All posts by Bobby Hellard

IBM job ad calls for 12-years of experience with six-year-old Kubernetes

Bobby Hellard

13 Jul, 2020

IBM has put out a job advert calling for a candidate with over 12-years of experience with Kubernetes administration and management. 

It looks like a fairly straight forward ad, except for the fact that Kubernetes has only been a thing for the last six years.

The advertisement, which is still live, calls for a “minimum” of 12 years experience in Kubernetes, including “hands-on” experience setting up Kubernetes platforms, deploying microservices and other web applications and managing secure secrets along with container orchestration.

It requires someone to have earned at least six years experience before the first GitHub post about the project was made on 7 June 2014.

As the Twitter account ‘Really Bad Job Ads‘ shows, it’s very common to make typos or strange syntactical errors in job ads, but nothing on its feed comes close to a giant tech company getting in a muddle over new technology.

In this regard, IBM is not alone, as developer Sebastián Ramírez pointed out on Twitter. He applied for a role that asked for over four years of experience using FastAPIs, but Ramírez knew all too well at the time that no one could have more than one and a half years experience of it because he created it. 

This also goes the other way with job seekers sometimes getting it wrong. Replying to Ramírez, researcher Lynn Boyden recalled an applicant in 2012 that said they had over 17-years of experience with web design.

“We interviewed a 28-year-old designer in 2012 who told us he had 17-years experience designing websites. I said, ‘Tim Berners-Lee doesn’t have 17 years experience designing websites’. ‘Who’s Tim Berners-Lee?’ he asked. So yeah.”

Again, this goes the other way as further down the replies, App designer Jens Ravens explained that he was once told he didn’t have enough experience with a certain iOS library during an interview, despite the fact he developed it.

Docker partners with AWS to help take the complexity out of containerisation

Bobby Hellard

10 Jul, 2020

Docker is expanding its collaboration with AWS to make its Compose and Desktop tools easier to use in container ecosystems.

The compose and desktop developer tools will be integrated with AWS Elastic Container Service (ECS) and ECS on AWS Fargate.

The container ecosystem has become complex, according to Docker. What used to be a simple case of A talking to B and B talking to a database, has expanded due to new managed container services. The complexity of it is helpful to operational teams that might want more control, but it makes it tougher for developers.

“With a large number of containers being built using Docker, we’re very excited to work with Docker to simplify the developer’s experience of building and deploying containerised applications to AWS,” said Deepak Singh, the VP for compute services at AWS.

“Now customers can easily deploy their containerised applications from their local Docker environment straight to Amazon ECS. This accelerated path to modern application development and deployment allows customers to focus more effort on the unique value of their applications, and less time on figuring out how to deploy to the cloud.”

A similar integration was announced in May for Microsoft Azure, shortening the developer commute for Azure Container Instances, highlighting Docker’s more developer-focused strategy. The company surprised many when it sold its enterprise business to Mirantis in 2019, but its reasoning was to solely focus on cloud-native development.

“Going forward, in partnership with the community and ecosystem, we will expand Docker Desktop and Docker Hub’s roles in the developer workflow for modern apps,” said CEO Scott Johnston.

“Specifically, we are investing in expanding our cloud services to enable developers to quickly discover technologies for use when building applications, to easily share these apps with teammates and the community, and to run apps frictionlessly on any Kubernetes endpoint, whether locally or in the cloud.”

Microsoft Teams update will put users in a virtual theatre

Bobby Hellard

9 Jul, 2020

Microsoft has revealed a slew of changes to Teams that have been in development since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

The changes are designed to improve user experience on the collaboration platform and drive greater engagement.

It starts with “Together Mode”, which is an artificial intelligence-based feature that places a digital avatar of the user in a virtual space. It essentially takes your face and shoulders and puts you, alongside the other members of the call, in a virtual theatre. This is being rolled out now, with other virtual spaces set to be added in the coming months.

The thinking behind the changes is to make users feel more “connected”, according to Microsoft. It wants the service to be more inclusive by making people more visible when they join conference calls. To do this, it has added a “Dynamic View” which allows users to share content side by side with other participants.

In addition to Dynamic View, users can also share live reactions with their teammates. This essentially resembles emoji reactions that appear in their intended recipient’s box as they talk. Teams will also have video filters where users can adjust lighting levels or soften focus to improve your webcam while on a call.

