What’s The Best Cloud For Companies? Try Hybrid

Let’s be honest, diving into a public cloud computing environment makes many companies more than a little nervous. After all, who is really comfortable with putting it all out there? Who feels secure enough to trust that mission-critical applications are truly safe in the public domain?

Despite knowing that public clouds provide companies with undeniable access to data for customers and employees, or data that can be shared, analyzed and put to work. organizations have a hard time relinquishing control of applications and data that run on their own infrastructure. And they don’t know where to start.

I often hear from clients that they are uncertain about the public cloud because they want to maintain control. And they’re not sure how to align the cloud to their business goals. In addition, they are concerned that if the cloud vendor’s network goes down, that they could lose millions a day in lost sales with no real recourse other than to sit on their hands and wait. They really can’t afford even the slightest chance that their mission-critical applications are susceptible to any outage. So the safest bet it to keep their applications on premises where they can keep an eye on them.

Hybrid clouds, however, represent the best of both worlds. A hybrid cloud creates an environment in which companies can maintain on-premises control of certain applications and data, while determining which applications belong in the cloud. The hybrid approach minimizes change, helps to reduce costs and enables more scalable and flexible business processes. Companies can create a cloud environment that marries a company’s existing infrastructure and IT investments, as well as providing a platform for new cloud workloads driven by trends such as the rise of big data, mobile and social applications.

Whirlpool, the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, needed a flexible and scalable environment to host its ecommerce platform, while storing and deploying large amounts of customer and product data. IBM and SoftLayer provided a globally integrated Infrastructure as a Service platform with massive capacity to support its existing product lifecycle management system.

A one-size fits-all public cloud doesn’t work for many companies. Many are looking for ways to take advantage of the cloud without giving up their legacy IT investments. A hybrid model enables them to take advantage of a cloud environment, yet still maintain a level of control that is consistent with their business needs — a practical approach that delivers the best of both worlds.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ibm/2014/07/31/whats-the-best-cloud-for-companies-try-hybrid/

Microsoft’s Profits Slide on Mobile, but Its Cloud Flourishes

Microsoft’s new chief executive has said the two most important trends for the company’s future are mobile and cloud computing. But it is doing much better in cloud computing than in mobile.

In what amounted to its first financial report card since acquiring the mobile business of Nokia, the Finnish handset maker, Microsoft said its overall profits slid because the Nokia business continued to lose money. At the same time, though, Microsoft’s revenues got a big boost from the sales of mobile phones. Microsoft will continue to face a challenge in creating mobile products that excite people, even as it cuts costs to prevent Nokia from dragging the company’s overall profits down.

In the earnings report released Tuesday, Nokia did just that, contributing to a decline in Microsoft’s net income and helping its revenue jump 18 percent with the addition of $2 billion in Nokia device sales.

But there was better news for Microsoft’s cloud business. Annual sales from its commercial cloud business would be $4.4 billion if it sustained its June sales levels for a full year. The company doubled its cloud revenue for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said he was “proud that our aggressive move to the cloud was paying off.”

Mr. Nadella, who took over in February, is trying to quickly move Microsoft away from a focus on the PC and toward an emphasis on developing technologies for mobile and cloud computing.

One fear for investors has been that Microsoft might gut its profits by plowing money into those areas the way it did with its money-losing investment in Internet search. The acquisition of Nokia was of particular concern in that regard. The company’s results on Tuesday, though, offered investors some solace that Mr. Nadella would try to keep a lid on costs as he repositions Microsoft.

For the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, Microsoft reported net income of $4.61 billion, or 55 cents a share, down from $4.97 billion, or 59 cents a share, in the period a year ago.

The company said revenue jumped to $23.38 billion from $19.9 billion in the period a year earlier.

While Microsoft’s profit was lower, investors have been expecting the addition of Nokia’s money-losing phone business to hurt Microsoft for some time. Microsoft said Nokia lowered its overall operating income by $692 million during the quarter.

Analysts were expecting Microsoft to report 60 cents a share in earnings and revenue of $23 billion, according to an average of their estimates by Thomson Reuters. While its profit was lower than expected, Microsoft provided Wall Street with very little information ahead of time about how Nokia would affect its results during the quarter, leading to a lot of educated guesswork by analysts.

Microsoft’s shares rose slightly in after-hours trading after the release of the results.

“It’s better than I thought it was going to be,” Brendan Barnicle, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, said of Nokia’s impact on Microsoft’s results.

In the last few weeks, Mr. Nadella has been putting his stamp on the company, first with a manifesto that sought to rally employees around what he views as Microsoft’s core mission, as “the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world.” In a sign of how Microsoft’s priorities have shifted, Mr. Nadella mentioned the PC only twice in the memo, which was about 3,000 words long, while mentioning the cloud 22 times and mobile computing 11.

There was a similar shift in emphasis in a call Microsoft held with financial analysts to discuss its results. “We didn’t hear about PCs, for the most part,” Mr. Barnicle said. “We heard about the growth in cloud.”

