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Microsoft Confirms Next Generation Of Office To Launch In 2015

October 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has confirmed that it plans to roll out its next version of Office for Windows in the second half of 2015.

ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley first reported on comments made by Julia White, general manager of marketing for Office and Office 365, at Microsoft’s Tech Ed Europe conference in Barcelona.

According to Foley, White said that the next version of Office on Windows would launch in the last half of next year, a broad timetable that was different from previous speculation, which had focused on the first half of 2015, perhaps as early as April.

During the end of a guest spot Tuesday on Channel 9, Microsoft’s online television channel, White did not specify the second half of the year, saying only “later in 2015.” But she did mention that the next version of Office would go through Microsoft’s typical testing process, including TAP (Technology Adoption Program) and a beta, with the latter presumably available to the general public.

TAP builds are pre-beta, and restricted to an invite-only group that’s usually composed of Microsoft’s larger corporate customers.

Microsoft confirmed that White’s comments were accurate as reported.

If Microsoft makes its target of the second half of next year, the upgrade would be on the same schedule as the last several editions, which have been released about two-and-a-half-years apart. Office 2013, for example, reached what Microsoft calls “general availability” in January 2013, while Office 2010 and Office 2007 made that milestone in June 2010 and January 2007, respectively.

The next office, code named Office 16, would carry the official label of Office 2016 if Microsoft follows convention.

 

 

BlackEnergy Malware Wreaking Havoc On Industrial Control Systems

October 30, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) has warned that industrial control systems (ICS) in the US have been compromised by the BlackEnergy malware for at least two years.

The BlackEnergy family of malware is believed to be the same used in the cyber attack against Georgia in 2008.

It uses a malicious decoy document to hide its activities, making it easier for the hackers to mount follow-up attacks.

US-CERT said the malware campaign is sophisticated and “ongoing”, and attackers taking advantage of it have compromised unnamed ICS operators, planting it on internet-facing human machine interfaces (HMI) including those from GE Cimplicity, Advantech/Broadwin WebAccess, and Siemens WinCC.

It is currently unknown whether other vendors’ products have also been targeted, according to US-CERT.

“At this time, Industrial Control Systems-CERT has not identified any attempts to damage, modify or otherwise disrupt the victim systems’ control processes,” said the team in an alert.

“ICS-CERT has not been able to verify if the intruders expanded access beyond the compromised HMI into the remainder of the underlying control system.

“However, typical malware deployments have included modules that search out any network-connected file shares and removable media for additional lateral movement within the affected environment.”


US-CERT describes the malware as “highly modular”, and said that not all functionality is deployed to all victims.

An analysis run by the team identified the probable initial infection vector for systems running GE’s Cimplicity HMI with a direct connection to the internet.

“Analysis of victim system artefacts has determined that the actors have been exploiting a vulnerability (CVE-2014-0751) in GE’s Cimplicity HMI product since at least January 2012,” the alert read.

On Monday, US-CERT also warned of attacks spreading the Dyre banking malware, which steals victims’ credentials.

The department said that, since mid-October, a phishing campaign had targeted “a wide variety of recipients”, but elements, such as the exploits, email themes, and claimed senders of the campaign, “vary from target to target”.

“A system infected with Dyre banking malware will attempt to harvest credentials for online services, including banking services,” the alert warned.

Courtesy-TheInq

3D Printer Shipments Expected To Double By Next Year

October 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Shipments of 3D printers will double over the next year, reaching 217,350 units in 2015, up from 108,151 in 2014, according to research released by Gartner

That rate of growth is expected to increase each year over the next three years. By 2018, Gartner forecast shipments worldwide to top more than 2.4 million units.

The report points to the popularity of lower-cost, “plug-and-print” machines that require little or no technological knowledge to use. Users simply plug the machines into their desktops or laptops, upload 3D CAD images and hit “print.”

“As we noted last year, the 3D printer market is at an inflection point,” said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner. “Unit shipment growth rates for 3D printers, which languished in the low single and double digits per year throughout the 30 years since the first 3D printers were invented, are poised to increase dramatically beginning in 2015.”

