News You Can Use: 4/26/2017

  • Buy American, Hire American – Coming Soon to Impact a Supply Chain Near You

    The Buy American, Hire American order is two-fold. The Buy American agenda will: (1) instruct agencies to conduct comprehensive assessments; (2) target waivers and exceptions allowing foreign goods advantages in U.S. government procurement; (3) require a review of WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement and other trade deals to ensure compliance with new standards; (4) require Buy American bidding processes to take into account unfair trade practices; and (5) promote American-made steel. The Hire American agenda will: (1) enforce laws governing entry of foreign workers in order to promote rising wages and more employment; and (2) direct agencies to propose reforms to H-1B program.

    Industry trade groups, including the American Petroleum Institute and Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, claim the order will reduce competition leading to higher prices. Ken Simonson of the Association of General Contractors, states he expects prices to go up on key materials for construction projects, such as fuel, lumber, steel, and copper. Simonson warns trade restrictions limit the ability of contractors and manufacturers to control costs leading to projects being deferred or even canceled.

    http://www.natlawreview.com/article/buy-american-hire-american-coming-soon-to-impact-supply-chain-near-you
    Note: I have been trying to keep up with this topic personally and put together this post last week and Episode 58 of SourceCast.

  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Faces Balancing Act in Net Neutrality Rollback

    No matter which path he eventually chooses—fast or slow—Mr. Pai might feel he has to start soon. That is because he faces at least some risk that the lone remaining Democrat on the commission, Mignon Clyburn, could leave at some point after her term expires in June. There are already two vacancies on the five-member commission, so her departure could leave the FCC without a quorum, at least until a successor is confirmed. Then it would be far more difficult for the agency to vote on major policy changes—even just initiating them.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/fcc-chairman-ajit-pai-faces-balancing-act-in-net-neutrality-rollback-1492340400

  • Has supply chain growth outpaced the talent it requires?

    “There have been a lot of changes. There’s more and more automation; transacting purchases with artificial intelligence (AI) is a radical change,” he told Supply Chain Dive. “Will you need people doing these things? [Currently] you find a supplier, put out the RFIs (requests for information) and get sourcing recommendations. I don’t know if that will be there in five or 10 years.”

    http://www.supplychaindive.com/news/talent-crisis-education-tech-supply-chain-nature/440392/
    Flashback to SourceCast Episode 55 – I go deep on this topic:

  • Most employees willing to share sensitive information, survey says

    According to an end user security survey released this morning, 72 percent of employees are willing to share confidential information. In the financial services sector, the percentage was even higher — 81 percent said they should share sensitive, confidential or regulated information.

    This is despite the fact that 65 percent said that it was their responsibility to protect confidential data.

    “There is an acknowledgment by employees that security is important,” said Brett Hansen, vice president for endpoint and data security at Dell, the company that sponsored the survey. “But their actions are not consistent with good data security.”

    http://www.csoonline.com/article/3191286/security/most-employees-willing-to-share-sensitive-information-survey-says.html

  • Why Tesla’s Future Is So Hard to Predict

    Earlier this month, Navigant Research published a report that declared the worldwide leader in self-driving tech is Ford, followed by GM, Renault-Nissan, Daimler, and Volkswagen—all car companies. Tesla finished 12th. One research report isn’t gospel. But it suggests that the “Tesla Is Apple, and Cars Are Smartphones” thesis has some serious limitations. In 2007, Apple’s competitors thought the iPhone was a terrible idea. But in 2017, almost all of Tesla’s competitors are engaged in a global race to build electric and autonomous vehicles, and some of them are arguably ahead of Musk in software and distribution capacity.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/04/tesla-future-of-driving/523224/?utm_source=feed

Photo: Sebastian Unrau

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Supplier Report: 4/22/2017

It has been an explosive week in tech news.

IBM reported their 20th consecutive quarter of loss. As their stock plunged, rival Oracle announced the acquisition of 2 companies. Oracle’s recent comments in the press caught the ire of Amazon who finally pushed back on Ellison and Hurd’s comments by calling out some of “big red’s” failings.

Microsoft took a hit this week after news leaked that the NSA created security holes in their products. The company says the vulnerabilities have already been patched, but many are wondering what else the government has done.

Acquisitions

  • VMware Buys Monitoring Company Wavefront

    The acquisition lets VMware “leapfrog into application management of next-generation modern applications,” according to VMware Senior Vice President Ajay Singh. By “modern applications,” he’s referring to applications in containers.