Since the release of the manifesto, people inside and outside Microsoft have been waiting for Mr. Nadella to translate his message into more specifics. An important development came last week when Microsoft announced plans to eliminate about 18,000 jobs at the company over the next year, or about 14 percent of its total work force. The layoffs fell most heavily on the 25,000 employees who joined Microsoft a few months ago after the closing of its deal to acquire Nokia’s mobile business.

In one surprise, Mr. Nadella on Tuesday said that Microsoft’s Bing search engine would be profitable in its 2016 fiscal year, which will end on June 30 of that year. While that is a while off, it is a positive development for Microsoft, which has lost billions of dollars on its Internet search projects as it sought unsuccessfully to compete with Google.

Investors appeared to take some comfort from the progress of Microsoft’s cloud business, a major part of its effort to reposition itself for the future. Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, said that Nokia was a “messy business with massive challenges ahead,” but that he believed other parts of Microsoft’s business were performing well.

“The cloud strategy is really starting to pay dividends,” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/technology/nokia-bolsters-microsoft-revenue-but-earnings-slip.html

Microsoft’s Profits Slide on Mobile, but Its Cloud Flourishes

Microsoft’s new chief executive has said the two most important trends for the company’s future are mobile and cloud computing. But it is doing much better in cloud computing than in mobile.

In what amounted to its first financial report card since acquiring the mobile business of Nokia, the Finnish handset maker, Microsoft said its overall profits slid because the Nokia business continued to lose money. At the same time, though, Microsoft’s revenues got a big boost from the sales of mobile phones. Microsoft will continue to face a challenge in creating mobile products that excite people, even as it cuts costs to prevent Nokia from dragging the company’s overall profits down.

In the earnings report released Tuesday, Nokia did just that, contributing to a decline in Microsoft’s net income and helping its revenue jump 18 percent with the addition of $2 billion in Nokia device sales.

But there was better news for Microsoft’s cloud business. Annual sales from its commercial cloud business would be $4.4 billion if it sustained its June sales levels for a full year. The company doubled its cloud revenue for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said he was “proud that our aggressive move to the cloud was paying off.”

Mr. Nadella, who took over in February, is trying to quickly move Microsoft away from a focus on the PC and toward an emphasis on developing technologies for mobile and cloud computing.

One fear for investors has been that Microsoft might gut its profits by plowing money into those areas the way it did with its money-losing investment in Internet search. The acquisition of Nokia was of particular concern in that regard. The company’s results on Tuesday, though, offered investors some solace that Mr. Nadella would try to keep a lid on costs as he repositions Microsoft.

For the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, Microsoft reported net income of $4.61 billion, or 55 cents a share, down from $4.97 billion, or 59 cents a share, in the period a year ago.

The company said revenue jumped to $23.38 billion from $19.9 billion in the period a year earlier.

While Microsoft’s profit was lower, investors have been expecting the addition of Nokia’s money-losing phone business to hurt Microsoft for some time. Microsoft said Nokia lowered its overall operating income by $692 million during the quarter.

Analysts were expecting Microsoft to report 60 cents a share in earnings and revenue of $23 billion, according to an average of their estimates by Thomson Reuters. While its profit was lower than expected, Microsoft provided Wall Street with very little information ahead of time about how Nokia would affect its results during the quarter, leading to a lot of educated guesswork by analysts.

Microsoft’s shares rose slightly in after-hours trading after the release of the results.

“It’s better than I thought it was going to be,” Brendan Barnicle, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, said of Nokia’s impact on Microsoft’s results.

In the last few weeks, Mr. Nadella has been putting his stamp on the company, first with a manifesto that sought to rally employees around what he views as Microsoft’s core mission, as “the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world.” In a sign of how Microsoft’s priorities have shifted, Mr. Nadella mentioned the PC only twice in the memo, which was about 3,000 words long, while mentioning the cloud 22 times and mobile computing 11.

There was a similar shift in emphasis in a call Microsoft held with financial analysts to discuss its results. “We didn’t hear about PCs, for the most part,” Mr. Barnicle said. “We heard about the growth in cloud.”

Since the release of the manifesto, people inside and outside Microsoft have been waiting for Mr. Nadella to translate his message into more specifics. An important development came last week when Microsoft announced plans to eliminate about 18,000 jobs at the company over the next year, or about 14 percent of its total work force. The layoffs fell most heavily on the 25,000 employees who joined Microsoft a few months ago after the closing of its deal to acquire Nokia’s mobile business.

In one surprise, Mr. Nadella on Tuesday said that Microsoft’s Bing search engine would be profitable in its 2016 fiscal year, which will end on June 30 of that year. While that is a while off, it is a positive development for Microsoft, which has lost billions of dollars on its Internet search projects as it sought unsuccessfully to compete with Google.

Investors appeared to take some comfort from the progress of Microsoft’s cloud business, a major part of its effort to reposition itself for the future. Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, said that Nokia was a “messy business with massive challenges ahead,” but that he believed other parts of Microsoft’s business were performing well.

