Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Telstra’s second shot at cloud

April 7th, 2014

While it might be Australia’s largest telco, Telstra alone cannot compete on cloud computing prices and features when up against the scale of Amazon, Google or Microsoft.outsourcing41

On that basis, Telstra’s new deal with Cisco Systems looks to be prudent.

Under the deal, Cisco Systems will build and operate a cloud computing service inside Telstra’s Australian data centres that is based on Cisco hardware (servers, network) and Red Hat’s supported version of the OpenStack cloud computing framework (albeit with a few minor alterations by Cisco).

These racks will form a node in a global cloud Cisco operates with other telco partners across the globe – what the Californian company brands ‘The Intercloud’.

Just about everything in the stack is built and managed by Cisco – all features, functions, patches – despite it residing in Telstra’s data centre. Telstra concerns itself with network routes in and out of the data centre, customer support and billing.

It has big implications for Telstra’s IT staff, many of whom were laid off in a recent outsourcing drive, and even bigger implications for existing customers of Telstra’s Cloud Services.

Economies of scale

Erez Yarkoni [pictured], former T-Mobile CIO and now Telstra’s director of cloud services, spent time with me late last week to explain his strategy.

Yarkoni arrived at Telstra in November 2013 – his immediate concern being how the telco could achieve scale from its cloud computing investments.

Telstra’s initial foray into cloud computing – initially dubbed ‘Network Computing Services’ and later ‘Telstra Cloud Services’, was powered by the telco’s investment in hardware from EMC and Cisco, software licenses from VMware and BMC and an application migration and integration partnership with Accenture.

Several other Australian service providers – notably Alphawest, Bulletproof and Melbourne IT – had also built Infrastructure-as-a-service plays on the back of VMware’s hypervisor.

But at least two out of the three have since abandoned these projects as they struggled to compete with the global scale of Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft and others. The price war between AWS, Azure and Google in particular has rendered the most aggressive cost models from domestic suppliers uncompetitive to the point where there is more money to be made reselling and managing services hosted on some of these services than attempting to compete head on.

Yarkoni told iTnews he landed on the Cisco deal after a global technology tour that encompassed visits with most of the major players including HP, Microsoft and VMware. His discussions encompassed technology roadmaps but also “cloud economics”.

“Infrastructure is a global scale game,” he told iTnews. “And what defines the infrastructure is the software that brings it all together. I could try and compete by hiring 2000 developers in Seattle as Amazon and Microsoft has, or I could embrace open source and do it myself. But to do it yourself – to build your own set of software development resources – you are quickly going to find yourself unable to compete with global infrastructure.”

Yarkoni’s theory is that customers are likely to want to operate in a hybrid state.

“I’m of the same opinion as many Telstra customers – they will want to have more than one cloud infrastructure in play. The world will be a hybrid world. We will concentrate on building the service-managed infrastructure – such that we could, if required, attach Amazon Web Services or any other API-compliant cloud underneath.

“It’s important to understand what cloud economics mean,” Yarkoni said. “IaaS is a lean margin, global service. We need to graduate to building value on top of that infrastructure.”

Cisco’s Intercloud is built on technology the vendor already uses to manage its own WebEx Squared workloads, among others, allowing for a fairly aggressive roadmap.

Telstra already has racks being installed running the Intercloud software – specifically Red Hat’s version of OpenStack with Cisco’s management layer running over the top.

The next job is for Cisco and Telstra to build the necessary layers for the service to be commercially multi-tenant. By late May and early June, Yarkoni hopes to offer a platform in Alpha state, with customers being asked to “run  some workloads and hammer the alpha environment” for stability while Telstra builds the billing interfaces to sit atop it.

In the latter part of 2014 Telstra will offer a beta service to customers for dev and test use, with the billing service now live, with full production ready before the close of the year.

Yarkoni agrees that its an aggressive timeline, but counts on Cisco and Red Hat to bring the necessary skills to the table to get the job done in a timely fashion.

I asked him if there were enough skills around OpenStack in Australia to do the job.

“That’s a great question,” he said. “Our aim is to build this with Australian hands, provide Australian support but use global R&D. I believe we will find the skills, if not [our partners] will import them.”

What does it mean for existing customers?

While the final deal is yet to be inked, its expected Telstra will have Cisco’s Intercloud exclusively in Australia for somewhere between one to two years.

Initially, Telstra intends to continue to offer its existing VMware-based ‘Cloud Services’ stack to customers as Intercloud builds up momentum. Yarkoni wasn’t keen to commit to its future development.

