Archive for April 2011
The whole Royal Wedding thing is almost over. I think the party’s about to start for the newlyweds somewhere in London, and here I am in sunny Austin, Texas, wishing it was a bank holiday here in the U.S. as well.
If you missed all the action, fear not. Fortunately, I caught the highlights on the DVR (thank God for technology), and no matter how hard hearted you might be, it was a sweet and beautiful ceremony, and all the pomp and circumstance, and the fact that it went off without a hitch (or was that, with a hitch), made it all that more fun.
Not so much fun, however, has been the horrors of the destruction wrought by all those tornadoes here in the American South. Fortunately, I’ve never experienced a tornado firsthand, but I have relatives who have, and I’ve certainly come close.
I’m most saddened by the reports of so many people killed or injured, and of course, by the massive destruction the storms have wrought.
For those of you who may have been asking yourselves the question, “How can I help?,” this link from Good provides a few answers. It provides opportunities to contribute via the United Way, Feeding America, the American Red Cross, and even several local churches.
Remember, if you’re in the area, lots of folks are also going to need food and clothing, many having lost everything in the storms.
It seems trivial to transition from the horrible storms to technology, but often the two are tied one to the other, and Amazon has certainly experienced some stormy weather of its own over the past week.
Following up on last Friday’s post about the ups and downs of the cloud, Amazon has now published a summary of its EC2 and Amazon RDS disruption from last week. The statement includes a thorough forensic analysis of what went wrong, as well as an apology. At 5,600+ words, that’s a whole lot of explanation.
Also with some explaining to do, Sony, whose PlayStation network was hacked last week and the hackers for which are apparently trying to sell off customer credit card lists from the attack for upwards of $100,000, so reports the New York Times Bits blog.
This was one of the largest data breaches ever, and also led to the outage of the PlayStation Network for nearly a week. The story goes on to report that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Diego office is helping Sony with its inquiry into the hacking incident.
Probably not a bad idea to have the Feds helping where they can, as Sony faces global legal action over the data theft, suggests Reuters. The breakdown has “infuriated” gamers, and Sony stock saw a nearly 5 percent decline in Tokyo yesterday.
Just in case anyone was wondering about the dramatic, and often negative, bottom line impact security breaches can have.
Me, I’m all about actionable intelligence.
If such incidences have you thinking about your own security situation, take this security self-assessment and see what steps your company might need to take to strengthen its own security posture.
Meanwhile, winding down, and back to the bright side of life, for those of you in the U.K., here’s wishing you a nice long banking holiday weekend. ‘
Whether you’re in the royal wedding mode or not, it’s gotta be nice to have some down time to spend with family and friends.
Particularly after this week.
Woo boy, there’s a whole bunch of news breaking on this pre-Royal Wedding hump day.
First, the birther movement took a shot through its bow after U.S. President Barack Obama released a copy of his long-form birth certificate.
You could almost feel Donald Trump’s personal jet decompress on approach to New Hampshire as wind of this release was announced. After he was off the plane and in front of the microphones, he had this to say: “I am very proud of myself.”
Ooh boy, it’s going to be a long presidential campaign season, particularly as Trump tries to navigate his way through the mine fields of the global media.
But before he can claim to fire anyone, he first probably needs to get his bearings a bit, what with being on the move so much.
And what better way to do so than to buy an iPhone!
Unlike the Donald, Apple is working to get ahead of the end of the story and released this long Q&A about iPhone location data.
Q. Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?
A: Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.
The Q&A went on to explain just how Apple is not tracking the location of iPhones, and that UK data scientists Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden instead found a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and celltowers that can help the iPhone quickly calculate one’s location.
We say pry-vacy, the Brits say priv-acy, you say tomato, I say tomoto.
Apple insists they will shortly be offering up a fix to minimize how much of this data is stored, and also to encrypt that data moving forward.
See, I seem to have the opposite problem.
Whenever I need to use my iPhone, I can never seem to find the darn thing. So maybe they need to offer up a software fix that allows me to locate it when I’ve once again left it embedded somewhere deep in my couch.
Good thing Apple, then, seems to be doubling-down on the practical benefits of privacy invasion.
That is to say, also found in the Q&A: Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.
Regardless of your own privacy paranoia (my privacy threshold is pretty moderate, and even this story didn’t get that much under my skin), Apple may have not done itself any favors waiting a week to respond, as the imbroglio has only blown all out of proportion during the interim.
But the Apple PR team seems to consistently operate on at least a one-week delay, so no new news there.
And I still love their products, Orwellian or no.
But yes, I do chuckle when I think back to their commercial targeting IBM as the consummate Big Brother in Apple’s 1984 Superbowl TV spot. I hope Ogilvy Vice Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Steve Hayden gets a laugh from it as well.
Steve was at Chiat-Day working for Apple in those days and guided the development of that classic commercial of Apple woman freeing humanity from the IBM corporate drones (although we much prefer the work Steve and Ogilvy did for IBM on our e-business campaign.)
Speaking of loving products, according to the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo is considering spinning out the engineering group responsible for Hadoop and has apparently been in talks with Benchmark Capital about forming a company.
