Belkin Explains Why Its Routers Stopped Working

Yesterday morning, Belkin routers prevented users from accessing the Internet. In a statement provided to TechCrunch Belkin identified and outlined steps it will take to prevent it from happening again:

“One of our cloud services associated with maintaining router operations was negatively impacted by a change made in our data center that caused a false denial of service. Normal operations were restored by 3PM PST, however, some users might still be required to reset their router and/or cable modem to regain connectivity. Moving forward, we will continue to monitor, improve and validate the system to ensure our routers continue to work properly in the event connectivity to our cloud environment is not available.”

It took Belkin some 15 hours to fix the issue, which caused wide-eyed speculation and conspiracy theories.

Even with this explanation, it’s a scary thought that a local networking device can be disabled or even controlled from a remote server. Apparently, per the official statement, the outage was not caused by Belkin uploading buggy firmware, but rather one of Belkin’s remote operations.

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Qubit Bags $26M To Grow Its Ecommerce Personalization Platform

Big-data ecommerce analytics startup Qubit, which provides online retailers and their marketers with tools to optimize sales by conducting A/B testing and personalizing the content each user sees, has announced a $26 million Series B round of funding, led by Accel Parters.

Existing investors Balderton Capital and Salesforce Ventures also participated in the round. The startup raised a Series A round of $7.5 million in 2012, and has raised $36.5 million in total since being founded back in 2010 by a group of ex-Googlers.

Qubit said it plans to use the new funding for continued R&D investment, including predictive data, and for pushing aggressively in the U.S.

“We have some very exciting developments in predictive data and empowering marketers to take control of their optimization strategies,” said co-founder and CEO Graham Cooke. “We’re also continuing to scale up our sales, professional services and marketing teams in the U.S. and Europe.”

Qubit now has more than 150 enterprise customers in the U.K. and the U.S., according to Cooke, including Hilton Hotels, Jimmy Choo, Staples, Farfetch, Topshop and Uniqlo. It reports 260% year on year growth in sales in the six months to June 2014.

The company’s flagship product — Visitor Cloud — works by creating detailed profiles for each visitor to an ecommerce property so that the business can then apply “data-driven” personalizations to optimize sales, based on analyzing their interactions to identify patterns of buying behavior.

“Most optimization technologies are just point solutions that aren’t looking at the entire customer journey which is largely why optimisation strategies have failed in the past,” said Cooke, discussing how Qubit’s offering differs from rivals in this space.

“Adobe’s Marketing Cloud is the only other company that’s consolidating digital optimization but they’ve had a hard time bringing it all together with a host of acquisitions over the last 10 years. At Qubit we have built it from the ground up harnessing the advances in the Hadoop ecosystem and Javascript.”

As part of the investment Bruce Golden, an early investor in the likes of Qliktech, Comscore and Responsys, has joined Qubit’s board.

Commenting on the funding round in a statement, Balderton’s Bernard Liautaud, who also sits on Qubit’s board, said: “We are happy that Accel and Salesforce now join us in supporting Qubit’s rapid growth. Since we invested in Qubit in 2012 they have built a world-class integrated data platform, grown to be the leader in their sector in the UK and made a successful entry into the US market.”

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SwiftKey for iOS review: The smart Android keyboard finally arrives in Apple land

Oh happy day, it’s here at last. For years, I’ve been frustrated by the iOS keyboard. It felt like the cramped and under-developed weak link in what was otherwise a mature and slick operating system. With iOS 8 comes support for third-party keyboards, and with that comes SwiftKey – in my opinion the best keyboard available for Android.

If you’re new to SwiftKey, you’ll find that it’s quite similar to the new default keyboard in iOS 8, but it offers a whole lot more.

Like the default keyboard, it suggests words that you might be typing, giving you three dynamically changing options on buttons above the keys. If one of them is right, you can tap the button and move on to the next word. Also like the default keyboard, SkiftKey learns from your typing style and the kinds of phrases that you tend to use, meaning that the suggestions get better over time.

SwiftKey for iOS 730x637 SwiftKey for iOS review: The smart Android keyboard finally arrives in Apple land

That’s where the similarities end, however. Given that SwiftKey has a few years’ development on Android under its belt, it’s far more mature a product. To give it a head start in learning your typing style, you can connect up your Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and Evernote accounts, and even allow it to access your Contacts so it can better predict names that you’ll want to use.

