Some Happy, Some Sad in Seattle Over Cloud Deal Review

July 12, 2018

I know little about the procurement skirmishes fought over multi billion dollar deals for cloud services. The pragmatic part of my experience suggests that the last thing most statement of work and contract processes produce is efficient, cost effective contracts. Quite a few COTRs, lawyers, super grades, and mere SETAs depend on three things:

  1. Complex, lengthy processes; that is, work producing tasks
  2. Multiple vendors; for example, how many databases does one agency need? Answer: Many, many databases. Believe me, there are many great reasons ranging from the way things work in Washington to legacy systems which will never be improved in my lifetime.
  3. Politics. Ah, yes, lobbyists, special interests, friends of friends, and sometimes the fact that a senior official knows that a person once worked at a specific outfit.

When I read, “Deasy Pauses on JEDI Cloud Acquisition,” I immediately thought about the giant incumbent database champions like IBM Federal Systems and Oracle’s government operations unit.

deasy

Department of Defense CIO Dana Deasy wants a “full top down, bottom up review” of the JEDI infrastructure acquisition.

But there was a moment of reflection, when I realized that this procurement tussle will have significant impact on the Seattle area. You know, Seattle, the city which has delivered Microsoft Bob and the Amazon mobile phone.

Microsoft and Amazon are in the cloud business. Microsoft is the newcomer, but it is the outfit which has the desktops of many government agencies. Everyone loves SharePoint. The Department of Defense could not hold a briefing without PowerPoint.

Let’s not forget Amazon. That is the platform used by most government workers, their families, and possibly their friends if that Amazon account slips into the wild. Who could exist in Tyson’s Corner or Gaithersburg without Amazon delivering essential foods such as probiotic supplements for the dog.

Microsoft is probably thrilled that the JEDI procurement continues to be a work in progress. Amazon, on the other hand, is likely to be concerned that its slam dunk for a government cloud game home run has been halted due to procedural thunderstorms.

Thus, part of Seattle is really happy. Another part of Seattle is not so happy.

Since I don’t’ have a dog in this fight, my hunch is that little in Washington, DC changes from administrative change to administrative change.

But this Seattle dust up will be interesting to watch. I think it will have a significant impact on Amazon and Microsoft. IBM Federal Systems and Oracle will be largely unscathed.

Exciting procurement activity is underway. Defense Department CIO Deasy Deasy’s promise of a “full top down, bottom up review” sounds like the words to a song I have heard many times.

With $10 billion in play, how long will that review take? My hunch is that it will introduce the new CIO to a new concept, “government time.”

Stephen E Arnold, July 12, 2018

Microsoft Tweaks Bing Thing

June 26, 2018

Microsoft, do you know that many non-Internet savvy people use Bing? Perhaps that is too much of a generalization, but experience will tell you that Google does deliver better results. It seems, however, that Microsoft has made a decent Bing upgrade, says the eWeek article, “Microsoft Uses Intel FPGAs For Smarter Bing Searches.”

Google has a feature where you type in a search term and it will spit out a small, informative blurb about it. Bing is “copying” that idea, so Microsoft added Intel field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to make the search engine smarter.  This endeavor is based on the deep learning acceleration platform Project Brainwave.  The FPGAs allow Bing to gather information from multiple sources and spit out an information tidbit:

“‘Intel’s FPGA chips allows Bing to quickly read and analyze billions of documents across the entire web and provide the best answer to your question in less than a fraction of a second,’ wrote Microsoft representatives in a blog post. ‘Intel’s FPGA devices not only provide Bing the real-time performance needed to keep our search fast for our users, but also the agility to continuously and quickly innovate using more and more advanced technology to bring you additional intelligent answers and better search results.’”

Bing is also using the new FPGAs to translate jargon, working on a how-to answer feature, and upgrading image search with an object detection tool. eBay and Pinterest may be exploring similar functionality.

Whitney Grace, June 26, 2018

Bing Engineers Serendipity, Not Just Irrelevant Results

May 5, 2018

It is Saturday. Innovation in search never rests. I read “Bing: Search Engines Have a Responsibility to Get People Out of Their Bubbles.” The headline is one guaranteed to give me a headache.

