Archive for December, 2013
Some urge patience, but many have long lost it
Even as Microsoft promised to speed up work on a re-release for a flawed Surface Pro 2 firmware update, customers continued to damn the company for the fiasco.
Microsoft yanked the firmware update earlier this month, about a week after it shipped the non-security fixes on Dec. 10. Surface Pro 2 owners had complained that the update reduced their tablets’ battery life and spontaneously changed how the devices went into or out of the power-saving sleep mode.
Originally, Microsoft said that it would re-release the firmware update “after the holidays,” which the company confirmed should be interpreted as some point after New Years Day, or Jan. 1, 2014.
However, this week the Redmond, Wash. company revised its timeline. “We are working to release an alternative update package as soon as possible,” a spokeswoman said via email on Thursday. She declined to be more specific about the re-release’s availability, reiterating only that it would be ASAP.
Microsoft has not said whether the update will repair already-affected Surface Pro 2 tablets.
By the comments posted to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 support forum, many owners had run out of patience.
“Come on Microsoft — give us a date for release of a fix — confirm what an update will fix and exactly when it will be available,” said TrevM in a message posted Thursday on one of the longest support threads about the firmware problems. “My [Surface Pro 2] is now a major pain. All I want to do is use it and not spend hours trying to make it stable when this is the least I would expect!”
Some customers have returned their Surface Pro 2 tablets for replacements, or simply given up on the device.
“I’m quite fortunate that I had just purchased my machine 2 weeks ago,” said someone who identified himself as Mario. “I took my 128GB model back and exchanged it for a new 128GB pre-update, and what a difference. It was night and day.” “I am a consumer and accountant and dropped $1,100 on the Surface Pro 2 last month with my bonus money,” a Computerworld reader reported via email Friday. “Now the thing won’t turn on. I will bring it back to Best Buy.” Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 2, its second-generation Intel-powered tablet, in late September.
It has had to pull flawed updates before — in October, Microsoft yanked the Windows RT 8.1 update after customers reported it “bricked” their tablets — but typically the firm reissues fixes within a few days.
The slower response to the Dec. 10 issues may have been due to engineering staff shortages during the holidays, the complexity of a fix or a combination of the two.
A few people took the problems in stride, and urged people to be patient. But others said the update had soured them on Microsoft and its 2-in-1 tablet.
“I think the question is no longer ‘When does this get fixed?’ It’s been too long already,” said beemr on Tuesday in another long thread. “Now the question is, ‘How does Microsoft regain our trust?’ It is absurd that they haven’t released a firmware [update] that would at the very least just undo the Dec. 10 update. It would seem to me that the overheating (twice for me) and constant charging, draining, charging would take a toll on the lifespan of our SP2′s. Microsoft needs to take ownership and extend its standard and Microsoft Complete warranties by at least another year.”
Chromebooks’ success punches Microsoft in the gut
Amazon, NPD Group trumpet sales of the bare-bones laptops in 2013 to consumers and businesses
Chromebooks had a very good year, according to retailer Amazon.com and industry analysts.
And that’s bad news for Microsoft.
The pared-down laptops powered by Google’s browser-based Chrome OS have surfaced this year as a threat to “Wintel,” the Microsoft-Intel oligarchy that has dominated the personal-computer space for decades with Windows machines.
On Thursday, Amazon.com called out a pair of Chromebooks — one from Samsung, the other from Acer — as two of the three best-selling notebooks during the U.S. holiday season. The third: Asus’ Transformer Book, a Windows 8.1 “2-in-1″ device that transforms from a 10.1-in. tablet to a keyboard-equipped laptop.
As of late Thursday, the trio retained their lock on the top three places on Amazon’s best-selling-laptop list in the order of Acer, Samsung and Asus. Another Acer Chromebook, one that sports 32GB of on-board storage space — double the 16GB of Acer’s lower-priced model — held the No. 7 spot on the retailer’s top 10.
Chromebooks’ holiday success at Amazon was duplicated elsewhere during the year, according to the NPD Group, which tracked U.S. PC sales to commercial buyers such as businesses, schools, government and other organizations.
By NPD’s tallies, Chromebooks accounted for 21% of all U.S. commercial notebook sales in 2013 through November, and 10% of all computers and tablets. Both shares were up massively from 2012; last year, Chromebooks accounted for an almost-invisible two-tenths of one percent of all computer and tablet sales.
Stephen Baker of NPD pointed out what others had said previously: Chromebooks have capitalized on Microsoft’s stumble with Windows 8. “Tepid Windows PC sales allowed brands with a focus on alternative form factors or operating systems, like Apple and Samsung, to capture significant share of a market traditionally dominated by Windows devices,” Baker said in a Monday statement.
Part of the attraction of Chromebooks is their low prices: The systems forgo high-resolution displays, rely on inexpensive graphics chipsets, include paltry amounts of RAM — often just 2GB — and get by with little local storage. And their operating system, Chrome OS, doesn’t cost computer makers a dime.
