All posts by Zach Marzouk

Singapore and Madrid named biggest movers in latest data centre rankings


Zach Marzouk

20 Jan, 2022

Singapore and Silicon Valley ranked joint second when it comes to data centres, with Northern Virginia taking first place and expected to become the world’s first two-gigawatt market.

A new report from Cushman & Wakefield, a global real estate firm, has ranked global data centres by scrutinising them against 13 factors, including political stability, connectivity, and sustainability.

The authors analysed 30 research sources, 55 global markets, and 1,333 data centres as part of the study.

Atlanta and Chicago were ranked in joint-fourth place, followed by Hong Kong, Phoenix, Sydney and Dallas. In joint tenth place were Portland and Seattle.

The report said it comes as no surprise that Northern Virginia finished in first place as it’s the largest data centre market in the world, with excellent connectivity, attractive incentives, and low-cost power. Demand for data centres is high, with operators and tenants alike interested in expansion. The report predicts the area will become the world’s first two-gigawatt market over the next two years.

Singapore moved up from fifth place last year to joint second with Silicon Valley, despite a lack of available development land in both. This is especially surprising in Singapore’s case, as it has had a ban on new data centre construction over the past year.

The report said both have strong ecosystems, excellent connectivity, consistent demand, and all major cloud services available and expanding where possible.

Hong Kong jumped into the top 10 for the first time this year, largely due to its robust development pipeline, excellent networks, and availability of all major cloud services.

However, Madrid was by far the largest gainer in the rankings, moving up to 19 from 34, thanks to it’s low-risk location in respect to natural disasters, and its support for major cloud services.

Singapore also came first when it came to fibre connectivity and smart cities. However, it also ranked in 53rd place when it came to land price for data centres, priced at just under $2,000 per square foot at land, compared to Columbus in first place which was priced at less than $5.

The city-state has had a moratorium on building new data centres for the past year, although the government is planning to lift this soon after constructing new rules that place strict energy efficiency requirements on all new sites. Singapore’s government plans to only authorise new data centres that are best in class in terms of resource efficiency, and it will be more selective of which data centres it can accommodate.

Rackspace fortifies APAC footprint with new acquisition


Zach Marzouk

19 Jan, 2022

Rackspace has agreed to acquire cloud-based data, analytics, and AI firm Just Analytics as it aims to strengthen its APAC footprint.

Just Analytics was founded in 2011 and has over 100 employees headquartered in Singapore with others based in Vietnam and India. The company helps clients to design and create scalable data pipelines using its proprietary data platform Guzzle, paired with cloud-based data and analytics services that give customers a unified view of their information assets.

Rackspace said the acquisition brings strong regional ties into the Microsoft Azure ecosystem, as Just Analytics was recently awarded four regional Microsoft partner of the year awards.

The data platform is on the Microsoft Azure Marketplace and automates the movement and transformation of any volume, variety, and velocity of data from a range of sources to data pipelines at scale for production. Just Analytics AI also uses Guzzle to deploy predictive capabilities and business intelligence to analyse data from critical business and operational functions for business end-users.

“The acquisition of Just Analytics ties into our growing professional services focus and brings market-leading cloud-based data, analytics and AI capabilities that are in demand from our customers and prospects,” said Kevin Jones, CEO of Rackspace Technology. “In addition, we will benefit from the company’s strong APJ regional ties, talented employee base, and natural evolution up the IT services stack. These benefits will provide a clear tie between our services and important customer business metrics.”

For now, Rackspace will keep the Just Analytics brand for the foreseeable future as it said the company has built a well-known and respected brand among the leaders and customers of Microsoft Azure Data Analytics.

The APAC region continues to garner interest from technology companies, with Google Cloud opening a new region in Melbourne last July. This was the firm’s second region in Australia and its 11th in APAC overall, stating that its customers operating in Australia and New Zealand would now be able to benefit from low latency and high performance of their cloud-based workloads and data.