“We will respect all existing contracts, and support the features and functions of the last version [CSX],” he said. “And we’ll continue to actively sell it to customers that require dedicated hosting but want to run it on utility infrastructure.

“Over time, what I expect to be a journey of a couple of years, customers will either choose to – or we will help them – migrate to OpenStack with KVM or even with VMware if you have to. We’ll have all sorts of other flavours of cloud underneath.”

Yarkoni agrees that supporting multiple hypervisors or cloud architectures comes at a cost to Telstra. The beauty of OpenStack is that Telstra – and in turn its customers – will be able to choose whether or not to pay VMware’s software licensing fees or use a freely available option. Yarkoni said that if Telstra gets the service management layer right, what sits beneath will be less of an issue.

“If you walk into an Amazon data centre, you will find different versions of what Amazon considered their standard compute over time. But it all still works. Similarly, at some point, Apple decided to put Intel chips in laptops. It didn’t especially matter that you used a MacBook or a MacBook Pro, or that your computer came with one chip or another. Apple decided the economies of scale using Intel chips was better than designing their own.”

For that reason, cloud services built on Cisco’s Intercloud are likely to be branded ‘Telstra Cloud Services’ just as existing services are today.

A new service, and a new customer proposition

Yarkoni hopes that the Intercloud deal will bring about one key architectural difference between existing Telstra cloud services and those that will be on offer by the end of the year.

“Today, the elasticity we call ‘cloud’ exists only up to the edge of the data centre,” he said. “Where it needs to work is all the way to the edgepoint device where a customer consumes a service.

“What we have had to do in the past is to build a service layer that allowed us to address firewalling, routing, VPN, private networks, service instantiation, and all the move adds, and changes associated with those network issues. What we intend to build now is a service that automates this all the way to the customer.”

Telstra is also looking to incorporate network APIs (application programming interfaces) that allow a customer’s application hosted on the Telstra cloud to adjust the size and quality of the network pipe required.

“It would be ideal to say to customers: for certain apps, you no longer have to plan to a peak network capacity. You can have the app ask for capacity on the go. Or you can schedule a batch job to only run during off-peak rates.”

The Intercloud deal will – if customers subscribe at scale – elevate Telstra as a service management and IT operations channel.

“If we have the tools, and the people with a DevOps mindset, we can drive better economies of scale and operational excellence,” Yarkoni said. “We can bring the promise and elasticity of cloud without Telstra or the customer needing to over-invest in capital or planning for peaks.

“Then we can graduate conversations with our customers – how do you deliver that to my applications, the IT that supports my business? Sometimes that is a SaaS conversation, other times it is about bringing elasticity to the application – we pre-configure the infrastructure such that it becomes the click of a button in a catalogue.”

Source:http://www.itnews.com.au/BlogEntry/381971,telstra8217s-second-shot-at-cloud.aspx/0

Infoline successfully deploys Microsoft System Centre for OETC

January 7th, 2014

Infoline, Oman’s leading business process outsourcing (BPO) and IT enabled service (ITES) provider, has successfully implemented System Centre outsourcing27Service Manager, Operation Manager and Configuration Manager 2012 for Oman Electricity Transmission Company (OETC). This is the most cost effective, flexible and comprehensive management platform which will enable OETC to more easily and efficiently manage their IT environments, including their server infrastructure, private and public clouds and client devices. It will help in increasing productivity, improve resolution time, improve manageability of the IT asset life cycle and ensure software license compliance reduce infrastructure costs, keep track of hardware & software inventory and will ensure visibility in IT environment with a daily health report.

It will help OETC in automation, integration and centralising their IT infrastructure. It is for the first time that Microsoft System Centre Service Manager 2012 has been implemented with bilingual interface. Infoline’s consultants facilitate every client with a thoughtful perspective and empowering approach to drive results. By leveraging the years of experience and proven methodologies, they bring value to any project with their depth and breadth of knowledge. In addition to optimisation services, Infoline’s consultants develop a gap analysis and technology roadmap that provides plans for migrating to a newly optimised platform, helping their clients to leverage their return on investment (ROI) and reduce the total costs of ownership.

‘Our IT infrastructure is currently managed professionally with Microsoft, as it will add value to our environment, the productivity and work process will be improved and all daily work will be documented and easy to be monitored and control. We have selected Infoline for this implementation as they have proven track of successful implementations of Microsoft products and have excellent resources for continual support”, said Hilal al Shukri, IT Manager of OETC.

