Author: Mike Magee

IBM claims cloud performance breakthrough

IBM logoBoffins at Big Blue said they’ve developed a way to manage network bandwidth inside a cloud.

That, IBM said, could lead to improvements in system performance, and make clouds more efficient and cheaper.

The invention allows to automatically choose the best way for people to access the cloud depending on the network bandwidth.

IBM suggests the method will suit online applications that are subject to peaks and troughs in demand for services.

Those might include online retailers, auction sites, search engines, news media sites, and crisis and disaster management applications.

Big Blue explains that in a cloud computing environment, each person is given access to a virtual machine which delivers host  OS and physical resources. Multiple VMs are assigned inside the cloud and if demands for resources dramatically fluctuate, apps will become clogged up. IBM says its method lets systems automatically and dynamically re-assign work based on networking bandwidth requirements and availability.

PC market continues to be weak

IDC graphIDC released figures estimating that worldwide PC shipments accounted for 81.6 million units in Q3 of 2013 – that’s a drop of 7.6 percent, compared to the previous year.

But IDC said it had expected a decline of 9.5 percent for the quarter.  It said that shipments were weak in the early part of the quarter but business buys and channel intake of Windows 8.1 based systems happened in September.

IDC said emerging markets continued to be weak, while the channel and vendors were stock heavy on Ivy Bridge systems and eroded by lower priced smartphones and tablets.

Upgrades from Windows XP boosted shipments in the enterprise desktop section.

Rajani Singh, senior research analyst at IDC, said that the US market hasn’t changed that much. There may be a small increase in the fourth quarter, he said. But that will be followed “by a challenging 2014”.

In EMEA the PC market continued to decline with weak consumer demand a shift to tablets.  The channel maintained lean inventories during the period.

The only bright light were “pockets of investments” despite companies still being reluctant to spend any money.

Lenovo is the top vendor and is expanding into the channel, while HP and Dell were numbers two and three.  Acer and Asus both were weakened by lack of spend by consumers. Asus doesn’t have a significant corporate user base.

Trust me. I’m a cloud

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeCompanies worried about the dangers of cloud computing can set their minds at ease, if a recent survey from Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) is to be credited.

Based on questions asked of 250 senior IT business decision makers, it shows 69 percent of firms already use cloud based services.

But it’s all a bit of a mix because 86 percent of the respondents said they had a hybrid mix including cloud, servers on their premises and hosted services.

Piers Linney, CEO of Outsourcery reckons that a gradual move to the cloud happens because companies don’t want to replace their entire systems or only use cloud for some aspects of their businesses.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Outsourcery offers cloud services and no doubt Outsourcery is happy to learn that the survey shows 91 percent of those surveyed are happy with providers.

Companies start taking their tablets

Keep taking the tabletsMore and more tablets are being used in companies with large numbers now being used to access corporate data and apps.

That’s according to a survey from Ovum, which points out that using tablets is changing the way people work.

The survey, conducted in the second quarter of this year, showed that 17.6 percent of people had been given tablets by their employers, compared to 12.5 percent in 2012.

And the number of personal tablet owners grew from 28.4 percent in 2012 to 44.5 percent in 2013, meaning that more personally owned tablets find their way into the workplace.

Richard Absalom, analyst at Ovum, said: “The primary route for tablets into the enterprise is through the consumer/employee channel. Over 66 percent of employees who personally own a tablet use them for work.”

Absalom said that employees use many different devices to get to corporate data and content – tablet or BYOD strategies should be put into that context. “Tablet deployments have the potential to change the way that businesses operate,” he said. “The primary challenge ofr the enterprise is to turn tablet usage into a genuinely transformative deployment.”

Big Data is underused

Big dataCompanies aren’t using Big Data for their own competitive advantage.

That’s according to a survey by Stibo Systems, which surveyed 200 “senior business decision makers” looking after IT.

And despite companies having zillions of bytes of data, 34 percent said they didn’t know what their firm does with the information.  Another 15 percent said their organisations keep too much data.

But there’s another problem. Stibo’s survey revealed that pan-European businesses have trouble managing their data. Some get third parties to look after it while some don’t make any use of it at all.

Companies managing their own data centrally can use it better than firms which have “siloes” all over the place.

Simon Walker, a director at Stibo, said: “With so much of a company’s data being used for marketing purposes to inform financial decisions, it begs the question of why it’s largely owned by IT departments and not those departments that are using it. There is a large number of enterprises being left behind in big data adoption simply due  to the lack of effective data management processes.”