IBM and Cloudera are already major Hadoop supporters, and considering that Yahoo was the Hadoop dance that brung us all, would say welcome (back?) to the Big Data Analytics party.
What with all that iPhone data being gathered, and all the various short, long, medium, large and other formats of the President Obama’s birther certificates, and all the variant ways the Donald is congratulating himself for having made the President, err, blink – well, there’s going to be ample big data to analyze for years to come.
I just wonder if it will help lead us anywhere…anywhere but deep back into the folds of my couch.
IBM’s annual shareholder meeting just started at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri.
The IBM board of directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.75 per common share, payable June 10, 2011 to stockholders of record May 10, 2011.
This dividend declaration represents an increase of $0.10, or 15 percent higher than the prior quarterly dividend of $0.65 per common share.
IBM has increased its quarterly dividend 400 percent since 2003. This is the 16th year in a row that IBM has increased its quarterly cash dividend, and 8th year in a row of double-digit percent increases.
With the payment of the June 10th dividend, IBM will have paid consecutive quarterly dividends every year since 1916.
The IBM board today also authorized $8 billion in additional funds for use in the company’s stock repurchase program. IBM will repurchase shares on the open market or in private transactions from time to time, depending on market conditions.
This amount is in addition to approximately $4.7 billion remaining at the end of March from a prior authorization.
With this new authorization, IBM will have approximately $12.7 billion for its stock repurchase program. IBM expects to request additional share repurchase authorization at the October 2011 board meeting.
Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer said “Since 2003, we have returned over $100 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases, while continuing to invest in capital expenditures, acquisitions and research and development. Our commitment to delivering value to our shareholders remains as important today, as it has ever been.”
I believe it was Napoleon who said “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
Ron Markezich, the sales lead for enterprises and partners in the U.S. at Microsoft, apparently explained to AllThingsD earlier this week that for every dollar companies spend on Microsoft software, they have to spend $6 to get it running right.
So I went and read the interview to get the full context.
The specific question Markezich was asked centered around Microsoft’s disruption of its traditional business model that “has brought in billions upon billions of dollars is sold” and whether or not “this new model [cloud delivery] ultimately catch up with and supplant the old one?”
Here’s the latter part of his response:
…So every one of these customers, we see their total spend with Microsoft go up anywhere from 2 to 6 times what it was before. The other thing is that if you look at the total industry spend, most of it is on activities where there’s no value added. Every dollar you spend on software from Microsoft, you spend $6 trying to get it to do anything. What we’re trying to do is drive that six dollars to zero.
It was also Napoleon who explained that “the fate of a nation may sometimes depend upon the position of a fortress.” Insert “business” for “nation” and the intent of the statement remains.
But after the last two days, some perhaps might ask if the cloud ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, either.
Amazon’s cloud done been down, off and on, for a couple of days now.
ReadWriteWeb’s Alex Williams is keepin’ ‘em honest, and updated, which apparently Amazon hasn’t been too busy doing.
ComputerWorld describes it as an outright black eye for the “dominant player in the cloud market,” with sites like Quora, Reddit, and foursquare “left staggering or totally knocked out” because of server problems in the Amazon datacenter.
By way of example, Reddit’s site explained it was in “emergency read-only mode” because of Amazon’s degradation.
In the ComputerWorld piece, analyst Rob Enderle suggests the biggest impact from the outage may be to the cloud itself.
“What will take a hit is the image of this technology as being on you can depend on, and that image was critically damaged today,” Enderle is quoted as saying.
On the other hand, it should be noted there are lots of flavors of cloud computing, and a fully public, rentable cloud service like Amazon EC2 doesn’t even pretend to offer 100% availability. In fact, it quite clearly states in its public FAQs that “The Amazon EC2 SLA guarantees 99.95% availability of the service within a Region over a trailing 365 day period.”
In any case, I would recommend carefully reading all the FAQs before fully banking one’s business in the public cloud.
And I would also recommend reading more widely about cloud implementations around the globe.
One size doesn’t fit all (there’s the public cloud, the private cloud, the hybrid, etc.), and the IBM Academy of Technology conducted a survey released this past October entitled “Cloud computing insights from 110 implementation projects” which explains pros and cons, the good and the bad, as well as related considerations to be thoughtfully considered before embarking upon cloud deployments.
Maybe read a little of that before the media or the blogosphere scare you back into your private data center bunker with your AR-15 and 10-day survival kits!
I heard the news late yesterday that journalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington, along with his associate Chris Hondros, were killed in Misrati, Libya, after receiving wounds inflicted from a mortar attack.
Hetherington received an Academy Award nomination for the film he co-directed about the American troops at the tip of the spear in Afghanistan, in the Korengal Valley, earlier this year, “Restrepo.” The documentary grew out of the superb book that journalist Sebastian Junger also wrote about what he saw with American troops in the Korengal.
Hondros was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer whose work has graced the front pages of many newspapers and magazines with pictures from war zones around the world.