Source:http://main.omanobserver.om/?p=45983

Cloud computing, Microsoft, the Dutch regulator and financial services

July 31st, 2013

The financial services sector throughout the EU wants an answer to the question when and to what extent can we enter the cloud?

A major hold-up however continues to be a dispute over the correct interpretation to be given to the provisions of the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) which require regulators to be given ‘effective access’ to ‘data’ and ‘premises’ in many instances where data processing is outsourced.Outsourcing20

Initially, regulators expressed caution and proposed that effective access to premises equates only to physical access to all data centres upon which cloud processing takes place. Recently though, there has been some suggestion that there may be another way forward.

Earlier this year Out-Law.com reported on an ‘understanding’ or ‘agreement’ reportedly reached between cloud provider Microsoft and the Dutch Central Bank. The agreement had been described as “setting a precedent” and suggestions were made that the agreement might benefit not only the Dutch regulator but other regulators as well.

Out-Law.com was interested to know what this meant in practice and what the agreement looks like on paper. We asked a representative of the Dutch Central Bank for a copy of the agreement between it and Microsoft but were told that one could not be provided to us.

A spokesman for the Bank confirmed though, that there is no ‘template’ clause agreed between the Bank and Microsoft setting out audit rights in favour of the Bank which may be inserted into Microsoft’s contracts with regulated
Dutch financial services firms. But he also confirmed that Microsoft has agreed that the Bank can “visit Microsoft at any moment” in order to check the data belonging to financial services companies under the terms of specific contracts. How that agreement is precisely termed was not shared with us, but the spokesman said that it allows Dutch firms to meet their requirements set out in regulations under the Financial Services Act in the Netherlands – the legislation that transposes the MiFID rules into Dutch national law.

According to Microsoft, this development demonstrates that not all clouds are equal. “There is a misconception that cloud solutions create insurmountable challenges to maintaining regulatory compliance, this misconception is prevalent in the financial services sector and other regulated sectors,” according to Dervish Tayyip, EMEA Legal Director for Microsoft.

“We think the opposite can be true, if customers choose their cloud vendor carefully. The cloud can provide all organisations the economic and technical benefits of cloud services while maintaining compliance with regulations”, he said.

While the agreement is a step forward for Microsoft, suppliers having to negotiate a right for every regulator in every jurisdiction to access every premise upon which every cloud provider processes data does not seem to us to be the most effective way forward. In our view more discussion and debate is needed over the correct interpretation to be given to the provisions of MiFID and implementing laws which require ‘effective access’ to premises.

Do on-site audits really give regulators more visibility over the quality of processing activities undertaken by an outsourcing provider? Even if in a perfect world they may, do regulators really have the resources to enable them to effectively inspect cloud resources located outside of their own jurisdiction?

The best way forward may not be at the negotiating table but through a robust legal discussion which backs the idea that effective access to premises may mean digital and not physical access.
We are interested to hear your thoughts.

Source:http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2013/july/cloud-computing-microsoft-the-dutch-regulator-and-financial-services/

Microsoft investing over $670 million in Iowa data center

June 24th, 2013

Microsoft is investing US$678 million in the expansion of its data center in West Des Moines, Iowa.outsourcing30

The plan, dubbed Project Mountain, was awarded tax benefits and is expected to create 29 new jobs, the board of the Iowa Economic Development Authority said in a statement on Friday.

Other tech companies are also setting up data centers in Iowa. Facebook said in April its data center in Altoona, Iowa, will be its fourth owned and operated data center, and its third in the U.S. The company plans to break ground this summer and expects to begin serving user traffic in 2014. Google opened a data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 2009. In November 2012, it announced that it would expand its data center operations in Iowa, taking the total investment to over $1.1 billion.

Microsoft has run a data center in Iowa to support its operations since 2009. It could not be immediately reached for comment on the proposed investment.

Greater Des Moines Partnership, which focuses on providing resources for moving or expanding a business to Greater Des Moines, said the project was the culmination of a year’s collaborative effort by Microsoft, the partnership, the city of West Des Moines and the state of Iowa.

Iowa has been attempting to attract data centers to key cities in the state. Under the state incentives, Microsoft will be eligible to receive up to $20 million in tax credits, including $15 in a sales and use tax refund paid during construction and a $5 million investment tax credit, for completing the $677.6 million capital investment project in West Des Moines.