“The cloud strategy is really starting to pay dividends,” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/technology/nokia-bolsters-microsoft-revenue-but-earnings-slip.html

Challenges for Amazon’s Cloud Computing Hopes

How worried should Amazon be about its biggest hope for the future?

The giant online retailer has long said that its business selling computing services over the Internet, called Amazon Web Services, would eventually be the size of its mainstay business of selling stuff. In Thursday’s earnings report, however, growth of the business looks to have dramatically slowed in ways that hadn’t been seen before.

A.W.S. is still tiny, compared with Amazon’s efforts in books, devices and reselling for others. Amazon does not break out figures for the web services, but company executives confirm that the division is by far the biggest part of the “other” category of its reported revenue.

For the second fiscal quarter, that segment was $1.2 billion, a rise of 37 percent from a year earlier. While impressive, that is far less than the growth rates of 50 percent or more recorded for multiple quarters.

Compared with the first quarter, the sector actually shrank 3.2 percent. There hadn’t been a consecutive drop since the Amazon’s first quarter of 2013, and that was because of the heavy use the web service gets during the holiday season. This time, the money just didn’t come in.

What happened? Certainly, the law of large numbers says nothing can grow at nosebleed rates forever. This seems early in the game for a slowdown, however, since Amazon Web Services and its competitors think public cloud computing will eventually dominate the global computing business.

On an earnings call, executives said A.W.S. had to respond to price pressure. Specifically, in late March, Google announced dramatic price cuts for its cloud business, which Amazon had to match. Microsoft, which offers a cloud business called Azure to the public, has a policy of matching Amazon, and followed suit.

A.W.S., which still hosts the biggest corporate names in its public cloud, put a brave face on things. “AWS continues to grow strongly,” the company said in its earnings release, “with usage growth close to 90 percent year over year in the second quarter.” Amazon also said that A.W.S. staff “grew by thousands of employees this past year.”

That may point to a deeper problem for A.W.S. than one-time price cuts. As public cloud computing moves from a service for developers and experimentation, and into a mainstream corporate business, getting business is going to cost more and take longer.

“Enterprise adoption is pretty tough for the public cloud — not because of security, but because of all the agreements that have to be made throughout an organization,” said Chris Gaun, global cloud strategist at Apprenda, a company that works with public clouds, including Amazon, to help companies move their computing there. “A real sales cycle is 12 months,” he said, compared with a few minutes when a single individual is signing up for A.W.S.

Price, people and time are costs that don’t play well for A.W.S., given the big competitors now seriously in the business. In its most recent quarters, Amazon had $5 billion in cash and marketable securities. Google had $59 billion, and Microsoft had $88 billion. IBM, which is also building a public cloud business, had $10 billion and a substantial amount of debt to service.

What Amazon’s service does have is a great roster of named clients, and probably lots more companies that aren’t ready to admit somebody else runs their computers. It has an enormous cloud and a technical understanding of global-scale computing that is second to none. All it needs is a bigger sales team for businesses and a way to get its checks signed faster.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/25/challenges-for-amazons-cloud-computing-hopes/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Super Cali optimistic cloud is now a focus – even though the sound of it is something quite … Precocious?

California has become the first state in the US to shift a massive chunk of its government computing system to the cloud – and dubbed it CalCloud.

"CalCloud is an important step towards providing faster and more cost effective IT services to California state departments and ultimately to the citizens of California," said Marybel Batjer, secretary of the Government Operations Agency, in a canned statement.

Services hosted in the cloud will be supplied on-demand to 400 state departments from government-operated data centers in Sacramento and Vacaville, a spokesman told The Register. In a five-year agreement, IBM train staff in how to roll out those services. After that, California intends to run the system by itself.

The contract will be worth between $40m and $50m to IBM, we’re told. However, the spokesman described CalCloud as "revenue neutral" as the state’s departments are ultimately paying the state for the computing resources they use. So far 25 departments have signed up for services and another dozen have expressed an interest.

Also included in the deal is AT&T, which will be providing edge networking knowhow and security systems. KPMG will take some dollars in a consultancy role, but the bulk of the cash will go to Big Blue for what is essentially a training contract.

"Transforming how the State of California delivers technology services is not only more efficient and cost effective, it will spur innovation with cloud capabilities that are open and secure," said Erich Clementi, VP of IBM global technology services, in a statement.

"California is setting an example for other states on how to use cloud technology to improve coordination across agencies and municipalities while reducing the barriers and duplication that can impede the delivery of government services."

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/07/25/calcloud_data_center/

Amazon, Google Cloud Price War Benefits CIOs

It looks like an all-out price war is coming in the cloud.

As the WSJ noted Thursday, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN -10.15%) said price cuts to the cloud computing services division Amazon Web Services were to blame for a slowdown in the unit’s overall revenue.

Amazon said it has cut service prices by between 28% and 51% for various AWS services. It’s part of an ongoing price war and greater competition against Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.MSFT +0.18%, both of whom have been happy to match AWS price cuts with their own. Microsoft on Tuesday noted a 147% jump in commercial cloud revenue in the quarter ended June 30, led by Office 365 and Azure products.

