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Main article: Edge computing

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AWS is sick of waiting for your company to move to the cloud

22:29 | 9 December

AWS held its annual re:Invent customer conference last week in Las Vegas. Being Vegas, there was pageantry aplenty, of course, but this year’s model felt a bit different than in years past, lacking the onslaught of major announcements we are used to getting at this event.

Perhaps the pace of innovation could finally be slowing, but the company still had a few messages for attendees. For starters, AWS CEO Andy Jassy made it clear he’s tired of the slow pace of change inside the enterprise. In Jassy’s view, the time for incremental change is over, and it’s time to start moving to the cloud faster.

AWS also placed a couple of big bets this year in Vegas to help make that happen. The first involves AI and machine learning. The second, moving computing to the edge, closer to the business than the traditional cloud allows.

The question is what is driving these strategies? AWS had a clear head start in the cloud, and owns a third of the market, more than double its closest rival, Microsoft. The good news is that the market is still growing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The bad news for AWS is that it can probably see Google and Microsoft beginning to resonate with more customers, and it’s looking for new ways to get a piece of the untapped part of the market to choose AWS.

Move faster, dammit

The worldwide infrastructure business surpassed $100 billion this year, yet we have only just scratched the surface of this market. Surely, digital-first companies, those born in the cloud, understand all of the advantages of working there, but large enterprises are still moving surprisingly slowly.

Jassy indicated more than once last week that he’s had enough of that. He wants to see companies transform more quickly, and in his view it’s not a technical problem, it’s a lack of leadership. If you want to get to the cloud faster, you need executive buy-in pushing it.

Jassy outlined four steps in his keynote to help companies move faster and get more workloads in the cloud. He believes in doing so, it will not only continue to enrich his own company, it will also help customers avoid disruptive forces in their markets.

For starters, he says that it’s imperative to get the senior team aligned behind a change. “Inertia is a powerful thing,” Jassy told the audience at his keynote on Tuesday. He’s right of course. There are forces inside every company designed with good reason to protect the organization from massive systemic changes, but these forces — whether legal, compliance, security or HR — can hold back a company when meaningful change is needed.

He said that a fuller shift to the cloud requires ambitious planning. “It’s easy to go a long time dipping your toe in the water if you don’t have an aggressive goal,” he emphasized. To move faster, you also need staff that can help you get there — and that requires training.

Finally, you need a thoughtful, methodical migration plan. Most companies start with the stuff that’s easy to move to the cloud, then begin to migrate workloads that require some adjustments. They continue along this path all the way to things you might not choose to move at all.

Jassy knows that the faster companies get on board and move to the cloud, the better off his company is going to be, assuming it can capture the lion’s share of those workloads. The trouble is that after you move that first easy batch, getting to the cloud becomes increasingly challenging, and that’s one of the big reasons why companies have moved slower than Jassy would like.

The power of machine learning to drive adoption

One way to motivate folks to move faster is help them understand the power of machine learning. AWS made a slew of announcements around machine learning designed to give customers a more comprehensive Amazon solution. This included SageMaker Studio, a machine learning development environment along with notebook, debugging and monitoring tools. Finally, the company announced AutoPilot, a tool that gives more insight into automatically-generated machine learning models, another way to go faster.

The company also announced a new connected keyboard called DeepComposer, designed to teach developers about machine learning in a fun way. It joins DeepLens and DeepRacer, two tools released at previous re:Invents. All of this is designed for developers to help them get comfortable with machine learning.

It wasn’t a coincidence the company also announced a significant partnership with the NFL to use machine learning to help make players safer. It’s an excellent use case. The NFL has tons of data on its players, and it has decades of film. If it can use that data as fuel for machine learning-driven solutions to help prevent injuries, it could end up being a catalyst for meaningful change driven by machine learning in the cloud.

Machine learning provides another reason to move to the cloud. This shows that the cloud isn’t just about agility and speed, it’s also about innovation and transformation. If you can take advantage of machine learning to transform your business, it’s another reason to move to the cloud.

Moving to the edge

Finally, AWS recognizes that computing in cloud can only get you so far. In spite of the leaps it has made architecturally, there is still a latency issue that will be unacceptable for some workloads. That’s why it was a big deal that the company announced a couple of edge computing solutions including the general availability of Outposts, its private cloud in a box along with a new concept called Local Zones last week.

