Enterprise IT Watch Blog


February 26, 2016  10:18 AM

The robotic throttling of information overload

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
Machine learning, Robotics

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Machine learning image via Shutterstock

By James Kobielus (@jameskobielus)

People will increasingly have to learn how to collaborate with robots in unprecedented situations. And I’m not referring to some “Star Wars” scenario where R2D2 is all that stands between Luke Skywalker and interstellar annihilation.

Machine learning is increasingly powering search-and-rescue scenarios in which intelligent machines—such as drones—team with human agencies, such as the military and police. In the previous sentence, I used the active voice—“team with”—rather than the passive “are controlled by” to signify the fact that the robotic agents will increasingly be capable of autonomous or semi-autonomous capabilities.

This distinction will be increasingly important in emergency response situations in which events unfold too fast for human controllers to make the right decision, but in which the machines might—based on sensor-driven real-time and predictive algorithms—act first to save lives or nip potential catastrophes in the bud. There might even be scenarios where the robots take action first while delaying the communication of selective pieces of information from human team members, or even withhold it entirely, when there’s a significant risk that the people in question might inadvertently jeopardize the desired outcome by misinterpreting or misapplying the information.

What I’ve just sketched out is a human-machine communication scenario that popped into my mind as I read this recent article on an MIT research project that’s applying algorithmic approaches for reducing communications overload in human-robot emergency response teams. Essentially, it uses machine learning to identify when it’s best for rescue robots to suppress some of the chatter they communicate to human collaborators, on the grounds that these communications not only pose a cost on the machines themselves (processing, memory, bandwidth) but also might drown the humans involved in so much informational noise that they’ll have trouble identifying the gist of what they need to do.

In other words, it’s a project that’s developing approaches under which robots might need to operationally divulge information to humans on a “need to know” basis, or, conversely, withhold information. Though the team-effectiveness rationale for this makes perfect sense, it raises an uncomfortable question: In scenarios where robots are using the “need to know” criterion to algorithmically throttle the information they provide to humans, will we ever be able to trust them entirely? Even though their algorithmic hearts may not be lying to us, is their failure to be entirely candid and transparent in all circumstances a trust-killer?

Humans, of course, also engage in “need to know” communication throttling under similar circumstances. But that doesn’t always destroy the mutual trust that’s essential to team effectiveness. Recognizing this, the researchers have used machine learning to find communication-throttling patterns within 100 percent human teams engaging in equivalent (albeit virtual) rescue missions. They will use the results to build the interaction logic that guides robots in these same scenarios.

But the fact that some robots will be capable of autonomous operation means that they will have the power, under pre-programmed circumstances, to act first, perhaps without asking for explicit permission, and then explain their actions later. What that will mean operationally is that we’re creating a world where, under some emergency circumstances, our robotic team members may briefly have more knowledge than we do about what’s going on, even though we’ve programmed them for total candor.

There may simply be no time for them to explain or ask permission when lives are hanging in the balance. And if they had to wait for us to comprehend the urgency of the situation, those lives may be lost.

We will need to trust them to do the right thing and then report back to us when the situation has stabilized.

February 22, 2016  10:32 AM

TechTarget’s weekly roundup (2/15 – 2/22)

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
Cisco, Data Center, Internet of Things, OpenStack

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Data Centers image via Shutterstock

Why are more data centers moving to Canada instead of staying in the United States? Find out in this week’s roundup.

1. Privacy, power concerns drive Canadian data center growth – Robert Gates (SearchDataCenter)

One U.S. city has more data center space than all of Canada, but some data centers are being lured up to the ‘True North’ by inexpensive power and privacy concerns in the U.S.

2. OpenStack adoption stays niche with new deployment prospects – Trevor Jones (SearchCloudComputing)

To boost OpenStack adoption, the open source project continues to push into new areas. But are disparate projects and users’ competing needs creating friction in the community?

3. RSA Conference 2016 preview: IoT and encryption take center stage – Michael Heller (SearchSecurity)

The Internet of Things once again dominates the agenda at RSA Conference 2016, but experts say there will be other hot topics, including the growing debate between IT and the government over encryption backdoors.

4. Largest paint producer in U.S. eliminates work voicemail – Tracee Herbaugh (SearchUnifiedCommunications)

The largest paint producer in the U.S. eliminated work voicemail for roughly 800 employees at its corporate office because of declining popularity among workers.

5. Cisco next-generation firewall marks improvements – Eamon McCarthy Earls (SearchNetworking)

The Cisco next-generation firewall, Cisco FirePower, deploys improvements to make the system more ‘threat-focused.’