For CIOs, the so-called race to the bottom in cloud pricing is a good thing. “This price war is a fantastic thing, since it is lowering prices without impacting the quality of service,” says Gartner analyst Lydia Leong. Multiple large vendors pushing cloud is helping expand the market more quickly, she said, and the price cuts are increasing the velocity of cloud adoption.

CIOs should anticipate continued price declines from the big vendors, she said. “The infrastructure resources themselves will be commodities.” The providers will likely continue to offer highly differentiated offerings as well. “Internal IT organizations will find it very difficult to compete with the capabilities delivered by these providers, particularly at the price-point that will be offered.”

As CIO Journal wrote in May, larger companies have moved to cloud office productivity services like Office 365 more slowly than many initially expected, citing security concerns, regulatory issues and agreements with cloud vendors. Nevertheless, cloud computing continues to gain traction in the enterprise.In an April report, Forrester Research Inc. projected the global public cloud market would rise to $191 billion by 2020, with cloud applications leading the way.

Although the price cuts brought down Amazon’s revenue, “I wouldn’t read this as the cloud platform market slowing down; it’s certainly not,” Forrester analyst James Staten said in an email. For CIOs, “it’s definitely good because competition breeds better innovation and consistency in offerings.” Amazon CFO Tom Szkutak said Thursday that AWS usage was up 90% year-over-year.

http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2014/07/25/amazon-google-cloud-price-war-benefits-cios/

Microsoft Earnings: Cloud Delivers Growth Yet Again

Microsoft announced its earnings for Q4 FY14 on July 22. The company posted a good 17% year-over-year growth in revenues to $23.38 billion, which also includes $1.9 billion revenues from Nokia s phone division. If revenues from phone sales are excluded, Microsoft MSFT -0.09%s revenues still grew 10% during the quarter. In our pre-earnings note, we noted that cloud services would boost revenues. The company reported 147% growth in commercial cloud services, which includes commercial Office 365 and Microsoft Azure platform. We also anticipated that Windows OS license sales would grow during the quarter despite the downturn in PC shipments. Microsoft was able to buck the declining PC sales trend as its Windows original equipment manufacturing revenues grew by 3% year over year driven by strong growth in Windows OEM Pro revenue. It did show less of a lift in this improving environment than Intel INTC -0.92%, however. Below, we review Microsoft’s Q4 FY 14 results by segment.

Microsoft’s Windows Server division is one of the fastest growing divisions of Microsoft. During Q4 FY14, revenue from commercial segment, which includes servers, commercial office licensing and cloud platform, grew 6% to $11.22 billion, driven by higher SQL server sales and adoption of the cloud based Azure platform. Server products grew by 14% year over year with double digit (15%) growth in SQL servers. Furthermore, its Azure cloud offering clocked in triple digit (147%) growth in revenues with an annualized run rate that exceeds $4.4 billion. We’re encouraged by the continual growth that this division posted, and it is becoming an important driver for Microsoft’s value.

Consumer Office revenue grew 21%, mainly due to higher volume of licenses sold. Furthermore, commercial Office revenue also grew by 4% during the quarter. In addition, Microsoft reported that Office 365 now has over 5.6 million subscribers and that revenue from this cloud offering in the quarter more than doubled year over year. As subscription model transitions, revenues for this division are expected to become more recurring and predictable going forward.

The company reported that its consumer licensing revenues, which includes Windows original equipment manufacturer and consumer Office, grew by 9% to $4.69 billion. Despite tepid PC sales, its Windows OEM revenues grew by 3%, reflecting a 11% increase in OEM Pro revenue. Windows volume licensing also had a solid 11% year-over-year growth in revenues, partly due to end of support for Windows XP.

In our earnings note published earlier, we stated that the device sales will be significantly higher in Q4. Microsoft?s hardware revenues were buoyed by growth in Surface sales and Xbox One shipments. While Surface revenues grew to $409 million, the company sold 1.1 million Xbox consoles during the quarter. As a result, revenue for hardware devices was up $274 million or 23% to $1.44 billion.

We are in the process of updating our Microsoft model. At present, we have $41 price estimate for Microsoft, which is approximately 8% below the current market price.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2014/07/23/microsoft-earnings-cloud-delivers-growth-yet-again/

How private NAS beats the public cloud for small business

The public cloud offers extra features like automated offsite backup – but did you know you can get these things and more with a private cloud solution as well? Here’s a look at three ways private NAS setups are becoming a preferable option for small businesses.

Opening the Door for Affordable Virtualization Services

NAS has come a long way since its origin as a system for secure, on-site data storage. Today’s NAS devices can serve as platforms for virtualization services that would otherwise require expensive and complex hardware to manage. The opportunity to take advantage of NAS as a more economic alternative to a pricey contract with a company like VMWare is a huge benefit for small businesses.

QNAP’s Virtualization Station allows you to create virtualized desktops that run Windows, Linux, or Unix operating systems and manage them all from one simple interface. You can assign separate network resources to each virtual machine, and create snapshots of each virtual machine’s status at any point in time. If a VM experiences a failure, you can quickly roll things back to an earlier environment. The biggest advantages to using NAS for virtualization are cost (virtualization is built right into the NAS) and safety (file transfers are delivered within the LAN, instead of over the Internet).