This was followed in September by AWS saying it would launch its first New Zealand data centre by 2024 by investing around £3.9 billion over the next 15 years and creating 1,000 jobs. The Auckland region is set to be made up of three availability zones and joined the existing 81 zones across 25 geographic AWS regions.

IBM ramps up sustainability efforts with Envizi acquisition


Zach Marzouk

12 Jan, 2022

IBM has acquired Envizi, an Australian data and analytics software provider for environmental performance management, as it looks to help customers better measure their environmental impact.

The company said the acquisition adds to its investments in AI-powered software to help organisations create more resilient and sustainable operations and supply chains. It added that companies are under mounting pressure from regulators, investors, and consumers to progress towards more sustainable and socially responsible business operations while demonstrating these measures in a robust and verifiable way.

Financial terms of the deal were not announced. CloudPro contacted IBM for more information, but the company had not responded at the time of publication.

Envizi’s software automates the collection and consolidation of over 500 data types and supports major sustainability reporting frameworks. It helps companies analyse, manage, and report on environmental goals and identify efficiency opportunities while assessing sustainability risk. 

IBM said by using Envizi with its broader AI-powered software, companies will be able to automate feedback generated between their corporate environmental initiatives and the operational endpoints being used in daily business operations. Envizi is set to be integrated with IBM Maximo, IBM Sterling, IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite, and IBM Turbonomic and Red Hat OpenShift.

“To drive real progress towards sustainability, companies need the ability to transform data into predictive insights that help them make more intelligent, actionable decisions every day,” said Kareem Yusuf, general manager of IBM AI Applications.

“Envizi’s software provides companies with a single source of truth for analyzing and understanding emissions data across the full landscape of their business operations and dramatically accelerates IBM’s growing arsenal of AI technologies for helping businesses create more sustainable operations and supply chains.”

Envizi is available as a SaaS product and runs in multi-cloud environments, serving companies like Microsoft, Qantas, and Uber.

In February last year, IBM vowed to become carbon-neutral by 2030. It planned to procure 75% of its electricity from renewable sources and cut its greenhouse gas emissions 65% from its 2010 emission levels by 2025. By 2030, it plans to reach its carbon-neutral goal by obtaining 90% of its electricity from renewable sources and implementing tech to neutralise residual emissions.

IBM isn’t the only tech company helping customers to monitor their emissions. In October, Microsoft launched a preview of Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability to help organisations more effectively record, report, and reduce their carbon emissions on a path to net-zero. The SaaS product connects to data sources and centralises and organisations data in a common format to provide a more accurate system of record that enables more comprehensive sustainability management.

Google, Facebook fined €210 million for making it difficult for users to reject cookies


Zach Marzouk

6 Jan, 2022

Google and Facebook have been hit with a combined fine of €210 million (£175 million) over failures in policies that allow users to accept and refuse cookies on their websites.

France’s National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties regulator (CNIL) fined Google €150 million euros, €90 million for Google LLC and €60 million for Google Ireland Limited, while Facebook Ireland Limited was given a fine of €60 million.

CNIL said that the websites facebook.com, google.fr, and youtube.com have all failed to provide an easy way for users to reject cookie collection on their browsers, and that several clicks are required to refuse all cookies, compared with a single click to provide consent.

The regulator argued the fact users are unable to refuse cookies as easily as they can accept them influences their choice in favour of consent, constituting an infringement of Article 82 of the French Data Protection Act.

Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of France’s National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties (CNIL), speaking at CNIL’s headquarters in Paris

The penalties also order the companies to provide internet users in France with a means of refusing cookies that is at least as simple as the existing mechanism for accepting them, within a three month period. If they fail to do so, the companies will have to pay a penalty of €100,000 per day of delay.

“We are reviewing the authority’s decision and remain committed to working with relevant authorities,” a spokesperson from Meta told IT Pro. “Our cookie consent controls provide people with greater control over their data, including a new settings menu on Facebook and Instagram where people can revisit and manage their decisions at any time, and we continue to develop and improve these controls.”