As radical as the forecast numbers may seem, Basiliere noted that even the 2.4 million shipments Gartner expects to be sold in 2018 is still “a small fraction of the total potential market of consumers, businesses and government organizations worldwide.”

Gartner includes seven technologies in the 3D printer market that will propel growth, including the material extrusion products used to print objects. Two main thermoplastics dominate: PLA (Polylactic acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene).

The primary drivers for consumer-grade 3D printers include lower prices (below $1,000), improved performance and expanded global availability. The primary drivers for the enterprise 3D printer market are the viability of the technologies for rapid product prototyping and manufacturing coupled with lower 3D printer costs, improved quality and a wider range of materials, Gartner said.

 

 

Charles Schwab To Offer Free Investment Planning Offered By ‘Rob o-adviser’

October 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Charles Schwab Corp has confirmed that it will begin offering free automated investment plans picked by computer algorithms in the first quarter of 2015.

The program, which will be marketed as Schwab Intelligent Portfolios to retail investors and independent investment advisers, will create portfolios of exchange-traded funds managed by Schwab and other providers.

In offering the service without management, transaction or account service fees, Schwab intends to be “disruptive” to competitors that have rapidly been introducing “rob o-adviser” platforms that charge fees of about 0.25 percent of money invested, Schwab officials said in a conference call with analysts and investors.

Reuters reported Schwab’s plan to introduce a free rob o-program on Oct. 3.

Schwab said it can make money through fees from managing and servicing underlying ETFs and from investing client cash in the portfolios. While the portfolios could draw investors who use conventional Schwab accounts or hire advisers who trade through Schwab, the company is not afraid of “cannibalizing” its own revenue, executives said.

The service will appeal primarily to Schwab’s traditional self-directed investors who do not want to use its fee-based advice programs, Chief Executive Walt Bettinger said.

He would not name specific competitors Schwab expects to undermine, but said they range from independent firms that offer only automated programs, to “wire houses,” a reference to large full-service firms such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS AG’s U.S. brokerage unit.

“This has the potential to create impact across the entire market,” Bettinger said.

 

 

Western Digital Goes Purple

October 29, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

WD announced that it will begin shipping larger capacity drives in its surveillance series.

The WD Purple range, launched in February, will now include a 6TB version designed for use in video surveillance environments.

WD Purple drives are capable of recording in groups of eight hard drives, monitoring a total of 32 high-definition camera feeds.

“Video surveillance has long been a pioneering Internet of Things application,” said Matt Rutledge, senior vice president and general manager of WD’s Storage Technology group.

“Driven by machine-to-machine interaction between high-resolution, high bit-rate video cameras and high-capacity surveillance video recorders, IoT brings access and big data analytics to improve users’ security. WD Purple 6TB drives enable innovation in this fast growing market.”

As well as the storage credentials, the firmware of the drives contains a few surprises. Allframe reduces video frame loss, improves playback and increases the number of drives supported. This is coupled with regular firmware updates that improve the quality and reliability of the playback.

Intelliseek analyses its environment to optimise searching speeds for the temperature, system resource workload and power consumption in a given situation, while reducing noise and vibration.

The 6TB version is shipping now at $300. It joins the existing range with capacities from 1TB to 5TB.

WD has had a busy year across its consumer and enterprise ranges, releasing the WD Red and WD Red Pro, the WD Ae range for cold storage, featuring incremental disc sizes, and most recently its first wireless addition to the decade-old My Passport range for consumers.

Courtesy-TheInq

Amazon Acquires Rooftop Media, Expands Digital Content

October 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc is set to acquire online comedy service Rooftop Media, a small deal that underscores the Internet retailer’s broader ambition of becoming a media and entertainment powerhouse.

Amazon is persisting in buying content to round out its service, with designs to take on Netflix Inc and other online digital media services. But that increasing spending has helped keep the company in the red, inviting criticism from investors.

Audible, the audiobooks service it bought in 2008 for $300 million, is picking up the 10-person company for an undisclosed sum. Audible founder and Chief Executive Donald Katz said in a statement on Monday the company had been attracted by Rooftop’s content as well as its pool of comic talent.