February 15, 2016  11:01 AM

TechTarget’s weekly roundup (2/8 – 2/15)

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
Cisco, cybersecurity, Symantec, Verizon

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Verizon image via Shutterstock

Are you surprised Verizon is shutting down its public cloud offering? Find out what happened in this week’s roundup.

1. Verizon Cloud joins casualty list amid public IaaS exodus – Trevor Jones (SearchCloudComputing)

Two years after launching Verizon Cloud with lofty ambitions, Verizon this week quietly told customers it plans to shut down its public cloud offering.

2. Study: IT staff pressured to buy useless cybersecurity products – Michael Heller (SearchSecurity)

A new study found that IT managers feel pressured to purchase new cybersecurity products even if they don’t have the skills to implement the technology properly.

3. Cisco earnings show slowdown in data center tech buying – Antone Gonsalves (SearchNetworking)

Besides higher revenue and profits, Cisco earnings also showed that volatility in the global markets had caused tech buyers to reduce spending in the data center.

4. President: We’re moving VCE converged infrastructure up the stack – Ed Scannell and Robert Gates (SearchDataCenter)

IT pros increasingly want to buy infrastructure and not build it, says president of VCE Chad Sakac, as he outlines plans for the company’s converged infrastructure products.

5. Veritas Enterprise Vault updated after Symantec sell off – Carol Sliwa (SearchStorage)

Veritas Technologies updated Enterprise Vault and Data Insight with enhanced classification, review and workflow capabilities and beefed-up Box support.


February 8, 2016  11:19 AM

TechTarget’s weekly roundup (2/1 – 2/8)

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
Container, Data Center, Oracle, SDN

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Cloud container image via Shutterstock

Who will win the battle of cloud containers: Amazon or Google? Find out in this week’s roundup.

1. Cloud containers race heats up between Amazon and Google – Beth Pariseau (SearchCloudComputing)

The heaviest hitters in Docker Linux cloud containers are still Amazon and Google, whose battle is reaching a fever pitch, as Microsoft Azure gears up to join in.

2. OCP making friends outside the Facebook data center – Robert Gates (SearchDataCenter)

The Open Compute Project is like buying supermarket store brands — you still get what you want without the high price in your data center.

3. Microsoft SDN stack to challenge Cisco, VMware – Antone Gonsalves (SearchSDN)

Microsoft is preparing to release a Windows Server SDN stack that could make the company a rival to Cisco and VMware in software-defined networking.

4. Former CIA/NSA director Hayden supports strong encryption – Michael Heller (SearchSecurity)

Former CIA and NSA director General Michael Hayden came out in favor of strong encryption but representatives in Congress and the Senate are continuing to pursue encryption backdoor legislation.

5. Oracle’s first cloud program aims to sign thousands of partners – Lynn Haber (SearchCloudProvider)

Oracle’s four-tier cloud initiative underscores the company’s push to put its cloud strategy into action; the vendor hopes at least 20% of its partner base will apply.


January 31, 2016  7:54 PM

TechTarget’s weekly roundup (1/25 – 2/1)

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
Cloud Computing, SSH, Virtual networking, VMware

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VMware image via Shutterstock

How will VMware react to the Dell-EMC deal? Find out in this week’s roundup.

1. Dell-EMC merger weighs on VMware fortunes – Ed Scannell (SearchServerVirtualization)

As the Dell-EMC deal looms large, VMware will retool its cloud strategy, led behind private to public cloud migrations.

2. Expect growth higher up the cloud stack in 2016 – Trevor Jones (SearchCloudComputing)

IT analysts expect markedly increased adoption in 2016 across all layers of the cloud stack, with IaaS leading the growth and higher-end services becoming more attractive.

3. VMware’s NSX virtual networking software ready for the cloud – Antone Gonsalves (SearchNetworking)

VMware plans to release this year a new version of its NSX virtual networking software. The product will connect enterprise data centers to public clouds.

4. Fortinet SSH vulnerability more widespread than thought – Michael Heller (SearchSecurity)

Fortinet denies that a vulnerability found in many of its products is a true backdoor, but finds that the flaw is more widespread than once thought.

5. Report highlights growing role for location-mapping software – Ed Burns (SearchBusinessAnalytics)

A new report from Dresner Advisory Services says businesses see increased value in location intelligence software, but products need to improve.


January 29, 2016  10:26 AM

The Internet of Things will eliminate data deadzones

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
Internet of Things

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Internet of Things image via Shutterstock

By James Kobielus (@jameskobielus)

Data has come to blanket the face of the Earth. Our geographic information systems are increasingly thick with layers upon layers of contextual information to help us orient ourselves without having to think too hard about it.