A Google spokesperson said: “People trust us to respect their right to privacy and keep them safe. We understand our responsibility to protect that trust and are committing to further changes and active work with the CNIL in light of this decision under the ePrivacy Directive.”

This isn’t the first time that CNIL has targeted big tech companies over their use of cookies. In December 2020, Amazon and Google were fined £122 million collectively for “insufficient” cookie consent. Google was hit with a €100 million (£90 million) fine while Amazon received one for €35 million (£32 million).

According to the investigation, Google didn’t provide enough information to users in France about why and how cookies are used, whereas Amazon was fined for placing cookies on people’s computers without their consent.

Google challenged this fine at the Council of State in February 2021, according to Euractiv. Politico reported that Google is still fighting this case, and a source said the company is likely to oppose the new fines and go to the French top court again.

Microsoft and Qualcomm to develop custom AR chips for the metaverse


Zach Marzouk

5 Jan, 2022

Microsoft and Qualcomm are set to collaborate to expand and accelerate the adoption of augmented reality (AR) for the metaverse in both the consumer and enterprise sector, including developing custom AR chips.

The companies stated they were believers in the metaverse and intend to work together across several initiatives to drive the ecosystem. This includes developing custom AR chips to enable a new wave of power-efficient, lightweight AR glasses to deliver rich and immersive experiences.

Microsoft and Qualcomm also plan to integrate software like Microsoft Mesh and Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform. They hope the collaboration will create transformative experiences for the next generation of head-worn AR devices in the metaverse.

“Our goal is to inspire and empower others to collectively work to develop the metaverse future – a future that is grounded in trust and innovation,” said Rubén Caballero, corporate vice president of Mixed Reality at Microsoft.

“With services like Microsoft Mesh, we are committed to delivering the safest and most comprehensive set of capabilities to power metaverses that blend the physical and digital worlds, ultimately delivering a shared sense of presence across devices.”

Hugo Swart, vice president and general manager of extended reality (XR) at Qualcomm added that the collaboration reflects the next step in both companies’ shared commitment to XR and the metaverse. Swart said Qualcomm’s core XR strategy has always been delivering the most cutting-edge technology, purpose-built XR chipsets, and enabling the ecosystem with its software platforms and hardware reference designs.

At the start of November, Microsoft launched Mesh for Microsoft Teams, its pitch for the metaverse. It aims to make remote and hybrid meetings more immersive and is set to roll out in 2022. It is a mixed reality service that allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic environments within Microsoft Teams to allow for chats, virtual meetings, and the sharing of documents and more.

This came after Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s name change and its renewed focus on the metaverse. He said the metaverse would feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world to allow people to share immersive experiences, even when you can’t be together. The CEO added that it will be a more immersive social media experience, where virtual and augmented reality will take centre stage.

Oracle buys healthcare company Cerner for $28.3 billion


Zach Marzouk

21 Dec, 2021

Oracle has acquired the digital medical records business Cerner for $28.3 billion (£21.4 billion), with plans to use the company as an anchor asset into the healthcare sector.

The enterprise software company made the purchase through an all-cash tender offer for $95 per share and the transaction is expected to close in 2022. Oracle expects Cerner to be a huge additional revenue growth engine for years to come as the company expands the acquired business into many more countries throughout the world. 

Cerner is a leading provider of digital information systems used within hospitals and health systems to enable medical professionals to deliver better healthcare to individual patients and communities. Oracle said the company has over four decades of experience in modernising electronic health records, improving caregiver experience, and streamlining and automating clinical and administrative workflows.

The two companies are hoping to transform healthcare delivery by providing professionals with better information, hoping this will help them make better treatment decisions resulting in better patient outcomes. Cerner systems will run on the Oracle Gen2 Cloud, with the goal being to deliver zero unplanned downtime in the medical environment.

As Cerner systems will run on the Oracle database, only specifically authorised medical professionals will be able to access patient data. IT professionals running the systems will be unable to look at patient data too.