I only knew these individuals through their work, but as a self-confirmed news junkie, I greatly appreciated the personal sacrifice they made to bring back the pictures and moving images that they did from the world’s most troubled spots.
It would be easy to dismiss such individuals as adrenalin-addicted war zone junkies, but the truth is these men and women are often the only people there to bear witness and document the atrocities, aftermath, and consequences of the world’s conflicts.
If you’ve not yet seen “Restrepo,” I would encourage you to do so — but be prepared, it’s a heart-wrenching look at the good and bad of life on the front lines. And when I say front lines, I mean way out front. In the Korengal, American servicemen could wait a good 30 minutes for any air support to reach them, so they were pretty much on their own.
Them and the Taliban.
No matter what you think of the situation in Libya or the Arab Spring more broadly, I think it takes a special kind of person to run into a war zone carrying only a Sony HD camera or a Nikon.
Both Hodros and Hetherington will be missed, though I suspect their pictures will live with us for a long time to come.
IBM’s earnings for first quarter 2011 just came across the wire.
Here’s the topline:
- Diluted EPS: GAAP: $2.31, up 17 percent; Operating (non-GAAP): $2.41, up 21 percent
- Revenue: $24.6 billion, up 8 percent, up 5 percent adjusting for currency
- Net income: GAAP: $2.9 billion, up 10 percent; Operating (non-GAAP): $3.0 billion, up 13 percent
- Pre-tax income: GAAP: $3.8 billion, up 9 percent; Operating (non-GAAP): $4.0 billion, up 12 percent
- Gross profit margin: GAAP: 44.1 percent, up 0.5 points
- Operating (non-GAAP): 44.5 percent, up 0.8 points
- Software revenue excluding divested PLM operations up 10 percent, 8 percent adjusting for currency; 6 percent including PLM, 4 percent adjusting for currency
- Systems and Technology revenue up 19 percent, 16 percent adjusting for currency
- System z mainframe revenue up 41 percent; MIPS up 34 percent
- Services revenue up 6 percent, 3 percent adjusting for currency
- Services backlog of $142 billion, up $8 billion
- Growth markets revenue up 18 percent, 12 percent adjusting for currency
- Business analytics revenue up 20 percent
- Smarter Planet revenue up 20 percent
- Cloud revenue 5 times first-quarter 2010 revenue
IBM announced first-quarter 2011 diluted earnings of $2.31 per share, compared with diluted earnings of $1.97 per share in the first quarter of 2010, an increase of 17 percent. Operating (non-GAAP) diluted earnings were $2.41 per share, compared with operating diluted earnings of $2.00 per share in the first quarter of 2010, an increase of 21 percent.
First-quarter net income was $2.9 billion compared with $2.6 billion in the first quarter of 2010, an increase of 10 percent. Operating (non-GAAP) net income was $3.0 billion compared with $2.6 billion in the first quarter of 2010, an increase of 13 percent.
Total revenues for the first quarter of 2011 of $24.6 billion increased 8 percent (5 percent, adjusting for currency) from the first quarter of 2010.
“We delivered a strong first quarter with revenue growth across hardware, software and services and with more than 40 countries growing in double digits. We continued to see excellent momentum in our growth initiatives – smarter planet, cloud, business analytics, and growth markets – which bring together the full value of the IBM portfolio,” said Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer. “We achieved broad-based margin improvement, while our cash flow and strong financial position enabled us to continue to return value to our shareholders.
“On the strength of this performance, we are raising our full-year 2011 operating earnings per share expectations to at least $13.15.”
Oy, vey, it’s tax day!
Normally April 15th, you got a whole extra weekend to submit your return (or file for that extension) due to a holiday.
So no complaining!
I finished my taxes early this year. Or, I should say, my accountant did.
I never thought I needed an accountant until he did my taxes and I compared it to what I did when I filed them using TurboTax (no offense to TurboTax).
When you go get surgery, you hire a professional, right? Why should taxes be any different?
New York State’s Department of Taxation and Finance did just that when they turned to IBM recently to help them build the IBM Tax Collections Optimizer system.
This systems has helped NY State recover $83M in delinquent taxes thus far, an eight percent increase from 2009, and double the average increase in prior years.
The IBM Tax Collections Optimizer uses a unique combination of data analytics and other models to create action plans for each tax case.
The plan optimizes the order of activities agents will take to maximize the total amount of debts collected while taking into consideration the case load, personnel resources, and the anticipated effectiveness of the suggested actions.
For example, New York State saw significant improvements in the efficiency of their field agents in 2010 versus a year ago, with overall collections from field staff increasing by 12 percent, and dollars per staff day increased 15 percent across all its field offices, and more than 40 percent in the NYC metro office.
“With IBM’s unique analytics technology, the State of New York has recovered unpaid funds faster, more efficiently and more fairly then ever before,” said Stephen Lafleche, Managing Director of New York State for IBM, about the system. “In this economic environment, analytics technology is proving its worth by boosting tax collections, enabling states to increase revenue and invest in programs that ensure continued competitiveness.”
You can learn more IBM public sector solutions here.
And remember. If you’re mailing your return, make sure you get that postmark by midnight tonight!