    Terms were not disclosed. Wavefront was certainly worth tens of millions of dollars, and VMware may have spent as much as $100 million or thereabouts, an estimate based on the amount of venture capital poured into Wavefront coupled with the startup’s recent claim of “hyper growth.” Wavefront attracted $11.5 million in venture capital in its series A in February of last year, followed quickly by a second round in October of $52 million.

    https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/vmware-buys-monitoring-company-wavefront/2017/04/

  • Oracle buys Wercker, a Dutch startup that automates code testing and deployment

    Database technology giant Oracle has announced plans to acquire Wercker, a Dutch startup that offers tools for automating the process of testing and deploying code. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Founded out of Amsterdam in 2012, Wercker offers developers a container-centric platform that helps automate the development of applications and microservices. It operates in a space that includes competitors such as Shippable, Codeship, CircleCI, Drone.io, and Semaphore, though Wercker cites its ability to integrate with Docker containers as one differentiator. It’s all about helping companies that are building software specifically for deployment in the cloud.

    https://venturebeat.com/2017/04/17/oracle-buys-wercker-a-dutch-startup-that-automates-code-testing-and-deployment/

  • Oracle acquires ad measurement company Moat

    Founded in 2010, Moat helps advertisers and publishers measure whether people see and interact with online ads. The need to create what CEO Jonah Goodhart has called “the currency for digital advertising” seems increasingly important given advertiser concerns around viewability, fraud and trust, and Moat has been working with some big names, including Nestle, Procter & Gamble and Unilever on the advertiser side, as well as ESPN, Facebook and Snapchat on the publisher side.

    And while Moat raised $50 million just over a year ago, the funding landscape for adtech companies hasn’t been great, leading to predictions of more acquisitions and consolidation. (Moat raised more than $67 million total from investors including SV Angel, Mayfield Fund and Insight Venture Partners).

    https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/18/oracle-acquires-moat/?ncid=rss
    Update: They are paying $850M

  • Microsoft acquires Intentional Software to bolster its productivity apps

    Interestingly, Intentional Software was originally founded by a former Microsoft employee, Charles Simonyi. At Microsoft, Simonyi oversaw the creation of Word and Excel, among others. After founding Intentional Software in 2002, Simonyi focused his efforts on making programming less complicated, eventually leading the Intentional Software team to “develop productivity scenarios for the future workforce.”

    Under the terms of the deal, Simonyi will be heading back to Microsoft along with members of the Intentional Software team.

    http://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-acquires-intentional-software-bolster-its-productivity-apps

Artificial Intelligence

  • The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI

    There’s already an argument that being able to interrogate an AI system about how it reached its conclusions is a fundamental legal right. Starting in the summer of 2018, the European Union may require that companies be able to give users an explanation for decisions that automated systems reach. This might be impossible, even for systems that seem relatively simple on the surface, such as the apps and websites that use deep learning to serve ads or recommend songs. The computers that run those services have programmed themselves, and they have done it in ways we cannot understand. Even the engineers who build these apps cannot fully explain their behavior.

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604087/the-dark-secret-at-the-heart-of-ai/

Cloud

  • Amazon cloud chief jabs Oracle: ‘Customers are sick of it’

    Jassy was addressing a cultural shift in the way technology is bought and sold. No longer does the process involve the purchase of heavy proprietary software with multi-year contracts that include annual maintenance fees. Now, Jassy says, it’s about choice and ease of use, including letting clients turn things off if they’re not working.

    He specifically went after Oracle’s core database business, saying that “over the last few decades, it has been a lonely place for customers” because of the high prices and vendor lock-in.

    “Customers are sick of it,” he said.

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/19/amazon-aws-chief-andy-jassy-on-oracle-customers-are-sick-of-it.html

  • IBM’s cloud provides little silver lining

    It has survived mass extinctions before, but there’s mounting scepticism it can thrive in the current climate. Over the past five years, the company’s shares have fallen 16% compared to a 68% increase for the S&P 500 Index.The future for IBM resides in what it calls “Strategic Imperatives.” These initiatives, which include the AI initiative Watson and cloud operations, grew 12% over the past year and now account for more than 40% of total revenue.