The 11.6-in. Acer C720 Chromebook, first on Amazon’s top-10 list Thursday, costs $199, while the Samsung Chromebook, at No. 2, runs $243. Amazon prices Acer’s 720P Chromebook, No. 7 on the chart, at $300.
The prices were significantly lower than those for the Windows notebooks on the retailer’s bestseller list. The average price of the seven Windows-powered laptops on Amazon’s top 10 was $359, while the median was $349. Meanwhile, the average price of the three Chromebooks was $247 and the median was $243, representing savings of 31% and 29%, respectively.
In many ways, Chromebooks are the successors to “netbooks,” the cheap, lightweight and underpowered Windows laptops that stormed into the market in 2007, peaked in 2009 as they captured about 20% of the portable PC market, then fell by the wayside in 2010 and 2011 as tablets assumed their roles and full-fledged notebooks closed in on netbook prices.
Chromebooks increasingly threaten Windows’ place in the personal computer market, particularly the laptop side, whose sales dominate those of the even older desktop form factor. Stalwart Microsoft partners, including Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, have all dipped toes into the Chromebook waters, for example.
“OEMs can’t sit back and depend on Wintel anymore,” said Baker in an interview earlier this month.
Microsoft has been concerned enough with Chromebooks’ popularity to target the devices with attack ads in its ongoing “Scroogled” campaign, arguing that they are not legitimate laptops.
Those ads are really Microsoft’s only possible response to Chromebooks, since the Redmond, Wash. company cannot do to them what it did to netbooks.
Although the first wave of netbooks were powered by Linux, Microsoft quickly shoved the open-source OS aside by extending the sales lifespan of Windows XP, then created deliberately-crippled and lower-priced “Starter” editions of Vista and Windows 7 to keep OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) on the Windows train.
But Microsoft has no browser-based OS to show Chromebook OEMs, and has no light-footprint operating system suitable for basement-priced laptops except for Windows RT, which is unsuitable for non-touch screens. And unlike Google, Microsoft can hardly afford to give away Windows.
But Microsoft’s biggest problem isn’t Chrome OS and the Chromebooks its ads have belittled: It’s tablets. Neither Microsoft or its web of partners have found much success in that market.
Baker’s data on commercial sales illustrated that better than a busload of analysts. While Windows notebooks accounted for 34% of all personal computers and tablets sold to commercial buyers in the first 11 months of 2013, that represented a 20% decline from 2012. During the same period, tablets’ share climbed by one-fifth to 27%, with Apple’s iPad accounting for the majority of the tablets.
“The market for personal computing devices in commercial markets continues to shift and change, said Baker. “It is no accident that we are seeing the fruits of this change in the commercial markets as business and institutional buyers exploit the flexibility inherent in the new range of choices now open to them.”
But when you’re at the top of the personal computing device heap — as Microsoft was as recently as 2011 — words like “change” and “choice” are not welcome. From the mountaintop, the only way is down.
He’s locked his successor into a plan with little wiggle room
Like a juggler walking away with dozens of objects suspended in the air, Steve Ballmer is leaving his successor at Microsoft not only a tough act to follow but an even tougher act to continue.
During his last months at the company, Ballmer has set in place a string of changes that won’t be anywhere near completion when he goes, even if his replacement doesn’t come on board until next August, the deadline for him to leave.
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That means whoever it is has to come up to speed fast and have the talent to implement Ballmer’s plans or to change them mid-course without having things fall apart.
Here is a look at some of what Ballmer leaves and how it might affect the products and services Microsoft sells.
The big management picture
Ballmer is responsible for One Microsoft, the overarching plan announced in July that that relaxes the divisional separations under which the company was organized before.
“This means we will organize the company by function: Engineering (including supply chain and data centers), Marketing, Business Development and Evangelism, Advanced Strategy and Research, Finance, HR, Legal, and COO (including field, support, commercial operations and IT),” Ballmer said in the memo announcing the changes.
This calls for Microsoft’s disparate products to be seen as part of a larger coherent whole, something not immediately obvious considering they range from gaming consoles to data center infrastructure. “All parts of the company will share and contribute to the success of core offerings, like Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, Surface, Office 365 and our EA offer, Bing, Skype, Dynamics, Azure and our servers,” Ballmer wrote. “We will see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands.”
Big ideas but even in his overview of how they will be implemented Ballmer leaves a lot to sort out.
For example, Tami Reller is executive vice president of marketing under the new organization, but here’s what Ballmer says about the job: “Mark Penn will take a broad view of marketing strategy and will lead with Tami the newly centralized advertising and media functions.” This begs the question of who exactly is in charge.