The company announced Outposts last year as a way to bring the cloud on prem. It is supposed to behave exactly the same way as traditional cloud resources, but AWS installs, manages and maintains a physical box in your data center. It’s the ultimate in edge computing, bringing the compute power right into your building.

For those who don’t want to go that far, AWS also introduced Local Zones, starting with one in LA, where the cloud infrastructure resources are close by instead of in your building. The idea is the same — to reduce the physical distance between you and your compute resources and reduce latency.

All of this is designed to put the cloud in reach of more customers, to help them move to the cloud faster. Sure, it’s self-serving, but 11 years after I first heard the term cloud computing, maybe it really is time to give companies a harder push.

 


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Edge computing startup Pensando comes out of stealth mode with a total of $278 million in funding

06:38 | 17 October

Pensando, an edge computing startup founded by former Cisco engineers, came out of stealth mode today with an announcement that it has raised a $145 million Series C. The company’s software and hardware technology, created to give data centers more of the flexibility of cloud computing servers, is being positioned as a competitor to Amazon Web Services Nitro.

The round was led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lightspeed Venture Partners and brings Pensando’s total raised so far to $278 million. HPE chief technology officer Mark Potter and Lightspeed Venture partner Barry Eggers will join Pensando’s board of directors. The company’s chairman is former Cisco CEO John Chambers, who is also one of Pensando’s investors through JC2 Ventures.

Pensando was founded in 2017 by Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero and Soni Jiandani, a team of engineers who spearheaded the development of several of Cisco’s key technologies, and founded four startups that were acquired by Cisco, including Insieme Networks. (In an interview with Reuters, Pensando chief financial offier Randy Pond, a former Cisco executive vice president, said it isn’t clear if Cisco is interested in acquiring the startup, adding “our aspirations at this point would be to IPO. But, you know, there’s always other possibilities for monetization events.”)

The startup claims its edge computing platform performs five to nine times better than AWS Nitro, in terms of productivity and scale. Pensando prepares data center infrastructure for edge computing, better equipping them to handle data from 5G, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things applications. While in stealth mode, Pensando acquired customers including HPE, Goldman Sachs, NetApp and Equinix.

In a press statement, Potter said “Today’s rapidly transforming, hyper-connected world requires enterprises to operate with even greater flexibility and choices than ever before. HPE’s expanding relationship with Pensando Systems stems from our shared understanding of enterprises and the cloud. We are proud to announce our investment and solution partnership with Pensando and will continue to drive solutions that anticipate our customers’ needs together.”

 


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Satya Nadella looks to the future with edge computing

17:41 | 8 October

Speaking today at the Microsoft Government Leaders Summit in Washington DC, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made the case for edge computing, even while pushing the Azure cloud as what he called “the world’s computer.”

While Amazon, Google and other competitors may have something to say about that, marketing hype aside, many companies are still in the midst of transitioning to the cloud. Nadella says the future of computing could actually be at the edge where computing is done locally before data is then transferred to the cloud for AI and machine learning purposes. What goes around, comes around.

But as Nadella sees it, this is not going to be about either edge or cloud. It’s going to be the two technologies working in tandem. “Now, all this is being driven by this new tech paradigm that we describe as the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge,” he said today.

He said that to truly understand the impact the edge is going to have on computing, you have to look at research, which predicts there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world by 2030, a number even he finds astonishing. “I mean this is pretty stunning. We think about a billion Windows machines or a couple of billion smartphones. This is 50 billion [devices], and that’s the scope,” he said.

The key here is that these 50 billion devices, whether you call them edge devices or the Internet of Things, will be generating tons of data. That means you will have to develop entirely new ways of thinking about how all this flows together. “The capacity at the edge, that ubiquity is going to be transformative in how we think about computation in any business process of ours,” he said. As we generate ever-increasing amounts of data, whether we are talking about public sector kinds of use case, or any business need, it’s going to be the fuel for artificial intelligence, and he sees the sheer amount of that data driving new AI use cases.

“Of course when you have that rich computational fabric, one of the things that you can do is create this new asset, which is data and AI. There is not going to be a single application, a single experience that you are going to build, that is not going to be driven by AI, and that means you have to really have the ability to reason over large amounts of data to create that AI,” he said.

Nadella would be more than happy to have his audience take care of all that using Microsoft products, whether Azure compute, database, AI tools or edge computers like the Data Box Edge it introduced in 2018. While Nadella is probably right about the future of computing, all of this could apply to any cloud, not just Microsoft.