Later in the year Teams will also support live transcriptions with a translate feature for meetings in other languages. The service will also get suggested replies for its chat features, similar to Gmail’s suggested replies function, that offers auto-fill text based on the context of the previous message in the channel. Microsoft is also adding ‘chat bubbles’ so that the messages can be seen more clearly by other participants in the call.
And, finally, Teams will also integrate Cortana, Microsoft’s voice assistant, on the mobile version of the service. Cortana will be able to make a call, join meetings, share files with colleagues and even send chat messages.

Fujitsu to halve office space as it prepares for the new normal

Bobby Hellard

6 Jul, 2020

Manufacturing giant Fujitsu is going to make 80,000 of its workers permanently remote and reduce its office footprint by 50% as it plans for the post-pandemic future. 

The company hopes to half its office footprint by 2022, with employees enjoying “unprecedented” flexibility to improve their work-life balance.

The ‘Work Life Shift’ campaign is an acceleration of the firm’s digital transformation, but it only concerns its Japanse workforce at the moment. The initiative will work on three core principles: “Smart Working”, “Borderless Office” and “Culture Change”.  

“Fujitsu today announced that it will further accelerate its shift to becoming a digital transformation company with an ambitious campaign to redefine working styles for its employees in Japan in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company said. 

“As part of this ‘Work Life Shift” campaign, Fujitsu will introduce a new way of working that promises a more empowering, productive, and creative experience for employees that will boost innovation and deliver new value to its customers and society through the power of digital transformation.”

The “Smart Working” approach offers Fujitsu employees to the option of planing their time around the contents of their work, their role within the company and their lifestyle. This will also include the company changing its policies for commuting expenses to offer more support for remote working and establishing a system that allows employees to work from locations far away from the Fujitsu offices.

As well as reducing its office footprint, Fujitsu is also shifting away from conventional spaces, allowing its employees to freely choose the place they want to work, be it from home, hub, or satellite offices. Hub offices will be set up in different places around Japan, with each having a designated function in the businesses.

The company will also make changes to its style of management, to aid the changes and boost productivity. 

“Fujitsu will continue to seek ways to optimise working styles by continuously listening to the voices of its employees regarding the dramatic shift toward physically separated working spaces, and by leveraging a digital platform that visualises and analyses working conditions,” Fujistu said. 

Google+ is finally dead as business-focused Currents goes live

Bobby Hellard

7 Jul, 2020

Google has officially launched its enterprise communications tool Currents, marking the long-awaited death of Google+. 

Currents is available now to G Suite customers, offering organisations a tool where employees can post and comment on discussions and view content in a news feed called “home stream”.

The new service has replaced the Google+ icon in G Suite and also Google’s apps for Android and iOS. Google+ accounts were shut down last year after failing to attract users and repeated security issues.  

Despite not having enough users for its parent company’s liking, Google+ still managed to suffer a data leak that affected up to half a million users in 2018. An internal review found that a flaw in the social network’s APIs allowed malicious apps to extract data from users profiles and the service was shut down shortly after. 

Rather than delete the whole thing, Google has opted to rebrand and reposition the services as an enterprise comms tool – similar to Facebook’s Workplace. As such, any lingering Google+ Enterprise users will be transitioned to Currents from 6 July and Google+ links will redirect to Currents URLs.

The Currents interface, which includes Home Stream, can be ordered chronologically or by relevance and allows links, images, text, polls and content from Google Drive accounts to be shared throughout your organisation. 

These are not the only changes to G Suite, as Google is also rolling out a dark mode for Docs, Sheets and Slides on Android. The tech giant said this should be available within the next two weeks, with users required to go into the respective app’s settings to make the change. If you already have a dark mode theme on your system, the apps will have it enabled automatically. 

It follows an announcement the company made last year to deliver dark mode to all of its first-party apps. It has slowly added the capability to a number of services, including Gmail and Google Calendar. 

The function has become very popular on Android and iOS apps for reportedly reducing battery consumption and also its sleek look on mobile devices. 

Google Cloud to accelerate Deutsche Bank’s digital transformation

Bobby Hellard

7 Jul, 2020

Deutsche Bank has agreed a multi-year strategic partnership with Google Cloud to redefine the bank’s financial services. 
The two firms have signed a letter of intent and plan to sign a multi-year contract within the next few months. The partnership will include co-innovation between the two companies to create technology-based financial products. 