Then there’s SwiftKey Cloud. If you’ve used the keyboard on Android in the past in conjunction with its cloud backup service, you can simply log in on the iOS app and have accurate predictions right away.

For those who don’t like to type, SwiftKey offers a Swype-style finger-gliding approach across the keys, called Flow. Although it’s not really for me, I sometimes use it when my thumbs are getting tired after a busy mobile typing session. Handily, you can switch between both input methods fluidly as you please.

SwiftKey Flow 520x413 SwiftKey for iOS review: The smart Android keyboard finally arrives in Apple land

Extra features aside, which keyboard is best for straightforward typing – SwiftKey or the default Apple option? Personally, I find the key spacing on Apple’s keyboard a little more comfortable to navigate, but SwiftKey’s more accurate predictions of what I want to say means that it wins out for me overall.

In terms of speed, SwiftKey also has the edge because its best prediction is almost always on the middle button. By contrast, Apple’s implementations sees the ‘correct’ option’s location vary, which makes speed-typing not as, er, speedy.

SwiftKey expects its iOS app to go live on the App Store some time today (Wednesday), after iOS 8 goes live. Don’t confuse it with SwiftKey Note, the proof-of-concept note-taking app the UK-based company released earlier this year.

The keyboard is free and comes with a light and dark theme. Similar to Android, a store offering paid-for, premium themes will be added in the future.

SwiftKey [App Store]

Excerpt from: SwiftKey for iOS review: The smart Android keyboard finally arrives in Apple land

Google’s Security Compliance Audit Report Is Now Public

Google today announced that its cloud platform has received both a new ISO 27001 certificate and that it has completed its latest SOC 2 and SOC 3 Type II audits. Before you start yawning, it’s worth remembering that these reports certify Google’s compliance with standard security practices that are meant to keep the data on its Cloud Platform safe. That includes products like Cloud Platform, but also Google Apps for Business and Education.

The new reports and certificates now cover Google+ and Hangouts, which is nice, but the real news here is that Google is making both its ISO 27001 certificate and SOC 3 audit report easily available to anybody who wants to take a look. The SOC 3 report is about a 10-page document that summarizes the audit’s finding and lists the services that the auditors inspected. By default, this report is meant to be made public. The SOC 2 report is significantly more in-depth and runs a few hundred pages, but sadly Google isn’t making that one public.

As Google’s director of security for Google Apps Eran Feigenbaum told me, this is all about transparency and gaining trust. “Security, privacy and ultimately trust is one of the key points people still have with the cloud,” he said. “When you give your data to a vendor in the cloud, you want to understand what they do with it. A key point for gaining that trust is transparency.”

Until now, you could only get your hands on these reports after you went through a number of formalities and signed an non-disclosure agreement. Even with all of this bureaucracy, Google handed out “hundreds” of copies of its SOC 2 report every year — but only to its own customers.

Still, as Feigenbaum noted, that meant that if you were using App Engine for your product, you couldn’t give the report to any of your own customers because you were under NDA and your customers couldn’t get it because they didn’t work with Google directly.

It’s worth noting that Google isn’t the only company to make these documents public. Amazon publishes its SOC 3 report, for example, as does Microsoft (though I was only able to track down a copy from 2012).


See more here: Google’s Security Compliance Audit Report Is Now Public

Amazon Opens Up Its Enterprise Cloud Storage Service Zocalo To All

Amazon today announced that it’s making Zocalo, its secure document storage and sharing service designed for enterprise use, generally available. The news comes, not coincidentally, on a day when cloud storage competitor Dropbox announced lowered pricing and storage increases for its Pro customers.

Zocalo, which is Spanish for town square, launched into a limited preview just last month, along with very aggressive price points. For $5 per user per month, end users would receive 200 GB of storage. They can then use that service to store all manner of files, comment on and within files, share them with others, upload new versions and more, all from any device, including PCs and Macs, as well as Android and iOS devices.

Meanwhile, IT admins are able to manage Zocalo, integrating it with existing corporate directories, including Active Directory, which allows users to sign in with their existing Active Directory credentials. IT can also apply the appropriate permissions for users, making sure they only have access to the documents they’re meant to see.

The Zocalo service is now open to all AWS customers, says Amazon this morning in a blog post, and includes a 30-day free trial, as previously announced.