There is similar ambiguity with Dynamics, Microsoft’s ERP and CRM software lines. “Kirill Tatarinov will continue to run Dynamics as is, but his product leaders will dotted-line report to Qi Lu, his marketing leader will dotted-line report to Tami Reller and his sales leader will dotted-line report to the COO group.”
Tony Bates runs business development and evangelism but also has some uncertain sway over OEM partners. “OEM will remain in [the sales marketing and services group] with Kevin Turner with a dotted line to Tony who will work closely with Nick Parker on key OEM relationships.”
The new CEO will be expected to execute these sometimes unclear directives or to sort out who’s in charge in particular instances. The structure is flexible, but it leaves some individuals answering to two masters.
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Ballmer’s plan draws management lines, then creates project management rules that cross them. “Each major initiative will have a champion who will be a direct report to me or one of my direct reports. The champion will organize to drive a cross-company team for success, but my whole staff will have commitment to the initiative’s success. We will also have outgrowths on those major initiatives that may involve only a single product group.”
Ballmer has locked the company in to a $7.2 billion deal to buy Nokia and make use of its phones, phablets and tablets. While the company’s own Surface tablets could have been discontinued – it took a $900 million write-down for Surface RT tablets – it’s unlikely the board of directors will walk from the Nokia investment.
The practical goal is to sell more phones running the Windows Phone operating system, which held just 3.6% of the market share in the third quarter of this year, miles behind Android (81%) and significantly lagging Apple’s iOS (12.9%). The task is to find a strategy for producing and selling the phones in markets where demand is high but still unfulfilled.
To do so means addressing the dearth of signature apps to run on the phones, an area where Android has a significant lead. Microsoft has kicked off Project Siena to help address the problem. Siena is an app to help non developers develop Windows Phone apps.
Microsoft indicates without much detail that it is somehow bringing its various operating systems closer together in order to promote a common user experience and make it simpler for developers to reuse code when they port a new app from one platform to another. Ballmer has set the company on course to more commonality among Windows (including Windows RT, Xbox and Windows Phone, with some talk of merging Windows Phone and Windows RT into one.
A related but apparently different operating system reform called Threshold has been reported by Mary Jo Foley.
Threshold seems to incorporate a vision he describes in a memo written when he announced One Microsoft. “Our devices must support the same high-value activities in ways that are meaningful across different device types” he wrote. “Developers must be able to target all our devices with a common programming model that makes it easy to target more than one device.”
Project Threshold will ensure that all the operating systems support the same set of high-value activities – personal expression, decision-making and tasks, social communication, and serious fun. That means a common user interface backed by a common service shell in the cloud that delivers the services to all forms of devices. He outlines what he means in the memo, but it’s still pretty vague.
Personal expression seems to incorporate Office 365 – the cloud Office service that includes client software – for more producing and viewing complex documents. “These documents will be readable from a browser, but the experience will be infinitely better if read, annotated or presented with our tools,” the memo says.
“Decision-making and tasks mean different things in personal versus professional lives, yet they are important in both places,” he says in the memo. “Bing, Excel and our InfoNav innovations are all important here.”
Social communication is meant to designate “meetings, events, gathering, sharing and communicating.” But these activities won’t copycat what is already being done via social media. “We can create new ways to interact through hardware, software and new services…We will not focus on becoming another social network for people to participate in casually, though some may use these products and services that way,” he says.
By serious fun he means activities that fully engage participants for a long time during individual sessions. “Interactivity takes engagement and makes things serious; it really requires differentiated hardware, apps and services,” he says, broadly pointing to what it might entail.
No doubt there is a plan for that which has not been made public but which the new CEO will be locked into.
Ballmer has launched the second generation of its two models of Surface tablets, changing the names from Surface RT to Surface 2 and from Surface Pro to Surface Pro 2, which is a full-blown Windows 8 PC with a touch screen. These will have to be reconciled with whatever Nokia gear might be seen as redundant.
But the larger question for Microsoft is how to continue making Surface devices and selling (formerly Nokia) tablets and PCs without upsetting its OEM partners even more in order to protect OEM revenue.
This is delicate because Microsoft needs to continue its devices initiative given the money it’s already invested. Yet it still relies on partners to license its operating system to make devices of their own.
The point is that despite Microsoft hardware partners making arguably better Windows 8 products, the company has bought its way into the hardware business at such a high price that it would be difficult for Ballmer’s successor to walk away from his decision. The company has committed to a four-month Surface ad campaign for 2014 and rumors of a Surface Mini coming out sometime next year persist.
Into the cloud
The One Microsoft manifesto Ballmer issued in July sets down the overall plan: create a set of devices that can reach cloud services that include customers’ personal data stored in that cloud.
This cloud shell of services that support all its devices is evolving and embraces Azure, Office 365, Xbox Live and SkyDrive. It represent a lot of parts moving toward the goal of presenting customers with unified and integrated access to all their personal resources.
The process is started and is such a key part of the overall Microsoft mission that the new CEO will not be able to back off it and will be challenged to bring it to fruition as quickly as possible.
