OVH rebrands as OVHcloud, claims more than 70% of revenues are cloud-based

OVH has announced it is changing its name to OVHcloud to mark the company’s 20th birthday – and double down on its ambitions.

The move was announced at OVH's annual jamboree, renamed this year from #OVHSummit to #OVHcloudSummit.

The company has long-held a goal to provide an alternative to the cloud hyperscalers for the European market. OVHcloud cites clarity as the primary reason for changing name: the company claims more than 70% of its revenue is ‘focused on cloud solutions.’ “By adopting the name OVHcloud, the group is aligning its identity with its business development strategy, in order to support its international growth,” the press materials note.

OVHcloud’s primary marketing is an acronym around the ‘smart’ cloud: any solution needs to be simple to implement, multi-local, accessible and predictable, reversible and open, and transparent. It is the reversibility – to ensure organisations avoid bill shock and vendor lock-in, which is particularly key, according to CEO Michel Paulin.

In a recent interview with CIO India (cached), Paulin outlined the rationale, while not naming names. “Many cloud players make it difficult or impossible for their customers to move their data out of the cloud. However we believe that customers should be free to move the data out as and when they want,” said Paulin. “The concept of reversibility is not just beneficial for the customers in the long term but will also make the multi-cloud strategy feasible.”

Writing for this publication in February, Paulin expanded further on his company’s multi-cloud ethos. “From speaking to our customers, combining on-premise and cloud infrastructure with a multi-cloud strategy has allowed them to connect to networks in a totally isolated and secure way, via numerous points of presence around the world,” Paulin wrote.

“What’s more, I’ve noticed how it has allowed organisations to shift to the cloud at their own pace and take a flexible approach – all while responding to their strategic objectives,” Paulin added. “This means businesses can control and run an application, workload, or data on any cloud based on their individual technical requirements.”

OVHcloud is looking at various industries, as well as smaller businesses, to help it differentiate. The company’s Cloud Web hosting product line, for instance, is aimed at developers and agencies. At the other end of the scale the company is promising an enriched bare metal portfolio for its enterprise solution base to provide greater performance and automation capabilities.

While Paulin noted in a statement that the company wants its brand to reflect the reality of cloud around the world, industry watchers may be wary of such nomenclature. In the much more nascent blockchain space, companies have been adding the buzzword to their name before changing their mind. The most recent was Blockchain Power Trust, which changed its name last week to Jade Power Trust after the company officially ceased cryptocurrency mining operations.

You can view the full #OVHcloudSummit keynote here (English version).

Picture credit: OVHcloud/Screenshot

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Box: We’re in the business of protecting companies from themselves


Bobby Hellard

10 Oct, 2019

“We’re 30,000 employees, we’re the size of a small village… there will be crime, or there will be people that do things that they shouldn’t do.”

Box CIO Paul Chapman recalls a conversation he once had with a company executive, who broke the mould somewhat by being more concerned by the actions of rogue employees than threats coming from the outside.

This was at a time when cyber security simply meant protecting against external threats. That doesn’t mean to say the executive wasn’t bothered with external attacks, only that he identified that plenty of development had already gone into creating robust outward-looking defences over the years, while little attention was paid to the workers.

In today’s environment, we are seeing time and again that the biggest threat to security is often a company’s own employees. According to Box, around 55% of breaches are due to negligence in the workplace.

“People often say, ‘what’s the thing that worries you the most?’ Actually it is what we would call ‘negligent users’,” Chapman explains. “People don’t wake up and say ‘hey, I think I’ll be a negligent user today’, they’re just doing their work and what happens is risk builds… part of what keeps me awake is users doing negligent things, without knowing they’re doing them.”

Safety net

Jeetu Patel, Box’s chief product officer, shared a few examples of what the company considers common negligent actions. The first was sharing content to personal email accounts. So, for instance, Rachel wants to invite John into an internal folder full of private company documents. She begins typing ‘Jo’ into the search bar and his email addresses pop up. She picks the first one which happens to be John’s personal Gmail account, sending company documents to a non-company account.

In a second example, John, who is working remotely, might decide to download company documents on a personal device. He doesn’t select the specific documents he needs and instead puts the whole folder onto his unsecured personal device. Without realising, John may have placed sensitive company info, such as financial details, on a device that sits outside the company’s firewall.

It’s this concern that led Box to develop its Shield platform, released in August this year. It aims to fix the many problems and risks that crop up when sharing and collaborating. While it is mainly marketed as an external-facing security product, Box Shield is actually just as useful for preventing these types of human errors filtering through – whether accidental or intentional.

Force preview, for example, gives users access to files in preview before they are given permission to download. So if somebody receives an email with a malicious attachment, it will be flagged by Box’s security system before it’s ever downloaded to a company’s network.