Security and Stability You Can Trust

When it comes to ensuring your data is safely stored, it simply doesn’t get any better than using a QNAP Turbo NAS. Public cloud services have recently come under fire for breaches caused by hackers and lengthy service outages that have left customers unable to access their data for hours. With a locally hosted NAS device, uptime is no longer a question mark, and your data is always accessible rather than potentially held hostage by the vagaries of the unstable Internet.

Furthermore, your data is always protected by multiple security measures while it resides on your NAS. Sensitive files are encrypted, and unapproved IP addresses are automatically locked out by Turbo NAS software. Integrated antivirus detection (with email notification) and full military-grade encryption on both internally and externally connected hard drives give you excellent all-around protection from security breaches and malware.

NAS Boosts the Benefits of the Public Cloud

Public cloud services like Microsoft Azure and Amazon S3 are convenient ways to add storage on a pay-as-you-go basis. But setting up these services on multiple client computers can be complicated and time-consuming. More importantly, when you’re finished, you’re left with only a single cloud-based copy of your data as a backup.

With QNAP Turbo NAS, you can use Azure and S3 directly through your own private QNAP hardware. With S3 and Azure – both available as apps for the QNAP Turbo NAS – you simply back up data from your network directly to your Turbo NAS, then use the app to make a secondary backup that’s sent to Azure or S3. That way, you maintain a local copy of your data on your own network, and a second copy resides in the public cloud, letting you double down on backup security. These apps even increase your level of data protection through the addition of client-side encryption and the ability to restore accidentally deleted data.

Public cloud and private cloud services can coexist, working hand in hand to ensure your company’s data is safer, easier to manage, and faster to access. You can reap the benefits of each by using the public cloud where it makes sense, but leveraging the cost savings and superior speed of a NAS-based private cloud to pull off many of the same tricks more sensibly.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2456601/how-private-nas-beats-the-public-cloud-for-small-business.html

The Future of Programming: 5 Reasons to Code in the Cloud

Last summer, a 23-year-old software engineer in New York made a now famous offer to a homeless man he passed regularly on the street: Give him a $100 bill or stop to visit the man every morning and teach him to code.

Leo, the homeless man, chose to learn to code. Over the next few months, the two met for an hour each morning for tutoring. Leo was given a Chrome book and three Javascript books.

By the end of the year, using the cloud development platform at Nitrous.IO, Leo built and launched a mobile carpooling app, Trees for Cars. He’s also in the process of moving off the streets.

Some have been skeptical about the proposal. But Leo’s journey — which can be followed on this Facebook page — demonstrates how programming is becoming increasingly accessible. A confluence of factors, including the shift to the cloud and the advent of online learning, is making it easier to develop the skills to become a programmer. Gone are the days of needing to purchase an expensive, high-end computer and installing complicated software and databases before even writing the first line of code.

The modern day coder looks less and less like computer programmers of the past — by way of cloud-based platforms and more accessible Learn to Code courses, we’re seeing a democratization of coding, leading to a range of new stakeholders involved in the creation of innovative technologies.

1. The new "it" job is in software

The ability to code is more in demand than ever. That’s because "software is eating the world," as Marc Andreessen, co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz and Netscape, famously declared. In fact, software has already, or soon will, replace or supplement many of our daily routines, from buying coffee with our smart phones to self-driving cars.

As a result, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2010 to 2020, there’s an anticipated growth of 30 percent in software developer jobs. By also including opportunities in system analysis, computer support, system administration, and web development, more than 700,000 jobs are anticipated to be generated this decade.

While there haven’t been enough computer science graduates to meet that demand, the good news is that the number of students pursuing computer science and engineering careers is climbing. Recent reports found that computer science is the most popular major at top universities like Stanford and MIT. Reversing the drop seen over the past decade, the number of computer science graduates in the United States has steadily increased since 2009. In 2010, U.S. universities graduated a little more than 12,000 computer science college students. By 2012, that number had jumped by close to 20 percent. No doubt it helps that high-tech jobs are among the highest paying in the nation.

2. Coding isn’t as costly as it once was

Recently, there’s been a push for more computer science learning for students before they reach college. For instance, as part of the City of Chicago Technology plan, released last year, the city is working with its public schools to integrate computer science courses into the core curriculum, allowing students to count them toward graduation requirements. At the same time, the State of North Carolina announced various efforts to expand computer science education. And last December, the non-profit Code.org and a coalition of partners launched the "Hour of Code" initiative to promote computer science education in the schools.

As Andrew Oliver, a software consultant and blogger for InfoWorld, said, "Especially in America, where an education incurs tremendous debt and most educational institutions teach you so little of what really matters, you have to ask: ‘Can’t I just do this myself?’"

Online courses — many of them free or at least at a lower cost than typical college courses — are opening doors for more people to learn to code, such as older adults and students outside the United States.