Aer Lingus joins wi-fi flying club

Aer LingusOne of the last bastions of the life less connected is now under attack from the Irish, writes Sean Fleming.

Aer Lingus is about to make wifi access available on its flights to and from the US. Well, on some of them at least – seven of its A330 planes, to be precise, will be fitted with satellite comms kit from Panasonic.

Following in the wake of Germany’s Lufthansa, Aer Lingus is now the second major European airline offering in-flight wifi, at a cost of course – €10.95 per hour, unless you turned left when you boarded, then you’ll be getting it gratis.

Quoted in the Irish Independent, Aer Lingus’s Chief Commercial Officer, Stephen Kavanagh, said, “Aer Lingus is at the forefront of in-cabin internet access, being just the second European airline to introduce internet access on transatlantic flights. This is another choice we are offering our customers to enhance their Aer Lingus experience. Having direct internet access on flights of up to ten hours in duration, will be of huge benefit to our customers, in particular to business customers.”

There are, seemingly, no plans to enable voice calls. But it surely can only be a matter of time before “hello, hello, you’ll have to speak up, I’m on the plane” becomes an all-too-familiar part of the in-flight experience.

Tesco profits dented

Tesco HudlMegagrocer Tesco said it saw a 23.5 percent slump in its profits for the first half of its financial year to the end of August.

Its non-UK businesses saw bigger profit drops – European profits fell by over two thirds it said.

Profit margins fell from 5.4 percent to 4.9 percent but the sheer size of Tesco saw a £1.6 billion profit.

Philip Clarke, Tesco’s CEO, claimed that performance in the UK was stronger in the half, especially in its online food sales business.

He said: “The challenging retail environment in Europe has continued to affect the performance and profitability of our business there.”

Tesco recently released its low price Hudl tablet (pictured).

IBM buys into Irish Big Data

IBM logoAmerican behemoth IBM said it has bought Dublin based company the Now Factory but didn’t say how much it paid for it.

The privately held firm makes analytics software targeted at communication service providers (CSPs).

IBM said that the software complements its own range of products – IBM Mobile First. These products are intended to help organisations analyse mobile device usage.

The Now Factory’s stuff analyses large quantities of business data and networks data, and that provides better management of outages.

IBM claims that people create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day, whether its healthcare, social media, climactic information and the rest.

Big Blue wants to position itself as the leader in the Big Data field. The buy will be completed in the fourth quarter, and the company borged into  the IBM mother ship.

Vega GPU Announced by Vivante

VivanteRight up front Vivante states that it designed its GPU architecture to scale to compete with Nvidia and ATI. It plans to vie with Nvidia in the next generation of ultra-mobile GPU in GTX/Maxwell, John Oram writes from San Francisco.

A fledgling start up once assisted by semiconductor angel investors and corporate investment from Fujitsu, Vivante was profitable five years after opening its doors. It is now headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with offices in Shanghai and Chengdu China. Over its nine year history, Vivante Corporation has infiltrated many markets.

The company flaunts its “firsts” – first to ship OpenGLES 3.0 silicon and first to ship embedded OpenCL 1.1 silicon. It has shipped over 120 million units. Currently, Vivante is inside the majority of the top players in the fields of SoC vendors, mobile OEMs, TV OEMs, and automotive OEMs.

At IDF, Vivante was heralding its  advantage over its competitors referring to benchmark ratings in its slides. For example see the GC1000 – Mali 400-MP2 comparison where it also pictorially point out the difference in size between the Mali and smaller Vivante product.

Smart TVs, such as Vizio, LG U+, Lenevo, TCL, Hisense, and Changhong, rely on Vivante. Chromecast Internet to TV streaming experiences Acceleration by Vivante in 3D gaming, composition, and user interface. Set top boxes from Toshiba out of Japan, and three companies out of Shenzhen, China, Huawei, Himedia,and GIEC, all use Vivante’s GPU Acceleration.

Tomorrow’s cars will never be the same. Vivante is everywhere. Drivers will check out their positioning with ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) displays, reverse guidance, pedestrian detection, and object distance indicators. In fact, Vivante was awarded the 2013 Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Award  for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.