“With this acquisition, Oracle’s corporate mission expands to assume the responsibility to provide our overworked medical professionals with a new generation of easier-to-use digital tools that enable access to information via a hands-free voice interface to secure cloud applications,” said Larry Ellison, chairman and chief technology officer at Oracle.

“This new generation of medical information systems promises to lower the administrative workload burdening our medical professionals, improve patient privacy and outcomes, and lower overall healthcare costs.”

Cerner will be organised as a dedicated Industry Business Unit within Oracle and will be its anchor asset to expand into healthcare. Oracle also intends to maintain and grow Cerner’s community presence in the Kansas City area, while utilising Oracle’s global footprint to reach new geographies faster.

“Joining Oracle as a dedicated Industry Business Unit provides an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate our work modernizing electronic health records (EHR), improving the caregiver experience, and enabling more connected, high-quality and efficient patient care,” said David Feinberg, president and chief executive officer at Cerner

Last week there were rumours that Oracle was in talks to acquire Cerner, for around $30 billion. The deal could give Oracle massive volumes of health data for its artificial intelligence services and be Oracle’s largest acquisition ever, as well as one of the biggest takeovers of 2021.

Why it’s time for a three-day working week in 2022


Zach Marzouk

14 Dec, 2021

In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes, whose teachings inspired the post-WW2 recovery, made a prediction. In his essay, titled Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, he claimed there was a new disease at the time, called technological unemployment. He defined this as unemployment caused by humanity’s discovery of the means of economising the use of labour, outrunning the pace at which we can find uses for labour. 

Keynes called this a temporary phase of maladjustment, as, in the long run, it meant that mankind was solving its “economic problem”. In one hundred years, he added, the standard of life in progressive countries would be four-to-eight times as high as it was at the time.

Keynes imagined the biggest problem, in the future, would be how people used their freedom from economic anxieties, arguing we would perhaps need to do some kind of work simply to remain content. “Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while,” he wrote. “For three hours a day is quite enough to satisfy the old Adam [evil or reckless side of human nature] in most of us!” 

The work of Keynes has inspired calls for a shorter working week

So, whatever happened to this dream? While UK labour productivity per worker has nearly tripled between 1959 and 2008 (before falling following the financial crash), the average working week has remained constant, with employees working roughly 37 hours per week since 1992. Much has been made, meanwhile, of stagnant wages in the last few decades, with pay barely keeping pace with inflation. . 

Against this backdrop, new technologies have emerged. When businesses first adopted computers, workers had to quickly learn how to type and navigate a mysterious operating system, otherwise they would be at risk of falling behind. Now, though, we’re expected to learn how to use collaboration platforms at the drop of a hat while contending with fears that AI-powered software could be tracking our every click to placate our paranoid managers.

Here’s a simple proposition: let’s work a three-day week beginning next year. The rise of technology has boosted workers’ productivity and allowed businesses to grow at extraordinary rates, while funnelling profits into the pockets of an ever-growing number of people. Taking this into account, why shouldn’t workers spend less time at their desks, and more time actually enjoying their lives?

Just imagine a world without the pandemic, for instance. Every single one of who now enjoys the benefits of remote or hybrid working would still be shacked to our desks at company offices five days a week. That’s right, we would still be commuting for hours every day, with the reward of one day working from home, as a treat, depending on how kind your business felt. And – let me be clear – we would certainly have the technology to be able to implement remote working, but wouldn’t do so. Who knows how long it would have been, if ever, before we would formally adopt hybrid working patterns? Let’s put to one side the clear business benefits such arrangements bring.

Even now, in the last two years, we’ve seen the government ushering us back into the office as fast as possible. It may have something to do with appeasing property developers instead of employee wellbeing, but, nevertheless, it’s taking us backwards when so many of us know, and have demonstrated, we can do our jobs perfectly well from home.

This systemic change of permanently reducing our working hours isn’t likely to come as a result of a future pandemic. This needs to be driven by workers, and businesses. Why not, therefore, kickstart this in the IT sector, and show the world that we can lead the way and spearhead the future of work? All the available evidence, too, suggests reducing working hours doesn’t lead to productivity losses. This is why, as with any kind of negotiation, we should be asking to work for three days a week, as, in the end, it’ll mean we’re likely to be offered four – which is certainly better than the status quo.