Uncharted territories simply don’t exist anymore from sea level on up. As you geolocate your way across this big, beautiful world, you increasingly have no excuse for not knowing exactly where you are, what all these geologic and artificial landmarks around you might be, and what’s been taking place there from the dawn of antiquity all the way up to the present moment.

When I was in the wireless industry in the late 90s, GPS still hadn’t achieved mass adoption, the smartphone didn’t yet exist, and wireless deadzones—where you were out of communication because cellular signals didn’t reach—pockmarked the mobility landscape. But that’s all ancient history now. I personally can’t remember the last time when I’ve not been able to use my mobile phone due to lack of signal coverage. And, thanks to Google Maps and a few other geolocation apps on my smartphone, I pretty much have fingertip access to deep data on anything I encounter in my travels.

Increasingly, we can bid adieu to the “data deadzone,” which I’ll define as anywhere on the planet that doesn’t feed us a continual stream of real-time data in its weather, traffic, air quality, amenities, and any other feature, attribute, or goings-on in which we might take an interest. As a mass phenomenon, the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly enlivening all the former data deadzones of the world with the lifeblood of real-time, geotagged sensor data on their hyperlocal conditions.

Not just that, but the IoT’s distributed databases are inexorably correlating more of these feeds into massive, fine-grained, continually updated maps available to the general public. In fact, open IoT-sourced data and reference graphs are being used for a diversity of consumer, business, scientific, and government initiatives around the world.

That’s my takeaway from this recent Fast Company article, “How The World Will Transform Once There Are Environmental Sensors Everywhere.” In it, author Sean Captain discusses an IoT crowdsourcing initiative that is filling in data deadzones pertinent to local air quality conditions. “As sensors become small and cheap,” Captain states, “we’re creating a global network of environmental data collection to help us figure out the best ways to quickly cut emissions. In the piece, he cites a Gartner prediction that, by the end of this decade, “’citizen environmentalists’ will have deployed more personal sensors, measuring things like air and water pollution, than governments have in countries with well developed economies.”

Of course, IoT-data crowdsourcing initiatives needn’t all be in the public interest. In fact, more of the contextual data that gets overlaid onto our geolocation systems will undoubtedly come from crowdsourced consumer apps on our collective smartphones, smart cars, smart homes, and so on. And more of this data will be delivered from the source in exchange for something of value—i.e, free or discounted products or services—offered by the vendors of those IoT-equipped products.

However, even as we eliminate data deadzones, we’re at risk of strangling the life out of those zones through a surfeit of too much geotagged but otherwise undigested IoT sensor data. As we sift through thicker layers of this data, our lives will fill with what I think of as “data fog.” This refers to the more densely packed, detail-rich, and distracting glut of IoT-sourced sensor data that will clutter our fields of view. The problem with data fogs is that they will make it hard for each of us to distill meaning from IoT data in the real-time context of our lives or identify precisely which details are most relevant to us here and now.

How will we cope with data fog? One approach is for geomapping systems to adopt personalized IoT “interest graphs”. Another approach is to use a combination of augmented reality, haptic, and deep learning technologies, such as those I discussed in this column from last year as a solution for helping vision-impaired people to “see” in a world that is foggy or entirely opaque to them in the best of circumstances.

Fogs are purely transient phenomena in the real meteorological world. I like to think that geotagged-data fogs won’t be a persistent stumbling block in the world’s embrace of IoT. We simply haven’t hit on the right combination of technological approaches for cutting through the fog so that we can clearly view the big, beautiful world being revealed through ubiquitous adoption of IoT.


January 25, 2016  11:35 AM

TechTarget’s weekly roundup (1/18 – 1/25)

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
Citrix, Docker, Encryption, Oracle

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Citrix image via Shutterstock

What will Citrix’s new CEO bring to the table for the company? Find out in this week’s roundup.

1. New Citrix CEO brings needed software background – Ramin Edmond (SearchVirtualDesktop)

The hiring of Kirill Tatarinov as Citrix CEO means the company intends to improve its core end-user computing offerings instead of selling itself off, according to observers.

2. Will California ban smartphone encryption? – Peter Loshin (SearchSecurity)

News roundup: California mulls a ban on encrypted smartphone sales; France backs away from encryption backdoors; EU and U.K. privacy regulations; key escrow fail and more.

3. Newest Oracle Critical Patch Update contains 248 fixes – Jessica Sirkin (SearchOracle)

The January 2016 Critical Patch Update has 248 security fixes, a record-breaking high number. It includes fixes for Oracle Database, Java SE, E-Business Suite and more.

4. Docker looks to the future with Unikernel Systems buy – Trevor Jones (SearchCloudComputing)

Docker has acquired Unikernel Systems to expand its capabilities with microservices and connected devices and continue to simplify the developer experience.

