Tag Archives: Tech

Microsoft, OpenAI Shoot for the Stars | Emerging Tech

Microsoft wants to empower its Azure cloud computing service with yet-to-exist artificial general intelligence (AGI) technologies to create new goals for supercomputing.

Microsoft on Monday announced a US$1B investment through a partnership with
OpenAI to build new AI technologies. The two companies hope to extend Microsoft Azure’s capabilities in large-scale AI systems.

Microsoft and OpenAI want to accelerate breakthroughs in AI and power OpenAI’s efforts to create artificial general intelligence. The resulting enhancements to Microsoft’s Azure platform will help developers build the next generation of AI applications.

The partnership was motivated in part by OpenAI’s pursuit of enormous computational power. Based on a recently released analysis, the amount of compute used in the largest AI training runs grew by more than 300,000 times from 2012 to 2018, with a 3.5-month doubling time, far exceeding the pace of Moore’s Law, according to OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman.

“We chose Microsoft as our cloud partner because we’re excited about Azure’s supercomputing roadmap. We believe we can work with Microsoft to develop a hardware and software platform within Microsoft Azure which will scale to AGI,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The partnership will allow OpenAI to significantly increase the amount of compute it uses for training neural networks,” he noted.

Microsoft and OpenAI also are very aligned in their values, Brockman said. Both firms believe the technology should be used to empower everyone, and be deployed in a trustworthy way that is safe and secure.

“OpenAI believes they can work with Microsoft to develop hardware and software platform within Microsoft Azure which will scale to AGI,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in comments provided to TechNewsWorld by company rep Joel Gunderson.

What the Deal Delivers

Microsoft and OpenAI will collaborate on new Azure AI supercomputing technologies. OpenAI will port its services to run on Microsoft Azure.

OpenAI will use the Azure platform to create new AI technologies. OpenAI will license some of its technologies to Microsoft, which will commercialize them and sell them to as-yet-unnamed partners. It’s hoped that the result will deliver on the promise of artificial general intelligence.

Microsoft will become OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies. OpenAI will enter into an exclusivity agreement with Microsoft to extend large-scale AI capabilities.

Both companies will focus on building a computational platform of unprecedented scale on the Azure cloud platform. They will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, including hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology.

The development teams will adhere to the companies’ shared principles concerning ethics and trust. This focus will create the foundation for advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way, and it is a critical reason the companies chose to partner.

AGI a Work in Progress

Innovative applications of deep neural networks coupled with increasing computational power have led to AI breakthroughs over the past decade. That progress occurred in areas such as vision, speech, language processing, translation, robotic control and even gaming, according to Microsoft.

Modern AI systems work well for the specific problems they have been trained to address. However, building systems that can tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the world today requires generalization and deep mastery of multiple AI technologies.

OpenAI and Microsoft’s vision is for artificial general intelligence to work with people to help solve currently intractable multidisciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, personalized healthcare and education.

“This is truly going to help Microsoft. It has more technology in its marketplace to allow the rapid ascension of tools in the business workplace,” noted Chris Carter, CEO of

Combining these two entities to support the growth that is needed is “an absolute game-changer,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Chasing Computing Dragons?

A larger neural network is a more capable neural network, according to Brockman. Making larger systems will allow the two companies to solve more difficult problems going forward.

“We plan to keep doing this until we reach AGI,” he said.

The resulting enhancements to the Azure platform will help developers build the next generation of AI applications.

“The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” said Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI.

It must be deployed “safely and securely with its economic benefits widely distributed,” he added.

“AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time,” noted Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, with the “potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges.”

Grabbing for Powerful Straws

The most likely results of this partnership are that AI technology will grow faster and be utilized in more enterprise and business spaces. This partnership will enable the rapid indoctrination of AI technologies in the workplace, according to Approyo’s Carter.

“This will allow businesses to flourish. Individual workers will boost their productivity. They will also be able to support themselves on a day-to-day basis with technology rather than to be hindered by it,” he explained.

The partnership could hinder development of Cloud AI technologies, though, because Microsoft is prioritizing OpenAI over other emerging AI technologies that might be better, suggested Marty Puranik, CEO of

If the AI technologies are kept proprietary or work best only on Microsoft Azure, it will lead to Azure platform lock-in, he said.

“Many developers may develop services that use this technology, thereby forcing all their customers to use Microsoft. Microsoft historically has a huge advantage when it comes to enterprise development work, so this could be seen as a way they are trying to cement the position they had in enterprise software into the cloud,” he told TechNewsWorld.