Ballmer seems serious in his manifesto about Microsoft workers being more collaborative. “Collaborative doesn’t just mean ‘easy to get along with.’ Collaboration means the ability to coordinate effectively, within and among teams, to get results, build better products faster, and drive customer and shareholder value,” he says.
Toward that end he eliminated one of the most criticized aspects of working at Microsoft, stack ranking: job performance reviews that pit team members against each other rather than encouraging collaboration. It forces workers to try to stand out individually on collaborative projects in order to avoid bad reviews or even firing. The system could penalize workers unduly or fail to reward them sufficiently because it imposes a bell curve over the performance rankings of each group.
On paper it seems like a good idea to get rid of it as a way to produce better work and better morale, but in practice it’s still uncertain what it will unleash. The impact on Microsoft in general has yet to play out.
BYOD for 30,000 people creates extraordinary network demands
Ottawa, Canada — Avaya engineers are putting the final touches on a network capable of handling up to 54Tbps of traffic when the Winter Olympics opens on Feb. 7 in the Russian city of Sochi.
Sochi itself is a sprawling city of 350,000 people located on the Black Sea. Archeologists have found human remains in the area that date back tens of thousands of years. Today, Sochi’s subtropical climate makes it a popular Russian tourist spot.
The two locations where the Olympics will take place — the Olympic village in Sochi and a tight cluster of Alpine venues in the nearby Krasnaya Polyana Mountains — are completely new construction, so this project represents a greenfield environment for Avaya.
In addition to investing in a telecom infrastructure, Russia is spending billions of dollars to upgrade Sochi’s electric power grid, its transportation system and even its sewage treatment facilities. (Watch a slideshow version of the story.)
“The whole town is nothing but a constantly changing, $50 billion construction site; for instance we’ve seen the road outside our hotel be torn up at least four times. As for modern IT infrastructure? There was none to speak of. We have really had to start from scratch, right down to the laying of conduit before we could even begin installing fiber and cabling,’’ says Dean Frohwerk, Avaya’s chief network architect.
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That’s quite a contrast from 2010, when Frohwerk and his team provided telecom and networking services for the games in Vancouver.
And this time around, the demands for bandwidth and connectivity dwarf anything that Avaya delivered in Vancouver, where the network was capable of handling only 4Tbps.
The Sochi network will serve 30,000 athletes, administrators and staff, media, IOC officials, and volunteers with data, voice, video, and full Internet access through the Games sites.
Adding to the challenge, “We expect these people to be carrying and using multiple wireless devices,” says Frohwerk. “In Vancouver, we only had to provision one device per user. This means that we really have to have the capability to support up to 120,000 users on the Sochi Wi-Fi network, without issues or interruptions.”
Plus, Avaya has to deliver 30 IPTV dedicated HD Olympic channels via its telecom backbone, and has to make these channels available to Olympic family users over the converged network. (IPTV support is an Olympic first on the network, eliminating the need for a separate CATV HFC network.)
In Vancouver, Avaya installed the first all-IP converged voice, data and video network at Layer 2. “That network was laid out like a single mammoth installation, which worked well given that wired traffic outnumbered wireless four to one,” says Frohwerk.
“But we expect this equation to turn on its head at Sochi, with wireless being the four and wired traffic being the one. That’s why we have had to change our approach.”
Another lesson from Vancouver, he says, is that “requirements evolve and change during the Games, and that you have to be able to adapt the network configuration to accommodate these changes. We have also seen that ease of use is paramount: With so much going on, network operators must find it simple to make changes on the fly.”
In Sochi, Avaya’s Wi-Fi network will be split into five virtual SSID-based networks. There will be one network for the athletes, two for media (one free, one paid), one for Olympics staff, and one for dignitaries.
Each group will have its own access password, and extra layers of password protection will be added where needed. The Wi-Fi traffic will be distributed using about 2,000 802.11n access points across the Olympics Game sites; including inside the stands for the first time.
The network will be headquartered in a primary Technical Operations Center (TOC) in the coastal city of Adler, alongside the Primary Data Center. The secondary TOC and Data Center will be at the Sochi Olympic Park, located 10 miles northwest at the Games site.
Each TOC will be in a 50-foot by 70-foot control room. While one TOC is in use, the other will be kept in standby mode by a skeleton crew. Each TOC will be connected to the outside world by 10GB pipelines provided by Rostelecom, Russia’s national telecom operator.
“We have built the TOCs in separate locations to ensure redundancy in the case of a natural disaster or man-made incident,” says Frohwerk. “Should the Adler TOC go down, we would simply send the next shift to the Sochi TOC and carry on.”
The data and voice backbone is built on Avaya’s Fabric Connect, an open virtualization platform based on IEEE 802.1aq Shortest Path Bridging that enables a network fabric within/between data centers and the sites they serve.