5. JetBlue, Verizon data center downtime raises DR, UPS questions – Robert Gates (SearchDataCenter)

A power failure at a Verizon data center knocked out JetBlue’s digital infrastructure for several hours, giving IT pros plenty to consider when thinking about uptime.


January 18, 2016  12:15 PM

TechTarget’s weekly roundup (1/11 – 1/18)

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
AWS, Cisco, HPE, Internet of Things

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Cisco image via Shutterstock

Despite the fact that Cisco continues to lead in several tech infrastructure markets, there’s one company that’s starting to challenge its dominance. Find out who it is in this week’s roundup.

1. Cisco leads, HPE gains in key tech infrastructure markets – Antone Gonsalves (SearchNetworking)

Cisco led in six of seven key tech infrastructure markets last year, while Hewlett Packard Enterprise gained strength in several of the sectors, a research firm reported.

2. Server market share shows enterprise buyers aren’t forgotten – Robert Gates and Ed Scannell (SearchDataCenter)

If there was concern that interest in the server market was waning among IT pros in a software-dominated world, the latest batch of analyst reports should ease those worries.

3. Microsoft’s IoT Hub lags behind Azure IoT Suite – Ed Scannell and Beth Pariseau (SearchCloudComputing)

Microsoft is facing off against archrival Amazon in the race to establish cloud IoT services, but its Azure IoT Suite still has some key components missing or in preview.

4. AWS data center locations spring up in anticipation of new regulations – Beth Pariseau (SearchAWS)

AWS is rapidly expanding into new geographies, such as Canada and South Korea, as new regulatory requirements loom.

5. UCaaS market soaring as cloud-based technology evolves – Katherine Finnell (SearchUnifiedCommunications)

This week in UC news, the UCaaS market continues its strong growth, while a Web conferencing services report sheds light on some of the market’s trends.


January 11, 2016  10:11 AM

TechTarget’s weekly roundup (1/4 – 1/11)

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
Microsoft Exchange, SDN, Server virtualization, Unified Communications

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2016 image via Shutterstock

Since the door has closed on 2015, it’s time to look at more predictions and trends for 2016. Check out what to expect this year in this week’s roundup.

1. Server virtualization trends will de-emphasize hypervisor in 2016 – Nick Martin (SearchServerVirtualization)

Now that the door has closed on 2015, our advisory board experts weigh in on server virtualization trends and offer predictions for what they expect in 2016.

2. Must-know Exchange info from 2015 – Tayla Holman (SearchExchange)

We’ve rounded up the top Exchange Server info of the past year, including a look at deploying Exchange 2016, and troubleshooting common Outlook error messages.

3. Predictions for SDN development in 2016 – John Burke (SearchSDN)

This promises to be an exciting year for software-defined networking enthusiasts, with SDN development poised for explosive growth. Analyst John Burke shares his predictions.

4. The workplace trends shaping UC and collaboration in 2016 – Katherine Finnell (SearchUnifiedCommunications)

Evolving workplace trends are affecting how employees collaborate. Learn how UC and collaboration technology must adapt to support new ways of working.

5. Is more SAP S/4HANA on tap in 2016? The experts weigh in – Jim O’Donnell (SearchSAP)

SAP S/4HANA was the big news in 2015, but what’s in store from the vendor in 2016? Six industry experts discuss what they see on the horizon from SAP and its competition.


January 4, 2016  12:36 PM

TechTarget’s weekly roundup (12/28 – 1/4)

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh
AWS, CIO, DevOps, SDN, Unified Communications

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2016 image via Shutterstock

The New Year is finally here! What are your IT goals and resolutions for 2016? Check out what some experts think in this week’s roundup.

1. IT goals for 2016 include DevOps, automation push – Meredith Courtemanche (SearchDataCenter)

The New Year is a chance to step back, reflect and really zero in on the IT goals that you can tackle in 2016, whether that be higher efficiency or putting the right team in place.

2. The top five UC technology trends to watch in 2016 – Irwin Lazar (SearchUnifiedCommunications)

According to one expert, the future of unified communications should see more API adoption, video conferencing in small meeting rooms and vendor consolidation.

3. SDN development gets serious in 2016 – Antone Gonsalves (SearchSDN)

Next year is expected to be a breakout year for SDN development, as a large number of enterprises and service providers take their projects into production.

4. Top five AWS application development tips of 2015 – David Carty (SearchAWS)

Developers have a bevy of AWS app development options. Our SearchAWS.com experts tackled a variety of those topics, and these five tips struck a chord with our readers.

5. CIOs talk 2016 IT resolutions – SearchCIO Staff (SearchCIO)

From new technology projects to leadership strategies, eight IT leaders tell us what they’re resolved to do in 2016.


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