The agreement will accelerate the German bank’s cloud migration and transform its IT architecture, including optimisation of the bank’s current systems in a phased approach. Both parties said they were committed to compliance with privacy and data protection regulation maintaining confidentiality, integrity and availability of customer data and the bank’s information assets.
Deutsche will also gain direct access to data science, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning services with potential use cases for cash flow forecasting, improved risk analytics and advanced security services.

For its private banking business, a more digital focus will be used to simplify interactions between customers and employees.
“The partnership with Google Cloud will be an important driver of our strategic transformation,” said Christian Sewing, CEO, Deutsche Bank. “It demonstrates our determination to invest in our technology as our future is strongly linked to successful digitisation. It is as much a revenue story as it is about costs.”

Bernd Leukert, chief technology, data and innovation officer at Deutsche Bank, added: “This cooperation with Google Cloud is a significant step forward for our technology strategy, and will transform the way we produce and deliver our client services.

“By bringing together the best of both cultures, we look forward to creating new business models leveraging artificial intelligence, data analytics, and more, with an established technology and innovation leader.”
The partnership follows an “intensive discussion and due diligence”, according to Deutsche. The bank began talking to major cloud providers in February seeking a partnership as part of its multi-vendor cloud strategy

Twitter becomes the latest firm to ditch problematic coding terms

Bobby Hellard

3 Jul, 2020

Twitter is dropping the terms “master”, “slave” and “blacklist” in favour of more inclusive language in its programming. 

The social media site is following in the steps of a number of tech firms that have already pledged to ditch the terms in light of the black lives matter protests.

The terms are very common in programming, with “master” referring to the main version of code that often controls other “slave” protocols. “Blacklist” is a label for items that are automatically denied or for forbidden websites. These were included in a set of words posted by Twitter’s engineering division that it will remove on the recommendation of two of its black engineers, Regynald Augustin and Kevin Oliver.

DevOps specialist The Scale Factory removed references to master and slave in its code a few years ago. The company’s CEO and CTO Jon Topper told IT Pro that it was fairly straightforward to change the names of variables and methods in its own code and configuration files, but it wasn’t possible to entirely remove this language.

“If you’re working with MySQL replication, for example, that software itself uses master/slave terminology and so it has to appear in your code too,” Topper said. “Renaming Git branches from “master” to “main” is similarly straightforward, though might require changes to CI servers and other systems you work with.

“The real question here is whether, as an organisation, you’re also working on the human side of the problem. Dismantling structural racism in our organisations will take more than just a couple of cosmetic code changes… I’ve heard black voices say that it’s good to challenge our use of this language in tech, but way more that say this isn’t enough on its own. We all need to do better.”

There have been calls within the tech industry to drop the terms long before the death of George Floyd and the black lives matter protests. In 2018, Red Hat programmer Victor Stinner issued a change request for avoiding the terminology in Python, which is often thought of as one of the world’s most popular programming languages.

“For diversity reasons, it would be nice to try to avoid ‘master’ and ‘slave’ terminology, which can be associated with slavery,” he wrote, also citing a number of complaints in the thread.

Despite a heated debate breaking out, with some Python developers suggesting that only “slave” should be removed because they didn’t deem “master” an offensive term, Stinner’s request was upheld. “Slaves” was subsequently changed to “workers” or “helpers”, while “master process” was changed to “parent process”.

CNN reported back in 2003 about a discrimination complaint concerning the use of the words “master” and “slave” on a videotape machine in Los Angeles. The complaint led to a request from County officials for electronics manufacturers to remove the terms from their products when doing business in the county.

Microsoft overhauls OneDrive collaboration tools

Bobby Hellard

2 Jul, 2020

Microsoft has announced several new efficiency-boosting functions across OneDrive, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.

The new features, all of which are coming in over the next few weeks, aim to improve internal collaboration and tighten administrative controls.

It starts with a public preview for a file-sharing featured called ‘Add to OneDrive’ which will roll out towards the end of July. This is a service to streamline the process of adding shared files, which allows content from Microsoft Teams and SharePoint libraries to be added directly into a user’s OneDrive.

Additionally, this shared content can be synced, reshared, and worked on without compromising its existing security compliance policies. With the preview, all users within an organisation will have this option enabled as default, but that can be shut off by admins.