Four-day working week trials have been a resounding success in Iceland

Looking forward, there’s also the argument for us to end our fixation with measuring GDP in current terms. Some economists say that this conceptual framework isn’t fit to measure a modern economy, especially in light of social and environmental outcomes that determine our long-term wellbeing and the sustainability of our planet.

In this current vicious circle, productivity has gone up, wages have gone down, workers are working just as hard, or even harder in many cases, while billionaires laugh all the way to space. In the end, after all, GDP, productivity, and the stock market won’t matter once the world is irreparably on fire. The only people able to fulfil Keynes’ prediction are those with the wealth to do so; free from the nine-to-five and able to pursue their dreams, or dedicate their lives to “helping” the country by playing politics. 

During the post-WW2 economic recovery, policy makers had to make bold decisions about how to reorganise the economy to boost living standards. Due to the pandemic, some say we have returned to a form of Keynesian economics given the vast sums of money we’re spending on schemes like furlough, puzzlingly, by a political party that has long-championed austerity. Once the pandemic ends, let’s get out on the front foot and usher in a permanent change, beginning with a reduction in the amount of hours we’re expected to work. 

Over half of UK workers would consider quitting if hybrid working was removed


Zach Marzouk

9 Dec, 2021

Over half of UK workers (51%) who currently have the choice to mix remote and office working would consider quitting their job if this hybrid option was removed.

The pandemic has changed hybrid working from “nice to have” to a “must-have”, according to new research from Microsoft and YouGov.

The findings are based on online surveys of 2,046 employees and 504 HR decision-makers (HRDMs) in the UK that was carried out between 7 and 15 October 2021. 59% of HRDMs surveyed agree hybrid working has had a positive effect on the mental wellbeing of their workforce too.

Microsoft pointed to data from the Office for National Statistics which revealed resignations and job-to-job moves in the UK are at their highest level in two decades, which is what some experts are calling “the great resignation”.

Onboarding at a new business during the pandemic has been challenging, with 36% of UK workers who started a new job since the start of the pandemic experiencing their entire onboarding process without ever setting foot in the workplace.

These workers have struggled with forming working relationships (42%), not having a manager or team in the room to ask for information or guidance (33%), learning to use new software and applications (24%), earning the confidence of colleagues (23%), and soaking up company culture (21%).

The challenges of remote onboarding has also been recognised by HRDMs, with 36% feeling that remote onboarding makes it hard to provide effective training for starters and 35% voiced concerns about ensuring employees have easy access to the information they need. 28% were also worried about upholding their organisation’s culture and reputation.

Despite this, HRDMS and employees believe the long-term benefits of hybrid working outweigh these potential problems. The report found that the most pressing concerns identified by HRDMs in not having a hybrid working model were an inability to retain new talent (38%), a negative impact on productivity (25%), a negative impact on wellbeing (24%), employee burnout (23%), and keeping pace with competitors (23%).

37% of HRDMS who have onboarded new staff remotely said that although the process was challenging, it is resolvable with the right technology solutions.

“The pandemic has proven that organisations can trust their people to be productive wherever they are,” said Nick Hedderman, director of Modern Work Business Group at Microsoft UK.

“They now have an opportunity to reshape work around individual roles, preferences and even personal lives. This is achievable through tech-enabled hybrid working models, which supports the creation of a rich digital culture to benefit everyone, helping to attract and retain top talent.”

This comes after UK leaders are urging people to work from home following the rise of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Nicola Sturgeon is asking for people in Scotland to work from home until the middle of January, while Boris Johnson asked people to work from home where possible.

Accenture to expand UK tech workforce by 3,000 workers


Zach Marzouk

30 Nov, 2021

Accenture has revealed it will expand its UK workforce with 3,000 new roles over the next three years, as the company’s clients aim to capitalise on growth while the UK is recovering from the pandemic.