Rooftop records comedians at clubs across the country and licenses the digital rights to thousands of hours of comedy, which is broadcast either live or later on demand. The company’s media partners include Apple Inc and Yahoo, and it also works with streaming services such as Sirius XM,  Spotify and Pandora.

Its content now becomes part of Audible, itself a fast-growing seller of online audiobooks, and vastly increases Rooftop’s audience, said Rooftop Chief Executive Officer Will Rogers.

Amazon is expected to continue acquiring digital content at a rapid clip. In past years, it began investing heavily to branch out from its online retail roots, delving into Hollywood-style content production as well as developing a line of tablets, smartphones and set-top boxes to accelerate the sale of digital content.

 

 

Microsoft’s Surface Finally Turns A Profit

October 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

After two years and nearly $2 billion in losses, Microsoft’s Surface finally became profitable in the September quarter.

For the three months ending Sept. 30, Microsoft recorded $908 million in revenue for the Surface tablet line, an increase of 127% over the same quarter in 2013. The nearly one billion in revenue was a one-quarter record for the Surface, and beat the combined revenue of the previous two quarters.

Using information in Microsoft’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as data from earlier quarters, Computerworld calculated the quarter’s cost of that revenue at $786 million, leaving a gross margin of $122 million. Cost of revenue is the cost to make and sell a product, but excludes expenses such as advertising and R&D.

Microsoft said that the Surface line posted a positive gross margin — implying that outside estimates of prior losses were correct — but did not disclose a dollar figure.

According to Computerworld‘s estimate, the margin was small, about 13.4%. That’s more than the average for a Windows personal computer, but less than half or a third of the margins on tablets like Apple’s iPad.

It was even smaller by the figuring of Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, who has also used Microsoft’s SEC filings to estimate the Surface’s cost of revenue. He pegged the September quarter’s cost of revenue at $825 million, the gross margin at $83 million, and the margin rate at just 9.1%.

“That’s a gross margin … which is not earth-shattering and in fact about half the gross margin of the phone business at Microsoft. But it’s progress,” Dawson wrote on his blog, where he published his analysis of Surface’s financial performance.

Since its October 2012 introduction, Surface has been a money pit for Microsoft, in the hole to the tune of $1.73 billion through its first seven quarters. With the September quarter in the black, those overall losses have been reduced to about $1.6 billion.

Over the last four quarters, Surface also remained in the red, with losses of $325 million on revenue of $2.7 billion. Put another way, for each dollar Microsoft earned on Surface sales, it lost about 12 cents.

 

 

CVS and Rite Aid Stores Block Apple Pay

October 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Drug retailers CVS Health Corp and Rite Aid Corp have disabled Apple Inc’s  new electronic payments service Apple Pay from their stores over the weekend,according to the New York Times.

Apple Pay, which debuted in September, is a mobile payment app that allows consumers to buy things by simply holding their iPhone6 and 6 Plus devices up to readers installed by store merchants.

A Rite Aid spokeswoman told the New York Times that the company does not currently accept Apple Pay. The company is “still in the process of evaluating our mobile payment options.”

Rite Aid and CVS are not part of the group of retailers that had teamed up with Apple on its payment system. However, Apple Pay technology was working in Rite Aid and CVS stores over the week, the newspaper said.

The reason for the disabling was not immediately clear, the newspaper said.

According to analysts, disabling the acceptance of Apple Pay is a way to support a rival system that is being developed by Merchants Customer Exchange (MCX), a consortium of merchants that includes Rite Aid and CVS, the NYT reported.

MCX is developing CurrentC, an app that scans the bar code of the product and initiates the payment transfer by connecting to the customer’s debit card, according to MCX’s website. CurrentC will not be available until 2015.

Apple, Rite Aid and CVS could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

FCC Delays Low-frequency Airwaves Auction Until 2016

October 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission expects a major auction of low-frequency airwaves to be delayed until early 2016 from mid-2015 because of its complexity and a pending court challenge, an FCC official said in a recent blog post.

