CW Developer Network

January 3, 2019  9:51 AM

AI developer toolset series: IPsoft defines ‘library models’ for AI frameworks

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

The Computer Weekly Developer Network is in the engine room, covered in grease and looking for Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools for software application developers to use.


The following text is written by Joe Michael is his role as solutions architect at IPsoft — the company is an Artificial Intelligence specialist known for its enterprise-scale autonomic and cognitive software.

The AI industry – particularly that area concerning the development of virtual assistants – is still in its nascence and, arguably, at this stage there are two categories of AI solution.

  • Firstly, there are point solutions, which focus on solving a single problem such as TensorFlow or — these typically offer diverse options, but are only usable by users with a depth of technical knowledge.
  • Secondly, there are all-encompassing virtual assistant frameworks, where many technologies are brought together to form a cohesive bot platform — to date, much of the open source software (OSS) in this space has been either these point solutions, or the simpler end of virtual assistant frameworks.

Inherent value quotient

The reason that more sophisticated, end-to-end frameworks have not typically been OSS, is due to their inherent value: either through the skills and investment required to create it, or through the potential value for the organisation as intellectual property (IP).

So, with few [people, programmers, everyone basically] anticipating that more sophisticated AI frameworks will become openly available in OSS libraries, how will developers be able to take advantage of the wealth of R&D that is carried out in the AI space?

There are currently three models for how organisations manage their sophisticated AI frameworks:

Model #1: Proprietary

For many organisations, these sophisticated AI frameworks are their IP and underpin their entire business model. As such, it’s understandable why a company that has spent decades developing advanced AI solutions would not want to immediately share the end-to-end framework as OSS.

But, while their frameworks may not be openly accessible, to the inconvenience of individual developers, this approach is not a bad thing for the industry as a whole. AI technologies only started coming to the fore once investment in companies and their R&D functions took off. The development of and investment in proprietary solutions will be important to maintain the continued, rapid advancements of AI technologies, to which we’ve become accustomed in recent years.

Model #2: Upsell

The second approach organisations will take is to deliver a tiered approach, with certain elements of their technology offered as OSS to get people interested before upselling premium or pro versions. Both Botpress and RASA, for example, take such an approach.

However, developers will typically find that while the free elements are good to play around with, if the solution is to be deployed – particularly in an enterprise setting – the premium product is needed to add the required level of sophistication and consistency.

Model #3: Incentivisation

Others will approach it from ‘the AWS model’, seeing it as an opportunity to lock people into their platform or ecosystem. There is no open source version of AWS, with developers establishing their skill set as an AWS cloud architect.

AI companies similarly want developers to learn how to build with their architecture rather than upskilling in AI more broadly – or, god forbid, a competitor’s technology – as it increases demand for their solutions in the community.

Some companies will, therefore, offer elements of their technology as OSS to incentivise developers to use it. This is quite a common model for OSS – CUDA, for example, is offered as OSS a means of incentivising people to use Nvidia Graphic Cards.

IPsoft’s Joe Michael: there’s more than one model for AI, keep your (virtualised) mind open.

December 24, 2018  9:01 AM

Thomas Cook & the Internet of Cockroaches

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

We all know the Internet of Things (IoT) — it is the now widely accepted industry term used to describe a network of connected ‘intelligent’ devices that enjoy a degree on on board analytics and a connection to a cloud back-end for wider exposure to processing, storage and deeper levels of algorithmic intelligence.

But what is the Internet of Cockroaches (IoC) and does it exist?

Spoiler alert, no it doesn’t exist and this is a Christmas Eve type of story, but there is a technical point to me made here.


Faced with the prospect of another chilly wintry yuletide in Blighty, Mrs B and I opted to don’t just book it Thomas Cook it over to Corrallejo in Fuertoventura for a week in the Hesperia Bristol Playa resort.

After a nice flight, which left the UK roughly 10 hours before Gatwick Airport was closed due to drone sightings, we made it over to the hotel. Our first night room was directly north facing, so we paid for an upgraded room overlooking the pool — all still good at this point.