Recently, initiatives such as the Harvard Extension, Stanford Engineering Everywhere, MIT OpenCourseWare, and Coursera have become popular places for students to take computer science courses. Even professors at Harvard have made beginner to advanced programming courses free of cost and publicly available online on platforms like EdX, YouTube, and iTunes.

3. The cloud increases accessibility

What’s making the biggest impact on coding is the emergence of the cloud. For one, through cloud-based online learning, students no longer need to set foot in a traditional classroom to learn to code.

With the advent of cloud development platforms, developers don’t have to set up costly development machines and configure software. This means would-be coders needn’t own a computer and can use public workspaces such as those in libraries or schools.

Rails Girls, an organization giving tools and a community for women in tech, noted that when coding using cloud-based platforms, "You don’t have to install anything so you save time and ship around various operating systems and configurations. The students have a text editor and terminal in the same screen and don’t have to switch all the time, which also makes it less confusing."

4. The PaaS movement brings coders closer together

The first hurdle many programmers face is downloading, installing, and configuring the software and databases they need to start programming. Cloud development platforms have made the entire process of building and deploying software applications entirely free and accessible from any modern web browser.

Students taking online computer science classes also benefit since institutions such as Coursera and Udacity integrate online code compilation tools into their courses, allowing students to write their computer program online, compile it, and see the results directly on their web browser. Traditional feedback mechanisms are often plagued with long lags between student submissions and teacher comments — new technologies provide immediate feedback that allow students to quickly determine areas for improvement and stay engaged.

Online developer schools like Tealeaf Academy are finding that cloud-based platforms streamline their development tools. Chris Lee, co-founder of Tealeaf, notes: "Our philosophy is that people should learn to code like real professional developers: on their own machines, using a real code editor. Some of our students have older machines or have conflicting libraries, and have a hard time setting up their development environment." By using a cloud-based PaaS (platform-as-a-service), the students no longer face the same hurdles as before and become more connected and efficient programmers.

Currently, more than 40 percent of independent software developers surveyed by Forrester said that adopting a cloud-based development paradigm was part of their plan for 2013.

5. Your new workspace is in the cloud

A recent Forbes report indicated that the need for cloud-based developers increased by more than 80 percent from 2011 to 2012. Perhaps most importantly, new developer jobs in cloud-based software are expected to remain in high demand. This demand will grow 26 percent a year from 2012 through to 2015, according to research sponsored by Microsoft.

Ultimately, the shift of development to the cloud doesn’t merely mean opening the doors to more people being able to code. It also means the technology industry will be able to innovate faster.

This is an exciting time for software and the people who write it. As software continues to create new and larger markets, there will be massive opportunities for new wealth creation for those responsible for creating it. Historically, the companies and people who developed this software were a privileged few who could afford the education and infrastructure required to build, deploy, and maintain software applications.

Now, with little more than a working internet connection and dogged persistence, virtually anyone can take their idea to reality — and in the process make their own "little dent in the universe."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-j-solimine/the-programming-revolutio_b_5607587.html

Government IT Priorities: Security Reigns, Cloud Crawls

If government ITprofessionals aren’t getting much sleep these days, it’s likely because they’re more worried than ever about catastrophic cyber-security breaches.

In InformationWeek’s 2014 Federal Government IT Priorities Survey, 70% of respondents said that cyber- and information security programs are "extremely important" at their agencies, making IT security the highest government IT priority. Another 24% said IT security is at least fairly important. Only 3% said security is "not important at all."

The survey also demonstrated that security is intensifying as the top government IT priority. In last year’s survey, 67% of respondents stated that information security is extremely important.

But while our survey indicates that government agencies have a sharp eye on information security, they’re falling behind in critical areas such as cloud, data center consolidation, and overall IT innovation.

Protecting Information Gets Complex

Beyond high-profile incidents like the Edward Snowden leaks of NSA documents, government IT pros are understandably troubled by the tens of thousands of cyber-attacks by foreign hackers on government systems and the new risks created by the proliferation of mobile devices. Another source of concern: unnoticed security breaches. A report issued earlier this year by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., found that nearly four in 10 intrusions into major civilian agency systems go undetected, posing a nightmare for IT managers.

"Information is the new weapon of choice," says one respondent to our survey, Joseph Reddix, CEO of the Reddix Group in Hanover, Md., which supplies IT project management and capital planning services to federal agencies. "When information is weaponized, you’re in trouble. Information technology is about information, and it really should be about secure information."

But protecting information is becoming increasingly complicated. "If a foreign national stole plans for the F-35 [fighter
plane], which is made in 40-plus different states," Reddix explained, "you only need one part to go bad to cause some big problems. And considering the planes cost $300 [million] to $400 million each, that’s an awful lot of money. It can be extremely costly when there’s a security breach."

Managers have to take a defense-in-depth approach, embracing the notion that systems are more secure when their various components are protected individually. Reddix says defense in depth should start with two-factor authentication, whereby each user employs security tokens combined with a password or a question/answer to gain access to information. Such a layered security approach makes it impossible to breach an entire system by cracking one password.