The FCC is working on rules for the so-called incentive auction, in which wireless carriers would get the first opportunity since 2008 to purchase airwaves that are considered the “beach-front property” of radio spectrum for their reach and strength.

The auction is regarded as the FCC’s most complex undertaking to date, balancing numerous economic, engineering and political considerations, including the need to woo broadcasters to give up the airwaves in the first place.

The delay gives the FCC more time to sway TV station owners to participate and T-Mobile US Inc to argue for bidding restrictions on larger rivals AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.

The National Association of Broadcasters, concerned about the potential impact on TV stations, has petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review elements of the FCC’s planned auction process.

The court has pushed back the deadline on final briefs in the case until late January 2015.

“We are confident we will prevail in court, but given the reality of that schedule, the complexity of designing and implementing the auction, and the need for all auction participants to have certainty well in advance of the auction, we now anticipate accepting applications for the auction in the fall of 2015 and starting the auction in early 2016,” Gary Epstein, who chairs the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, wrote in the blog post.

The NAB rejected the notion that its lawsuit was the cause of the delay.

“We look forward to a speedy resolution of our legal challenge and a successful auction that preserves access to free and local TV for every American,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said in a statement.

 

Will Mobile Games Dominate?

October 27, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

As the market for games has grown and diversified, it’s become increasingly important to take any headline figures you might read with a grain of salt. Every time an analyst or a research firm announces that the games business has reached such and such a size, or that monthly revenues compare thusly with previous figures, or that a certain product or company has over- or under-performed projections, their august pronouncement isn’t so much an answer as a source of more questions. What exactly are you defining as the “games business”? Which sectors have you included? How did you measure digital revenues? What about IAP? Are your figures global, regional, merely covering the increasingly unrepresentative US market or “global” for a narrow definition of “global” which means “markets we could find data for with a quick Google search, and to hell with the rest of them”? And as for projections, whose projections, arrived at through which logic and with which agenda?

In short: with a very, very few notable exceptions, most of the sector analysis and research conducted on this industry is awful. It’s under-informed, narrow and rarely exposes its methodology well enough to understand and account for its flaws. It’s also the best thing we’ve got, unfortunately, which is why sites (including this one) continue to publish this research as it becomes available, although all of it should probably carry a large flashing warning to remind readers that an infant let loose with coloured crayons and some graph paper would probably have a similar margin of error to their data.

Yet this is only when we’re talking about data about what’s going on right now. Start to project forward, into crystal-ball-gazing questions like “where will the market be in five years”, and you’re into the realms where the real nonsense starts. Models and figures are pulled out of analyst’s backsides with wild abandon. Rationales and factual grounds are nowhere to be found, but incredibly slick charts and graphs abound; it’s a little like astrology, except that rather than blathering about Saturn being in Capricorn and whatnot, analysts seek to bamboozle everyone with charts and then deeply, fervently hope that when the time period they’re predicting actually arrives nobody will remember how wrong they were.

Even so, when all of the world’s analysts start to point in the same direction – the good, the bad and the bluffing – it’s worth taking note. That’s the context in which the headline figures from research firm Newzoo’s latest report are interesting; headline figures which, in a nutshell, suggest that 2015 will be the tipping point at which revenues from mobile game software surpass revenues from console game software.

“What’s happened to consoles as mobiles have taken over? Not much, as it happens”

Newzoo, like most research firms focusing on this industry, doesn’t provide sufficient detail to back up or verify its sweeping and grandiose claims, because apparently a really pretty graph with a swish background ought to suffice. They would argue, no doubt, that all the juicy detail which would explain their peculiarly high figures is what they charge clients lots of money for, an argument which is entirely true and still leaves them in the position of peddling figures while failing to show their workings. Nevertheless, Newzoo is not alone in its prediction. It’s not even a particularly novel prediction, actually; research firms have been pointing at this tipping point for several years, although when exactly the graph lines would intersect has been a subject of some debate. With mobile growth still strong and the next-gen consoles performing excellently but remaining largely constrained within the core market (rather than seeing another Wii-style breakout success story), the lines are converging a little more evenly and the soothsayers are in accord; next year is the year.

