BT selects Google Cloud to support group-wide digital transformation

Sabina Weston

10 Mar, 2022

BT has selected Google Cloud for a five-year partnership that will support the telecom giant’s plan for company-wide digital transformation and the creation of new services.

The project, led by BT’s Digital unit, will introduce a range of Google Cloud products and services: from cloud infrastructure and data analytics, to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), as well as security and API management.

BT said it hopes to use these tools to deliver improved customer experience, as well as reduce costs and risk, and build new revenue streams.

BT launched its Digital unit in January 2021 with the aim of developing and delivering products and platforms for the healthcare and data sectors, with solutions such as cloud-based unified communications (UC) and collaboration services. However, its digital transformation work can be traced back to 2016, when BT revealed its Digital Possible initiative that offered CIOs assistance in adopting digital transformation in their organisations.

However, the unit has also been tasked with internal overhauls, including transforming the state of BT’s overall IT and digital innovation, and will lead the changes set out under the Google Cloud partnership. This includes creating a group-wide data strategy built on artificial intelligence (AI), and a new strategy to overhaul product development based on continuous innovation and automation.

Commenting on the announcement, BT chief digital and innovation officer Harmeen Mehta described the Google Cloud partnership as “one of a series of strategic moves that BT Digital is taking to help accelerate BT’s growth and digital transformation”.

“This is a partnership that is deeper than just at the technology level. It will help Digital as a whole supercharge BT and drive its return to growth,” he added.

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said that the tech giant is “proud to collaborate with one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and play an integral part in its digital transformation journey”.

“By deploying our full cloud capabilities, and support from our SRE organisation, our goal in this partnership is to set up BT with the tools it needs for future growth and innovation,” he added.

Google Cloud and BT have already begun working together on adopting Google’s technology, with the migration of core data scheduled to be finalised by 2023.

 The news comes eight months after BT and Google announced a security partnership that saw the UK operator roll out new Google Cloud products to the managed security services market.

Lenovo unveils new suite of edge-to-cloud solutions for midsize companies

Praharsha Anand

10 Mar, 2022

Lenovo has unveiled its new line of edge-to-cloud IT infrastructure solutions for midsize businesses.

A combination of cloud and on-premise server-based technology, the new solution suite includes server, storage, and service offerings that facilitate resource optimization and remote work.

“As the global digital transformation continues, the right IT infrastructure and services are at the heart of every business, unlocking intelligence that expands opportunities and fuels growth,” said Kamran Amini, vice president and general manager of server and storage at Lenovo infrastructure solutions group.

“Working with our broad system of channel partners and solution providers, Lenovo’s new IT infrastructure solutions and TruScale services for midsize businesses are optimized to help organizations improve customer service, accelerate sales and roll out next-generation applications so they can grow their business now and well into the future.”

Lenovo’s new single-socket ThinkSystem ST50 V2, ST250 V2, and SR250 V2 servers are all designed to be easy to configure for a range of business-critical applications, including, retail, manufacturing, and financial services.

Additionally, the new ThinkSystem DM5100F storage system complements the company’s server range with a feature-rich, all-flash storage solution that adapts to new workloads over time.

Through Lenovo XClarity, companies can standardize, simplify, and automate IT management tasks, enabling their systems to be configured within minutes, according to Lenovo.

The Lenovo TruScale for Hosted Desktops solution, also included in the announcements, enables remote workers to be productive, while ensuring enhanced security, from any location.

These new products will sit alongside existing services, including on-demand support services, device as a service, and data management services using all flash products powered by Intel.

Google buys cyber security firm Mandiant for $5.4 billion

Zach Marzouk

8 Mar, 2022

Google confirmed today it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Mandiant, which will join Google Cloud once the deal closes.

The deal will be completed for $23 per share, in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $5.4 billion.

Google said the acquisition of Mandiant will complement Google Cloud’s existing strengths in security. With the addition of Mandiant, it aims to enhance its offerings to deliver end-to-end security operations with even greater capabilities to support customers across their cloud and on-premise environments.

The tech giant underlined that Mandiant brings real-time and in-depth threat intelligence gained on the frontlines of cyber security with the largest organisations in the world. Google said it will help enterprises stay protected at every stage of the security lifecycle.

This will be done through Mandiant’s advisory services, threat detection and intelligence, automation and response tools, testing and validation, and managed defence.

“Organisations around the world are facing unprecedented cybersecurity challenges as the sophistication and severity of attacks that were previously used to target major governments are now being used to target companies in every industry,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO at Google Cloud.

“We look forward to welcoming Mandiant to Google Cloud to further enhance our security operations suite and advisory services, and help customers address their most important security challenges.”