Off we went to sleep on the second night, but only for a few hours, I spent most of the night killing cockroaches. One or two would have been fine, but we had about six uninvited guests — and this happened for two nights running.

La Cucaracha

Now then, Fuertoventura is only a few miles from Western Sahara, so you have to accept a few critters and bugs, but it is arguably fair to suggest that a dozen cucarachas tips over the acceptable limit for any hotel room. We had a lot of ants too, but that’s enough… let’s get to the technology.

Thomas Cook might not be able to use technology to remotely ensure its hotel rooms are always clean and free of bugs, but it does operate a very responsive online feedback service at <>.

We decided to take photos of all the cockroach squishing and send them to our local ‘rep’ and the connected service at 4am. You receive and automated response and so it’s logical to think that you’re going to be dealing with a chatbot at best — but no, Thomas Cook appears to station human beings in call centres all around the world to deal with holidaymakers issues.

We got human responses from agents in the middle of the night that (from their names) appeared to be in Greece, India and the UK as follows:

“This is something you shouldn’t have to be doing in the middle of the night. I have spoken with Jerry [the night manager] and he has advised you can use another room just so you can get some rest for this evening. As soon as someone comes in for the day shift working on reception they are going to rectify the situation so you do not have to endure this any longer and come up with a more permanent solution to your problems,” wrote Jade Paxford, connected consultant, Thomas Cook Connected Service.

With the rise of chatbots and AI on our doorstep, it was strangely comforting to find that a human being had picked up the phone and dealt with the issue using real interpersonal skills.

I went to reception at 8am and found that a better room had already been allocated. Our local rep Josephine Ninian also followed up with a personal meeting to offer a supportive ear and free cocktail or two.

Feliz Navidad

So all’s well that ends well at Christmas then?

Yes, for the most part.

We haven’t quite managed to ‘motion tag’ cockroaches and build hotel rooms with automated bug killing systems that kick in when you go to sleep, but if you’re listening Thomas Cook… then that might be an idea for the future please guys.

It’s Christmas isn’t it… so the Internet of Cockroaches (IoC) can be real, just for one day.

La Cucaracha killer

Dead Cucaracha

December 18, 2018  2:02 PM

AI developer toolset series: Mathworks on deep learning

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

The Computer Weekly Developer Network is in the engine room, covered in grease and looking for Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools for software application developers to use.

This post is part of a series which also runs as a main feature in Computer Weekly.

 With so much AI power in development and so many new neural network brains to build for our applications, how should programmers ‘kit out’ their AI toolbox? How much grease and gearing should they get their hands dirty with… and, which robot torque wrench should we start with?


Senior engineering manager at data analysis and simulation software company MathWorks is Jos Martin.

Martin says that when it comes to deep learning, which is probably the most prevalent form of AI at the moment, much of the complexity has already been abstracted.

“As a user of deep learning you don’t usually need to go and write training algorithms, since ‘stochastic gradient descent with ****’ is usually what you want. You might want to think about your loss function, but beyond that you don’t really need to think how you will train your network,” said Martin.

He explains that in addition, it is important to remember that there are many different intelligence layer types already implemented in openly available libraries, so developers should really view any single layer of intelligence as a whole set of computing neurons connected together.

Architectural responsibility

“So, as a user of deep learning you really are piecing together layers, thinking about the data you will train them on… and then doing the training. I’m not going to underestimate the difficulty of coming up with appropriate network architectures for the layers – but since that is problem-dependent, it seem reasonable that someone who wants to focus on building smarter applications needs to think about their deep network architecture,” said Martin.

Martin points out that much of the time and effort in developing new deep learning models involves data cleansing, data labelling and data marshalling.

He insists that the training data part of the total equation is something that hugely affects the overall performance of any model and is something that must be considered a first class citizen alongside the network architecture and training algorithms.

So talking of responsibilities, is there a responsibility to use open source frameworks to share the machine knowledge made so that it’s a case of deep learning for all?

Martin says that there may be a responsibility to make sure your model can be shared across different frameworks, but not a responsibility to use any particular framework whilst developing your model.