Although the employees should be aware of basic security practices, software needs to account for laziness, according to Box.

“We know it’s better to point to content, we know its better to use links to control content and chain of custody over content, but you still have in an organisation of 20,000 – 35,000 people and someone who goes ‘oh, I think it’s easier to send an attachment’, and off he goes,” Chapman says.

In-house phishing

Chapman and his team at Box accept that we can’t all be experts, particularly when it comes to digital security. And, as clever and intuitive as Box Shield is, it’s not going protect you from everything.

“To me, Box is a piece of the jigsaw puzzle, it’s not the jigsaw puzzle when it comes to how to think about security potential,” he says. “It’s partners, it’s integrations… you have to have people inside your organisation that are thinking through what the architecture is… you can’t just put it in Box and be done. It’s how you configure Shield, how you set it up, it’s a combination of things.”

The workforce at Box is subjected to regular tests from Chapman and his team. They are even tested using dummy internal phishing attacks as a way to train people on how to identify and deal with threats as they arrive. This is the same tactic we’ve seen deployed across other security-savvy organisations, only, as a security specialist, Box is able to take it one step further.

“There are different levels of sophistication, but it is surprisingly scary how easy it is to spoof people,” he says. “We’ve got a red team that will actually try to break everybody’s passwords at least once per month. We will do our own phishing attacks, we look at the results, share them with the company, we don’t do a wall of shame or anything, but we do have a security ‘hero’.”

We’re only human

These ‘heroes’ seem to be in short supply if the latest figures are anything to go by. According to Telstra’s 2019 Security Report, 89% of cyber security risks are now internal. Add to that, a recent Carbon Black report that suggests that hacking and data breaches are becoming the “new normal”, with hackers now turning their attention to vulnerable end-users, rather than trying to break through company firewalls directly.

What’s more, it only takes one lapse in concentration, or one employee to not know the danger, for your business to be crippled by malware. Many towns and cities in the US have been plagued by ransomware attacks that have been specifically designed to target employees that are, for the most part, illiterate in cyber security. For example, Florida’s Riviera Beach lost control of its entire municipal network after a single police department employee opened a malicious email attachment.

In 2017, the average worker made 118 mistakes a year, according to a report from Identity Guard. Predictably, many of those errors revolved around technology and as more and more businesses adopt digital services, that trend is only going to continue. After all, we’re only human.

Organisations struggling with sensitive cloud data as they shun security-first approach

Corporate data may be reaching a tipping point in the cloud – but security policies are yet to follow it.

That is the key finding from a new report by security provider Thales. The study, which was put together by the Ponemon Institute and which polled more than 3,000 IT and IT security practitioners across eight countries, found that while almost half (48%) of corporate data was in the cloud, less than a third (32%) of companies had a ‘security-first approach’ to data storage in the cloud.

The rise of multi-cloud continues apace, with almost half (48%) of those polled having such a system. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and IBM were the most popular vendors among respondents. More than a quarter (28%) said they were using at least four cloud providers. Yet this leads to confusion, the report noted.

“With businesses increasingly looking to use multiple cloud platforms and providers, it’s vital they understand what data is being stored and where,” said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “Not knowing this information makes it essentially impossible to protect the most sensitive data – ultimately leaving these organisations at risk.”

In one of the more peculiar questions, respondents were asked who bore the most responsibility for sensitive data in the cloud. The answers were almost entirely split down the middle; 35% believed it was on the providers, 31% said it was their responsibility, with 33% preferring a shared responsibility model.

For almost all cases, responsibility for cloud security is shared between the vendor and the customer; the vendor will look after the infrastructure while the customer looks after applications. Oracle, meanwhile, wants to eradicate the shared responsibility model with what it calls its autonomous next-generation cloud, eliminating human error of all kinds.

There were various other survey findings: more businesses (54%) now believe that cloud storage makes it more difficult to protect sensitive data, while more than two thirds (67%) believe conventional security methods are difficult to apply when it comes to cloud-based data.

“We’d encourage all companies to take responsibility for understanding where their data sits to ensure it’s safe and secure,” added Ponemon.

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Workplace by Facebook boasts three million users in three years


Erin Paulson

9 Oct, 2019

Facebook‘s business communication platform Workplace has grown by one million users since February, bringing its subscriber total up to three million, the company announced at its annual Workplace-focused Flow conference.

The company’s quickly-expanding user base reflects that Workplace is learning how to compete with other business collaboration software providers, including Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Workplace is also rolling out updates that better target frontline employees (those who are often in the field and without email addresses), gauge worker sentiment, and make video collaboration easier, proving that the company is learning to cater to and anticipate the needs of businesses.