Half of the new roles will be based outside of London, expanding the company’s presence in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow and adding to its existing UK workforce of around 11,000 people.

The company said that the new roles are being driven by increased client demand for services in platforms, cloud engineering, cyber security, and data and intelligent operations.

The UK economy is rebounding swiftly following the pandemic and Accenture is seeing strong demand from clients seeking to capitalise on this growth opportunity, said Simon Eaves, market unit lead at Accenture in the UK and Ireland. 

“We are committed to growing our footprint across the UK which is why I am particularly excited about our plans across Scotland and northern England where we see some of the best technology talent in the country,” added Eaves.

Accenture’s initiative to create thousands of new cyber security roles over the next three years has been called “promising” by John Fokker, head of cyber investigations for McAfee Enterprise’s Advanced Threat Research team.

Fokker said this will help raise awareness of the skills needed to succeed in a cyber security role and help the industry take a step towards closing the cyber security skills gap.

“This will be particularly important in bolstering security teams when things get busy, with our research telling us that 75% of organisations struggle to maintain a fully staffed security team during peak periods,” he said.

Accenture’s move to create new jobs has been welcomed by the UK government, with digital secretary Nadine Dorries saying it was fantastic to see Accenture creating thousands of new high-skilled jobs in a number of the UK’s regional tech hubs. 

Dorries added that the investment is testament to the UK’s global reputation for innovation and talent and underlined the government is determined to level up opportunity across the country and is investing in digital skills and infrastructure so businesses can thrive.

HP reveals Microsoft licensing management service for SMBs


Zach Marzouk

17 Nov, 2021

HP has launched a subscription management service to make it easier for SMBs to manage Microsoft cloud-based licensing, following the release of Windows 365 earlier this year.

HP Subscription Management Service is designed for small and medium-sized companies to make software investment decisions based on reliable workforce intelligence. The service provides license management of Microsoft 365 as well as the full list of Microsoft cloud subscription services.

The product displays online visibility of software analytics and usage trending by user, department, or geography, helping IT teams to easily shift and scale their subscriptions as needed, said HP.

For channel partners, the new service offers a one-stop cloud-based product that allows them to sell Microsoft 365 and the full Microsoft cloud subscription library to their customers, along with HP’s licensing analytics and its premier partner support.

The company said there are additional features to help companies reduce costs and administration overheads too, while increasing security and compliance. HP customers can flex licenses up or down through pay-as-you-go subscription options, ensuring software spend is the right size as business needs change.

Through HP Subscription Management, companies can also secure their workforce from wherever they work with cloud security health checks optimised for the hybrid workplace.

“While IT leaders see managing costs and usage of SaaS applications as a top business priority, more than half still rely on dated internal tools and manual spreadsheets to track and monitor their subscriptions and renewals,” said Sumeer Chandra, global head and general manager of personal systems services at HP.

“As a result, it’s challenging for IT to know when renewals are happening, or how much is being spent on software licenses.”

The HP Subscription Management Service is expected to be available in the UK, France, Germany, and Chile by the end of 2021, whereas the US and additional countries will have to wait until the first quarter of 2022.

As part of the announcement, HP is also launching an Enablement Service for Windows Autopilot to help automate new device setup across the internet with little or no need to touch the device, a simpler and faster way for SMBs to provision new Windows 10 or Windows 11 hardware.

Additionally, it’s releasing HP Proactive Insights Experience Management to make it easy for IT teams to gauge employee sentiment and perceptions in the context of their IT environment.

Lastly, it revealed its Enhancement to HP Proactive Insights, providing advanced remediation capabilities like new security, system stability, and performance optimisations through automatic updates.

The launch of HP’s products follows the release of Windows 365 in August, Microsoft’s PC as a service offering, offering benefits like remote access to virtual endpoints, apps, and data from any device registered with Microsoft Cloud. This reduces the need for businesses to invest in virtual desktop infrastructure, cuts hardware costs, and makes patch management simpler for IT teams.