    Ongoing opacity makes it hard to say exactly what it means, though. IBM doesn’t break out Watson’s figures, for example, because it says it’s a “golden thread” weaving throughout the company. The Cognitive Solutions arm in which Watson is housed only grew 2% over the past year. All other divisions shrank.

    http://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/ibm%E2%80%99s-cloud-provides-little-silver-lining

Datacenter

  • Oracle data center comment raises eyebrows at AWS

    In reaction to Hurd’s comments, AWS VP and distinguished engineer James Hamilton said in a blog post: “Of course, I don’t believe that Oracle has, or will ever get, servers 2x faster than the big three cloud providers.

    “I also would argue that ‘speeding up the database’ isn’t something Oracle is uniquely positioned to offer. All major cloud providers have deep database investments but, ignoring that, extraordinary database performance won’t change most of the factors that force successful cloud providers to offer a large multi-national data center footprint to serve the world.”

    Hamilton went on to explain the need to have multiple data centers in a region for redundancy reasons – “One facility will have some very serious and difficult-to-avoid full-facility fault modes like flood and, to a lesser extent, fire. It’s absolutely necessary to have two independent facilities per region and it’s actually much more efficient and easy to manage with three.”

    http://www.datacenterdynamics.com/content-tracks/colo-cloud/oracle-data-center-comment-raises-eyebrows-at-aws/98186.article

Software/SaaS

  • Micro Focus signals job cuts after £7bn HP deal

    In the presentation to lenders on April 4, its executive chairman, Kevin Loosemore, and chief financial officer Mike Phillips said Micro Focus planned to bring profit margins at HPE Software up from 21pc to a group-wide 46pc within four years.

    It said that Micro Focus revenues currently equate to $273,000 a head compared with $185,000 at HPE Software, and highlighted previous acquisitions in which the company had cut staff numbers to boost profit margins.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/04/15/micro-focus-signals-job-cuts-7bn-hp-deal/

  • Slack, an Upstart in Messaging, Now Faces Giant Tech Rivals

    There is no illusion within Slack that success is certain. But Stewart Butterfield, the chief executive, said small tech companies with new ideas had long defeated larger rivals that tried to copy them. Think of Apple’s beating IBM in personal computing, Google’s beating Microsoft in search and Facebook’s crushing Google in social networks.

    One advantage Slack does have is focus, Mr. Butterfield maintains. Microsoft, for example, has numerous Slack-like products including Yammer, SharePoint, Skype for Business and now Teams. The executives who run those businesses within Microsoft must “compete for budget and mind share and attention,” he said, providing an opening for Slack to gain users while Microsoft managers wage internal wars.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/technology/slack-employee-messaging-workplace.html

Other

  • Cybersecurity Startup Tanium Exposed California Hospital’s Network in Demos Without Permission

    Tanium sells software that rapidly maps computer networks and diagnoses companies’ vulnerabilities. To drive sales, co-founder and Chief Executive Orion Hindawi designed a presentation that he said showed his company’s software running inside a client. The system in the demo belonged to El Camino Hospital, a nonprofit community hospital based in Santa Clara County, Calif. He and his staff gave the presentation hundreds of times, from at least as early as 2012 through mid-2015, according to people familiar with the matter and three demonstration videos posted online by Tanium and its resellers.

    “The hospital did not authorize desktop management data or other information to be used in any product demonstration and was not previously aware of these demonstrations or videos,” El Camino Hospital said in a response to inquiries by The Wall Street Journal. “We are dismayed to learn that desktop and server management information was shared. We are thoroughly investigating this matter and take our responsibility to maintain the integrity of our systems very seriously.” The hospital said Tanium didn’t have access to any patient information, and said, “based on our review to date, patient information remains secure.”

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/cybersecurity-startup-tanium-exposed-california-hospitals-network-in-demos-without-permission-1492624287

  • Edward Snowden: Latest NSA leak is ‘not a drill’

    Snowden said the NSA knew as recently as last year that their hacking methods were stolen, but accused the agency of refusing to tell software makers “how to lock the thieves out.”

    “It’s not safe to run an Internet-facing Windows box right now,” a hacker who used to work in the Defense Department told Motherboard. The unnamed hacker also said, “this is the worst thing since Snowden.”

    Microsoft says it is reviewing the leak and “will take the necessary actions to protect our customers.”