Workplace has been segmented off from its corporate parent, so Facebook’s public relations, data, and regulatory challenges won’t necessarily transfer over. The platform also gives companies full control, doesn’t take corporate data, and ticks certification boxes for security and data management.

There are currently three different tiers of Workplace software available: a free subscription, an advanced subscription for $4 per person per month, and an enterprise plan for $8 per person per month. A $1.50 plan for frontline workers is forthcoming.

At Flow, the Workplace team detailed a handful of upgrades to its software, including a Workplace app for Facebook’s Portal smart video screen, through which Workplace users can make audio and video calls using Portal’s smart camera to make collaboration more natural.

Updates also include an AI and machine learning tool that will facilitate automatic captioning on Workplace videos and generate transcripts.

Workplace sets itself apart from other collaboration tools with its employee engagement and experience software, Insights, which can gauge sentiment through functions such as ‘like’ buttons and emojis, much like a social media platform. Based on this, Workplace can provide analytics on how workers feel and help improve employee engagement, which can boost productivity, lower rates of employee turnover, and improve customer service.

Frontline workers in particular stand to benefit from corporate collaboration via Workplace. These employees make up 80% of all staff, according to head of Americas at Workplace Christine Trodella, but are typically left out of company discourse due to their lack of an email address. Workplace, which is accessible even without email, opens a route for those employees to join the conversation and connect without training costs.

“The C suite needs to connect everyone, not just knowledge workers,” said Facebook vice president and head of Workplace, Karandeep Anand.

Anand sees augmented and virtual reality tools becoming a part of Workplace in the future, but the company’s immediate next steps are to expand its customer success teams and enterprise sales infrastructure. Workplace also aims to continue upgrading its video conferencing tools to provide the most accessible, connective services possible and solidify its place in the crowded landscape of business collaboration software.

Tips for more productive meetings


Cloud Pro

10 Oct, 2019

It’s no secret that the workplace is evolving, with advancing technology and our changing expectations enabling new ways of working that were simply impossible before the advent of Wi-Fi, file sharing and online collaboration. As meetings form such a large part of many people’s jobs, it was inevitable that the way we organise and participate in them would transform, too.

Indeed, these shifting paradigms – particularly agile working – have placed new demands on meetings, as colleagues who no longer occupy the same building rely on them more and more as a way of catching up and sharing important updates. This means that, more than ever, it is vital to get the best out of our meetings, which – let’s face it – are vulnerable to disorganisation, and can easily be a waste of time rather than a productive exercise.

Let’s take a look at the best practices and tools that will ensure your meetings live up to their potential.

Planning and organisation

One key element of executing a productive meeting is the same as it ever was: organisation. Knowing why you’re having the meeting, what you need to cover and what the outcomes are will leave you in very good stead.

You undoubtedly know the basics, but just because they’re simple doesn’t mean they aren’t vital. Before you even begin the meeting, make sure you’ve set and shared an agenda to define your objectives and keep the meeting on track. Assign someone to take minutes as a record of what was discussed and what ideas and plans were generated. The minutes will also help inform action points which can be given out at the end of the meeting so that the relevant people can follow-up on anything discussed. Sticking to the allotted time will help keep people focused. These simple processes remain as important and effective as ever, and are the best place to start to boost productivity.

Your guest list should also be scrutinised. We’ve all attended meetings where we’ve found ourselves staring into space and wondering why we were invited at all. Limiting your invitations to people who have something relevant to input will avoid wasting your colleagues’ time as well as creating smaller and more focused meetings (Google, for instance, suggests avoiding any meetings of more than 10 people). Consider which colleagues will be better served by being updated on the meeting’s outcomes rather than attending.

On a related note, assure your colleagues that, if they genuinely believe that they have nothing to contribute, they can decline their invitation without penalty. That will make sure that everyone in the room is engaged and ready to contribute, rather than sitting in silence and wishing they were getting on with something else.

Environment

The advent of Wi-Fi and agile working practices has meant that meetings can technically be held anywhere – but that doesn’t mean they always should. Although it’s very useful to be able to call in from a cafe or park bench if you have to, optimised meeting spaces are still the best place to communicate with your team.

The setup of you conference room can have a major effect on productivity by creating a space free from distractions and – as conference calling and remote working become more prevalent – one in which you can communicate clearly with colleagues who are unable to attend in person. Consider soundproofing rooms in which ambient noise from air conditioning, passing traffic or noisy colleagues can be heard filtering in from outside. Bad acoustics can render audio communication incomprehensible, so take steps to limit reverberation with carpets, panelling and soft furnishings.

A quality audio-visual system is naturally vital for conference calls. It is worth employing the assistance of an AV expert in setting up microphones and speakers in the best way to minimise feedback and ensure that communication is as clear as possible. Think about the positioning of cameras and screens so that everyone can easily see each other. Weak and unreliable lines of communication can rapidly eat into your time and overshadow the matters that the meeting was called to discuss.