So what happens then? Do burning stones rain from an angry sky to smash all our PlayStation 4s? Will a horde of rampant mobile gamers, driven to murderous insanity by Candy Crush Saga, rip the 3DS’ from our hands and beat us to death with them? Shall E3 be swallowed by a lake of fire, and every presentation at GDC be replaced by an ominous looping video of Zynga founder Mark Pincus laughing savagely at the audience?

Perhaps rather than stockpiling tinned foods, filling the bath with potable water and tearfully locking away your beloved RPGs and FPS games in a lead-lined safe, it might be instructive to take a look at a market where this transition has already happened. There is, you see, a place where revenues from mobile games overtook revenues from console games several years ago – as early as 2011, according to some figures, although the safe money is on 2012/13 being the tipping point. Now, in this market, mobile games are the unquestioned market leader in revenue.

The market in question is Japan, where a well-developed market for mobile gaming on existing “feature phone” devices was supercharged by the arrival of the smartphone. Now mobile game revenues have soared well clear of console games. Unlike in the 1990s, Japan’s mobile phones aren’t vastly advanced compared to those overseas – they queue up here for iPhones just like everywhere else, with Apple’s devices being by far the dominant player in the smartphone market, so it’s not that games they’re playing are technologically advanced compared to those in the west. Rather, it’s that the market itself was further down the path than the west, with a wider swathe of consumers familiar and comfortable with mobile gaming, F2P models and in-game transactions.

What’s happened to consoles as mobiles have taken over? Not much, as it happens. The softness of PS4′s sales in Japan since the stellar launch last spring has been well noted, but it’s not a meaningful indicator of an overall problem with the console market; anecdotally, I get the impression that PS4 is extremely desired but still lacks the killer apps which will actually drive Japanese gamers to go out and buy one. Indeed, the line-up of software that appeals to the local market is still weak; a few big titles will shift the needle significantly, just as Mario Kart 8 did for the Wii U (which is now back in a slump awaiting the arrival of Smash Bros; software sells hardware, as ever).

Handhelds, meanwhile, are what you’d expect to suffer most from the triumph of mobile, yet the 3DS is going gangbusters in Japan and the PS Vita is stronger in this market than anywhere else in the world. The rise of mobile to take the crown of most lucrative and expansive market hasn’t even impacted the ability of Japanese publishers to launch genuinely massive new franchises on handheld consoles; Yokai Watch may not have made it to the west yet, but if it’s half as pervasive over there once it launches, it’ll be the biggest new gaming franchise in years.

So the consoles are still pretty healthy, especially the handheld devices. They play to their strengths, for the most part; it’s notable that the biggest handheld games around at the moment, games like Smash Bros and Monster Hunter, really wouldn’t work on a mobile phone as they rely on accurate, pinpoint controls that couldn’t be replicated on a touchscreen to any degree of satisfaction. Other games that work well are those designed for long sessions of play; mobile devices still suffer badly from rapidly draining batteries when playing games, and while a dead battery in your 3DS is a little annoying, a dead battery in your mobile phone is a disaster, meaning few people are willing to put in significant play sessions in GPU-intensive mobile titles.

“If 2015 does see mobile overtaking console worldwide, it may be the best thing to happen to games in years; it won’t hurt console, at least not for a long while yet, and it’ll allow us to finally turn a corner towards mobile being seen as a platform for everyone”

What’s actually more interesting than what’s happened to console, though, is what’s happened to mobile itself. The mobile game market in Japan is nothing short of fascinating. Ever since its meteoric growth, it’s become a hugely expansive market that caters to an enormous range of tastes and demographics, as you’d expect – but the core demographic, the heart of the market for which every company seems to be competing… Well, that’s oddly familiar, as it happens.

