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. 

Imperial aims to fight coronavirus with AI-powered data hub


Keumars Afifi-Sabet

7 Jul, 2020

Imperial College has partnered with several organisations to build a globally-sourced COVID-19 data hub designed to offer AI-powered insights to medical professionals to fight future infections. 

Using Amazon Web Services (AWS) machine learning tools, the REaltime Data Analysis and Synthesis (REDASA) platform aims to help the healthcare industry with real-time insights to help medical action and policymaking. 

The hub has been developed by PanSurg, a surgical network comprising Imperial health professionals and academics, in collaboration with a consortium of tech firms including Cloudwick and MirrorWeb alongside AWS.

It has been launched to pool together the insights and expertise of professionals working to fight the spread of infection by joining up a huge mass of material scattered across more than half a million different sources.

“Healthcare professionals are facing huge volumes of academic literature, public information and noise on COVID-19, making it challenging to extract key insights and translate these into best clinical practice,” said clinical senior lecturer and lead for PanSurg James Kinross.

“We are excited to collaborate with Cloudwick, MirrorWeb and Amazon Web Services to create a reliable, accurate information source with REDASA, for healthcare professionals seeking guidance during the pandemic.”

The project has recruited MirrorWeb’s website-capture technology to harvest large volumes of data at pace, with the organisation using machine learning to ensure the information gathered from public sources is accurate. These would include medical journals, healthcare literature and news sources.

This data is then stored and processed on Cloudwick’s Amorphic data and analytics platform, with advanced data science techniques used to generate automated insights and provide a secure way for users to access the intelligence.

Machine learning services by AWS, alongside an element of human curation, then allows REDASA to perform deep data analysis and extract the most important and relevant insights. Teams would, therefore, be able to process and make sense of the huge amounts of data flooding into the system.

The hub is centred on ‘live systematic review’ which means information is continuously updated and analysed, with data provided to private and public sector healthcare organisations and physicians to improve treatment and boost research.

COVID-19 has made it clear just how challenging it is to find critical information quickly and easily in an ‘infodemic’ situation, with the noise of millions of articles to sift through,” said international healthcare data science lead at AWS EMEA SARL Dr Matthew Howard.

“This solution we are developing with PanSurg, and AWS Partner Network (APN) Partners, Cloudwick and MirrorWeb, combines the best of expert human review with AWS machine learning technologies. 

“Our aim is to provide a new approach that will put the most accurate information possible in the hands of healthcare professionals, help improve medical knowledge, and develop more effective methods of patient care that will make a difference to frontline healthcare workers.”

The product is expected to launch in the coming months and will become a key legacy project with applications that stretch beyond coronavirus. While the main focus, for now, is to support the healthcare response to COVID-19, the team behind REDASA believes the model can be adapted and extended to encompass many other diseases, including cancer.

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.

Developers welcome major overhaul to GitHub’s support documentation


Keumars Afifi-Sabet

2 Jul, 2020

GitHub has merged its two developer support sites into a single unified documentation hub to support users and integrators, offering a single repository of guidance and resources.

The platform, docs.github.com, merges the now-defunct help.github.com site and the widely-used developer.github.com, giving users the capacity to search across all of GitHub’s product content in a single place.

Previously, users seeking support would navigate either to the help platform, which was primarily curated for beginners, or the development platform, targeting advanced users, with GitHub addressing these two communities separately.

“As our product offerings have evolved, we decided to create a single place where everyone can find the information they need, whether you’re a new developer signing up for your GitHub account or a seasoned developer in the community,” said the platform’s product documentation team manager Jenn Leaver.

“This new site combines the product content that was on help.github.com and developer.github.com into a unified experience. With docs.github.com, you’re able to search across all of GitHub’s product content in one place.”

Users can explore docs.github.com by product, with support documents divided into branches, from GraphQL API to GitHub Actions, or they can use the search function to find something specific. The platform also lists a collection of getting started articles, as well as the most popular entries.

Leaver added this launch was the first step in creating an advisory platform on which users can discover new tools and methods, with further improvements coming in future. Language support, for example, will soon be expanded beyond its existing support for English, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish.

The news has been welcomed by developers on social media, with others also calling for the concept to be extended to private repositories. Startup CTO and advisor Tom Jowitt, for example, called on GitHub to roll out an organisation-wide private documentation hub.

The project has been a long time in the making for the development hub and represents a culmination of efforts from engineers, designers, content strategists, writers, and many others. GitHub is expected to post further details in a behind-the-scenes blog post soon.

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.

AWS launches dedicated space business unit


Sabina Weston

1 Jul, 2020

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced that it’s introducing a new business segment that will aim to accelerate innovation in the global aerospace and satellite industry.

The Aerospace and Satellite Solutions unit will see AWS expand its services and solutions to the space enterprise sector by providing cloud solutions to support government missions and companies advancing space around the world.

The segment is to be headed by the former director of Space Force Planning at the US Space Force, major general Clint Crosier.

In a blog post announcing the launch, AWS VP Teresa Carlson said that the company is “excited to welcome” Crosier, who “has spent the last 33 years driving transformation and mission success across the space enterprise, and led the Defense Department’s efforts to stand up the U.S.’s newest military service”.

Crosier said that he had “watched AWS transform the IT industry over the last 10 years and be instrumental in so many space milestones”. 