At the core of the network are four Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture (VENA)-enabled Virtual Service Platform (VSP) 9000 switches, one in each TOC and one more in each of the mountain cluster points of presences.
Using Avaya ERS 8800 switches located at the network’s edge, the whole Sochi network will be virtualized at Layer 3 instead of Layer 2.
“Using a Layer 3 virtual software layer means that our switches can act intelligently locally, and do a better job of routing traffic,” Frohwerk says. “This reduces traffic jams, which means more uptime and better network speeds. It’s a step up from what we did in Vancouver, because the demands we’re facing are so much bigger here.”
Using Layer 3 will let Avaya’s network operators serve many more endpoints than they could in Vancouver. Each device logging in will get its own media access control address: Avaya will use pre-installed 802.1X certificates, the MAC address, or a captive portal to authenticate the device, while controlling the access level and bandwidth with the company’s Identity Engines software.
Avaya is also providing voice services and 6,500 voicemail boxes at Sochi using Avaya Aura Communication Manager (CM), Session Manager (SM), System Manager (SYMGR) and CM Messaging.
Moving goods into Russia can be time-consuming in the best of situations. But moving massive amounts of equipment in time for the Games has been a real challenge for Avaya.
“This is why we have had people in Sochi for the past 18 months, to keep things coordinated and to make sure supplies get where they need to be,” says Frohwerk. “You can’t leave things to chance.”
Even with this level of supervision, it’s been a nerve-wracking experience for Avaya, like the time one of its equipment trucks lost radio contact for days while travelling through rural Kazakhstan.
Another truck arrived in Sochi with unprotected/uncushioned computer hardware after driving over hundreds of miles of bumpy, rough roads. “In both cases, the equipment finally arrived in usable shape,” he says. “But we had a few tense moments there for sure.”
Another challenge is training. In line with their agreement with Avaya’s Russian partners, the company is training 170 Russian technicians to provide Tier 1 and Tier 2 network support during the Games. A 30-person team from Avaya Global Support Services will provide Tier 3/4 support from Sochi’s TOC, supported by Avaya R&D staff around the world.
The training of these Russian technicians is under way and Avaya staff has rotated on site to “train” for the Olympics.
“We are doing our best to be well-prepared for whatever the Games throw at us,” Frohwerk says. Avaya’s outdoor systems are designed to handle extreme weather: “We’re not worried if it snows,” he says. “In fact, we hope it does, because these are the Winter Games, after all.”
At press time, Avaya had completed installing all of its equipment in Sochi. The company is now moving into test mode, pushing the network’s limits by putting it through multiple types of failure scenarios.
After the games end on Feb 23, much of Avaya’s infrastructure will be removed. But the telecom facilities it has built for the Games – including the telephone and IP networking for the Olympics skiing venue in the Caucasus, where a new resort town is being erected, will remain.
The company will also be helping to develop telecom facilities for the Grand Prix auto races that will held in Sochi later in 2014, and soccer matches there that will be part of the 2018 World Cup.
“We will be leaving behind quite a legacy telecom system when we leave Sochi,” says Frohwerk.
For years premium pay for IT certifications has been on the decline, but top pay for IT certifications has increased for two consecutive quarters and is up 1.5 percent; the largest quarterly increase since 2006. Read along as we look at the IT certifications predicted to grow in early 2014.
18 Hot IT Certifications for 2014
Foote Partners just released the November update to their quarterly report, the 2013 IT Skills Demand and Pay Trends Report in which they look at both certified and non-certified IT skills, 641 in all. They use what David Foote, founder and CEO of Foote Partners, refers to as, “a specialized methodology for collecting, and validating compensation data for workers with identical jobs titles that need to be differentiated pay-wise for specific IT and tech skills they possess.”
There are some surprising changes to the market over the last two quarters. The certified skills that seem to be flourishing the most fall into the architecture, engineer, security and database categories.
Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
Premium pay for this ISACA certification has risen 9.1 percent in the last three- and six-month periods. In general, IT certifications from ISACA tend to center on IT governance. Originally offered in 2010, this certification focuses specifically on risk management. “The CRISC is awarded to those experienced in business and technology risk management, and the design, implementation, monitoring and maintenance of IS control,” according to CRISC.
Certification: Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
A minimum of three years of cumulative work experience executing the tasks of a CRISC pro across at least three CRISC domains.
Take and pass the CRISC exam
Adhere to the ISACA Code of Professional Ethics
Meet the terms of CRISC Continuing Education…
CWNP Certified Wireless Security Professional
Wireless security is hot, according to Foote, who goes on to say, “CWNP is a really small company and for them to be on this list is a headline.” This wireless security certification has been riding high. Premium pay is up 35 percent over the last 12 months, 28 percent in the last six months and 20 percent in the last three months, making it a marketable bullet point on your resume.
This advanced certification teaches individuals how to securely set up and run enterprise wireless LAN.