Google Cloud added that it’s deeply committed to supporting the technology partners of both companies, including the endpoint ecosystem. The acquisition will enable system integrators, resellers, and managed security providers to offer broader products to customers, it said.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of Mandiant stockholder and regulatory approvals, and is expected to close later this year.

“There has never been a more critical time in cybersecurity. Since our founding in 2004, Mandiant’s mission has been to combat cyber attacks and protect our customers from the latest threats,” said Kevin Mandia, CEO at Mandiant. “To that end, we are thrilled to be joining forces with Google Cloud. Together, we will deliver expertise and intelligence at scale, changing the security industry.”

At the beginning of February, Mandiant found that one in seven double-extortion ransomware attacks are leaking sensitive information that could provide access to physical systems. It found data stolen from ransomware victims related to operational technology systems, underlining that some of the data discovered included usernames and passwords for the systems, IP addresses, remote services, and more.

Google Cloud partners with Flipkart for digital transformation

Zach Marzouk

8 Mar, 2022

Google Cloud and Flipkart have partnered to help the Indian e-commerce company with innovation and its cloud strategy.

Flipkart, founded in 2007, has a registered customer base of over 400 million and offers over 150 million products across more than 80 categories. It claims to be one of India’s leading digital commerce entities.

Flipkart stated that it will scale on Google Cloud’s infrastructure to reach more customers. This will help the company deliver robust app access and performance, even during peak purchase seasons with heightened traffic. It will also build new products on the Google Cloud, helping it to expand into new markets in India.

The e-commerce company is also set to deploy Google Cloud’s data analytics and machine learning technologies, to help it better analyse traffic and transactional data, discover real-time insights into customer purchasing and shopping behaviour, and identify trends and patterns with increased demand.

Lastly, Flipkart will advance productivity and collaboration globally with Google Workspace. It aims to expand the tech giant’s platform to improve employees’ experience and connections.

“Our strategic alliance with Google Cloud will enable us to accelerate our digital transformation, power productivity and advance our innovation agenda,” said Jeyandran Venugopal, chief product and technology officer at Flipkart. “We are excited by Google Cloud’s unique strengths and experience in AI/ML and its proven scalability and security, all of which will be critical in our next phase of growth.”

Flipkart hopes that the partnership will propel it into its next phase of growth and advance its vision of onboarding India’s next 200 million shoppers and thousands of sellers.

“Flipkart’s growth in India has been powered by its digital-first strategy and forward-thinking approach to cloud technology,” said Bikram Singh Bedi, managing director of Google Cloud India. “As the company continues to scale and grow its e-commerce platform, we will work together to drive technological innovations and help Flipkart drive breakthrough businesses in the future.”

The news comes after Google Cloud recently invested in a new office in Pune, India. It said last month that it aims to open the location during the second half of 2022 and has already begun hiring for new positions. The teams located at the new office will help build advanced enterprise cloud technologies in collaboration with global engineering teams and deliver product and implementation expertise for digital transformation.​​

Microsoft to set up largest India data centre region in Hyderabad

Zach Marzouk

7 Mar, 2022

Microsoft has announced plans to establish its fourth data centre region in India in the city of Hyderabad in Telangana.

The company revealed that the investment aligns with its commitment to help customers thrive in a cloud and AI-enabled digital economy and will become part of the world’s largest cloud infrastructure.

The new data centre region in Hyderabad will complement the tech giant’s existing network of three regions across the country in Pune, Mumbai, and Chennai. It will offer Microsoft’s entire portfolio across the cloud, AI, productivity tools CRM with advanced data security, and more.

Microsoft said Telangana is emerging as a “challenger” in the Indian IT sector due to its software exports registering an increase of 7% year-on-year to reach $67.4 billion in 2021, citing a government report.

It added that it is partnering with the Telangana government to accelerate its adoption of cloud, AI, IoT, and cyber security tools for governance. This includes efforts to upskill government officials in next-generation technology, support young girls to build careers in cyber security through the CyberShikshaa programme, and partner on skilling programmes like DigiSaksham with the ministry of labour and employment to equip job seekers from rural areas with technical skills.

“Today’s commitment to the people and businesses of India will position the country among the world’s digital leaders,” said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, minister for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and Electronics & Information Technology. “A Microsoft data center region provides a competitive advantage to our digital economy and is a long-term investment in our country’s potential.”

The new data centre region will also be built with sustainable design and operations in mind, the company said. This will help Microsoft responsibly deliver reliable and highly available cloud services at scale.

Microsoft underlined that customer demand for cloud as a platform for digital transformation, driving economic growth and societal progress across India, is increasing. Microsoft data centre regions in the country contributed $9.5 billion in revenue to the economy between 2016 and 2020, according to a Microsoft-sponsored IDC report. The report also estimated 1.5 million jobs were added to the economy, including 169,000 new skilled IT jobs.