At the same time, securing information as it becomes more mobile and "intrinsic to everybody’s life" is a growing challenge, Reddix says. As devices proliferate across the government and among consumers, so do the number and complexity of threats. In a mobile security study published last September, the Government Accountability Office reported that the number of variants of malware aimed at mobile devices had risen from about 14,000 to 40,000, or about 185%, in the last year.

Security Comes First

Responses to another question in InformationWeek’s 2014 Federal Government IT Priorities Survey reflect federal IT’s rising concerns about security. Asked to what degree their agencies are pursuing the government’s major IT initiatives, respondents put trusted Internet connections (27%), identity management (20%), and continuous monitoring (13%) in the "very aggressively" category. Continuous monitoring and identity management moved up the list compared with last year’s survey, when they were ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.

But the fact that information security ranked ahead of other government IT programs isn’t surprising.

"The cyber-security emphasis means that [agencies] are trying to secure everything first and then talk about other things like cloud or continuity of operations," says Augustine Riolo, president of Knowledge Information Solutions in Virginia Beach, Va., whose government customers include the Defense Department, the National Institutes of Health, and NASA.

Continuity of operations planning (COOP) and disaster recovery planning were rated second in importance to security in our survey, with 31% citing COOP as "extremely important." Another 38% put COOP in the "very important" range.

"The whole idea of having backup and disaster recovery is really a function of thinking about how data is made available and the idea of redundancy in storage," Riolo says. Referring to IRS claims that the agency lost thousands of emails connected to politically embattled former IRS official Lois Lerner, all due to a computer crash, Riolo adds: "If they indeed have lost the emails, then the government has a much larger problem dealing with disaster backup and recovery than any of us thought."

Other IT initiatives that feds and their industry partners rated much lower than security and COOP include interagency collaboration (rated extremely important by 14% of respondents); data records management and shared services (13% each); and data center consolidation, virtualization, IT project management, mobile communications and wireless, PC/laptop upgrades, and mobile device management (12% each). Survey respondents gave all of those areas a "moderately important" rating in the 40% to 50% range.

Where’s The Cloud?

One of the federal government’s highest-profile IT initiatives, cloud computing and the Obama administration’s Cloud First program, placed surprisingly far down the list of priorities in our survey. Only 11% of respondents rated cloud computing initiatives as "extremely important" at their agencies, though 57% placed them in the "moderately important" category. By comparison, 15% rated cloud programs as "extremely important" in last year’s survey. Furthermore, only 5% of survey respondents reported that their agency is pursuing the cloud "very aggressively," down from last year’s 9%.

When asked specifically about replacing infrastructure with cloud services in the upcoming fiscal year, 54% of respondents reported a current or planned implementation of private or public cloud services (21% private, 13% public, 20% a mix of public and private clouds). However, nearly half, 46%, said their agencies aren’t considering cloud deployments in the next fiscal year (compared with 41% in the 2013 survey).

Among those moving ahead with cloud implementations, there’s a balance of models and technologies — 48% of respondents are deploying shared clouds within a government environment, 40% are turning to software-as-a-service, 37% to platform-as-a-service, 34% to cloud service management tools, 32% to hybrid public-private clouds, and 25% to infrastructure-as-a-service.

As for cloud security, 32% of the respondents whose agencies have migrated or plan to migrate to the cloud said their organizations use a cloud service that has been certified under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which provides a standardized approach to assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring of cloud products and services. While 42% of survey respondents said they expect to receive FedRAMP certification within the next six months, 26% said their agencies have no plans to use FedRAMP.

Under Cloud First, started in 2011 by former federal CIO Vivek Kundra, agencies are required to take full advantage of cloud computing to maximize capacity utilization, improve IT flexibility and responsiveness, and minimize costs. But agencies are finding that migrating to the cloud is easier said than done.

One impediment is legacy infrastructure, a jagged landscape of ancient and disparate applications and technologies. Federal agencies "all have some level of systems that they have maintained for many, many years — original installations of applications that they can’t get out of," Riolo says. "As a result, they can’t go to the cloud because they don’t have applications that the cloud can support."

There’s also organizational resistance to change, Reddix says, "a cultural factor within government agencies that says, ‘Leave it alone.’ They’re very hesitant to get into something new, and there’s an enormous amount of legacy. There are also vendors that are happy to stay with [operations and maintenance] as consistent dollars."

Still Too Many Data Centers

Indeed, our 2014 Federal Government IT Priorities Survey found that resistance to change is slowing another government-wide IT initiative: data center consolidation, which Kundra established in 2010. In this year’s survey, 28% of respondents said cultural resistance is the biggest barrier to their agencies’ data center consolidation efforts, up slightly from 26% in the 2013 survey. Other barriers cited this year are technical problems migrating applications (24%), lack of people (18%), lack of a clear vision or leadership (17%), and lack of accurate data center inventory (3%).