Vivante used IDF to announce Vega. Vega is the culmination of seven years of architecture refinements and the experience of more than 100 SoC integrations. It is optimized to balance the big three: performance, power, and area. GPU delivers highest in class performance at greater than 1 GHz GPU clock speeds. It even touts patented logarithmic space full precision math units. Vega is optimized and configured from production GPU cores GC2000, GC4000, and GC5000. Vega GPUs have been delivered to lead customers for tapeout.

Vivante’s SDK is ready for GUI, gaming, and navigation applications. Vivante provides full API support across the GPU product line, OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL 1.2, and DirectX 11 9_3. The company prides itself on its Scalable Ultra-threaded Unified Shader which offers up to 32x SIMD Vec-4 shaders and up to 256 independent threads per shader operate on discrete data in parallel. Shaders facilitate creation of an endless range of effects by tweaking hue, brightness, contrast and saturation of the pixels, vertices and textures to create an image. Shaders provide a programmable alternative to the hard-coded approach known as Fixed Function Pipeline.

Vivante isn’t shy about pointing out its edge over the competition. As far as performance / area advantages, they are taking on Tegra, Adreno, Mali, and IMG.

In conclusion, Vivante indicated that it isn’t overlooking the mass market either with their Vega Lite version which still promises the smallest silicon area matched with extremely low power.

Intel becomes irrelevant

The mighty dinosaur IntelIt was formerly a chip giant but pretty soon now some archaeologist will uncover the bones of Chipzilla as the lumbering dinosaur nears the end of its existence.

At the Intel Developer Forum this year, Intel’s newly hatched CEO, Brian Krzanich, attempted to breathe new life into the diplodocus he tends by warbling on about healthcare and tablets. He must realise, of course, that to somewhat mix metaphors, Chipzilla has missed the boat.

The writing was on the wall for Intel some years ago but because the company is such a giant, the tiny brain wasn’t getting messages from its extremities that it was slowly dying.

It is a climate change in the egosystem that will spell the end for Intel because, in the marketing babble of the present age, its business model is clearly “unsustainable”.

Intel could only continue to churn out new processes and chips as long as it had a virtual monopoly in the market.  A new fab costs billions to produce and profit is predicated on the fact that it essentially controlled the market.

The giant appears to have missed the fact that handset manufacturers didn’t and don’t want to be locked into the same model as the PC industry.  Now, anyone with a smartphone or tablet is toting around an extremely sophisticated computer and no-one in their right minds wants to spend thousands on a PC unless they’re forced to.  As recent market research has shown, the days of PCs are pretty much numbered and, of course, like its evil twin Microsoft, Intel forgot about the mantra it used to chant, that mantra called convergence.

It will take a while for Intel to die because it is such a lumbering creature, but a model that requires billions to develop new processes simply based on PC sales just won’t work anymore. And if Intel thinks that tablets or smartphones will save its bacon, then it is living in cloud cuckoo land.

In some ways, we must lament the coming death of Chipzilla.  It had some fine people working for it and its process technology was next to none.  But greed and its virtual monopoly meant that it was viewing the world wearing blinkers and its own momentum and size prevented it from taking vital decisions.

Windows devs struggle with mobile compatibility

acer-w3Windows app developers are gagging to code for mobile platforms but are finding the cost and complexity associated with the transition a barrier, according to a report.

Dimensional Research asked 1,337 Windows developers around the world for their views on going mobile.

According to the research, there is great demand for development, but delivery itself is challenging, revealing a disconnect between the interest in apps and the tools available to actually make them.

85 percent of the respondents had received requests for mobile apps. The most requested platform by far was for Android support.

Using HTML5 and JavaScript have not proved the way forward. Most respondents understood that native apps are ultimately the best for end users, while three quarters said using HTLM5 and JavaScript caused niggling challenges.

Senior researcher at Dimensional Research, Diane Hagglund, said that Windows developers see the need to bring their experiences to mobile. But “today’s development options either limit the end user or result in costly and complex native development across multiple platforms”.

“These Windows developers clearly need better options,” Hagglund said

Cloud of unknowing descends on public IT

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeMarket research company IDC has gazed in its crystal ball or inspected a set of entrails and has concluded that worldwide spending on public IT cloud services will be worth $47.4 billion this year.

And there’s more to come, according to the auspices.  By 2017, spending will reach $107 billion meaning that between then and now sales will grow by 23.5 percent, compounded annually.