My view is that when I use a search system I expect, want, and need the system to:

  1. Process my keyword query, accept Boolean logic (AND, OR, and NOT arguments), and generate a list of results that optimize relevance.
  2. If I need more results, synonyms, Endeca-like “facets”, I want a button or a menu option that allows me to specify what I think I need to get the information I seek.
  3. I want to have ads, sponsored content, and SEO skewed content flagged in a color which is easily visible and put within a ruled “box.”
  4. I want to know [a] the date at which the displayed result was indexed, [b] the date assigned by whoever wrote the item to the specific article, and [c] an explicit link to a cache in the event the page indexed has been removed or is otherwise unavailable.

I have other requirements for a commercial search system; for example, Diffeo’s or Recorded Future’s approach. But these are specialized and inappropriate for a Bing style Web index.

The Bing approach, according to the write up:

Bing has launched a new feature called Intelligent Answers. When you enter a question with several valid answers, the search engine summarizes them all in a carousel to give a balanced overview.

I don’t want answers. I want a list of relevant locations which may contain the information I seek. For example, I needed to identify the term for a penance device and access images of these gizmos. Bing, Google, Yandex, and even lesser known systems like iSeek.com and Qwant.com failed.

The systems returned everything from a church calendar to a correction of penance to pennant. I did not want baseball information.

Now Bing is going to identify from my query my “question” and provide a range of answers. I don’t want this to happen. If I search LOCA, I want information about a loss of coolant accident, not this:

loca the song

I am happy to add a field code for power, nuclear if such a feature were supported by Bing. I would also add key words to get something close to my term.

The complete and utter silliness of Bing results exists right now. The company which has managed minimal progress in search now expects me to believe that its “smart software” can provide answers.

The write up states:

“Take a simple query like ‘Is coffee good for you?’” said Ribas. “There are plenty of reputable sources that tell you that there are good reasons for drinking coffee, but there are also some very reputable ones that say the opposite. Deep learning allows us to project multiple queries in the passages to what we call the semantic space and find the matches.

Based on my limited experience with whizzy 2018 search technology, I am not sure if Bing’s innovation will be helpful to me. When “semantic space” is concerned, the systems with which I am familiar, provide a number of other tools and functions to ensure relevance and accuracy.

Even with those tools, including state of the art systems from developers from Madrid to San Carlos, the user has to think, analyze, and run additional queries. Phone calls, interviews, and even visits to libraries are often required to obtain helpful information.

Bing promises “intelligent answers.”

Sounds like MBA infused marketing with a few notes added from engineers with better things to do than explain exactly what a content processing component can do with 80 percent accuracy.

Time out. The referee wants the coach to get the MBA marketers off the field for intellectual fantasizing. This is the same outfit which owns Fast Search & Transfer, created the racist chatbot, and missed the mobile phone business by a country mile. Why not ask Bing a question like, “How did these missteps occur?” Perhaps Watson would be able to take a crack at “intelligent answers”?

Stephen E Arnold, May 5, 2018

Munich Migrates To Windows 10

March 28, 2018

Despite the superiority of other operating systems, Microsoft Windows still tops the list as a popular office enterprise tool.  Windows PCs have easy user interfaces, applications for easy management, and are understood at a near universal level.  It does not come as a surprise when Munich, Germany decided to implement a change to Windows 10, says Silicon: “Munich Approves 49.3 million Euro Windows 10 Migration Plan.”

Munich’s city council decided to spend over 50 million euros to migrate their computer system to Microsoft Windows 10.  This is the first major overhaul the city council has had since 2004 when they implemented a Linux desktop program.  Linux is the open source software of choice and the city council decided to use it to reduce their dependency on Microsoft.

The “LiMux” programme saw a customised version of Ubuntu Linux rolled out to about 14,800 of the city’s 29,000 users and LibreOffice used by more than 15,000, in a bid to reduce the government’s dependence upon Microsoft.  In 2012 then-mayor Christian Ude said LiMux had saved Munich more than €4m in licensing costs.  The rollout was completed in 2013, nearly 10 years after it began, but a political shift the following year saw leadership turn in favour of a return to Windows.

The transition back to Microsoft comes with a change in the city council’s leadership.  Dieter Reiter pushed fo have Microsoft license and he won.  The Microsoft Windows transition cost of over 49 million euros is only part of the 89 million euro IT overhaul that is in progress.  The IT overhaul also includes retraining and testing staff.