While Zocalo is aimed at the enterprise crowd, many of whom are still paying for legacy, on-premise solutions, it is to some extent a competitor with consumer-first services like Dropbox, which is now trying to stretch itself further into the “Pro” and business markets where it’s up against other cloud storage rivals like Box and Google Drive.

It’s also not the first cloud storage service from Amazon – the company offers a consumer-grade service called Amazon Cloud Drive, a Google Drive competitor whose biggest advantage may be its integration with the company’s own Fire phone. (Fire phone users have unlimited photo storage for their smartphone photos in Cloud Drive.)

Along with today’s public launch, Amazon notes that AWS CloudTrail, a web service that records AWS API calls and delivers log files to you, is also now integrated with Zocalo. CloudTrail will now record calls made with the Zocalo API, which is currently internal, but is planned to be made public in the future, says Amazon.

Originally posted here: Amazon Opens Up Its Enterprise Cloud Storage Service Zocalo To All

Mesosphere Comes To The Google Cloud Platform, Integrates Google’s Open Source Kubernetes Project

Google and Mesosphere today announced a partnership that brings support for Mesos clusters to Google’s Compute Engine platform. While the Mesos project and Mesosphere aren’t quite household names yet, they are quickly becoming important tools for companies that want to be able to easily scale their applications, no matter whether that’s in their own data centers, in a public cloud service, or as a hybrid deployment.

With this collaboration between Google and Mesosphere, Cloud Platform users will now be able to set up a Mesosphere cluster on Google’s servers in less than 10 minutes. Developers get to choose between two basic installs: a development cluster with four instances, eight virtual CPUs and 30GB of memory for prototyping their applications, or  a production-ready install with 18 instances, 36 virtual CPUs and 136GB of memory. If those two options don’t fit, they can also create their own custom clusters.

By default, those clusters include the Mesos kernel, Zookeeper, Marathon and OpenVPN. Once the cluster is up and running, Mesosphere offers a straightforward web-based dashboard for managing these clusters that can be accessed right from the Google dashboard.


As Florian Leibert, the co-founder and CEO of Mesosphere told me earlier this week, the main idea behind Mesosphere has always been to allow developers to treat a data center like a single computer — with Mesos and other software packages abstracting much of the basic devops work away. Some companies that currently use Mesos are Leibert’s former employers Twitter and Airbnb, which he introduced to the open-source Mesos project.

Mesosphere essentially creates a layer on top of your hardware that handles all of the servers, virtual machines and cloud instances in the background and lets an application draw from a single pool of resources like CPU power and memory. By default, Mesosphere’s service does not really care what operating system you run or what cloud you are using. The team tells me, however, that it worked with Google to optimize its offerings for its cloud to take full advantage of the environment (you can read a bit more about Mesosphere and its tools here).


As part of the partnership with Google, Mesosphere also today announced that it is integrating Google’s recently launched open source Kubernetes service for managing Docker containers right into Mesopshere. The company says this will make it easier to manage the deployments of Docker workloads. It’s worth noting that this is not just for running Mesosphere on the Google Cloud Platform. As Leibert notes in today’s announcement, “our combined compute fabric can run anywhere, whether on Google Cloud Platform, your own datacenter, or another cloud provider.”

Google’s Craig McLuckie, its lead product manager for next generation cloud computing products like Kubernetes, also told me that what Google wanted to do with Kubernetes was to bring many of the core concepts that it has developed for managing its own datacenters to users outside the company. He believes that what Mesosphere and Google are working on is “very complimentary” and that he believes that the company can bring some of the concepts it developed into Mesos, too.

As Mesosphere’s senior VP Matt Trifiro (and former Heroku CMO) told me, he believes that projects like Kubernetes and Mesos can bring some of these “rarefied air concepts” behind these technologies to everybody. What happened so far, he argues, is that “the tooling hasn’t kept up with being accessible for companies that need to get to web scale.” But now with the expertise from Google and Mesos, the company can make these concepts consumable for developers to that they can operate at a new abstraction level that frees them from directly dealing with much of the infrastructure that powers their applications.

“We look forward to working with Google to make Cloud Platform the best place to run traditional Mesosphere workloads, such as Marathon, Chronos, Hadoop, or Spark—or newer Kubernetes workloads,” Leibert writes today.

It’s probably not too early to start thinking about whether Mesosphere could become an acquisition target for Google given how close the two companies worked together on this project. For now that’s just speculation, of course, but if it ever happens, remember you read it here first.