Certification: Certified Wireless Security Professional
To earn the CWSP certification, you must pass two exams
CWNP/Certified Wireless Network Expert
Here is another CWNP certification that is seeing a huge spike in premium pay. Value/demand for this role is up 42 percent in the last 12 months, 37.3 percent in the last six months and 30 percent in the three months.
This is the highest level of certification offered by CWNP. Recipients should have a mastery of skills relating to the installation, configuration, troubleshooting of enterprise Wi-Fi networks.
Certification: Certified Wireless Network Expert
Valid and current CWSP, CWAP and CWDP certifications (requires CWNA).
Three years of documented enterprise Wi-Fi implementation experience.
Three professional endorsements.
Two other current, valid professional networking certifications.
Documentation of three enterprise Wi-Fi (500 word essays.)
Re-certification every three years.
GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst (GCFA)
This intermediate forensics certification is targeting individuals in the information security, incident response and computer forensics field who focus on only Windows and Linux operating systems. Value/demand for this role has climbed an impressive 16.7 percent in the last 12 months.
Certification: Certified Forensics Analyst (GCFA)
One proctored exam
Time limit of three hours
Minimum Passing Score of 69 percent
*No Specific training is required for any GIAC certification.
HP/Accredited Solutions Certification
Each of these HP certifications has seen gains of at least 9 percent over the last two quarters and Foote Partners is predicting that this trend will continue for at least the next three-six months. There are a number of different certifications offered.
HP/Accredited Solutions Expert (ASE – all)
HP/Master Accredited Solutions Expert (MASE – all)
HP/Master Accredited Systems Engineer (Master ASE)
You can download the different HP certification paths here
Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP/CISSP)
Developed with input from the NSA, this vendor-neutral security certification is about integrating security into all forms of information systems applications and projects. In a recent interview David Foote, the CEO mentioned that employers are paying less for security in a time where security is at the forefront, an interesting trend an keep an eye on.
Demand/pay premium has risen 8.3 percent in the last 12 months, 30 percent in the last six months and 18.2 percent in the last three months.
Certification: Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP/CISSP)
There are several prerequisites for these IT security certifications.
Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA)
Microsoft announced in late August that this certification and others would be retired as of December 31 with no clear replacements, angering many people who are current or on the path to Microsoft’s highest level IT certifications. We reached out to Microsoft and was told that the program was too costly and time consuming for both MCSM candidates and Microsoft. They are now investigating future ways to make this program more scalable.
With that said, premium pay for this cert rose more than 10 percent in the last quarter and will likely continue to do so, according to Foote Partners.
Certification: Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA)
Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (all)
This is another elite Microsoft certification that is being retired December 31st with no clear successor. However, employers are still willing to pay extra for these certifications. Individuals with this certification, according to Microsoft, have the deepest level of product expertise.
Here is Microsoft official statement on why the certifications are being retired: “The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry to determine what the right certification is for the pinnacle of our program.”
Certification: Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (all)
Open Group Certified Architect (Open CA)
Currently, this vendor-neutral certification is focused squarely on IT architecture, but according to the Open Group website, the plan is to incorporate more business and enterprise architecture into the programs. Employers have paid a premium of 16.7 percent over the last 12 months to individuals with this certification under their belt.
Vendor: Open Group
Certification: Open Group Certified Architect (Open CA)
The program is based upon four key documents:
The Certification Policy, which sets out the policies and processes by which an individual may achieve certification.
The Conformance Requirements, in which the skills and experience that a Certified Architect must possess are documented
The Accreditation Requirements
Conformance requirements for the Open Ca program can be found here
Open Group Master Architect
Another vendor-neutral certification from the Open Group, this is the 2nd level of architect certification it offers. Business and enterprise architect certifications are in development but currently the focus is on IT architecture.
Premium pay for this architect certification is up 14.3 percent in the last 12 months and is forecasted to grow in the next three-six months.
Vendor: Open Group
Certification: Open Group Master Architect
Candidates must meet experience and skills requirements, Certification Policy, either from the Open Group or an ACP.
The Open Group Certified Architect (Open CA) program requires candidates to submit a comprehensive certification package detailing their skills and experience gained on working on architecture related projects, followed by a rigorous peer review process.
Oracle Certified Expert MySQL 5.1 Cluster Database Administrator
This certification was formerly known as MySQL Cluster Database Administrator (SCMCDBA). IT pros with his certification are experts at administrating designing, deploying, configuring and maintaining databases that utilize MySQL cluster technology and they are in demand in the enterprise according to Foote Partners 2013 IT Skills Demand and Pay Trends Report. Premium pay for this certification is up a 37.5 percent over the last 12 months.