The analysts believe that cloud services are blowing into a chapter two phase where mobile, social and big data will become interdependent.

Chief IDC diviner Frank Gens calculates thus: “Over the next several years, the primary driver for cloud adoption will shift from economics to innovation as leading-edge companies invest in cloud services as the foundation for new competitive offerings. The emergence of cloud as the core for new ‘business as a service’ offerings will accelerate cloud adoption and dramatically raise the cloud model’s strategic value beyond CIOs to CXOs of all types.”

Virtual private clouds help to persuade organisations that the cloud is not dangerous but instead has a silver lining.

By 2017, according to Gens, public IT cloud services will account for seventeen percent of IT product spend. Software as a service (SaaS) will keep the biggest chunk of the pie, and account for 59.7 percent of revenues in 2017, while fast growing categories include the dreadfully named “platform as a service” (PaaS) and the almost equally gruesome “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS) with compound annual growths of 29.7 percent and 27.2 percent.

Intel runs out of roadmaps

stapThere was a time, some years ago, when Intel mattered. It doesn’t matter any more at all and it is running out of steam.

Soon, Intel will hold its annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF) – it was a must attend event back in the days when the company had many very talented senior executives. Most of them are goners now.  Intel was famous for inventing things and driving the industry by using its considerable clout to create stuff.

Now it creates nothing, nothing at all.  Like many a large corporation, including Microsoft and many another corp too, it started behaving like an ingrowing toenail, believing – against all the evidence – that it would hold its mighty market share forever.

We did warn Intel repeatedly it shouldn’t rest on its laurels.  When it adopted StrongARM, as a result of the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) maneuvers, we advised it that it should drastically change its business model and produce some stunning and cheap devices based on that technology.

But no. Like an ignorant bull, it insisted that the world+dog should have notebooks that cost a small fortune.

The last two years has seen its strategy crumble into dust. No one cares about its roadmaps any more. No one gives a flying fart about its process technology. No one has a clue.  It lost some of its most talented individuals – Kicking Pat Gelsinger, Mike Fister full of dollars, Mike Splinter and the rest, and blithely pursued a path which will lead it to Carey Street, if it’s not careful.

As we reported a week or two back, the freshly minted CEO is attempting to introduce a top down page and firing all the spin doctors who, these days, couldn’t spin their way out of a paper bag, nor organise a piss up in a brewery or cheese factory.

Like many an old dinosaur, its tiny brain doesn’t realise that it has been dying from the tail up for several years. It is a shame – we have the utmost respect for any company that has factories – this is no trivial matter. But engineering its way out of this current crisis is, we feel, a fab too far to go.

Microsoft shares soar as Ballmer set to quit

steve_ballmerSteve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, is to retire from the position within 12 months while the software company hustles to appoint a successor.

Ballmer said in a prepared statement: “There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

Microsoft has appointed a committee to search for a successor to Ballmer – a committee which includes founder Bill Gates.

Share prices for Microsoft stock soared in early trading, up by close to eight percent to stand at press time at $34.9.  There have been murmurings that Ballmer should go for quite some time, following what appear to be errors in strategy, including slowness for people to go for Windows 8 and disastrous sales of Microsoft’s Surface RT platform.


Tablets oust PCs

cheap-tabletsA Gartner report says that worldwide shipments of PCs fell in all regions during the second quarter of this year – a fall of 10.9 percent and the fifth consecutive decline.

And, if Gartner analysts are to be believed, the day of the PC is over, with a shrinking installed base of PCs.  Mikato Kitagawa, principal analyst at the company, said: “Inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC. This is also accounting for the collapse of the mini notebook market.”

Lenovo pipped HP at the post, but showed a decline in the Asia Pacific region.  HP however, still leads in the USA, Latin America, and APAC.

76 million units shipped in the second quarter, but worldwide, Acer’s growth dropped by 35.3 percent, while Asus also see a decline of 20.5 percent.

Dell also fell, but showed steady growth in the USA and Japan.

Kitigawa, however, doesn’t think Windows 8 is responsible for the slowing shipments. However, the impending end of support for Windows XP helped to grow PC sales in the US enterprise sector.

Victor Basta, MD at M&A firm Magister, believes the PC era ended some time ago. He said: “If you’re a store chain called PC World you might want to rethink your brand quickly if you want to be associated with the future of technology rather than antiquity.”  He also warned poor sales of PCs would cast a cloud over the Dell deal.