“There is software and deep learning tools which allow both import and export of our deep networks to the Open Neural Network Exchange Format (ONNX – This allows different frameworks to use models developed in others. Developers also now have the ability to import some model developed in TensorFlow and reuse the network architecture and some parts of the model when undertaking transfer learning on a new dataset,” he said.

Martin concludes by saying that the interesting thing that is developed is the model and its architecture. He asserts that ONNX is an excellent way for all the different frameworks to interconnect to allow the right tools to be used in the right situation.

Mathworks’ Martin: don’t shirk on network architecture planning for AI.

December 6, 2018  9:41 AM

Anyone for IT-tea?

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

The Computer Weekly Developer Network (CWDN) team recently got to meet with enterprise applications company IFS at its Sri Lanka headquarters in Colombo.

The meetings were designed to explore the work its IFS Labs division is currently undertaking, talk to senior local management to find out why Sri Lanka is now claiming to be a real ‘maker’ and creator of software application development expertise, meet with local technical institutes supported by the company… and also talk to a number of key customers.

Although CWDN primarily focuses on platform and tools rather than individual implementation issues… one customer story did appear to be worth telling.

Akbar Brothers is Sri Lanka’s largest tea company and the firm in fact spans a total of eight verticals from printing to power and onward into automobile emissions testing.

Let’s remember that IFS is known for its Field Service Management (FSM) software and its wider stack of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and digital operations management software.

The work IFS carries out with Akbar is logically placed, that is – Akbar ships to 90 countries using 26 ISO shipping containers a day, so the widespread use of both FSM and ERP (in unison) makes sense.

Automation decisions

Given the fact that various parts of its business make complimentary materials (as noted above), Akbar needed to move onwards from its legacy IT system that suffered from a lack of accountability, a likelihood that items would simply get lost and (perhaps most crucially of all within the context of this story) fail to provide a means of automating between different actions for connected products and services.

“We used to have to burn a huge bonfire of product packaging [things go out of date and market demands change] every year, but IFS has helped us to create a much more connected and intelligent supply chain so we can avoid that scenario as part of our mission to help drive green business,” said Akbar board director Husain Akbar Ali.

Mr Akbar Ali explained that IFS is helping to make a real difference, but his firm is not able to use the software across ALL of its subsidiary divisions due to specific proprietary complexity that exists in some of its utility business work.

Tea with IT

Akbar Brothers source tea from all over Sri Lanka and the rest of the world — and, as such, the company’s tea tasters have to same 10,000 samples a week in order to match the crop to specific requirements for different blends in different markets.

With such a labour intensive job to execute, Akbar is now looking to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) functions within the IFS platform to execute some of the ‘sampling’ in a more virtualised space.

Looking wider, Akbar is also using IFS software to drive its process manufacturing tracking systems.

The firm needs to run blend management processes and also engage in auction management (where it actually buys its tea) and be able to know where every single ‘flake’ of tealeaf comes from because the Sri Lankan government stipulates firm quality controls on the use of the term ‘Ceylon Tea’ today.

Given the undeniable growth that the Sri Lankan economy is currently witnessing in its post civil war years, Mr Akbar Ali has said that he is keen to help other firms (in completely different industry verticals) understand where ERP software can help them… as such, his team is willing to take other businesses through their IFS implementation if they want to learn more.

As with any meeting in Sri Lanka (technology related or otherwise), we can only assume that there is tea and local fruitcake provided as a matter of course and good manners.

Who wouldn’t want a slice of that?

Tea samples at Akbar Brothers Sri Lanka

Tea samples at Akbar Brothers Sri Lanka

Tea samples at Akbar Brothers Sri Lanka

December 5, 2018  11:29 AM

Atlassian Optimizely aim to clean up developer data quality

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

Atlassian is of course best known (a few would argue loved) for its issue tracking software Jira.

Optimizely on the other hand, is known for guess what?

The clue was (obviously) in the name — the firm develops User eXperience optimization (and personalisation) software.

A new integration between Optimizely Full Stack and Jira Software has now been tabled to address developer concerns over poor data quality.

Why does data quality matter?

Because apps with high data quality can be launched faster, with less launch risk and the impact of every release can be measured more accurately.

What problem does this solve?