Microsoft isn’t the only big tech firm with an interest in India, as Google Cloud announced in January that it would open a new office in Pune this year. This is part of its ongoing investment in the country after opening its second cloud region in the country last July. The new location will open in the second half of 2022, although the company has already started hiring for positions.

Cisco patches critical bugs in collaboration products

Danny Bradbury

4 Mar, 2022

Cisco has patched two critical bugs that could allow attackers to write files and run arbitrary code on its video conferencing and collaboration products.

Each bug affects the company’s Cisco Expressway series of collaboration servers and its TelePresence Video Communication Server (VCS).

The first vulnerability, CVE-2022-20754, allows a remote attacker to write files to the system. It lies in the products’ cluster database API, which doesn’t properly validate user input. This enables attackers to authenticate as an administrative user and then submit malicious input via a directory traversal attack. They could then write their own files with root privileges, including overwriting existing operating system files.

The second flaw, CVE-2022-20755, allows an attacker to execute arbitrary code by exploiting the products’ web management interface. An attacker could log in as an admin and then craft malicious input that would let them run their own code as root.

These vulnerabilities, each of which has a 9.0 CVSS score, do not depend on each other, Cisco said in its advisory. with customers being told to install both patches to protect their systems.

Cisco Expressway is a series of devices supporting collaboration with users outside of a company’s firewall. The system, which operates without the need for a VPN client, supports video, voice, and instant messaging. Users can also see each others’ presence information.

The TelePresence VCS is a server for managing video conferencing sessions. It works as an appliance on a customer’s premises or in the cloud, and supports communication between different video conferencing platforms.

TelePresence VCS has not been sold since December 2020. Cisco will stop issuing software maintenance patches for this product on December 29 this year and will stop providing support entirely at the end of 2023.

Microsoft releases Defender for Azure Cosmos DB in preview

Praharsha Anand

4 Mar, 2022

Microsoft Defender for Cloud users can access an early preview of Defender for Azure Cosmos DB, Microsoft announced on Tuesday.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud helps organizations identify and address weak points in their cloud infrastructure through cloud workload protection (CWP) and cloud security posture management (CSPM), the company said.

Defender for Azure Cosmos DB support has now been added to Microsoft Defender for Cloud, allowing for centralized management of database security across multiple cloud environments.

“Databases are constantly evolving to handle new use cases, incorporate more intelligence, and store more data, giving developers and organizations a wide range of database types to meet their varying needs,” commented Inbal Argov, senior product manager of Microsoft Defender for Cloud.

“Because aspects including architecture, capabilities, configuration options, and authentication methods are unique to each database type, so are the security threats—requiring custom security measures and protection capabilities to address the most common threats across databases,” added Argov.

The new Defender for Azure Cosmos DB proactively monitors Azure Cosmos DB accounts and protects them from a range of attack vectors, including attacks made from the application layer, SQL injections, unusual access patterns, compromised identities, and malicious insiders

Threat detections are made using Microsoft Threat Intelligence, the Microsoft Defender SQL query analysis engine, and the Microsoft Defender behavioral models.

A fully managed NoSQL database, Azure Cosmos DB also helps facilitate non-relational data models with multiple SDKs and APIs, ultra-fast response times, and instant scalability.

The service can be enabled at either the subscription level or the resource level.

Microsoft delays Office 365 and Microsoft 365 price hike

Connor Jones

4 Mar, 2022

Microsoft has announced that it will be delaying the planned price increase on Office 365 and Microsoft 365 products by a few weeks due to high demand for the services in the run up to the changes.

First announced in August 2021, the “substantive” price increases across a number of Modern Work products was due to come into effect on 1 March 2022.

Microsoft said the “transitional grace period” was implemented to “provide partners with additional lead time for adapting business processes”. It added that it does not believe partners will use the additional time to pull forward demand for the products.

All new commerce transactions will need to be submitted to Microsoft by no later than 14 March 2022 at 5 PM Pacific Daylight Time, or midnight at Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), in order to be eligible for the February 2022 pricing.

The price increases range between $1-$3 per user, depending on the product, but in large companies this can amount to a sizeable increase to IT departments’ overhead costs.

The six Modern Work products affected by the price changes include: 

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic: $6 per user per month, up from $5
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium: $22 per user per month, up from $20
  • Office 365 E1: $10 per user per month, up from $8
  • Office 365 E3: $23 per user per month, up from $20
  • Office 365 E5: $38 per user per month, up from $35
  • Microsoft 365 E3: $36 per user per month, up from $32

In the initial announcement, Microsoft said it represented the first major pricing adjustment for Office 365 and Microsoft 365 since it was launched in 2011, a decade previously.