It boils down to Microsoft trying to leverage new technologies, like AI, to be a leader in the cloud, Purani, maintained, similar to when Microsoft would make minority investments and take seats on the boards of hot companies a long time ago.

Ultimately, from Microsoft’s point of view, it would be ideal to have extensions for OpenAI that either would be exclusive or work best on Microsoft’s platform, similar to the “embrace and extend” ideas once applied to APIs, said Puranik.

Win-Win for Both

Microsoft is all about collaboration and open source since Satya Nadella took the reins. He recognizes that AI is the latest and greatest arms race, observed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“As a result, they are embracing Open AI to increase the speed of development for their projects largely with an IT focus,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Both partners in this deal can learn and benefit from this effort, which is collaborative by design. Participating allows not only earlier access to the result but also a deeper understanding of it, Enderle said.

A Large Promise to Fulfill

In promising to deliver on artificial general intelligence’s potential, the two companies are not dreaming small, noted Arle Lommel, senior analyst for
CSA Research, but that dream may be a reach too far.

“They intend to solve something that nobody has solved yet and that we aren’t remotely close to solving today,” he told TechNewsWorld, “but beyond that, accomplishing that will mean ‘solving’ language as well.”

That means having computers really understand language and use it on par with humans. Despite press release claims about getting near-human quality, that goal is as far beyond present capabilities as a moon landing is beyond a Roman chariot, Lommel quipped.

“That said, I suspect they will get much further along with machine vision, categorization, diagnostics, etc.,” he said. “In other words, I expect this could result in improved versions of what AI already does well. But unless there is some fundamentally different secret sauce, I don’t expect that it will ‘solve’ language and human intelligence.”

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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How to Hire Reliable Remote Tech Talent | IT Infrastructure Advice, Discussion, Community

If you’re ready to hire more tech talent at your company, the path to success may involve looking for remote workers. Advancements in technology help employees get things done anywhere with an internet connection.

Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2019 report was based on a survey of nearly 2,500 remote workers and found that tech roles are among the most common jobs they hold. More specifically, 38% of participants said they worked in software, and 18% fell into a category called IT and services.

Moreover, 69% of overall survey respondents said they work as remote employees, and 22% classified themselves as freelancers or self-employed. The information from the Buffer survey should reinforce that many tech professionals work remotely and that it’s not far-fetched to hire some of them at your company.

Hiring a team member you may never meet face to face undoubtedly has challenges. Here are some things you should do to increase favorable outcomes when interviewing remote workers or deciding to bring them on board.

Read the rest of this article on InformationWeek.

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The Rise of Activism in Tech Companies | Best of ECT News

This story was originally published on TechNewsWorld on Oct. 22, 2018, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

Things have been changing at an almost unprecedented rate with regard to power structures. The last time I saw this happen was in the 1970s, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took off. Suddenly a lot of the off-color, sexist and racist jokes that many executives regularly told could get them fired. A surprisingly large number of people got reassigned, fired, demoted, or otherwise punished for the same behavior that previously had made them “one of the guys.”

With the current #MeToo movement, any hint of wrongdoing — not only recent but going back to your youth — can have dire consequences on job prospects, image, and (depending on what you did) freedom.

This isn’t the only change. Employees who often were taken for granted — who might have faced firing or layoffs if they suggested going public with their anti-management views — have been popping up as a force in places like Google and Amazon.

What triggered this column was coverage of an employee event at Amazon, where employees spoke out against the firm’s efforts
to sell facial recognition to law enforcement.

To a large degree, it mirrored Google employees rising up and
stopping Google’s work with the Department of Defense, and Facebook employees
taking issue with an executive who stood behind the confirmation of the latest Supreme Court justice. (There is currently a huge effort
to remove Zuckerberg as chairman, which may be partially related to this.)

The power structure is changing, and if executives don’t get a clue, we likely will see the rise of a new and far more powerful set of unions — not based on old structures, but with the power of social media behind them. I think Cisco (and a few others) have a defense for this. I’ll explain and then close with my product of the week: the BlackBerry Key2, which has become my new favorite smartphone.

Rise of the Employee

The trigger for this apparent power shift from executive management to line employees has been the increasingly severe shortage of qualified employees across a variety of industries. In many of them — nursing, truck driving, etc. — legacy unions exist, which seem to be forming a barrier preventing the use of new tools (read social networks) as a weapon of change.