Atlassian says that developers are being forced to fulfil the demand for good software, but have little insight into how their experiments are performing and the impact they are having on product development.

Just building and releasing features is no longer enough to create products. With this integration, developers are able to deploy ‘hundreds’ of experiments at a time to see what is driving consumer engagement in real time.

Why does this matter?

Now that developers can see, understand, and easily communicate the status of the experiments they are running — live and in real time — they can deploy smaller and more frequent feature and product shipments that drive end user engagement and convergence.

Optimizely’s Full Stack provides A/B testing and feature management for product development teams, including feature flags to minimising launch risk.

Teams can now link feature flags from Optimizely Full Stack into Jira Software, so that engineers can see the status of the experiments they are running.

This, in theory at least, means more quickly and efficiently seeing the status of flags and rollouts, resulting in smaller and more frequent feature and product shipments.

A free trial and help page is here.

December 4, 2018  9:40 AM

The machine that goes IDaaS-Ping!

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

Ping (the identity defined security company, not the golf club company) has previewed its PingOne for Customers tool for developers

The is cloud-based Identity as a Service (IDaaS) software for programmers to use — it provides API-based identity services for customer-facing applications.

The promise here is a route to replacing custom-built identity services that (Ping argues) can be ‘more difficult to maintain’ than cloud automated ones.

It is, in effect, the software machine that goes IDaaS-Ping!

PingOne for Customers is designed to make it faster and easier to embed registration, login, profile management, multi-factor authentication (MFA) and other cloud-based identity services directly into customer-facing applications.

The software offers developer-friendly (as opposed to developer-nasty) APIs, a good set of documentation and a dedicated community.

“Organisations are embarking on a broader range of cloud-first digital business initiatives, yet  struggle with the integration and support of new cloud and SaaS offerings with their existing identity infrastructures. PingOne for Customers addresses these needs and includes broad support for identity standards such as OAuth, OpenID Connect and SAML,” said the company, in a press statement.

It also offers hybrid IT capabilities, delegated administration, and addresses other enterprise requirements at the onset to provide diverse implementation and deployment options.

“The developer community wants to build applications and just leverage a service for securing login and registration, versus creating the capabilities themselves in their app,” said Steve Shoaff, chief product officer, Ping Identity. “

Integrations across the broader Ping Intelligent Identity Platform are claimed to help current enterprise customers maintain a better path to the cloud.

Image: Wikipedia

December 3, 2018  3:31 PM

Why is all the cloud consolidation happening?

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

We know that 2018 saw a lot of cloud (industry) consolidation.

Companies merged, cloud alliances (yes, more of them) formed and platforms became more agnostic (where possible) in order that they could open themselves up to a wider selection of other services, applications and data channels.

VP of Business Development at cloud management and orchestration start up Morpheus Data Brad Parks notes that that was indeed 2018, but that 2019 has new things in store for cloud computing.

Parks bemoans the fact that cloud management (as a term) has been used by the industry to describe a fragmented array of products ranging from optimisation to security to automation to migration and more.

So why cloud consolidation?

Parks says it’s because the market is clearly demanding more full-stack solutions… and that it’s no longer enough to merely turbo-charge or cost-optimise some virtual machines (VMs).

In 2019, Parks asserts that we’ll see a coming together of DevOps and cloud management. 

“The Dev side of the DevOps equation has been moving fast and as the harbinger of digital transformation, DevOps-centric organisations are going to refuse to accept the status quo. IT teams will either embrace and leverage next-generation cloud management to enable developers, or they will find themselves wondering what happened to their domain. The same is true for cloud management tools. Ops-centric tools are no longer going to cut it. AIOps goes from buzzword to baller: many core infrastructure platforms have started taking advantage of predictive analytics to improve the datacentre in recent years,” said Parks.

He further predicts that 2019 will see increasing interest in next-gen private clouds as well as an increasing need for centralised governance over independent cloud estates.

Cloud is (still) changing in its central form, types of adoption and wider implementation across different industries and that implementation factor will have an impact on the software application developers who now seek to build (increasingly) cloud-native applications.

What’s next for cloud? 

