, GitHub and more

Sabina Weston

8 Jun, 2021

Amazon, GitHub and the UK government’s online portal were among countless websites taken offline by the outage of cloud computing provider Fastly.

The outage, which started just before 11am on Tuesday, impacted a variety of websites, ranging from governmental portals and news outlets to IT and code-hosting services.

Among those which have been affected are payment websites PayPal and Shopify, internet forums Quora and Reddit, streaming sites Spotify, Twitch, Hulu, HBO Max, and Vimeo, and developer portals GitHub and Stack Overflow.

The Fastly outage has also taken down, as well as numerous online newspapers and news outlets. These include the New York Times, BBC, Financial Times, CNN, the Guardian, Bloomberg News, and The Verge, with the latter opting to take its reporting onto Google Docs.

The precise number of affected sites is at this time unknown. Fastly reportedly has 2,084 paying customers who could all be impacted by the outage. The average Fastly customer reportedly spends $136,000 (£96,125) per year.

The Twitter account stated that it’s “aware of the issues with http://GOV.UK which means that users may not be able to access the site”. 

“This is a wider issue affecting a number of other non-government sites. We are investigating this as a matter of urgency,” it added.

On its status information site, Fastly described the issue as a “global CDN disruption”, noting that it’s “currently investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services”. Fastly’s own website was also down, displaying an “I/O error” message, while other websites showed a “503 error“.

At 11:44 am BST, the company announced that it had identified the issue and that “a fix [was] being implemented.

A Fastly spokesperson told IT Pro that the company “identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions” across its POPs “globally” and has since “disabled that configuration”.

“Our global network is coming back online,” they added.’s services were brought back shortly after Fastly’s announcement, and most of the affected sites appeared to come back online at around noon BST.