The project expansion will house servers, networking equipment and office space needed to operate Microsoft’s cloud services, Greater Des Moines Partnership said in a statement. Necessary infrastructure improvements to the West Des Moines location requiring additional capital investment will support the expansion, such as fiber and roads, it added.

Microsoft operates a large number of data centers in many parts of the world. For its Windows Azure service, for example, it offers services from data centers in Singapore and Hong Kong in Asia, Ireland and the Netherlands in Europe, and from Illinois, Texas, Virginia and California in the U.S.

Source:http://www.itworld.com/hardware/362259/microsoft-investing-over-670-million-iowa-data-center

Microsoft’s Windows Blue to be available later this year

May 7th, 2013

Microsoft’s update of its Windows 8 operating system, code-named Windows Blue, will be available later this year, supporting a variety of form factors and display sizes, and providing more options for both businesses and consumers.

“The Windows Blue update is also an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we’ve been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT,” said Tami Reller, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer and chief financial officer in a post on Tuesday on the progress of Windows 8.outsourcing44

Microsoft shipped Windows RT for ARM-based devices and Windows 8 for devices based on Intel processors in October last year. The update to Windows 8 comes in the wake of sometimes adverse user feedback about the operating system, which is said to have failed to boost flagging PC sales.

First quarter PC shipments, for example, totaled 76.3 million units, down 13.9 percent compared to the same quarter last year, in part because Windows 8 failed to boost sales, and also because of the popularity of alternative computing devices like tablets, research firm IDC said in April.

Reller did not provide details on the features of the upcoming version of Windows 8.

Microsoft has recently crossed the 100 million licenses sold mark for Windows 8, about six months after its general availability, which includes Windows licenses that ship on a new tablet or PC, as well as upgrades to Windows 8. “This is up from the 60 million license number we provided in January,” Reller said.

The company has also seen the number of certified devices for Windows 8 and Windows RT grow to 2,400, and is seeing more and more touch devices in the mix, she added.

“While we realize that change takes time, we feel good about the progress since launch, including what we’ve been able to accomplish with the ecosystem and customer reaction to the new PCs and tablets that are available now or will soon come to market,” Reller said.

The decline in the PC market in the first quarter was worse than the 7.7 percent drop previously forecast, and the market could be headed into further contraction, IDC said in April. Reller, however, continues to be optimistic about the PC business.

“The PC is very much alive and increasingly mobile,” she said. The PC part of the market is evolving fast to include “new convertible devices and amazing new touch laptops, and all-in-ones,” she added. Some of these PCs are coming into the market now, and they are more affordable than ever, Reller said. The Microsoft executive said Windows 8 was also built to address a broader market consisting of devices like tablets.

Microsoft has also seen the number of apps in its Windows Store grow six-fold since launch. Over 250 million apps were downloaded from the store in the first six months, with almost 90 percent of its app catalog downloaded every month.

The company claims to be doing well in some of its other services too. It announced Monday that over 250 million people are now using its SkyDrive online file hosting service. Microsoft now has 400 million active accounts for its Outlook.com webmail, after completing the transition of Hotmail users to the new service. The company plans to add more features to Outlook.com, which started with the integration of Skype which is being phased in throughout the world. It now has over 700 million active Microsoft accounts using its services, Reller said.

Source:http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9238962/Microsoft_39_s_Windows_Blue_to_be_available_later_this_year?taxonomyId=125

Crowdsourcing Offers a Tightly Focused Alternative to Outsourcing

April 1st, 2013

Tom White, a principal program manager for Microsoft Bing has been employing the input of the crowd for several years. The company had been using its own “private crowd” of judges to rate search result relevance to significant success.outsourcing12

The key for Microsoft is that crowd tasks are well-defined and highly targeted. “We developed a very focused expertise with our judges so they could work on one task and one task only,” says White.
What White needed was the option to throw any number of things to the crowd–some new feature or user interface a developer or designer was experimenting with–at a few thousand folks to find out what worked and what didn’t. “It had to do with scale and flexibility,” he explains. “We wanted a larger pool of people we could use for a wide variety of tasks.”

Two years ago, White began working with Lionbridge –later adding Appen Butler Hill and ClickWorker for redundancy–to create a larger and more agile crowdsourcing option.

Using the internal platform White’s team had already developed for Bing’s private crowd, a user interface designer with an idea for a better user experience will plug an “a versus b test” in and send it off to the crowd for evaluation.
Bing also employs the crowd to supplement its machine learning processes with some real, live human feedback. The company may take a large set of potential search queries to classify (with the crowd charged to determine, for example, if a query is “adult-oriented”) and use that to inform automated classification.