Certification: Oracle Certified Expert MySQL 5.1 Cluster Database Administrator
You must have one of the certifications below first:
Oracle Certified Professional, MySQL 5 Database Administrator
Sun Certified MySQL Database Administrator (SCMDBA)
Then you need to pass the exam
Oracle Certified Professional MySQL 5 Database Administrator
IT pros awarded this IT certification have mastered all Oracle server related issues. Premium pay/demand for this certification is up 12.5 percent over the last six months.
Certification: Oracle Certified Professional MySQL 5 Database Administrator
You must pass these two exams to get certified:
1Z0-873 MySQL 5 Database Administrator Certified Professional Exam, Part I
1Z0-874 MySQL 5 Database Administrator Certified Professional Exam, Part II
Oracle Database Administrator Certified Master
Oracle’s master level certification has risen 8.3 percent in value/demand over the last 12 months. Database certifications are another area that, according to Foote, is a headline. These certifications have been declining for years but recently the pay premium for them has risen. “What’s driving this is not the relational database stuff but the non-relational database stuff. It’s the NoSQL stuff. We’re seeing a lot of spending in data analytics, but we don’t see companies getting a lot out of it,” says Foote.
Certification: Oracle Database Administrator Certified Master
There are several paths to this certification.
PMI Risk Management Professional
The PMI-RMP certification ensures that the holders are capable risk management professionals schooled in international best practices for managing project and operational risks. Premium pay for this certification has risen 9.1 percent over the last year.
Certification: PMI Risk Management Professional
A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent), with at least 4,500 hours of project risk management experience and 40 hours of project risk management education.
A four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or the global equivalent), with at least 3,000 hours of project risk management experience and 30 hours of project risk management education.
Program Management Professional (PgMP)
The vendor-neutral program management professional certification from PMI is a way to demonstrate your ability to oversee several projects and programs. Premium pay is up 7.7 percent in the last 12 months and is expected to continue upward, according to Foote Partners research.
Certification: Program Management Professional (PgMP)
A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent), with at least four years (6,000 hours) of project management experience and seven years (10,500 hours) of program management experience.
A four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or the global equivalent), with at least four years (6,000 hours) of project management experience and four years (6,000 hours) of program management experience.
Program Management Professional (PgMP)
The vendor-neutral program management professional certification from PMI is a way to demonstrate your ability to oversee several projects and programs. Premium pay is up 7.7 percent in the last 12 months and is expected to continue upward, according to Foote Partners research.
Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)
The RHCA is Red Hat’s highest level of certification and recipients must hold the RHCE as a prerequisite. From deployment to systems management in larger enterprise environments this is the top tier. This certification has grown 25 percent in the last three months and is expected to trend upward in the next 3 to 6 months according to Foote Partners.
Certification: Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)
RHCE certification must be current in order to be eligible.
Earn the following Red Hat Certificates of Expertise:
Deployment and Systems Management
Directory Services and Authentication or Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator
Clustering and Storage Management
Security: Network Services or Red Hat Certificate of Expertise in Server Hardening
Teradata: Certified Enterprise Architect
Premium Pay for this architect certification is up 11.1 percent over the last 12 months. It’s made gains in the last three quarters and is expected to continue to grow. IT pros with this advanced certification will have an advanced knowledge of Teradata fundamentals such as SQL, design and implementation. It’s associated with data warehousing and big data.
Certification: 12 Certified Enterprise Architect
Candidate must currently hold one of the certifications below.
Teradata 12 Certified Technical Specialist
Teradata 12 Certified Database Administrator
Teradata Certified Solutions Developer
Teradata 12 Certified Enterprise Architect
Candidate must be in good standing with the TCPP program and not have violated security policies and procedures on the previous certification track.
Microsoft launches tech, legal, transparency campaign to thwart government prying
In the midst of the NSA snooping scandal, Microsoft is talking up a three-pronged approach to keep customer data safe from the prying eyes of governments.
In a blog post, the company’s top lawyer pledges Microsoft will use more encryption, fight government demands for customer data and make its own source code available to the scrutiny of government customers
While some of these measures are already in place and some won’t be available to all customers, they represent an effort to take a stand against government efforts – such as the NSA mass surveillance – to gather information about Microsoft customers, says the statement by Brad Smith, the general counsel and executive vice president for Microsoft’s legal and corporate affairs.
We want to ensure that important questions about government access are decided by courts rather than dictated by technological might.
— Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith
“Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures – and in our view, legal processes and protections – in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data,” Smith writes. “In particular, recent press stories have reported allegations of governmental interception and collection – without search warrants or legal subpoenas – of customer data as it travels between customers and servers or between company data centers in our industry… We want to ensure that important questions about government access are decided by courts rather than dictated by technological might.”
The new efforts being announced call for expanded use of encryption, taking a stronger stand against government demands for information and adding regional centers where government customers can examine Microsoft source code for security, he says.
Smith promises “a comprehensive engineering effort to strengthen the encryption of customer data across our networks and services,” which includes Windows Azure cloud services, Office 365, SkyDrive and Outlook.com. Some of the measures he promises are already in place, but the list includes encrypting customer-to-Microsoft as well as Microsoft data-center-to-data center communications, and calls for encrypting data at rest.