Every time you see a commuter train festooned with ads for a new mobile title, or a lengthy TV commercial promoting the latest smartphone release, or even the huge screens at Shibuya’s scramble crossing taken over with a video of a mobile game, they always have something in common. Their visual language, their core mechanisms and their basic appeal is absolutely in tune with core gamers. Mobile’s new position on top of the heap has opened the door to games with higher production values and more depth, aimed at the market that has always played the most and paid the most; the core.

The results aren’t always appealing; mobile games launch fast and fail fast, and that’s fine. When things do work out, though, they create some pretty amazing hits. Puzzle & Dragons, as you probably know by now, was the biggest-grossing game on any platform in 2013 (probably; analyst figures, you know?), and it’s also incredibly deep, compelling and fun. Publisher GungHo advertises the game on trains and TV over here with videos showing advanced techniques for building chain combos in the game; just consider that for a moment, a game so successful that your advertising isn’t even “here’s why this game is great”, it’s “we know you already play, here’s a tip so you can play better”, displayed on evening TV across the nation. Puzzle & Dragons is far from being Japan’s only “mobile core” hit, though. RPGs have been rapidly rising in prominence on mobile platforms, and now appear to be even more popular than the collect ‘em up titles (mostly card battlers) which dominated up until this point; the latest big title is Mistwalker-developed RPG Terra Battle, a game which I’m resigned to installing on my phone this week because literally everyone around me doesn’t talk about anything else any more.

In short, the Japanese market may be peculiar by comparison with the rest of the world, but sometimes that’s simply because it’s still a couple of years ahead of the western market in a few regards. Not in every regard; Japan is a very retrograde nation in terms of certain tech advances (it’s worth noting that streaming video services like Netflix are an absolute disaster here, and let’s not even talk about online banking), but in gaming, the market if not the technology is a little in advance of most western countries. Japan crossed the line between console-as-number-one and mobile-as-number-one a couple of years ago, and the world did not end. Console and handheld are doing fine; mobile is doing better than fine, and most excitingly of all, the new titles coming to mobile are better than ever, driven by a strong desire to get the most lucrative market in gaming, the core gamers themselves, playing. If 2015 does see mobile overtaking console worldwide, it may be the best thing to happen to games in years; it won’t hurt console, at least not for a long while yet, and it’ll allow us to finally turn a corner towards mobile being seen as a platform for everyone – core, casual, and everyone in between.

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

McDonalds Plans To Install Self-ordering Kiosks

October 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

McDonald’s has unveiled its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. It isn’t the only food chain doing this.

The company that owns Chili’s Grill & Bar also said it will complete a tablet ordering system rollout next month at its U.S. restaurants. Applebee’s announced last December that it would deliver tablets to 1,800 restaurants this year.

The pace of self-ordering system deployments appears to be gaining speed. But there’s a political element to this and it’s best to address it quickly.

The move toward more automation comes at the same time pressure to raise minimum wages is growing. A Wall Street Journal editorial this week, “Minimum Wage Backfire,” said that while it may be true for McDonald’s to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also “a convenient way…to justify a reduction in the chain’s global workforce.”

The Journal faulted those who believe that raising fast food wages will boost stagnant incomes. “The result of their agitation will be more jobs for machines and fewer for the least skilled workers,” it wrote.

The elimination of jobs because of automation will happen anyway. Gartner says software and robots will replace one third of all workers by 2025, and that includes many high-skilled jobs, too.

Automation is hardly new to retail. Banks rely on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. But McDonald’s hasn’t changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry.

The move to kiosk and mobile ordering, said Tristano, is happening because it will improve order accuracy, speed up service and has the potential of reducing labor cost, which can account for about 30% of costs. But automated self-service is a convenience that’s now expected, particularly among younger customers, he said.

“It’s keeping up with the times, and the (McDonald’s) franchises are going to clamor for it,” said Tristano, who said any labor savings is actually at the bottom of the list of reasons restaurants are putting in these self-service systems.

 

 

HP’s Helion Goes Commercial

October 27, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

HP has announced general availability of its Helion OpenStack cloud platform and Helion Development Platform based on Cloud Foundry.

The Helion portfolio was announced by HP earlier this year, when the firm disclosed that it was backing the OpenStack project as the foundation piece for its cloud strategy.