As computing shifts to the edge, it’s going to have a profound impact on the way we think about technology in general, but it’s probably not going to involve being tied to a single vendor, regardless of how comprehensive their offerings may be.

 


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Data storage company Cloudian launches a new edge analytics subsidiary called Edgematrix

15:00 | 17 September

Cloudian, a company that enables businesses to store and manage massive amounts of data, announced today the launch of Edgematrix, a new unit focused on edge analytics for large data sets. Edgematrix, a majority-owned subsidiary of Cloudian, will first be available in Japan, where both companies are based. It has raised a $9 million Series A from strategic investors NTT Docomo, Shimizu Corporation and Japan Post Capital, as well as Cloudian co-founder and CEO Michael Tso and board director Jonathan Epstein. The funding will be used on product development, deployment and sales and marketing.

Cloudian itself has raised a total of $174 million, including a $94 million Series E round announced last year. Its products include the Hyperstore platform, which allows businesses to store hundreds of petrabytes of data on premise, and software for data analytics and machine learning. Edgematrix uses Hyperstore for storing large-scale data sets and its own AI software and hardware for data processing at the “edge” of networks, closer to where data is collected from IoT devices like sensors.

The company’s solutions were created for situations where real-time analytics is necessary. For example, it can be used to detect the make, model and year of cars on highways so targeted billboard ads can be displayed to their drivers.

Tso told TechCrunch in an email that Edgematrix was launched after Cloudian co-founder and president Hiroshi Ohta and a team spent two years working on technology to help Cloudian customers process and analyze their data more efficiently.

“With more and more data being created at the edge, including IoT data, there’s a growing need for being able to apply real-time data analysis and decision-making at or near the edge, minimizing the transmission costs and latencies involved in moving the data elsewhere,” said Tso. “Based on the initial success of a small Cloudian team developing AI software solutions and attracting a number of top-tier customers, we decided that the best way to build on this success was establishing a subsidiary with strategic investors.”

Edgematrix is launching in Japan first because spending on AI systems there is expected to grow faster than in any other market, at a compound annual growth rate of 45.3% from 2018 to 2023, according to IDC.

“Japan has been ahead of the curve as an early adopter of AI technology, with both the governmetn and private sector viewing it as essential to boosting productivity,” said Tso. “Edgematrix will focus on the Japanese market for at least the next year, and assuming that all goes well, it would then expand to North America and Europe.”

 


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SimShine raises $8 million for home security cameras that use edge computing

10:19 | 10 September

SimShine, a computer vision startup based in Shenzhen, has raised $8 million in pre-Series A funding for SimCam, its line of home security cameras that use edge computing to keep data on-device. The funding was led by Cheetah Mobile, with participation from Skychee, Skyview Fund and Oak Pacific Investment.

Earlier this year, SimShine raised $310,095 in a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. It will use its pre-Series A round for product development and hiring.

SimShine’s team started off developing computer vision and edge computing software, spending five years working with enterprise clients before launching SimCam.

The company plans to release more smart home products that use edge computing with the ultimate goal of building a IoT platform to connect different devices, co-founder and chief marketing officer Joe Pham tells TechCrunch. SimCam currently integrates with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, with support for Apple Homekit in the works.

Pham says edge computing protects users’ privacy by keeping data, including face recognition data, on device, while also decreasing latency and false alarms, because calculations are performed continuously on the device (cameras connect to Wi-Fi so customers can watch surveillance video on their smartphones). It also means customers don’t have to sign up for the subscription plans that many cloud-based home security cameras require and reduces the price of each device since SimCam does not have to maintain cloud servers.

 


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Microsoft brings Azure SQL Database to the edge (and Arm)

00:00 | 3 May

Microsoft today announced an interesting update to its database lineup with the preview of Azure SQL Database Edge, a new tool that brings the same database engine that powers Azure SQL Database in the cloud to edge computing devices, including, for the first time, Arm-based machines.

Azure SQL Edge, Azure corporate vice president Julia White writes in today’s announcement, “brings to the edge the same performant, secure and easy to manage SQL engine that our customers love in Azure SQL Database and SQL Server.”