Overall, our survey shows mixed progress. Thirty-nine percent said their agencies have consolidated data centers over the past 12 months, compared with 44% last year, while 23% said they hadn’t completed any consolidations in the last year but are planning to this year, up from 18% in our 2013 survey. Twenty-two percent reported no consolidations in the last 12 months.

One survey respondent, a Commerce Department IT capital planning manager, says his department is keeping data center consolidation small scale. "Big-scale data center consolidation is only in the early planning stages," the manager says.

Lack Of Budget … Or Not A Priority?

Among the greatest barriers to executing IT projects at agencies is lack of budget, cited by 35% of survey respondents, down slightly from 39% in 2013. Other barriers include conflicting or poorly defined requirements (cited by 24% this year compared with 27% in 2013), legacy systems (15% compared with 13%), and poor project management (8% against 4%).

Reddix isn’t buying the lack of budget excuse. "The government has money — it’s a lack of priority in the budget," he says. "We spend $300 [million] to $400 million on a plane. That’s a lot of money. Lack of priority and also the legacy environment are barriers."

One civilian agency manager agreed that legacy systems are an obstacle to IT effectiveness. "Federal equipment is getting older and older," the manager says. "I am running a Dell OptiPlex 755. A good story would be about the aging equipment for most of the contractors and federal developers." However, the legacy systems problem doesn’t apply to everyone at the manager’s agency.

"The senior executive types have iPads," he says. "Unbelievable."

Requirements proved to be an issue for a contractor for the US Central Command. "I see military and government employees so focused on missions that they have little time to maintain awareness on IT requirements," the contractor says. "They just expect it to be there when they need it."

Survey respondent Christopher Peschke, a design engineer at HEI Inc., a government subcontractor that manufactures circuit boards and microchips for the Defense Department, says tight agency budgets are making life difficult for contractors. "When you’re dealing with government agencies, they generally go with the lowest quote, so you try to eliminate as much overhead as you can," he says. "We have to drive down the price of the quotes to win [contracts]."

On the matter of contracts, only 10% of noncontractor respondents to our survey said their agencies had increased the use of lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) contracts compared with 12 months ago, while 41% reported that their LPTA use remains about the same compared with last year. Some 18% said LPTA contracts have caused "significantly more" problems and remediation costs.

Collaboration Breakdown?

Only 34% of respondents to our survey see an increase in the use of collaboration tools at their agencies, compared with 48% in 2013. Twenty-five percent are adopting an interagency data-sharing model this year, compared with 31% last year. Twenty-one percent said their agencies already share data with other agencies, and 28% have no new plans to share data in the next year.

Collaboration appears to be mainly within agencies, Riolo says, rather than cross-government. "Take NIH, for example. You may have collaboration between the National Cancer Institute and the [National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute] within, but you’re not going to have collaboration with Commerce or State or anything like that."

We also asked in our survey how comfortable government IT pros are with using open source software. In this year’s survey 31% of respondents said they’re "very comfortable" using open source, down slightly from 34% last year, and 17% are comfortable with it but don’t use it. A hefty 40% said they’re not comfortable with open source software.

Reddix notes that Whitehouse.gov began running on Drupal, an open source content management system, in 2009. That move was considered a big win for the open source model, he says, but he warned against continued cultural resistance.

"They actually released the code and it saved a lot of money," Reddix says of the White House move. "Using open source, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel at every agency or subdepartment. But the culture says, ‘I’ve got my tried and true kind of technology and it’s the only thing I know.’ "

Innovation Crawl

In general, government IT pros are less bullish than they were last year about tech innovation at their agencies. Only 7% of survey respondents this year cited a "significant" level of IT innovation at their agencies, compared with 14% last year, while 58% cited "moderate" improvement, compared with 57% last year. Nearly a third reported very little innovation at their agencies (3% reported no innovation).

Asked about their agencies’ IT efficiency, 6% of survey respondents reported much improvement, 34% somewhat better, 40% the same as before, and 17% less efficient.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents said their agencies have a strategic plan and follow it closely (down from 45% in the 2013 survey), while 38% said they have a plan but deviate from it regularly (up from 30% last year). Reddix attributes the inertia in IT reflected in this year’s survey to "innate culture" in government. "If you’re looking at a root cause, it would probably be the umbrella culture of the Washington environment itself," he says. "Culture affects everything."

Another survey participant pointed a finger at Washington-centered program control. "Everything must be done by central office," the participant says. "No one outside of D.C. matters."

However, one survey-taker begged to differ, indicating that tech innovation has a place in government: "My agency has made much progress in getting ahead of the IT curve in the past five years."

Government agencies continue to struggle to find and keep people with the right IT skills. Nineteen percent of survey respondents said their IT organizations have enough people with the necessary cloud, security, and acquisition skills, while 29% said they lacked sufficient workers but are developing those skills among full-time employees. Another 34% said they lacked skilled workers and are filling gaps with contractors.

Says one survey respondent: "There are still too many dinosaurs in positions for which they don’t have qualifications or knowledge pertinent to the decisions they make daily."

http://www.informationweek.com/government/leadership/government-it-priorities-security-reigns-cloud-crawls/d/d-id/1297449