At the time, HP issued the HP Helion OpenStack Community edition for pilot deployments, and promised a full commercial release to follow, along with a developer platform based on the Cloud Foundry code.

HP revealed today that the commercial release of HP Helion OpenStack is now available as a fully supported product for customers looking to build their own on-premise infrastructure-as-a-service cloud, along with the HP Helion Development platform-as-a-service designed to run on top of it.

“We’ve now gone GA [general availability] on our first full commercial OpenStack product and actually started shipping it a couple of weeks ago, so we’re now open for business and we already have a number of customers that are using it for proof of concept,” HP’s CloudSystem director for EMEA, Paul Morgan, told The INQUIRER.

Like other OpenStack vendors, HP is offering more than just the bare OpenStack code. Its distribution is underpinned by a hardened version of HP Linux, and is integrated with other HP infrastructure and management tools, Morgan said.

“We’ve put in a ton of HP value add, so there’s a common look and feel across the different management layers, and we are supporting other elements of our cloud infrastructure software today, things like HP OneView, things like our Cloud Service Automation in CloudSystem,” he added.

The commercial Helion build has also been updated to include Juno, the latest version of the OpenStack framework released last week.

Likewise, the HP Helion Development Platform takes the open source Cloud Foundry platform and integrates it with HP’s OpenStack release to provide an environment for developers to build and deploy cloud-based applications and services.

HP also announced an optimised reference model for building a scalable object storage platform based on its OpenStack release.

HP Helion Content Depot is essentially a blueprint to allow organisations or service providers to put together a highly available, secure storage solution using HP ProLiant servers and HP Networking hardware, with access to storage provided via the standard OpenStack Swift application programming interfaces.

Morgan said that the most interest in this solution is likely to come from service providers looking to offer a cloud-based storage service, although enterprise customers may also deploy it internally.

“It’s completely customisable, so you might start off with half a petabyte, with the need to scale to maybe 2PB per year, and it is a certified and fully tested solution that takes all of the guesswork out of setting up this type of service,” he said.

Content Depot joins the recently announced HP Helion Continuity Services as one of the growing number of solutions that the firm aims to offer around its Helion platform, he explained. These will include point solutions aimed at solving specific customer needs.

The firm also last month started up its HP Helion OpenStack Professional Services division to help customers with consulting and deployment services to implement an OpenStack-based private cloud.

Pricing for HP Helion OpenStack comes in at $1,200 per server with 9×5 support for one year. Pricing for 24×7 support will be $2,200 per server per year.

“We see that is very competitively priced compared with what else is already out there,” Morgan said.

Courtesy-TheInq

Latest Ubuntu Server Goes After The Enterprise

October 27, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Canonical has released Ubuntu Server 14.10 for data centre server and cloud applications, offering its latest technology for scale-out infrastructure.

The British software company claims that this latest release of Ubuntu Server features the fastest, most secure hypervisors available on bare metal, as well as the latest in container technologies with Docker 1.2.

Canonical says that Ubuntu Server 14.10 with Docker 1.2 is unique in that it offers user-level container management and includes support that enables higher density cloud operations than a virtualisation layer.

The firm is targeting large enterprises that want to deploy what it calls “scale-out” cloud computing with this release.

Canonical says that Ubuntu 14.10 includes some of the most valuable and complex cloud software technologies in use today, including Cloud Foundry, ElasticSearch, Hadoop with Hive and PigLatin as well as real-time data analytics with Storm big data technology.

The firm says that improved GUI for Juju service orchestration greatly simplifies deployment and scaling of these complex software infrastructures on public and private clouds, or on bare metal hardware through what it terms “metal as a service” (MaaS), claiming that full deployments take just minutes.

Canonical noted that its MaaS 1.6 hardware provisioning tool in Ubuntu Server 14.10 now supports a number of different operating systems as guests, including Windows Server with Hyper-V, CentOS and openSUSE.