The new service, which will also run on x64-based devices and edge gateways, promises to bring low-latency analytics to edge devices as it allows users to work with streaming data and time-series data, combined with the built-in machine learning capabilities of Azure SQL Database. Like its larger brethren, Azure SQL Database Edge will also support graph data and comes with the same security and encryption features that can, for example, protect the data at rest and in motion, something that’s especially important for an edge device.

As White rightly notes, this also ensures that developers only have to write an application once and then deploy it to platforms that feature Azure SQL Database, good old SQL Server on premises and this new edge version.

SQL Database Edge can run in both connected and fully disconnected fashion, something that’s also important for many use cases where connectivity isn’t always a given, yet where users need the kind of data analytics capabilities to keep their businesses (or drilling platforms, or cruise ships) running.

 


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Docker developers can now build Arm containers on their desktops

16:00 | 24 April

Docker and Arm today announced a major new partnership that will see the two companies collaborate in bringing improved support for the Arm platform to Docker’s tools.

The main idea here is to make it easy for Docker developers to build their applications for the Arm platform right from their x86 desktops and then deploy them to the cloud (including the Arm-based AWS EC2 A1 instances), edge and IoT devices. Developers will be able to build their containers for Arm just like they do today, without the need for any cross-compliation.

This new capability, which will work for applications written in Javascript/Node.js, Python, Java, C++, Ruby, .NET core, Go, Rust and PHP, will become available as a tech preview next week, when Docker hosts its annual North American developer conference in San Francisco.

Typically, developers would have to build the containers they want to run on the Arm platform on an Arm-based server. With this system, which is the first result of this new partnership, Docker essentially emulates an Arm chip on the PC for building these images.

“Overnight, the 2 million Docker developers that are out there can use the Docker commands they already know and become Arm developers,” Docker EVP of Business Development David Messina told me. “Docker, just like we’ve done many times over, has simplified and streamlined processes and made them simpler and accessible to developers. And in this case, we’re making x86 developers on their laptops Arm developers overnight.”

Given that cloud-based Arm servers like Amazon’s A1 instances are often signficantly cheaper than x86 machines, users can achieve some immediate cost benefits by using this new system and running their containers on Arm.

For Docker, this partnership opens up new opportunities, especially in areas where Arm chips are already strong, including edge and IoT scenarios. Arm, similarly, is interested in strengthening its developer ecosystem by making it easier to develop for its platform. The easier it is to build apps for the platform, the more likely developers are to then run them on servers that feature chips from Arm’s partners.

“Arm’s perspective on the infrastructure really spans all the way from the endpoint, all the way through the edge to the cloud data center, because we are one of the few companies that have a presence all the way through that entire path,” Mohamed Awad, Arm’s VP of Marketing, Infrastructure Line of Business, said. “It’s that perspective that drove us to make sure that we engage Docker in a meaningful way and have a meaningful relationship with them. We are seeing compute and the infrastructure sort of transforming itself right now from the old model of centralized compute, general purpose architecture, to a more distributed and more heterogeneous compute system.”

Developers, however, Awad rightly noted, don’t want to have to deal with this complexity, yet they also increasingly need to ensure that their applications run on a wide variety of platform and that they can move them around as needed. “For us, this is about enabling developers and freeing them from lock-in on any particular area and allowing them to choose the right compute for the right job that is the most efficient for them,” Awad said.

Mesina noted that the promise of Docker has long been to remove the dependence of applications from the infrastructure they run on. Adding Arm support simply extends this promise to an additional platform. He also stressed that the work on this was driven by the company’s enterprise customers. These are the users who have already set up their systems for cloud-native development with Docker’s tools — at least for their x86 development. Those customers are now looking at developing for their edge devices, too, and that often means developing for Arm-based devices.

Awad and Messina both stressed that developers really don’t have to learn anything new to make this work. All of the usual Docker commands will just work.

 

 


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An unsecured database exposed the personal details of 202M job seekers in China

11:28 | 11 January

The personal details belonging to more than 202 million job seekers in China, including information like phone numbers, email addresses, driver licenses and salary expectations, were freely available to anyone who knew where to look for as long as three years due to an insecure database.

That’s according to findings published by security researcher Bob Diachenko who located an open and unprotected MongoDB instance in late December which contained 202,730,434 “very detailed” records. The database was indexed in data search engines Binary Edge and Shodan, and was freely visible without a password or login. It was only made private after 

about its existence on Twitter.