Microsoft partners whose applications are available through Azure will have the option to encrypt or not, but Microsoft will provide tools for them to do so easily, Smith says.
He doesn’t specify what encryption will be used other than to say in some cases it will include perfect forward secrecy and encryption keys of 2048 bits, which is the same length it recommends its customers use. He says Microsoft is making an effort to enlist cooperation of third parties to protect data moving between services, such as email traveling from one provider to another.
Some of the work is already done. Customer data in Office 365 and Outlook.com customer is already encrypted between customers and Microsoft. Most Office 365 traffic and Windows Azure storage is encrypted between data centers, he says.
On the legal front, Microsoft says it will notify customers when it receives legal orders to release their data. If the orders call for keeping the action secret, the company will challenge the orders in court, he says, something it has done in the past. If the data is stored in other countries, Microsoft will assert objections that the requesting government has no jurisdiction over the data, he says.
“Except in the most limited circumstances,” Smith writes, “we believe that government agencies can go directly to business customers or government customers for information or data about one of their employees – just as they did before these customers moved to the cloud – without undermining their investigation or national security. And when those limited circumstances arise, courts should have the opportunity to review the question and issue a decision.”
As for transparency, corporate customers will gain no benefits, but Smith says Microsoft will expand its program of letting government customers review its source code in order to assure themselves there are no security back doors. Network transparency centers will be opened in Europe, Asia and the Americas to give government customers a greater ability to run assurance tests.
The cloud-based backup and recovery service was introduced last year
Symantec plans to close down its Backup Exec.cloud service, saying it lacks mobile and content-sharing features and wouldn’t be the right platform for delivering them.
Backup Exec.cloud is a pure cloud-based offering designed to make it easy for small businesses and remote branch offices to back up their data. It was announced in February 2012.
Symantec disclosed its plans to shut down the service in an email to channel partners that was seen by IDG News Service. An FAQ about the shutdown was on Symantec’s site earlier on Tuesday but appears to have been removed. In its email to channel partners, Symantec said it would start informing end users by email in early December. The company will stop selling subscriptions or renewals for Backup Exec.cloud on Jan. 6, 2014.
Cloud-based options for both backing up data and working with files have proliferated in recent years and taken on growing importance as more employees work at home and on the road. Backup Exec.cloud, introduced along with Symantec’s Backup Exec 2012 product suite, is a standalone system focused on off-premises data protection for sites with no IT staff.
“Customers want features such as synch & share and mobile access. Backup Exec.cloud was not designed with these features in mind,” Symantec’s FAQ said. “As a result, Symantec has decided to discontinue Backup Exec.cloud in order to focus on more productive and feature-rich cloud-based applications which include this type of functionality.”
Symantec offers a range of other data protection products, including on-premise and hybrid backup and recovery, as well as Norton Zone for file synchronization and sharing. It will continue to invest in backup and recovery products, including its on-premise Backup Exec product and its NetBackup software, and will expand the functionality of Norton Zone, the company said.
Asked for comment on the change, Symantec said it was simplifying its product lineup.
“As we align with our new offering strategy and efforts to streamline our product range to provide fewer, more integrated solutions for our customers, Symantec has made the decision to retire Backup Exec.cloud,” the company said in a statement. “We are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help our partners and customers successfully navigate this process.”
In January, Symantec announced a reorganization of its software business under President and CEO Steve Bennett, appointed in 2012, that is focused on more integrated products.
Cloud-based backup has both grown in popularity and become more complex over the past several years, said Eran Farajun, executive vice president of Asigra, which supplies software for cloud backup services from companies including Hewlett-Packard and Terremark.
Among other things, enterprises need to back up data from more locations, including virtual machines, mobile devices and cloud-based services such as Salesforce.com, he said. Meanwhile, the per-gigabit price of cloud backup has fallen as the volume of data involved continues to grow. However, there’s still room for standalone cloud-based backup, Farajun believes.
The service and support for it will cease on Jan. 6, 2015. Existing customers will be able to keep using Backup Exec.cloud until the end of their annual subscriptions. For customers with multiyear subscriptions that go beyond that date, Symantec will provide information about refunds at a later date, according to the FAQ. Users are entitled to Backup Exec on-premises backup software for 35 percent off list price, Symantec said. The company also suggested Norton Zone as an alternative for some customers.
Users will have to migrate their own data to any alternative service. “We are here to help you navigate this process, but we are not able to provide any data migration services as part of this announcement,” Symantec said in the FAQ.
Customers’ data in the cloud will be deleted after their subscriptions expire. However, customers shouldn’t have to download all the data after expiration because it will already exist on their own PCs and servers, the company said. The service is a near-term backup that normally maintains data for just 90 days.