Meeting management tools can be used to perform data analysis that can also help you refine your meeting room usage and conference spaces, and plan better strategies in the future.

Technology

Advances in technology have enabled many of the changes to how we communicate and conduct meetings, and the proper use of the tools available can greatly boost productivity.

Selecting the right collaborative platform, such as the Intel Unite® solution, can help significantly streamline processes, keeping internal and remote team members on the same page, as well as serving as a tool to crunch the aforementioned meeting data. Intel Unite is an open platform that supports plugins for popular collaboration tools such as Skype for Business, Zoom and Cisco Webex, as well as in-room controls, whiteboarding and other systems, so that you can select and seamlessly combine the best tools for the job under one roof. The classic Intel Unite® solution requires a hub computer based on an Intel® Core™ vPro® processor in every meeting space, an on-premises PIN server and the Intel Unite app on users’ devices – there is also the new Intel Unite® Cloud Service that offers the option for you to access a cloud-hosted PIN service instead of requiring an on-premises server.

It’s vital to ensure that your employees are properly equipped with the most up-to-date hardware and software so that they can take full advantage of these systems and log into remote meetings with minimum fuss. High-spec cameras, microphones and speakers will allow them to see, hear and be heard, while new laptops with fresh batteries will prevent them from losing power and getting cut off halfway through your meeting.

With technology continuing to evolve at a rate of knots, it pays to keep abreast of the newest developments. Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are widely expected to further streamline meeting processes and offer new insights that will increase productivity in ways we are only beginning to understand. IoT promises increased connectivity to everything from projectors to climate control to make meeting management easier than ever. AI is projected to develop virtual assistants that can help with admin like managing calendars and scheduling meetings, as well as source relevant data to answer questions as they are raised and generate new ideas. By keeping up to speed on the latest cutting-edge tech developments, you’ll always be in a position to make informed decisions when it comes to adopting the best tools for the job.

Discover how the Intel Unite platform can help your business here

How tech is creating the meeting space of the future


Cloud Pro

11 Oct, 2019

The world of work is changing. Businesses are becoming increasingly decentralised, with flexible and agile working practices on the rise and developments in technology revolutionising our jobs. Inevitably, this has had a huge impact on one key office ritual: the meeting.

So how do you make sure a modern-day meeting runs smoothly and efficiently? From technical difficulties to fears over security, there are plenty of collaboration challenges brought about by the evolution of the workplace. Ensuring your tech is helping, not hindering, discussions is essential to making the most of your time. And with technology now being specifically designed to make meetings more efficient and effective, you’re missing out by sticking to outdated, clunky systems.

The rise of agile working

One of the biggest business shifts in the last few years is the move towards more agile ways of working. Motivating employees with flexible working options has been proven to boost productivity while encouraging remote working has tangible financial benefits, from lower travel costs to reduced overheads.

Inevitably, the traditional meeting setup has moved with the times too. It’s no good allowing staff the flexibility to work from home if they have to physically come into the office for meetings. And busy employees are far more likely to be engaged and productive in a session if they don’t feel like their time is being wasted with mandatory office hours and pointless presenteeism.

It’s not just a case of adapting meeting arrangements to meet employee expectations, there are real business benefits too. Gone are the days where everyone has to be sitting in the same room to have a productive discussion. In fact, sometimes the most productive meetings bring together employees virtually from all over the world – some of whom may never have met in person. Once restricted to who you could physically get together, technology is making it far easier to get the right people together in one virtual space.

Getting the most out of the room

Bringing everyone together – remote and onsite – is a great step, but lack of productivity is a universal meeting gripe. When employees are taking an hour out of their busy days to meet, that time needs to be used efficiently to produce meaningful results. Basic tech tools have enabled more flexible meeting models, but for many businesses, the existing tech is more of a hindrance than an asset.

Slow, complicated equipment can take time to set up, different cables may be required to connect each attendee’s portable device and some devices may not be supported at all. Content sharing can also prove a challenge – when everyone’s using a different screen, time is easily wasted making sure everyone has access and is looking at the right part of the presentation or document. Plus there’s the chance that this flow of information inside and outside the office may not be secure – and with cybercrime on the rise and hefty fines for data breaches, this is a big worry for any business.

This is where businesses can benefit from making the most of the latest tech solutions. Designed specifically with collaboration in mind, tools like the Intel Unite® solution resolve common issues by using an open platform to bring applications, document sharing and presentations into one hub in each meeting room. From this hub, there are multiple means of joining the meeting and the option for up to four presenters to switch between their screens seamlessly.