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PagerDuty Lands $27.2M In Series B To Simplify IT Incident Management

PagerDuty, a 5-year old IT incidents management startup, announced $27.2M in Series B funding today led by Bessemer Venture Partners with help from early round investors Andreessen Horowitz and Baseline Metal. The Series B money brings the total money raised to date to $39.8M. As part of the deal, Trevor Oelschig, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, will join PagerDuty’s board of directors.

The money was a huge financial boost for the cloud-based startup, which up until now had raised $1.9M in 2010 in its seed round, then an additional $10.7M in Series A funding in January, 2013.

Alex Solomon, co-founder and CEO of PagerDuty says the company name stems from IT folks who are on call over night to take care of any problems that pop up on the company IT systems. Even today, many IT pros work with pagers and get beeped when there’s a problem, hence the company name.

PagerDuty allows companies to pull all of their incident reporting tools into a single interface and send an alert when an incident occurs. That’s where they are today, but Solomon says the plan is to use the money to expand the product in a big way by not only reporting incidents, and bringing in an IT pro as quickly as possible to solve major problems, but also to give more intelligence to the incident report and even offer ways to resolve it or fix it automatically without intervention from a sleepy human in the middle of the night.

He says that, too often in the past, reporting tools have given reports of something wrong, when it was really minor or nothing at all, and they are aiming to minimize those false-positives to the extent possible, so that individuals on pager duty are not pulled in unless there is something seriously wrong.

While this might sound like what New Relic, AppDynamics or Splunk is doing already, Solomon says it’s different because these companies are  looking at the application performance layer and their products plug into PagerDuty, which can look at the entire IT infrastructure incident reporting picture, regardless of the system doing the reporting.

He says, it also works with tools like ScienceLogic, which provides insight into IT management, whether the tool is in the cloud or in a private data center. ScienceLogic also uses a similar plug-in kind of architecture to monitor these systems, but Solomon says the difference is while ScienceLogic is monitoring these systems, it only passes information to PagerDuty when something happens, an incident occurs that requires the attention of an IT pro.

That’s because PagerDuty is designed to pull in these incidents across systems to be a central reporting hub.

Solomon says before a product like PagerDuty came along, companies tended to cobble together their own incident management programs. What his company allows them to do is plug in whatever monitoring systems they are using and manage the incident reporting from a single interface.

All of these tools represent a category of tool designed to simplify the life of IT managers. They are aiming at different parts of the stack, but they are designed to give visibility into the health of the company IT assets.

PagerDuty says it’s gaining traction across a variety of verticals including 30 percent of the Fortune 100. Their customers include Nike, Adobe, Intuit, Panasonic and Evernote among others.

Solomon says the primary objective with the new money will be to invest aggressively in product development and engineering and product management and scale up the team, which currently has 90 employees with headquarters in San Francisco and a programming office in Toronto.

“We have a huge vision of building new category. That takes a lot of work, a lot of moving parts and different components,” he explained.

PHOTO CREDIT: (c) Can Stock Photo

Original post: PagerDuty Lands $27.2M In Series B To Simplify IT Incident Management

DigitalOcean Expands To London

Cloud hosting company DigitalOcean announced its third expansion into Europe today with a new data center in London. The company added two facilities in the Amsterdam region earlier this year. This new center will be located on the outskirts of London proper to meet the growing developer demand in the area.

London’s tech scene has been bubbling up for the past couple of years. A recent report from Bloomberg shows tech jobs have accounted for 30% of all new job growth in the city since 2009. According to the city now has 32 accelerators and incubators for start-up companies and more than 340 London-based tech companies have attracted investment of over £1.47 billion (or U.S. $2.9 billion). DigitalOcean estimates over 10,000 developers currently work in London.

This puts the city on the map for key user growth, but it also helps DigitalOcean with government regulations. Europeans may be a bit nervous about an American data center after revelations made by Edward Snowden about the NSA mining our data. The European Union’s Data Privacy Directive currently makes it difficult for data to be moved outside of the region. Any lag in data can cause a loss in users and potential revenue. According to this KissMetrics infographic, even a 1 second delay can result in a 7% reduction in users.

The new London location will also run IPv6 support on all “Droplets” – the company’s branded term for cloud servers. IPv6 is the latest version of the Internet Protocol (IP), the communications protocol that provides an identification and location system for computers on networks and routes traffic across the Internet. It can also be added to existing Droplets without the need for a reboot.