“Files are often the starting point for getting work done and staying connected,” Microsoft 365‘s general manager, Seth Patton, wrote in a blog post.

“Memos, presentations, photos, videos – these are the conduit for more fruitful interactions. That’s why we’re excited to announce new OneDrive features across Microsoft 365 that bring a more connected and flexible files experience to business users, more control to admins, and a more personal touch to everyone at home.”

The updates also include a sharing integration with Microsoft Teams. Similar to the file-sharing experience business users already have with OneDrive, Outlook or Office, Teams will have an option to create sharing links that give access to others within their organisation, including those in a private or group chat.

There are also new functions for syncing metadata that allows businesses to edit content in synced libraries. There’s an increase in the size of a file that can be uploaded to OneDrive and SharePoint, now at 100GB.

For administrators, OneDrive will offer more controls and oversight for file-sharing, such as synced admin reports. These allow admins to view the status of synced apps across an organisation via a dashboard. What’s more, admins will also be able to set time limits on file access.

The new updates also include a dark mode for the web version of OneDrive, which is already available for its iOS and Android versions.

UKCloud signs MoU with the Crown Commercial Service

Bobby Hellard

29 Jun, 2020

UKCloud has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).

The MoU sets out preferential commercial terms for UKCloud to offer its services to the public sector, either directly or indirectly through its partner community. 

The announcement comes just a month after Google Cloud signed a similar agreement with CCS, boosting its investments in cloud technologies aimed at public sector bodies. 

UKCloud is a Farnborough-based business that provides multi-cloud services to the public sector. Its seen rapid growth since its inception in 2011, and attractive investment from companies such as Cisco in 2019.

The UK’s cloud market has also seen rapid growth, with public sector spending on cloud services increasing by over £6bn in the last eight years, according to UKCloud.

“Cloud has moved on from being limited to GDS Digital Exemplars to underpinning some of governments most complex, high profile and business-critical programmes,” said Simon Hansford, CEO of UKCloud.

“It’s now recognised that there is no one size fits all cloud — which is why UKCloud has matured into the UK’s foremost expert multi-cloud provider, as well as being one of the most socially responsible cloud providers within the market.

“We continue to stand out from the competition and I’m pleased to say that is reflected in our MOU with the CCS.”

The preferential commercial terms in the MoU includes double-digit discounts for a wide range of UKCloud services, such as a second-tier platform for sensitive government workloads, ‘desktop as a service’ and ‘disaster recovery as a service’ offerings, and object storage.

“We hope that by providing this commercial advantage, underpinned by robust principles that matter to our public sector customer base, cloud adoption will become easier and less risky,” Hansford added. “In turn, this will help to accelerate the UK public sector’s digital transformation, so that better outcomes are delivered to the citizen”. 

IBM Cloud suffers second global outage this month

Bobby Hellard

26 Jun, 2020

IBM Cloud suffered intermittent outages this week, marking the second time this month the service has experienced severe disruption. 

The service was hit by sporadic outages and issues in the UK, the US, Sydney, Tokyo and more for several hours on Wednesday night, according to reports

Users have complained of problems logging in to the service, while those already online have had difficulty accessing virtual private cloud services, Kubernetes workloads, Watson AI and other IBM Cloud functions.

IBM’s Cloudant Dashboard and APIs were down for three hours in both London and Frankfurt, with LogDNA Indexing suggesting that processing issues were also seen at the German site and IKS container services suffered 12 hours of disruption in Dallas, US. 

IT Pro has approached IBM for comment, with the firm yet to address the problem. It was a little more forthcoming with the major incident it suffered a fortnight ago, which it blamed on a “third-party network provider”.

That outage took 80 dater centres offline, impacting its cloud computing services including Red Hat. The firms own status page was impacted by the problem with its internal server error page reading: “Sorry, we’ve encountered an error on our end, and our developers are working on clearing this up. Please try reloading the page or following these links back”.

It’s worth noting that IBM did not immediately address the earlier outage but did release a statement on its Twitter account that services were being “restored to full services as soon as possible”. 

The earlier outage was due to an “external network provider flooding the IBM Cloud network with incorrect routing”. That resulted in severe congestion of traffic that impacted IBM Cloud Services and datacentres, according to IBM.