The system is designed to work with the OS and applications organisations already have, supporting plugins for tools like Skype for Business and IoT equipment such as smart in-room control systems. It is also built to work seamlessly across all common devices, so there’s no need to invest in new uniform hardware. All you need are an Intel® Core™ vPro® processor, managed PIN service, and the app on whichever devices you choose to use.

To tackle the issue of security, the Intel Unite solution is encrypted with an SSL connection between the hub and client, ensuring content is only shared with approved participants. The Intel Unite hub is PIN protected and security codes are regularly refreshed.

With the mechanics of connecting easily and safely with your remote workers ironed out, you can turn your focus to the built-in features designed for enhanced collaboration, whether the meeting involves external participants or not. The system is touch-enabled so users can make the most of the latest touchscreen technologies and there is also an annotation feature, allowing the presenter to use their screen like a whiteboard. Unlike a whiteboard, this will be visible to anyone accessing the shared screen, allowing presenters to draw participants’ attention to precise areas of documents or add shared notes as they speak.

For businesses needing extra flexibility, Intel also offers the Intel Unite® Cloud Service. With this, you get all of the features of the original service, but with no need to manage an on-premise PIN server – everything is managed through an admin portal. As with the on-premise option, you’ll need an Intel Core vPro processor and the app on each device.

AI and the meeting room of the future

So where can this go next? Artificial Intelligence is evolving from an intriguing future technology into an office reality. While you’re not going to find a robot running your meeting any time soon, AI assistance technologies are on the rise in the workplace. In meetings, they can take out the monotonous admin tasks and free up time to focus on creative, meaningful discussion.

One ever-advancing AI technology is the voice assistant. Many of us are already kitted out with AI voice assistants in our personal lives, and the principle is largely the same when transferred to a meeting room environment. With voice control, you can run the meeting without the distraction of having to manually scroll through or share content on screen.

With the increasing sophistication of these applications, handy tools are becoming vital ‘co-workers’. AI technology is already able to perform basic admin tasks and offer voice control, and it is well on the way to being able to take minutes, distil action points, check schedules to set up follow up meetings and pull up data and information as participants speak.

With the right technology, you can not only solve your meeting headaches but get so much more out of your discussions. Plus, if you invest in the right flexible solutions, you’ll be poised to make the most of new cutting-edge technology as it’s released.

Discover how the Intel Unite platform can help your business here

What’s new in Gartner’s 2019 hype cycle for AI – and what businesses need to know about

  • Between 2018 and 2019, organisations that have deployed artificial intelligence (AI) grew from 4% to 14%, according to Gartner’s 2019 CIO Agenda survey
  • Conversational AI remains at the top of corporate agendas spurred by the worldwide success of Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and others
  • Enterprises are making progress with AI as it grows more widespread, and they’re also making more mistakes that contribute to their accelerating learning curve

These and many other new insights are from Gartner Hype Cycle For AI, 2019 published earlier this year and summarised in the recent Gartner blog post, Top Trends on the Gartner Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence, 2019.  Gartner’s definition of Hype Cycles includes five phases of a technology’s lifecycle and is explained here. Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for AI reflects the growing popularity of AutoML, intelligent applications, AI platform as a service or AI cloud services as enterprises ramp up their adoption of AI. The Gartner Hype Cycle for AI, 2019, is shown below:

Details of what’s new in Gartner’s Hype Cycle For AI 2019:

Speech recognition is less than two years to mainstream adoption and is predicted to deliver the most significant transformational benefits of all technologies on the Hype Cycle

Gartner advises its clients to consider including speech recognition on their short-term AI technology roadmaps. Gartner observes, unlike other technologies within the natural-language processing area, speech to text (and text to speech) is a stand-alone commodity where its modules can be plugged into a variety of natural-language workflows. Leading vendors in this technology area Amazon, Baidu, Cedat 85, Google, IBM, Intelligent Voice, Microsoft, NICE, Nuance, and Speechmatics.

Eight new AI-based technologies are included in this year’s Hype Cycle, reflecting Gartner enterprise clients’ plans to scale AI across DevOps and IT while supporting new business models

The latest technologies to be included in the Hype Cycle for AI reflect how enterprises are trying to demystify AI to improve adoption while at the same time, fuel new business models. The new technologies include the following:

  • AI cloud services – AI cloud services are hosted services that allow development teams to incorporate the advantages inherent in AI and machine learning
  • AutoML – Automated machine learning (AutoML) is the capability of automating the process of building, deploying, and managing machine learning models
  • Augmented intelligence – Augmented intelligence is a human-centered partnership model of people and artificial intelligence (AI) working together to enhance cognitive performance, including learning, decision making, and new experiences
  • Explainable AI – AI researchers define “explainable AI” as an ensemble of methods that make black-box AI algorithms’ outputs sufficiently understandable
  • Edge AI – Edge AI refers to the use of AI techniques embedded in IoT endpoints, gateways, and edge devices, in applications ranging from autonomous vehicles to streaming analytics
  • Reinforcement learning – Reinforcement learning has the primary potential for gaming and automation industries and has the potential to lead to significant breakthroughs in robotics, vehicle routing, logistics, and other industrial control scenarios
  • Quantum computing – Quantum computing has the potential to make significant contributions to the areas of systems optimisation, machine learning, cryptography, drug discovery, and organic chemistry. Although outside the planning horizon of most enterprises, quantum computing could have strategic impacts in key businesses or operations
  • AI marketplaces – Gartner defines an AI marketplace as an easily accessible place supported by a technical infrastructure that facilitates the publication, consumption, and billing of reusable algorithms. Some marketplaces are used within an organisation to support the internal sharing of prebuilt algorithms among data scientist

Gartner considers the following AI technologies to be on the rise and part of the Innovation Trigger phase of the AI Hype Cycle: AI marketplaces, reinforcement learning, decision intelligence, AI cloud services, data labelling, and annotation services, and knowledge graphs are now showing signs of potential technology breakthroughs as evidence by early proof-of-concept stories. Technologies in the Innovation Trigger phase of the Hype Cycle often lack usable, scalable products with commercial viability not yet proven.

Smart robots and AutoML are at the peak of the Hype Cycle in 2019

In contrast to the rapid growth of industrial robotics systems that adopted by manufacturers due to the lack of workers, smart robots are defined by Gartner as having electromechanical form factors that work autonomously in the physical world. They learn in short-term intervals from human-supervised training and demonstrations or by their supervised experiences including taking direction form human voices in a shop floor environment. Whiz Robot from SoftBank Robotics is an example of a SmartRobot that will be sold under the robot-as-a service (RaaS) model and will originally be available only in Japan.

AutoML is one of the most hyped technology in AI this year. Gartner defines automated machine learning (AutoML) as the capability of automating the process of building, deploying, or managing machine learning models. Leading vendors providing AutoML platforms and applications include Amazon SageMaker, Big Squid, dotData, DataRobot, Google Cloud Platform, H2O.ai, KNIME, RapidMiner, and Sky Tree.

Nine technologies were removed or reassigned from this years’ Hype Cycle of AI compared to 2018

Gartner has removed nine technologies, often reassigning them into broader categories. Augmented reality and virtual reality are now part of augmented intelligence, a more general category, and remains on many other Hype Cycles. Commercial UAVs (drones) is now part of edge AI, a more general category. Ensemble learning had already reached the plateau in 2018 and has now graduated from the Hype Cycle.

Human-in-the-loop crowdsourcing has been replaced by data labeling and annotation services, a broader category. Natural language generation is now included as part of NLP. Knowledge management tools have been replaced by insight engines, which are more relevant to AI. Predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics are now part of decision intelligence, a more general category.

Sources:

Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence, 2019, Published 25 July 2019, (Client access reqd.)
Top Trends on the Gartner Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence, 2019 published September 12, 2019

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The tech driving better business collaboration


Cloud Pro

10 Oct, 2019

We live in an increasingly interconnected world, and the main driving force behind this is digital technology. Most of the top ten companies by market capitalisation focus on the digital space, and it’s now nearly impossible to do business without taking your corporation through some form of digital transformation. The advantages available are manifold, and how you can now work with colleagues and other companies remotely is one of the benefits that can be the most valuable of all.

There’s no denying that collaborating face-to-face still has significant value. But it can also have a major cost in both travel expense and time. The more you can do remotely, the less you need to meet up with collaborators to develop new projects and keep existing ones on track. However, effective digital collaboration tools can also enable business practices that weren’t economically viable before, such as working closely with colleagues in foreign countries. It’s also now possible to collaborate with those closer at hand where the logistics of needing to meet physically made this inefficient, and this can have a considerable benefit for productivity.

For effective collaboration, you need a powerful, flexible system that all your employees can rely on to deliver the features they demand. The Intel Unite® solution is the perfect basis for a cohesive but expandable and inclusive provision – it’s a wireless in-meeting room collaboration solution designed to improve meeting efficiency by enabling fast meeting start-ups.

The Intel Unite solution includes three components – at the centre is a hub computer based on an Intel® Core™ vPro® processor in every meeting room, a separate PIN server and the Intel Unite® app on the client devices. Now with the Intel Unite® Cloud Service the customers have the option of having the PIN server on-premises or hosted in the Cloud. This still relies on a local Intel Core vPro processor-based hub, but PIN services are provided via the cloud, meaning that your IT department doesn’t need to spend time and resources managing this function. Your company also won’t need to spend so much on infrastructure and administration.