In a word: full-stack hybrid next-gen private clouds with a big dollop of AIOps.

Okay, that was 13 words, sorry.

November 28, 2018  12:32 PM

Nutanix partner roundup at .Next 2018

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

Wandering the partner pavilion areas is a pleasant enough distraction at any IT industry trade show.

Attendees dart between stands grabbing packets of branding-sponsored jelly beans, T-shirts and various freebie cables and nik-naks in an attempt to pocket or bag the give-aways before the stand personnel can scan the QR codes on their badges… and so sign them up for a lifetime of emails and unsolicited white papers and so on.

Aside from the ritual jelly bean grab, there’s also usually a peppering of news.

Nutanix held the European leg of its .Next conference and exhibition in London’s expansive ExCeL centre this November 2018 and the partner pavilion was full of both news and jelly beans.

Nlyte (N-Lite)

Nlyte Software (sounds like it should be pronounced ‘nil-tee’ but in fact it’s N-lite) is a computing infrastructure firm.

The company used its appearance at the show to showcase Nlyte Insight for Nutanix – a purpose-built extension for use by Nutanix Prism users.

As a reminder Nutanix Prism is the proprietary management software used in Nutanix Acropolis hyper-converged appliances that provides an automated control plane using machine learning to support predictive analytics and automated data movement.

The new Nlyte offering is supposed to enable organisations with Nutanix Prism deployments to gain an understanding of their critical infrastructure and how it impacts the workloads being managed by Nutanix.

Nlyte Insight for Nutanix expands the capabilities of Nlyte Asset Optimizer to improve the operational management of workload assets and visibility of/within Nutanix Prism deployments.

The module automatically discovers, tracks, and manages hardware, software and IoT assets across an organisation’s global network.

“Nlyte Insight for Nutanix gives organisations transparency on the specific resources supporting their varying workloads and virtualisation instances. This is essential in order to bridge the gap between critical infrastructure and IT operations,” said Rob Neave, CTO and VP of product management.

With insight across all Nutanix workloads, Neave claims that Nlyte can act as a ‘manager of managers’ for critical infrastructure applications to depend on.


Far easier to pronounce (but arguably no less complex in terms of cloud) is Arcserve. The company is known as a data protection provider and it has now announced its integration with Nutanix AHV.

This collaboration is supposed to allow organisations to get fully-integrated data protection with capabilities for cloud mobility, flexible recovery and migration – plus there’s also disaster recovery testing and reporting.

“Arcserve’s Nutanix-enabled capabilities were designed for organisations running complex workloads – enabling seamless protection for their choice of mixed systems and applications, including virtualization solutions,” said Pratap Karonde, VP of software engineering at Arcserve.

Karonde also notes that this integration provides agentless backup of Windows and Linux workloads running on Nutanix AHV. It also allows for flexible recovery to virtualised and cloud environments such as VMware, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Hyper-V or Nutanix AHV itself.

Yes there were plenty more partners at the show, but these three were the most visible in terms of media activity… and we didn’t even get a t-shirt.

Big Switch

Big Switch also attended the show to explain how it is working with Nutanix.

The company is using ‘public cloud constructs’ as first principles [as in, design and development reference bases] for architecting enterprise private clouds.

The company claims to have a hybrid-cloud solution in the form of so-called Big Cloud Fabric BCF), which employs Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) on-premises technology, along with an integration with Nutanix AHV.

Chief product officer at Big Switch Networks Prashant Gandhi explains that Big Cloud Fabric is a VPC-based logical networking fabric, optimised for Nutanix Enterprise Cloud, due to its native integration and network automation for HCI operations.

“BCF provides advanced network automation and real-time visibility, which removes bottlenecks typically experienced with traditional network designs that are manual, switch-by-switch architectures, based on traditional CLI commands. With BCF the network operates at the speed Nutanix clusters,” said the company, in a press statement.

BCF has achieved Nutanix AHV Integrated Networking designation and enables enterprise VPC automation and visibility through integration with Nutanix Prism.