However, in the technology market, unions are almost nonexistent. That appears to have forced a dynamic rise of semi-organized employee actions against perceived bad corporate behavior.

This is particularly noticeable with millennial employees who have yet to be indoctrinated into the corporate way of doing things and appear to be resisting that indoctrination. Certainly, we’ve all seen new employees coming in with little or no job experience behaving badly because they don’t yet know the rules — but never at what appears to be a loosely organized effort to make change.

Typically, these indoctrinated employees either conform or they are forced to find employment elsewhere. With the shortages, though, firms have been less willing to fire or even strongly reprimand employees who are acting out, for fear of losing them and falling behind performance metrics.

There are concerns that either a reprimand or termination could result in a broad, coordinated, public social media backlash, which could be severely career limiting for the executive or manager who triggered the event (managers don’t appear to be as well protected right now).

New Class of Unions

Existing unions are largely ineffective today. I observed a strike action at a hotel the other day where the folks picketing (likely hired specifically for that task) were doing as much as they could to be annoying. However, the people they were pissing off were primarily folks who lived in the area, folks who were still working at the hotel, and folks who were checking into the hotel (guests who already had reservations).

There was very little impact, if any, on the decision-making executives, on people who had not yet booked, or on investors in the property. In short, because the striking union was using legacy methods that were overcome easily, the action was ineffective.

However, it is clear that tech workers have begun going down a very different path. Millennials came up with social media. They know how to use it both to coordinate their actions and to have a far broader impact.

So far, there isn’t a broad effort to organize, but ad hoc efforts have been making an impressive impact on the policies of the firms they have targeted, giving the impression that if these groups were to organize fully and seek government protection, they’d likely have more power than any traditional union has had in years.

Social media is a huge force multiplier, and it can undermine targeted executives, result in broad boycotts, and even trigger government intervention.

Cisco’s Defense

One of the companies I watch closely is Cisco, and it has been at the forefront of
creating programs that improve the world. Most of the activist efforts I’ve noted have been aimed at forcing firms to be more socially responsible.

Cisco’s programs have attacked homelessness, addressed severe problems in South Africa, and implemented aggressive plans to mitigate natural disasters around the world. Currently Cisco ranks No. 8 on a list of
best places to work in the world. (It is interesting to note that Facebook, Google, Twitter and other newer firms that once seemed to be the most desirable didn’t even make the cut).

If a firm is aggressively socially responsible, the need for its own employees to force the company to change should fall below critical mass, making the formation of a union — formally or informally — less likely. Why go through the risk of pissing off your company if the firm already seems to be acting more responsibly than most?

This behavior has the dual benefit of attracting millennials who want to participate in this socially responsible behavior. Cisco isn’t alone in this. There’s also Dell, with its aggressive programs to advance women, and HP, with its programs to improve the lot of children in emerging and war-torn regions.

It isn’t just tech firms that are getting a clue. For instance, SodaStream has funded a huge effort to collect plastics contaminating the ocean.

I’m sure most firms eventually will find it far easier to ensure good behavior and prevent the rise of social media-powered unions than to face them in real time. Once started and in place, these unions wouldn’t be mitigated by financial restrictions or even common sense, and the result could be devastating for some firms. Activist employees could force an overcorrection, or do damage to revenue streams that could require decades to recover.

In other words, the best defense may be a social responsibility offense.

Summing Up

Thanks largely to a massive shortage of qualified workers across several industries, coupled with the impact of an incoming social media-aware workforce, a new power has been rising. That power currently appears loosely coordinated, but it is strong enough to impact unusually influential CEOs like Zuckerberg and Bezos.

If these groups formally organize and seek government protection as unions, it could flip the power balance in the impacted companies from executives to employees, with their impact broadening from social responsibility to more traditional wage and benefit efforts. (The massive compensation imbalance between line workers and, particularly, CEOs would be a natural target for employee activism.)

As Cisco has demonstrated, a strong defense — with aggressive social responsibility and making the company a great place to work — may be the best path to ensure the firm isn’t crippled by this power change. I expect most firms won’t see this coming, and that the end result will be dire — but it is totally avoidable.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

One of the best examples I have that the human race isn’t particularly sharp is the industry’s shift from BlackBerry (a secure platform based on productivity) to Apple, (a relatively unsecure platform based on entertainment). Not to mention that we traded the ability to blind type on a BlackBerry (so your eyes could remain on where you were walking or driving) for a screen phone design that requires the user’s full attention — which has contributed to an impressive number of deaths and accidents.