Whether using an internal PIN server or the Cloud Service, Intel Unite is an open platform that supports plugins for popular collaboration tools including Skype for Business, Zoom and Cisco Webex video-conferencing solutions. There are plugins for in-room controls from Logitech and whiteboarding from Bluescape, FlatFrog and Nureva. Intel also offers its own plugins for functions such as analytics of room usage and service status, which can be used to keep track of how your employees are using Intel Unite to collaborate. There’s even an SDK so that companies can develop their own third-party plugins to further extend functionality.

Of course, an open and expandable platform also potentially creates greater security risk. But the Intel vPro platform based hub computer has security built in at the hardware level. All content shared on the platform is encrypted via 256-bit SSL, with access codes that refresh regularly for added security and the capability to lock a session for sensitive meetings.

The open extensibility and reliable security come together through a user experience that is seamless and transparent. It’s easy for users to join a conference and share content, whilst presenters can be switched over with a click. Each connected display can support up to four displays, facilitating document collaboration and comparison. Many legacy meeting platforms waste participant time whilst they try to get joining, sharing and switching presenter to work properly. Intel Unite takes all the stress out of these often-frustrating aspects of virtual collaboration.

Whether using your own in-house PIN server or the Cloud Service, the same Intel Unite app gives your local, remote and guest users their interface to the system. The touch-enabled interface makes starting and joining meetings a cinch on any device. There are clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome, iOS, and Android, with the latter two available via their respective app stores.

There is a range of options for the hub at the centre of an Intel Unite setup. Small form factors such as the Intel NUC 7 offer a cost-effective entry point. The ViewSonic ViewBoard and Prowise provide integrated Intel Unite support through display, whilst all-in-one PCs (like the Dell OptiPlex 7460) and small form factor systems from Dell, HP, Fujitsu and ASUS are certified for Intel Unite.

Intel Unite lets you turn your meeting and conference rooms into interactive collaboration spaces. The end result can have a significant impact on your business profitability. According to research by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Intel, investing in Intel Unite provided a 470% return on investment overall for the companies assessed, and they paid back the initial capital outlay in less than six months. In fact, this is a clear case of IT services becoming a revenue generator rather than a pure cost. Forrester calculated a net present value from the investment of $612,000 across the companies surveyed, compared to existing legacy solutions.

These returns came from a variety of sources. The lion’s share was the result of Intel Unite’s ease of use. The quick connection and rapid switching between presenters reduced meeting downtime by up to 15%. But meetings were also 5% more productive, saving 2.25 minutes on average per meeting. This may not sound like a lot, but if your employees have multiple meetings a day, it adds up. The final saving was from the use of a generic IT platform, which didn’t require the installation of any extra cabling or adapters.

Forrester also cites less quantifiable benefits. These include how telemetry data can be used to optimise workspace usage. If you know when and how your employees are using your collaboration spaces, you can reduce or increase them as required. The flexibility of Intel Unite can also be used creatively for additional functions when not in use for collaboration, such as displaying company metrics on a conference room whiteboard. The easily deployed security that meets existing requirements also makes for simple integration into a company’s architecture.

Online collaboration in all its forms has been one of the key features of internet connectivity. But businesses can benefit the most if they deploy the right technology – technology that makes the process easy, reliable, flexible and secure. Intel Unite provides all these features and more, allowing your company to collaborate more effectively, improving employee productivity.

Discover how the Intel Unite platform can help your business here

SAP launches a string of data-driven cloud services


Keumars Afifi-Sabet

8 Oct, 2019

SAP has announced several improvements to its business technology platform for enterprises to allow customers to exploit business insights and gain value from data points.

The company has released services pertaining to data warehousing, analytics and cloud deployment through its business technology platform, offering enterprise customers a single platform from which to deploy SAP technology.

The SAP Cloud Services suite, set to get a raft of improvements, includes SAP HANA Cloud, SAP Data Warehouse Cloud and SAP Analytics Cloud.

“Our business technology platform brings SAP HANA and analytics closer together with SAP Cloud Platform so users can make smarter, faster and more-confident business decisions,” said SAP CTO Juergen Mueller.

“SAP ensures high levels of openness and flexibility including out-of-the-box integration, modularity and ease of extension in cloud, on-premise and hybrid deployment models. With this open and flexible approach, SAP is committed to helping our customers achieve superior business outcomes.”

SAP Data Warehouse Cloud serves as a platform that ties in all aspects of a business’ data together before translating the dataset into insights relevant to its specific field. The feature will be released towards the end of the year, with approximately 2,000 customers currently registered for the beta programme.

The tool goes beyond conventional modelling to encompass aspects like data governance and creating a single data landscape from several sources such as cloud and on-premise from within a company, as well as externally.

“Thanks to the data virtualization capabilities, we can connect all our data without creating redundancies,” said Andreas Foerger, manager of the analytics and reporting team at SAP customer Randstad Germany.