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/edward-snowden-latest-nsa-leak-is-not-a-drill/article/2620332
    Microsoft has already patched the NSA’s leaked Windows hacks

    Microsoft says it has already patched the Windows exploits released by the Shadow Brokers group. The hacking tools, likely originating from the NSA, were released online yesterday, and Microsoft was able to test and confirm patches are already available for all currently supported versions of Windows. That does mean that older Windows XP or Windows Vista systems could still be vulnerable to three of the exploits released, but it’s unlikely that Microsoft will supply patches for these older versions of Windows as they’re already unsupported.

    http://www.theverge.com/2017/4/15/15311846/microsoft-windows-shadow-brokers-nsa-hacks-patched

  • IBM shares dropped like a rock today

    As a result shares plummeted in after hours trading and refused to gain ground over the course of the day dropping nearly 5%, or over $8.

    As the Motley Fool noted, the miss and resulting tumble erased nearly $9 billion from IBM’s market capitalization and brought the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by 64 points.

    The problem for IBM is the dwindling value of the consulting business on which it built much of its fortunes in the 90s and early 2000s.

    First, the big numbers. Earnings per share were $2.38 vs. expectations of $2.35, according to Thomson Reuters. Meanwhile, revenue fell to $18.16 billion compared with the $18.39 billion that “the street” expected.

    https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/19/ibm-shares-dropped-like-a-rock-today/?ncid=rss

  • Verizon, for First Time, Loses Core Wireless Customers

    The carrier posted its first-ever quarterly net loss of wireless subscribers during the first three months of 2017, showing the extent of the damage resurgent rivals T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp have inflicted on the nation’s largest carrier by subscribers.

    Verizon unexpectedly brought back unlimited data plans in February, which it had stopped selling in 2011, seeking to blunt the appeal of similar offers from T-Mobile and Sprint. That offer hit financials: Verizon had a 5.1% decline in revenue in its wireless business, to $20.9 billion. Total revenue has now declined four quarters in a row.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/verizon-for-first-time-loses-core-wireless-customers-1492691308

Photo: Yosh Ginsu

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Outsourcing industry facing more immigration complexity

This week, President Trump is revisiting United States immigration policy.

The President signed an executive order on Tuesday to prevent immigration “fraud and abuse”:

“It’s America first—you better believe it,” Mr. Trump said during a speech at Snap-On Inc., a tool manufacturer in Kenosha, Wis., before signing an executive order that calls for a government-wide review aimed at stricter enforcement of immigration and other laws governing the entry of workers into the U.S.

A by-product of the Trump administration’s attempts at modifying immigrant labor regulation is a drop in H-1B applications for the first time in years:

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said Monday it had received 199,000 H-1B applications for the next fiscal year, according to the federal immigration agency. This is a steep decline from the 236,000 received last year and the 233,000 it received in 2015.

SFGate.com spoke with Martin Lawler, a Bay Area immigration attorney that suggests H-1B applications declined due to frustration. Applicants are selected at random and have to wait months to learn the final decision on their status.

Companies operating in US technology hubs like San Francisco have been complaining that these modifications will result in access to less qualified resources with math-based skills.

The biggest companies using H-1B visas are large Indian outsourcing firms like Tata, Cognizant, Infosys, Wipro, and Accenture. The Trump administration specifically called out Tata and Infosys as abusers of the existing program by supplying low-paid, low-skilled workers instead of the high-skill labor the program was designed to support.

The Trump administration is looking to raise the minimum salary requirements to issue a visa and would also like to place a limit on the number of employees with H-1B visas a company can hire. With these rules in place, Trump is expecting American companies will have no choice but to hire from the domestic labor pool.

Interestingly, even with all of the labor turmoil, Tata Consulting is reporting an actual rise in profits:

Mumbai-based TCS said profit in the fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31 stood at 66.08 billion rupees ($1.02 billion), up 4.2% from 63.41 billion rupees a year ago. That was just below the 66.23 billion rupees consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters. Revenue grew 4.2% to 296.42 billion rupees.

As the President refines his immigration policy, will Tata and its competitors be able to maintain growth? More importantly, is President Trump taking actions that will help the US economy in the long run by giving US workers (potentially) more opportunities, or will these decisions ultimately inhibit economic growth?

Update: Epilogue 

The Atlantic published an article detailing how a “buy American” strategy could backfire economically:

Laura Tyson, a professor at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business who chaired President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, described much the same fundamental problem with the policy. “For every dollar spent, the amount you get for that dollar is going to depend on the price you have to pay,” she explained. “This kind of policy will reduce competition and raise the price of the product. So, instead of a global set of suppliers competing for U.S. government contracts, only U.S. suppliers will compete. And in some product areas, there won’t be a large number of U.S. suppliers, and [they] may not have the superior products or the superior technology. So, in those cases, both the quality and the price of the product that the government faces with a limited budget to spend on procurement will actually deteriorate.”