Canonical also said that Ubuntu 14.10 presents a consistent operating system experience for all major hardware architectures: ARM, ARM64, x86, x86-64 and Power8. ARM64 support is added for the launch of next-generation hyperscale, hyperdense servers from HP and AMD.

The firm added that Ubuntu Server 14.10 includes the addition of bcache, which adds disk acceleration to extend SSD performance to large, cost-effective rotating disks.

For cloud deployments, Canonical said that Ubuntu Server 14.10 includes the latest OpenStack Juno, which includes more granular policy controls for object storage as well as initial support for network function virtualization.

Courtesy-TheInq

China Touts Homegrown Servers Admidst Cybersecurity Concerns

October 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

A Chinese firm has developed the country’s first homegrown servers, built entirely out of domestic technologies including a processor from local chip maker Loongson Technology.

China’s Dawning Information Industry, also known as Sugon, has developed a series of four servers using the Loongson 3B processor, the country’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.

“Servers are crucial applications in a country’s politics, economy, and information security. We must fully master all these technologies,” Dawning’s vice president Sha Chaoqun was quoted as saying.

The servers, including their operating systems, have all been developed from Chinese technology. The Loongson 3B processor inside them has eight cores made with a total of 1.1 billion transistors built using a 28-nanometer production process.

The Xinhua report quoted Li Guojie, a top computing researcher in the country, as saying the new servers would ensure that the security around China’s military, financial and energy sectors would no longer be in foreign control.

Dawning was contacted on Friday, but an employee declined to offer more specifics about the servers. “We don’t want to promote this product in the U.S. media,” she said. “It involves propriety intellectual property rights, and Chinese government organizations.”

News of the servers has just been among the ongoing developments in China for the country to build up its own homegrown technology. Work is being done on local mobile operating systems, supercomputing, and in chip making, with much of it government-backed. Earlier this year, China outlined a plan to make the country into a major player in the semiconductor space.

But it also comes at a time when cybersecurity has become a major concern for the Chinese government, following revelations about the U.S. government’s own secret surveillance programs. “Without cybersecurity there is no national security,” declared China’s Xi Jinping in March, as he announced plans to turn the country into an “Internet power.”

Two months later, China threatened to block companiesfrom selling IT products to the country if they failed to pass a new vetting system meant to comb out secret spying programs.

Dawning, which was founded using local government-supported research, is perhaps best known for developing some of China’s supercomputers. But it also sells server products built with Intel chips. In this year’s first quarter, it had an 8.7 percent share of China’s server market, putting it in 7th place, according to research firm IDC.

 

 

Facebook Debuts ‘Rooms’ App For Chats

October 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is going old school, with a stand-alone app for discussion boards geared towards allowin users to talk about shared interests without having to use their real names.

The company released Rooms on Thursday, its answer to the craze around posting and sharing anonymously. People can use any name they want and don’t need a Facebook account. The app contains rooms geared around various topics, all of which require an invite link to enter. Providing an email address is optional, for the purposes of having accessed rooms restored if the user deletes the app.

The app is only available on iOS. Plans for other platforms like Android or Windows Phone were not disclosed.

The app is not just about anonymity. With it, Facebook hopes to provide a discussion board-type platform where users can chat about shared interests outside of their usual social circles. It’s a concept that has been super popular since, oh, the web’s been around.

“One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life,” Facebook said in a statement Thursday.

“From unique obsessions and unconventional hobbies, to personal finance and health-related issues — you can celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends,” the company said.

But the app’s ability to succeed likely depends on the number and diversity of rooms created by its users, and whether the app’s focus on visuals and photos appeals to them. There’s also no desktop version.

The app was developed as part of Facebook’s Creative Labs project, which has also released stand-alone apps like Slingshot and Paper.

Facebook stresses that Rooms will let users create a unique identity separate from their Facebook account. Your name can be “Wonder Woman” in the app, Facebook said.

I tried out the app, and was even able to use “Mark Zuckerberg” as my name. (A short “hello” post of mine then immediately generated several “high fives.”)

Facebook, however, may share information about Room users within the companies and services operated by Facebook, which would include Facebook itself and other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the Rooms terms of service.