It’s the kind of work Bing couldn’t simply outsource or offshore because of its high volume, says White. “The offshore approach doesn’t scale as effectively as the crowdsourcing approach. We can access thousands of people in markets it may be difficult for offshore providers to reach,” he says. The crowd is also cheaper and faster than using internal employees, delivering the kind of quick input that developers and designers need.
Besides, White says, using a crowd makes more sense because it’s more reflective of his company’s user base. “The size of the crowd gives us cognitive diversity,” White says. “It’s like we have thousands of people in a room versus dozens.”

Lionbridge, for example, says it has 100,000 crowd workers who have been screened and qualified to complete tasks for clients. And crowdsourcing providers have a strong incentive to source skilled workers, says Martha Crow, Lionbridge’s senior vice president of global enterprise solutions, because customers like Bing pay based on actual output rather than headcount or by the hour.

“We break down the work into a task, we pay our workers based on quality tasks completed, and we get paid by our clients in the same way,” Crow says. “This model completely eliminates the nonproductive time and puts the burden of throughput and quality work on the workers and the service provider.”

Lionbridge’s “crowdforce” includes stay-at-home moms, retirees and recent grads in 100 countries, 90 percent of whom have a college degree, says Crow. The company currently has 25 clients using the crowd for global testing, translation, data management and custom solutions.

Challenges of the Crowd
There are challenges, though. White may have a one-off project for which he needs a crowd in Turkey that he may never use again. “We don’t want our vendor-partner to build out a crowd and direct it to a project that will only take 15 minutes and then not have a need for that market,” says White. “We want to make sure we’re not jerking our vendors around.”

The bigger issue is ensuring that the crowd’s output remains high quality. Much of that is in the vendor’s hands, and White is working with his vendors to better understand their crowdsourcing practices.

Depending on the work, tasks can be dual-sourced or go through a quality assurance process before being delivered to the client, says Crow. White says his crowdsourcing management team spends the majority of its time developing an interface that elicits the best work from the crowd. “That’s the bulk of our investment,” he says.

The model is working, says White. And it’s gaining traction in other areas of the company. Microsoft Research, for example, has begun using the crowdsourcing option as well.

Source:http://www.cio.com/article/730913/Crowdsourcing_Offers_a_Tightly_Focused_Alternative_to_Outsourcing?page=2&taxonomyId=3172

Microsoft and Google’s playground antics

January 4th, 2013

Nothing like a bit of spirit of fair play to kick off the New Year is there? Well, this latest competition spat is nothing like that at all…
Microsoft has got on its high horse this week, writing a blog slamming Google for not playing ball and preventing access to certain YouTube data. This information is key to creating a specific app for the Windows Phone mobile operating system.Out20

Instead, users have to go through the mobile website and viewing through a browser misses out on some specialist features apps on other OS’ offer, as well as the convenience factor.

Microsoft claims the reason Google is refusing to oblige is because it is a rival in the world of search. It is quite a sweet notion really. I mean, I know Bing is creeping up in the market share ranks but really, it is like Real Madrid’s defence being scared of our outsourcing editor approaching the half way line in bare feet.

Google has been aloof about the whole issue, with its spokesman telling me the HTML5 enabled mobile website offers Windows Phone users all it needs. Fair enough for not getting into a war of words but this defence is equally as purile.

As ever, the ones suffering here are users. As someone who actually enjoys using the latest Windows Phone software, it is frustrating the number of obvious seeming apps that are omitted from the store. YouTube is now a staple of mobile applications and to not have access to it, along with others, does make a user feel like they are missing out on something.

So, I see why Microsoft has kicked off as, as apps continue to be such a draw towards devices and their software, it could cause damage to its sales. But, writing a blog publically laying into Google and using words that make them sound like they are telling tales out of school to the teachers at the European Commission just smacks of desperation.

If your software is good enough and the devices you run it on are great, the lack of one app where users can still use a mobile-optimised website version is not going to sign your death warrant, Microsoft. Keep focusing on developing and building up your following through positive features on your phones, not drawing attention to the negatives.

And Google? Seriously? Remember Apple and the maps debacle? Please don’t subject us to an awful Microsoft YouTube rip off and start playing with the other mobile kids, ok?

Oh, and Happy New Year everyone!

Source:http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/the-full-spectrum/2013/01/microsoft-and-googles-playgrou.html

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