The critiques seem to focus on government procurement and explains that by closing bids to foreign companies, products and services will cost more and potentially provide inferior solutions.

Here is a podcast I did a few months ago on the H-1B topic:


Photo: himanshu-singh-gurjar

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SourceCast: Episode 67: The 5th Generation

5G phone networks are becoming a reality and AT&T wants to control as much bandwidth as possible. As the company makes a play for Straight Path, Verizon is looking to make their own moves.

I asked a question at the end of the podcast, I would love to see actual listener’s opinions:

Photo: Matthew Kane

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News You Can Use: 4/19/2017

  • Want to be Successful? Learn to Like Other People

    One of the biggest opportunities for growth at work comes from the way you solicit feedback and what you do with it afterward. Research demonstrates that while employees who speak up tend to improve how well teams function, many tend to be afraid to do so, worrying that their input won’t be well-received. Simply assuming the best in others can lay the foundation for managers and their team members alike to learn and improve without wounding egos.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40401630/want-to-be-happier-and-more-successful-learn-to-like-other-people

  • Why So Many Americans Are Saying Goodbye to Cities

    America’s largest cities have so much going for them. They are rich, productive, and pulsating with culture and life. So what happened to the great urban revival? “America’s cities have domestic net out-migration because they’re not affordable,” said E. J. McMahon, the founder of the Empire Center for Public Policy. “For many, New York City is a temporary portal. The Baby Boomers retire to Florida. The middle-class Millennials move to Long Island for a house. The woman from Slovakia comes to Queens, lives in her second-cousin’s basement, gets her feet on the ground, and gets a better apartment in West Orange, New Jersey.”

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/04/why-is-everyone-leaving-the-city/521844/?utm_source=feed

  • With robots on the job, it won’t be IT as usual

    “It’s very much a different mindset than traditional IT,” said Mike Gennert, a professor and director of the Robotics Engineering Program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, Mass. “IT managers worry about how they manage information, how it’s used, how it’s stored and secured. But none of that has the ability to directly affect the physical world. Robots affect the real world. That brings issues IT managers have not had to confront.”

    For instance, It’s bad enough if a company computer is hacked and it becomes part of a zombie botnet. But what if someone hijacks a company robot and makes it do things, harmful things, in the real world?

    http://www.computerworld.com/article/3188889/robotics/with-robots-on-the-job-its-not-going-to-be-it-as-usual.html

  • Does Silicon Valley Have a Contract-Worker Problem?

    But increasingly, critics argue that the freelance model is being abused, with workers being treated as if they were on payroll without getting any of the benefits afforded to payrolled employees. Some Silicon Valley insiders are beginning to worry that start-ups’ overreliance on contract workers could come back to haunt them if they run afoul of longstanding labor rules. If that happens, these high-flying disruptors could be facing serious disruption themselves.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/09/silicon-valleys-contract-worker-problem.html
    Also:

    Then, there is the problem of massive labor oversupply. Unlike for Uber or TaskRabbit, which operate in a given city with a constrained supply of workers, the pool of labor for such digital work is for all intents and purposes infinite. One contingent-work platform reported having nine times as many workers as necessary. A Filipino virtual assistant described the inevitable result: “I first set [my hourly rate] at $8, because that’s what my previous client was paying me,” the assistant told the researchers. “But I found it quite difficult to find jobs. So I set it at $4. And I think I even set it at $3.50 currently. So, I mean, if you don’t get a lot of invitations, you don’t have any other choice but to lower down your expectations, I guess.”

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/04/gig-economy-global/522954/?utm_source=feed

  • What “Personal Space” Means to the Rest of World

    Countries that greatly value their personal space include Romania, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Uganda. Participants from all five of those places would prefer it if you stood more than 120 cm away, or roughly four feet. But participants from Argentina, Peru, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Austria don’t mind if you chill about 90 cm away, or less than three feet. The U.S. isn’t too far off from that, expecting strangers to keep a cool 95 cm distance between them.

    That said, nobody likes any stranger standing two and half feet or less away. So stop it. Unless you’re on a cramped metro train or something and can’t help it. It’s also important to note that women and elderly participants of all cultures required more space.

    http://lifehacker.com/what-personal-space-means-to-the-rest-of-world-1794130182
    Certainly not the first time a reporter has addressed this topic, but always good to have a refresher.

Photo: Nina Strehl

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