The Munich city council will not be migrating to Microsoft Office, which would incur an even higher price tag.  Munich will instead continue to use LibreOffice, because of the staff’s familiarity and the custom templates.  The city council also hopes to implement cloud application usage.

As with anything related to politics, opposing parties are critical of the return to Microsoft and say it wastes money.  Nothing new on that end and it only points to more organizational problems than a simple OS.

Whitney Grace, March 28, 2018

Reddit Turns to Bing for AI Prowess

March 19, 2018

This is an interesting development—MSPoweruser announces, “Reddit Partners with Microsoft and Bing for AI Tools.” We’d though Reddit was thrilled with Solr. Reddit CEO Alexis Ohanian announced the partnership at the Everyday AI event in San Francisco, saying his company required “AI heavy lifting” to analyze the incredible amounts of data it collects. For its part, Bing gets access to valuable data. Writer Surur tells us:

The partnership will benefit both parties with Reddit contributing content to Bing such as AMAs and advertising upcoming AMAs and Reddit Answers and Microsoft making subreddit content more visible in their search results. Now when searching for a subreddit in Bing it will deliver a live snapshot of the top threads in the subreddit. Ohanian noted that Reddit is the largest answer database of nuanced, verified answers, offering an amazing resource to Bing. He noted that the Bing partnership was like a crown jewel for Reddit and just scratches the surface of what is possible with Microsoft’s AI expertise and Reddit data. For companies who use Reddit for professional and commercial reasons,  Reddit will be offering the Power BI suite of solution templates for brand management and targeting on Reddit which will enable brands, marketers, and budget owners to quickly analyze their Reddit footprint and determine how, where, and with whom to engage in the Reddit community.

With 330 million active monthly users, Reddit is about the same size as Twitter; that is indeed a lot of data. Surur points us to Reddit’s blog post on the subject for more information.

Cynthia Murrell, March 19, 2018

Quote to Note: More Computing Power!

January 27, 2018

I read “Microsoft Boss: World Needs More Computing Power.” The idea is a variant upon “Technology will solve our problems.” I noted this passage in the article:

The world is rapidly “running out of computing capacity”, the head of tech giant Microsoft has warned.

He allegedly revealed:

“Moore’s Law is kinda running out of steam,” Mr Nadella told assembled delegates, referring to the maxim that the power of computer chips doubles every two years.

Yep, “kinda.” Hip World Economic Forum lingo.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2018

LinkedIn: Marketing Wackiness or Just Innovative Fishing?

January 23, 2018

I received an email from LinkedIn. This email, like many of the other group discussion topics, caught my attention. Here’s what I received this morning (January 22, 2018):

image

The idea is for me to click on the link and view the “discussion.”

I did and saw this LinkedIn “posting” in a curated group. I am not sure what “curation” means, but it obviously permits sales pitches.

image

This looks a bit like a news story. After reading it, I was asked to click a link in order to read the report about next generation search engines. I was curious because in 2015 I wrote “CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access” and want to learn.

Click I did. Here’s what Keshab Singa from Transparency Market Research Pvt. Ltd. displayed for me:

image

Yep, a form. I plugged in data, expecting to see a link to download the report in which I expressed a desire to read.

What did I see? Here you go:

image

Nothing. I plugged in the words “enterprise search” and again received no report.

Now, I am probably missing something.

But this type of marketing and the failure to deliver the information is something that should be filtered by the moderator of the LinkedIn group.

I guess everyone’s too busy making money and trying to cook up new ways to get the name of a person who is a LinkedIn member of a specific group.

Hey, why not write me an email. I will respond.

Taking this path guarantees that I will make fun of your approach in Beyond Search. Nice work. Lousy marketing.

Little wonder why some enterprise search vendors and “experts” are floundering. Why not label the topic “AI” and “Big Data” and move on?

Stephen E Arnold, January 23, 2018

Will Mobile Be Microsoft Downfall in AI Field?