“The semantic layer that SAP Data Warehouse Cloud comes with helps us sync all our data from different sources in a way that makes perfect sense to the business.”

SAP HANA Cloud, meanwhile, aims to bring customers an interface that offers virtual interactive access with a scalable query engine. This service, alongside SAP Analytics Cloud, which comprises tools that improve internal business planning, will also be released towards the end of the year.

Eradicate human error and make your cloud implementation a picnic

Sunshine, sandwiches, scenic views, and not a care in the world besides the occasional wasp. Everyone loves a picnic.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for PICNIC, an enduring acronym in IT circles standing for Problem In Chair, Not In Computer. The term, dating back to the 1980s, was first employed by frustrated IT professionals weary of dealing with computer problems arising from user error rather than any actual issues with the technology.

Such challenges still exist today although, increasingly, they are migrating to the cloud. Data breaches resulting from cloud misconfigurations can have dramatic consequences. For example, the Capital One breach earlier this year affected more than 100 million records.

In most cases, these breaches are not the result of a particularly skilled threat actor or any advanced exploits or malware. Instead the door is left wide open through human error. Unfortunately, such cloud security issues are the result of poor data protection practices. For instance, sensitive information may be stored in unencrypted form or access permissions not locked down properly.

The Capital One data breach, first reported in July, is a particularly powerful example of how poor practices can trigger a major security crisis. The incident saw customer data including more than 140,000 social security numbers, one million Canadian social insurance numbers, 80,000 bank account numbers, and an unknown quantity of customer names and addresses accessed by Paige Thompson, a former software engineer at Amazon Web Services. It has been estimated that the breach could cost the company upwards of $150m.

The breach was made possible by a misconfiguration of the web application developed by Capital One, and not the underlying Amazon cloud-based infrastructure. Amazon also stated that the perpetrator’s specialist insider knowledge was not a factor, but rather the breach could have been carried out by anyone who stumbled on the misconfiguration.

Similar breaches have occurred at Fedex and Californian car dealership services provider Dealer Leads. Indeed, cloud-based data breaches caused by user errors are becoming so frequent that the PICNIC acronym might arguably be updated to stand for Problem In Company, Not In Cloud.

How can firms reduce the threat?

Because cloud-related mistakes can potentially expose businesses to huge and costly data breaches, organisations must do much more to mitigate the risks. It’s very difficult to remove the risk of human error entirely. Organisations need to ensure they implement robust policies to protect sensitive data in the cloud, as well as the right tool to manage them.

An audit is a good place to start. It is impossible to keep sensitive data safe if a company isn’t aware of what information it owns or where it is kept. Many organisations have spent years hoarding as much data as possible, and it’s all too easy for them to lose track as they expand and change their infrastructure.

Audits can help the enterprise get its house in order.  Their disciplined approach lets organisations locate and classify any and all sensitive information spread across on-premises and cloud servers. Audits are especially good for identifying data that is governed by regulations such as the GDPR and PCI-DSS.

The challenge with built-in classification capabilities present in many cloud-based solutions is that rule creation and tagging is often a labour-intensive, manual process. For this reason enterprises should look to automate this process as much as possible.

Introducing a least privilege approach

Companies should also adopt the principle of least privilege. The least privilege model dictates that all users should only be able to access assets and resources required for their job role, significantly reducing the risk posed by external threat actors and, equally importantly, unauthorised insiders like Paige Thompson. Organisations that take a least privilege approach for on-premises data, should extend the practice for their cloud data, particularly in hybrid environments.

The situation is not helped by the management capabilities built into certain cloud-based services. Some offer only limited permissions visibility and lack centralised controls for making changes to them. Ideally organisations should have a holistic view of user permissions, and the ability to sync access rights across their environments.

It is also important to involve data owners when reviewing permission rights, but this is something else that is not easily achieved with cloud solutions. Automating the entitlement review and authorisation workflow processes can help to save time and make it easier to keep control of data access.

Ongoing visibility is key

Setting up the right processes and policies is only the beginning. To remain secure, organisations need constant insight into how sensitive assets are being accessed, and by whom. Aside from the vast scale of the data involved, one of the most striking aspects of the Capital One breach is it was only discovered after the perpetrator bragged about it on Slack.

Without tools that give clear visibility of who has accessed what information and when, organisations that make a mistake when configuring a cloud deployment will continue to be vulnerable to breaches of sensitive assets.

The risk of human error is unlikely to go away any time soon. However, organisations that regularly audit their sensitive data, adopt a least-privilege approach and use centralised visibility tools can drastically reduce the risk of PICNIC ruining their cloud security.

https://www.cybersecuritycloudexpo.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/cyber-security-world-series-1.pngInterested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.