Facebook utilises Blu-rays in new low-powered storage solution

Hi-definition movies often come to mind when thinking about Blu-rays, not so much data centre storage solutions. Facebook however has announced exactly that, prototyping a system capable of storing 10,000 disks, making up 1 petabyte of data per cabinet. They also have plans to increase this to 5 petabytes. Cost savings appear to be the driving factor, with 50% savings in costs and 80% in energy usage compared to hard-disk based cold storage. The other factor is lifespan, traditional disks usually last about 5 years but this Blu-ray solution is quoted at 50 years. There is a clear advantage here and the opportunity for a new revenue stream for the Blu-ray Disc Association (BRDA). If BRDA was to collaborate with a hardware manufacturer such as HP or Dell, this would be advantageous to both delivering to the corporate market.

Lenovo buys Motorola mobility unit for £1.8 billion

Google strategically purchased Motorola in 2012 for £7.9 billion to make Android-powered smart phones and utilise their patent portfolio to fight patent attacks aimed at their Android platform. This week Google announced the sale of Motorola’s mobility unit to PC manufacturer Lenovo for £1.8 billion. Google will keep the 17,000+ strong patent collection, whereas Lenovo gets the phone-making unit itself and Motorola’s strong brand (needed to tackle the US market). It is safe to assume Motorola will continue to create Android phones, but an additional Windows Phone line which has synergy with Lenovo’s laptops would make a lot of sense too. If Lenovo was to split up its new phone unit into commercial and business offerings, they would be in a unique position to offer businesses, security and productivity focused smartphones. Could this be the move that sees Blackberry being squeezed out of corporate contracts completely?

Invest now, pay later message for UK banks

Many customers of Lloyds, TSB and HBOS were unable to use their debit cards last weekend when a major IT glitch hit Lloyds Banking Group. It is the latest in a series of retail banking disasters with Natwest suffering DDoS in early December and RBS suffering downtime just before Christmas with online and card payments. The latest episode was blamed by Lloyds on one or two servers falling over. The plausibility of this is questioned by many in the financial services and IT industries. Banks have multiple layers of equipment redundancy, and failover and architecture and processes are designed to prevent single points of failure. The reality may be that failover systems are not tested as much as necessary or refreshed for years because it is not required that often. There is a clear conflict between consumer demand for 100% uptime and banks offering digital services across the internet and smartphones, underpinned by an over reliance on obsolete legacy IT. Sam Woods, director of the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority, previously told a government enquiry on Irish banks that banking systems were “far from robust” and required core change and massive investment. Whilst bank mergers and splits may create complicated infrastructures, consumer demand for 100% uptime of digital services, added to the new 7 day ruling for swopping customer accounts, may be the commercial prompt forcing banks into fundamental action, with major inhouse investment and/or skilling up by outsourcing services to qualified third party MSPs with ISO27001 and being PCI DSS compliant. The alternative is to lose customer confidence and see money walking out of the door.

Feathers angrily ruffled at mobile apps gaming firm

Demands for a user privacy debate has been launched by Finnish “Angry Birds” maker Rovio, after the release of documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA is targeting analytics data from mobile apps. US and UK spy agencies were shown to have targeted advertising networks, to enable access to Rovio’s private user data. Internet-enabled devices visiting ad-enabled websites or ad-enabled applications, are vulnerable to surveillance and “leaky” smartphone apps can release anything from basic technical information to personal information like gender, location etc. The EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding is equally concerned about mass surveillance. In a speech for this year’s Data Protection Day summit she advocates reform is needed to restore trust in the digital economy and a rethink of the European Data Retention law. “National security’ (is not) a trump card (that) disregards citizens’ rights”. “These issues are connected, not separate (and) encryption has been weakened”. The NSA and GCHQ have defended their actions saying that their use of data is targeted and adheres to a strict legal and policy framework – but the encroachment is insidious and the concern from business is that commercial as well as private data is being swept up. Incoming international president of IT at professional association ISACA, Rob Stroud, echoes the seriousness of cyber security threats in the UK. “Information security professionals need to engage with their organisation about the implication of data leaks and how to do proper risk assessments”. It also raises the question about the role of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), where they sit in an organisation and their seniority, as digital security requires proactive not reactive thinking”. With technology changing, the use of consumer apps increasing and businesses seeking ever more automation, device management, risk assessment and security must go hand in hand for MSPs and company IT security advisors.

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Mobile download speeds go orbital

In the UK many have yet to make the switch over to 4G mobile. EE is currently the UK 4G leader providing up to 60Mbps connections, making a much appreciated leap from the country’s mainly 3G supply. South Korea carriers SK Telecom and LG U+ are way ahead with 4G technology from marrying three bands to achieve the higher speed. They hope to have downloads of up to 300Mbps to compatible phones and tablets before the end of 2014. Assumingly not satisfied with these blazing speeds, the South Korean government has also announced a new initiative to introduce 5G within the next six years which will see data speeds increase another 1,000 times that of current 4G. Jealousy may not get you anywhere, but curiosity might, as SK Telecom plan to showcase an astonishing 450Mbps at Mobile World Congress.

Privacy, choice and prying eyes in Cloud data

Knowing the physical location of your data, especially in the age of Cloud is very important on a governance level. For example, The Patriot Act compels companies to turn over any data held on US soil to authorities if required – even if this is data stored on behalf of a non-US company. Microsoft’s top lawyer has stated they will let non-US business and government customers choose if they wish to have their data stored outside the US, in one of their European data centres to ringfence their data. Since the announcement, Google’s Eric Schmidt has aired his confusion, stating that US companies’ servers overseas still fall under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) rules. With this in mind Microsoft will need to be clear on the benefits and concerns of non-US companies about having data stored closer to home, as the suggestion is at odds with many of its technology partners and may prove too difficult for Microsoft to make such guarantees.

Can selling patient data be defended and protected?

NHS England plans to create a single database of medical data from hospitals and GPs. This has created commercial and security concerns amongst the public and privacy groups. Drug and insurance companies will be able to buy the information later this year and the NHS has not had much luck managing data security in recent years. Privacy group concerns counter the “pseudonymised” records promise of NHS England, arguing that cross referencing by insurers, pharmaceutical groups and other health sector groups will enable identification of individuals from their own medical data. This is supported by a Netherlands study which showed that the unique combination of DOB, gender and a partial postcode enabled unambiguous identification. There are opt out forms from GPs but that does not cover records held at different hospitals or GPs if practice changed. It is a massively sensitive big data project, so the security framework will need to be truly robust to avoid continuing privacy and data protection legal risk.