January 12, 2018

We are startled to see Computerworld levy such a blow to Microsoft, but here we go— see their article, “The Missing Link in Microsoft’s AI Strategy.” Writer Preston Gralla insists that the company’s weakness lies in mobile tech—and it could prove to be a real problem as Microsoft competes against the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon in the growing field of AI. Galla acknowledges Microsoft’s advantages here—its vast quantities of valuable data and its AI system, Cortana, already built into Windows. However, she writes:

Microsoft is missing something very big in A.I. as well: a significant mobile presence. Google and Apple, via Android and iOS, gather tremendous amounts of useful data for their A.I. work. And gathering the data is just the starting point. Hundreds of millions of people around the world use the A.I.-powered Siri, Google Assistant and Google Now on their mobile devices. So Google and Apple can continue to improve their A.I. work, based on how people use their devices. Given that the future (and to a great extent, the present) is mobile, all this means serious problems for Microsoft in A.I. A.I. is likely a big part of the reason that Microsoft kept Windows Phone on life support for so many years, spending billions of dollars while it died a slow, ugly, public death.

The article outlines a few things Microsoft has been doing to try to catch up to its rivals, like developing (little-used) versions of Cortana for iOS and Android, working with hardware makers on Cortana-powered speakers, and partnering with Amazon’s Alexa for any tasks Cortana is not quite up to (yet). Will this need to play catch-up seriously hamper Microsoft’s AI prominence? We shall see.

Cynthia Murrell, January 12, 2018

LinkedIn: Not Just for Job Seekers and Attention Junkies

January 8, 2018

Last year I spotted this write up: “Spies Are Watching … on LinkedIn.” My first reaction was, “This is news?” I set the item aside, and I watched my newsfeeds to see if the story had “legs.” It did not. I thought I would document the existence of the write up and invite you, gentle reader, to figure out if this is old news, new news, or just flim flam news.

The main point is that an outfit known as BfV, shorthand for Bundesamt für Verfassungsschut) monitors LinkedIn for espionage actors. The main point of the write up strike me as:

Chinese intelligence has used LinkedIn to target at least 10,000 Germans, possibly to recruit them as informants.

I wonder if other intelligence agencies monitor LinkedIn. I suppose that is a possibility.

The write up include these faked profiles:

“Rachel Li”, identified as a “headhunter” at “RiseHR”

“Alex Li”, a “Project Manager at Center for Sino-Europe Development Studies”

“Laeticia Chen”, a manager at the “China Center of International Politics and Economy” whose attractive photo was reportedly swiped from an online fashion catalog, according to a BfV official

I have not spotted any recent information about the number of faked profiles on LinkedIn. My hunch is that most of the résumés on the service might qualify as faked, but that’s just my supposition.

With Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn making small, yet meaningful, changes in the service, I wonder how these “fake” spy-related profiles and discussions, if any, will be filtered.

Next time you accept a “friend” on LinkedIn, will you ask yourself, “Is this fine person a spy?”

Stephen E Arnold, January 8, 2018

Give Bing a Chance

January 5, 2018

Google is still the most popular web search engine by far, but should we be giving Bing a closer look? Editor Anmol at the admittedly Microsoft-centric blog MSPowerUser explains, “Why I Prefer Bing Over Google (And You Should Too).” He begins with a little history:

Formerly called as MSN Search, Windows Live Search or Live Search, Bing was unveiled by former CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer on May 28th, 2009 and went live on June 3rd. 2009.  Since then, Microsoft is showing its commitment to Bing as an Internet Search Engine rivalling the dominant giant Google. With Windows 8.1, Bing was deeply integrated with the OS with what was called ‘Smart Search’ and this was accessible from the Start Screen. But now a Search Engine is not used ‘just as a search engine.’ Now we use these services to find coffee places around us, book cabs, book movie tickets and more.

True. So why does the author think Bing is best? First, Bing integrates with the very useful Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant and, second, it is available across operating systems. Though others might disagree, Anmol feels Bing’s actual search results are as good as Google’s and, besides, it makes some good predictions. Here are the other strengths Anmol cites: a more appealing home page, the Microsoft rewards program, integration with Facebook Messenger, strong local search, package tracking, a capable image-search function, and its advanced math skills. Bing even seems to understand the needs of developers better than Google does. See the write-up for elaboration, including screenshots, on each of these points.

Anmol concludes:

Above are all that I think made me switch to Bing and are keeps me staying. All these features are brought together to life with advanced machine learning algorithms and years of research and hard work. As Microsoft is a productivity-focused Software giant, Bing is something that drives a large part of its revenue by conquering a large amount of market share. Because of their success already I can only see Microsoft offering even tougher competition to its largest rival Google.

Cynthia Murrell, January 5, 2018

 

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