“I am honored to join AWS to continue to transform the industry and propel the space enterprise forward,” he added.

AWS also unveiled Ground Station, a managed service that allows customers to downlink data as well as provide satellite commands across multiple regions. The company said that it is already being used by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

Rick Ambrose, executive VP of Lockheed Martin Space, an AWS partner, said “it’s exciting to see Amazon Web Services extend that experience to space, fostering collaborations with Lockheed Martin to help solve some of the world’s toughest problems”.

“Lockheed Martin’s innovation focus is driven by tomorrow’s space missions. We’ve supported missions to every planet, participated in every U.S. Mars mission and built hundreds of satellites, from GPS to weather. Together, we share a vision to help our customers access data faster, and gain new insights from sensors in space that make data even more accessible,” he said.

The announcement comes days after AWS took its machine learning-powered CodeGuru development tool out of preview and rendered it generally available.

IT Pro 20/20: A quantum leap for security


Cloud Pro

30 Jun, 2020

Welcome to the fifth issue of IT Pro 20/20, our sister title’s digital magazine that brings all of the previous month’s most important tech issues into clear view.

Each month, we will shine a spotlight on the content that we feel every IT professional should be aware of, only in a condensed version that can be read on the go, at a time that suits you.

Cyber security has proven to be one of the most challenging facets of the lockdown – maintaining a robust posture at a time when workers are dispersed and often outside of the company firewall. Suitably, June’s issue of IT Pro 20/20 is all about cyber security. We’ve pulled together stories that examine the current state of the industry, including how current technology is being used and how future trends are likely to reshape our understanding of cyber security.

Our lead feature looks at the rise of quantum computing, still a fledgeling area of the tech industry but one that promises to upend cyber security as we know it. Yet, these remain promises, and it’s unclear whether we will ever see the future that proponents of the technology envisage.

Turning to trends that are a little more pressing today, we also share an industry hacking story that should serve as a lesson in how not to get hacked. I won’t spoil the story here, but I will say it involves a LinkedIn account, a gullible PA, a chief executive’s shoe size, and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

In our last exclusive article, we question whether there is, in fact, any weight at all behind the idea that remote working poses a danger to a business’ cyber security, or if these threats have been somewhat exaggerated. It’s likely to be a contentious issue for many, so we’ll leave it up to you to decide.

DOWNLOAD THE JUNE ISSUE OF IT PRO 20/20 HERE

The next IT Pro 20/20 will be available on Friday 31 July. Previous issues can be found here.

We hope you enjoy reading this month’s issue. If you would like to receive each issue in your inbox as they release, you can subscribe to our mailing list here.

AWS launches CodeGuru to identify ‘most expensive’ code


Keumars Afifi-Sabet

30 Jun, 2020

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has taken its machine learning-powered CodeGuru development tool out of preview and rendered it generally available, alongside a host of additional features.

CodeGuru is being launched as a tool to help developers improve their applications and troubleshoot issues with automated code reviews and performance recommendations, available in Reviewer and Profiler modes.

CodeGuru Reviewer uses programme analysis and machine learning to detect potential defects that are tricky to find and recommend fixes in Java code. Code can be stored in GitHub, AWS CodeCommit, or Bitbucket.

Pull requests submitted also provide recommendations for how to improve the code, with each pull request also corresponding to a code review, and each code review including multiple recommendations that appear as comments on the pull request. 

Profiler mode, meanwhile, provides interactive visualisations and recommendations that help fine-tune application performance and troubleshoot operational issues using runtime data from live applications. This mode can also help find the most intensive lines of code, in terms of CPU usage or latency, and suggest ways to improve efficiency and reduce bottlenecks 

“Bringing new applications into production, maintaining their code base as they grow and evolve, and at the same time respond to operational issues, is a challenging task,” said chief evangelist for EMEA at AWS, Danilo Poccia. 

“For this reason, you can find many ideas on how to structure your teams, on which methodologies to apply, and how to safely automate your software delivery pipeline.

“CodeGuru helps you improve your application code and reduce compute and infrastructure costs with an automated code reviewer and application profiler that provide intelligent recommendations. Using visualizations based on runtime data, you can quickly find the most expensive lines of code of your applications.”

CodeGuru was first announced at AWS Re:Invent 2019 towards the end of last year as an AI-powered service designed to help write code. It was launched as an automated tool, trained on several decades of code reviews, adding comments to pull requests if it discovers an issue, also recommending remediation, including example code and links to documentation.

AWS has made a number of improvements to Amazon CodeGuru in the last few months, including a more cost-effective pricing model, support for Bitbucket repositories, and the capacity to start the profiling agent using a command-line switch.

In addition to existing features, the generally-available version of CodeGuru includes support for GitHub Enterprise in Reviewer mode, as well as new types of recommendations to solve defects and improve code. For Profiler mode, meanwhile, AWS has added anomaly detection, support for AWS Lambda, as well as the total CPU cost of issues in a recommendations report, among a number of others.

CodeGuru has been released days after AWS launched Honeycode, a visual application builder that can be used to create interactive web and mobile apps on a code-free basis. These can range in complexity from a task-tracking application for a small team to a project management system that controls complex workflows, with Honeycode aimed at those in need of innovative online capabilities but without the means to hire experienced engineers.