A lot of us have poor impulse control, and a lot of us may die because our screen phone pinged us at the wrong time and we couldn’t resist shifting our attention to it.

BlackBerry Key2 is the latest BlackBerry phone, and while those of us who still use BlackBerry phones are an ever more exclusive group, I also think the implication is that we are smarter than our screen phone-focused counterparts.

BlackBerry Key2

BlackBerry Key2

This is because the security capability and productivity features in this phone exceed all others, making it an asset that’s likely to increase your earning potential, instead of a tool that might one day kill you.

Sadly, the device no longer has the near week of battery life old BlackBerry phones boasted, having given way to a far sleeker and more contemporary design. Both the keyboard and its performance are up sharply from the KeyONE phone that preceded it. The screen quality and design of the phone has improved as well, along with the dual lens camera.

If you want a phone that is tool than a toy, that is less likely to get you into an accident and is far more secure, the BlackBerry Key2 stands out as my favorite smartphone, and it is my product of the week.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester.
Email Rob.

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Data Center Tech ‘Graduation:’ What IT Pros Have Learned

As schools around the country hold graduation ceremonies, classic songs like Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” will be sung, played, or reminisced about by students everywhere as they reflect on fond memories and lessons learned in school. Graduation is a symbol of transition and change, a milestone that represents growth, progress, and transformation.

Just as education fosters growth in students, digital transformation drives progress in an organization and ultimately leads to innovations in the data center, but not without a few lessons learned from setbacks and failures.

In the spirit of graduation season, we asked our THWACK IT community to tell us what technology they “graduated” to in 2018. According to the SolarWinds 2018 IT Trends Report, 94% of surveyed IT professionals indicated that cloud and/or hybrid IT is the most important technology in their IT organization’s technology strategy today. But what else have organizations experimented with over the last year? Check out some of the most popular technologies that THWACK community members tell us they have implemented this past year, in their words.

(Image: Nirat.pix/Shutterstock)

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Tech Skills Employers Want Now: More Than Development

IT professionals always want to know which skills employers are looking for. They understand that the technology field is changing all the time, so they need to keep their abilities up to date if they want to remain marketable.

The online job posting sites don’t provide a complete picture of the IT job market, but they can provide interesting insight into which skills are trending up or down. Indeed.com recently provided Network Computing with two separate reports about hot IT job skills. The research illustrates how organizations look for different skills depending on whether they are writing job postings or are doing a resume search.

The list below ranks the skills that have recently appeared in job postings on Indeed.com. In other words, these are the capabilities that employers are requesting when they upload listings to the job board:

1. Java

2. Agile

3. JavaScript

4. .NET


6. Python

7. CSS

8. Amazon Web Services

9. C or C++

10. Git

(To compile this list, Indeed calculated the percentage of tech job postings which contain the above skills from October 2017 to April 2018 and ranked those skills in order by % of job postings in which they occur.)

So what do these skills have in common?

Almost all of them are development skills. Seven are programming languages, and Agile and Git are also related to development —   Agile because it is a development methodology and Git because it is a source code version control system. And while you could argue that IT infrastructure professionals might need to know JavaScript, .NET, or Python to do their jobs, really only one skill on that list — Amazon Web Services — is clearly related to infrastructure.

However, a second list Indeed provided to Network Computing told a slightly different story. The table below includes a rank of search terms typed into Indeed’s resume search engine. In other words, when employers go looking for someone to fill a role, these are the skills  they are looking for.


Search Term

# of resume searches per 1m total


Java developer






UI developer



Software engineer



Network engineer



.net developer






DevOps engineer



Web developer






For this list, Indeed calculated the share of searches (per 1 million total) per search phrase in its Resume search engine from November 2017 through January 2018

Clearly, development skills are still highly in demand, but network engineers, which weren’t represented on the other list at all, are way up in fifth place. And DevOps engineers, infrastructure professionals who are knowledgeable in DevOps approaches, came in eighth.

These lists only provide a brief snapshot of the tech job market at a given point in time. However, they do seem to indicate that for infrastructure professionals looking to improve their skills, classes in networking and DevOps might be the way to go.

And if you’re on a job search site and it seems like all the job postings are for developers and software engineers, don’t get discouraged. Even though they might not be placing as many ads for IT infrastructure pros, employers might still be looking for you.

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