Diachenko, who is director of cyber risk research at Hacken, wasn’t able to match the database with a specific service, but he did locate a three-year-old GitHub repository for an app that included “identical structural patterns as those used in the exposed resumes.” Again, ownership is not clear at this point although the records do seem to contain data that was scraped from Chinese classifieds, including the Craigslist-like 58.com.

A 58.com spokesperson denied that the records were its creation. They instead claimed that their service had been the victim of scraping from a third-party.

“We have searched all over the database of us and investigated all the other storage, turned out that the sample data is not leaked from us. It seems that the data is leaked from a third party who scrape[d] data from many CV websites,” a spokesperson told Diachenko.

TechCrunch contacted 58.com but we have not yet received a response.

While the database has now been secured, it was potentially vulnerable for up to three years and there’s already evidence that it had been regularly accessed. Although, again, it isn’t clear who by.

“It’s worth noting that MongoDB log showed at least a dozen IPs who might have accessed the data before it was taken offline,” Diachenko wrote.

There’s plenty of mystery here — it isn’t clear whether 58.com was behind the hole, or if it is a rival service or a scraper — but what is more certain is that the vulnerability is one of the largest of its kind to be found in China.

 


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Baidu Cloud launches its open source edge computing platform

21:00 | 9 January

At CES, the Chinese tech giant Baidu today announced OpenEdge, its open source edge computing platform. At its core, OpenEdge is the local package component of Baidu’s existing Intelligent Edge (BIE) commercial offering and obviously plays well with that service’s components for managing edge nodes and apps.

Since this is obviously a developer announcement, I’m not sure why Baidu decided to use CES as the venue for this release, but there can be no doubt that China’s major tech firms have become quite comfortable with open source. Companies like Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and others are often members of the Linux Foundation and its growing stable of projects, for example, and virtually ever major open source organization now looks to China as its growth market. It’s no surprise then that we’re also now seeing a wider range of Chinese companies that open source their own projects.

“Edge computing is a critical component of Baidu’s ABC (AI, Big Data and Cloud Computing) strategy,” says Baidu VP and GM of Baidu Cloud Watson Yin. “By moving the compute closer to the source of the data, it greatly reduces the latency, lowers the bandwidth usage and ultimately brings real-time and immersive experiences to end users. And by providing an open source platform, we have also greatly simplified the process for developers to create their own edge computing applications.”

A company spokesperson tells us that the open source platform will include features like data collection, message distribution and AI inference, as well as tools for syncing with the cloud.

Baidu also today announced that it has partnered with Intel to launch the BIE-AI-Box and with NXP Semiconductors to launch the BIE-AI-Board. The box is designed for in-vehicle video analysis while the board is small enough for cameras, drones, robots and similar applications.

 


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AWS Global Accelerators helps customers manage traffic across zones

07:40 | 27 November

Many AWS customers have to run in multiple zones for many reasons including performance requirements, regulatory issues or fail-over management. Whatever the reason, AWS announced a new tool tonight called Global Accelerators designed to help customers route traffic more easily across multiple regions.

Peter DeSantis, VP of global infrastructure and customer support at AWS speaking at an event Monday night at AWS Re:Invent explained that much of AWS customer traffic already flows over their massive network, and customers are using AWS Direct Connect to help applications get consistent performance and low network variability as customers move between AWS regions. He said what has been missing is a way to use the AWS global network to optimize their applications.

“Tonight I’m excited to announce AWS Global Accelerator. AWS Global Accelerator makes it easy for you to improve the performance and availability of your applications by taking advantage of the AWS global network,” he told the AWS re:Invent audience.

Graphic: AWS

“Your customer traffic is routed from your end users to the closest AWS edge location and from there traverses congestion-free redundant, highly available AWS global network. In addition to improving performance AWS Global Accelerator has built-in fault isolation, which instantly reacts to changes in the network health or your applications configuration,” DeSantis explained.

In fact, network administrators can route traffic based on defined policies such as health or geographic requirements and the traffic will move to the designated zone automatically based on those policies.

AWS plans to charge customers based on the number of accelerators they create. “An accelerator is the resource you create to direct traffic to optimal endpoints over the AWS global network. Customers will typically set up one accelerator for each application, but more complex applications may require more than one accelerator,” AWS’s Shaun Ray wrote in a blog post announcing the new feature.

AWS Global Accelerator is available today in several regions in the US, Europe and Asia.

 


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