November 28, 2018  11:57 AM

Nutanix Xi suite ‘cloud fabric’ edges over to IoT

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

Nutanix used its ‘Next’ 2018 conference and exhibition series this week in Europe to detail the scope of its Xi Cloud Services offering.

This is a suite of cloud computing functions specifically designed to create a more ‘unified fabric’ across different cloud environments.

Showcased at Next 2018 London this year was Xi IoT, a new edge computing service designed to allow developers to focus on building the business logic powering IoT applications and services [rather than having to worry about the ‘transport journey’ of getting data from devices, back to the cloud datacentre… and then performing analysis on it… and then sending back actions to IoT devices themselves].

The company didn’t add the [square brackets], but we did to clarify what it means by the whole ‘allows developers’ claim.

IDC analyst Ashish Nadkarni thinks that it’s critical for enterprise organisations to have an edge strategy to unify, edge to cloud connectivity – it’s all about pushing compute and analytics close to where data is generated.

Nutanix argues that although the IoT is generating a huge amount of data (estimates suggest 256 Zettabytes from 3 billion devices in 2017), there is a problem with the current IoT model.

The model, today, is typified by the massive amounts of data on edge devices, which has to be sent back to a centralised cloud for processing. This does not give way, easily at least, to making real-time decisions.

Same same, but different?

Nutanix claims it can do IoT different.

The company says that “unlike traditional IoT models” [it’s own official statement’s words] the Xi IoT platform delivers local compute, machine inference and data services to perform real-time processing at the edge.

In fairness, that’s quite like a lot of other IoT models isn’t it?

Looking deeper then, the Xi IoT Data Pipelines tools works to securely move post-analysis data to a customer’s public (Azure, AWS or GCP) or private cloud platform of choice for long-term analysis… that’s still like most other enterprise-scale IoT models.

Where Nutanix may be more clearly differentiating itself is that edge and core cloud deployments all operate on the same data and management plane, so Xi IoT customers have simplified insight into their deployment.

Developer APIs

Through Xi IoT, customers can manage all their edge locations through an infrastructure and application lifecycle management tool, regardless of platform.

Developers can use a set of open APIs to deploy next-generation data science applications as containerised applications or as functions, which are small snippets of code. This can be integrated into existing CI/CD pipelines, allowing them to make changes quickly from a single location.

Xi IoT is supposed to helps IT organisations reduce training, development and testing costs while eliminating the possibility an organisation is locked in to one public cloud provider.

Because data is processed in real-time at the edge, companies are no longer inhibited by the transmission of data back to a core datacenter for processing, so decisions can be made based on data autonomously and in real-time.

Nutanix Xi IoT will focus on the manufacturing, retail, oil and gas, healthcare, and smart cities markets at launch.

November 27, 2018  8:08 AM

Developers quench thirst for computational complexity Oasis Devnet

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

Software application developers can now access a new version the Oasis Devnet platform.

This technology has features to help developers build and test privacy-preserving smart contracts.

The software itself has been built as a result of work carried out by early testnet developers and the use cases they have laid down.

The ‘privacy-preserving smart contracts’ available here including features to help developers work on applications never before capable on blockchain.

But what is Oasis, really?

Oasis is a privacy-preserving cloud computing platform on blockchain.

According to the team, “Our platform enables privacy-preserving and computationally complex applications, allowing developers to build applications that protect data by design and foster the creation of new applications that couldn’t otherwise be built. We are designing our platform to scale to computationally complex workloads unseen in other blockchain systems to date.”

Features include Confidentiality Frameworks, which include libraries to develop and interact with confidential smart contracts, a new model for smart contracts in which data and state are secret and transactions are sent over an end-to-end encrypted channel.

As well as support for Rust, a general-purpose language that offers flexibility when writing smart contracts.

The Oasis Contract Kit is a toolkit to help write and test smart contracts locally before they’re deployed on-chain.

We can also fine Ethereum backwards compatibility here.

Ethereum is a decentralised platform for applications that run ‘exactly as programmed’ without any chance of fraud, censorship or third-party interference — these apps run on a custom built blockchain.

The team further states that although most of the functionality for confidentiality is already supported, the Devnet is still in beta and they don’t recommend storing sensitive information at this time.

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