Higher demand for cloud services brought on by the ongoing trend of home and hybrid working prompted the tech giant to make the change, said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president at Microsoft 365.

In December 2021, four months after the announced price increases, Microsoft also said it would be raising the prices of pay-monthly Microsoft 365 products by 20% unless partners chose to be billed on an annual basis.

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) complained at the time that they could stand to lose money if a customer went bankrupt or chose to decrease the number of licenses they needed if they opted for an annual subscription.

The move prompted heated online discussions and a petition lobbying Microsoft to reconsider the decision, which garnered more than 2,000 signatures.

AT&T and IBM co-develop AI, 5G, and hybrid cloud simulation centre

Praharsha Anand

2 Mar, 2022

AT&T and IBM have partnered to offer simulated environments for enterprises to test out AT&T’s 5G network capabilities alongside IBM’s artificial intelligence (AI) and hybrid cloud technologies.

The firms noted businesses across all industries, including the public sector, manufacturing, and financial services can leverage IBM-AT&T’s strategic alliance to improve business outcomes and boost customer satisfaction. 

Enterprises can also address critical challenges such as supply chain disruptions and cyber threats through the jointly offered simulation centre located at IBM Bethesda Lab.  The environment is envisioned to serve as a testbed for varied technologies including secure cellular and cloud computing.

For instance, manufacturers can implement “safety zones” through video intelligence to identify product anomalies and improve inventory management.

Furthermore, IBM Yorktown, the headquarters for IBM Research, is now integrated with AT&T 5G to facilitate a co-branded customer showcase and 5G innovation centre, incorporating IBM and Red Hat industry solutions and offerings.  

At AT&T’s 5G Innovation Studio in Plano, TX, IBM and AT&T are working together to bring AI and machine learning (ML) to network insights to improve IT, OT, IoT, and 5G network visibility.

Open hybrid cloud computing in a low-latency, private cellular network edge environment is yet another joint offering by AT&T and IBM.

According to AT&T’s blog post, “using the network strength of AT&T and IBM Cloud Satellite, the two companies are helping enterprise clients get faster, improved data analysis by accessing data where it resides. As workloads shift to the edge, IBM Cloud Satellite will help clients deliver low latency, while still maintaining security, data privacy, interoperability and open standards found in hybrid cloud environments.” 

Zoom eyes bigger enterprise customers despite weak Q1 forecast

Praharsha Anand

2 Mar, 2022

Zoom reported impressive earnings for the fourth quarter of 2021 on Monday, but shares of the company fell precipitously following its weak outlook for Q1.

In contrast to the impressive growth the video conferencing firm recorded at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom’s latest earnings pale even as it pursues larger enterprise clients. 

Zoom reported a non-GAAP net income per share of $1.29 for Q4 2021. Revenue for the full fiscal year totalled $4,099.9 million, up 55% year over year, while revenue for the fourth quarter amounted to $1,071.4 million, up 21%.

Zoom’s board of directors also authorized a program to buy back up to $1 billion of Zoom’s outstanding Class A common stock.

Acquisition of new customers and expanding sales across existing customers accounted for the bulk of Zoom’s Q4 revenue. By the end of the quarter, the firm had 2,725 customers contributing over $100,000 in trailing 12-month revenue, up approximately 66% from the previous quarter.

However, enterprise clients take centre stage. Zoom served approximately 191,000 enterprise customers at the end of Q4, a 35% year-over-year increase. 

For Q1 2023, Zoom expects total revenue to range from $1.07 billion to $1.075 billion. Non-GAAP diluted earnings per share (EPS) are expected to range from 86 to 88 cents with approximately 309 million non-GAAP-weighted average shares outstanding.

For the full fiscal year 2023, total revenue is expected to range between $4.530 billion and $4.550 billion, and non-GAAP income from operations is expected to vary between $1.430 billion and $1.450 billion. A non-GAAP diluted EPS of approximately $3.45 to $3.51 is expected for the entire fiscal year based on approximately 312 million non-GAAP weighted average shares outstanding.

 “Looking forward, we are addressing a large opportunity as we expect customers will continue to transform how they work and engage with their customers,” said Zoom founder and CEO, Eric S. Yuan. “It is apparent that businesses want a full communications platform that is integrated, secure, and easy to use.

“We are proud to lead the charge of the digital transformation for communications. To sustain and enhance our leadership position, in fiscal year 2023 we plan to build out our platform to further enrich the customer experience with new cloud-based technologies and expand our go-to-market motions, which we believe will enable us to drive future growth.”