DigitalOcean raised $37.2 million from Andreesen Horowitz just a few months ago. Part of that money will now be used to expand to more data centers globally, including London. The European market is important to the company. According to CEO Ben Uretsky, about 20% of the company’s presence is outside the U.S. There are already two data centers in operation around Amsterdam. Headquartered in New York, DigitalOcean has data centers in San Francisco, Singapore and now in the UK as well.

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Amazon Web Services Moves Beyond Developer Tools

Amazon Web Services is known for many things, but all of those have to do with developer services like cloud computing instances, databases and storage. Lately, however, AWS is slowly getting more into productivity tools that are meant for end users.

Amazon‘s first attempt to get into this market was Amazon Cloud Drive. It launched back in 2011, but while there are no exact numbers about its usage, I doubt all that many consumers ever signed up for it. Now — maybe in the wake of its Fire Phone launch — it feels like the company is starting to reboot its efforts, and it is doing so for enterprise users under the AWS label.

After Cloud Drive, things got pretty quiet in this space for Amazon, but last year, it launched an invite-only beta of Amazon WorkSpaces, a virtual desktop for enterprises that launched to the public in March. With WorkSpaces, an admin still has to go into the AWS Management Console and provision it, but for the user, the experience is pretty straightforward.

That project, of course, was more about virtualization than about an actual web application. With Zocalo, however, Amazon launched a full-featured competitor to Google Drive for Work and Dropbox, complete with a web-based interface. The focus here is still mostly on enterprises, and there is no free tier for consumers (though the regular price of $5 per user/month is extremely aggressive). But once it’s out of preview, it’s hard to imagine that Amazon would only allow businesses to sign up.

While Amazon itself has long offered some kinds of web apps for its e-book and music service, for example (and one could probably argue that is also a web app), Zocalo is a step in a very new direction for AWS. It’s also one that startups should be worried about. Dropbox started out on AWS, for example. But what if Amazon now wants a piece of this market for itself, too?

With Fire OS, the company has shown that it can do design and it’s probably no coincidence that Zocalo takes some of its design queues from Fire OS.

While it isn’t for consumers, AWS’s new mobile app analytics service similarly puts Amazon into competition with other Analytics services that were likely built on top of its architecture. Its feature set doesn’t seem to be quite on par with the likes of Flurry’s analytics service just yet, but it has a pretty generous free allowance and may just be enough for many developers.

At this point, AWS offers pretty much everything developers need to build their applications, whether that’s for mobile or web apps. While it continues to roll out new features for its services at a rapid clip, most of them are now very incremental updates. It makes sense that the company is looking at how it can expand AWS into new areas (or at least new for Amazon), and many of those involve going beyond developer services and APIs.

Amazon is nothing if not a very ambitious company and that’s on display right now with the launch of the Fire Phone and these new web services. That may irk some of its competitors in these spaces, but that’s probably not something Amazon is all that worried about.

See more here: Amazon Web Services Moves Beyond Developer Tools

Microsoft Updates Azure With 2 New U.S. Regions, Improved Hybrid Storage Solution And More

Microsoft today announced a number of new features for its Azure cloud computing platform ahead of its Worldwide Partner Conference next week. There is quite a bit that’s new in this update, but the highlights are two new Azure regions for the U.S. (US Central in Iowa and US East 2 in Virginia) that will go live next week, as well as the launch of Microsoft’s newest Azure StorSimple hybrid storage arrays for enterprise customers.

Microsoft says bringing two new regions online will help it continue to double its Azure capacity every six to nine months. The company hasn’t yet announced which services will be available in these new regions or what the pricing will look like. There has always been a bit of disparity between Microsoft’s different data centers, but it’s probably a fair guess that its second Virginia data center will look a lot like its current one in the area, and the Iowa location will have slightly fewer services available and will be on par with the current US North Central and South Central locations. The two new regions will join Microsoft’s four existing regions in the U.S. later next week.

StorSimple_MScomGraphic_590x590_AStorSimple is likely a somewhat obscure service for many, but Microsoft has long offered this storage solution for large enterprise customers like Mazda, SK Telecom and GF Health Products. The new 8000 series arrays are more powerful than Microsoft’s existing 5000 and 7000 series StorSimple arrays (hence the higher number). The twist here is that these new arrays can use Azure Storage as a hybrid cloud tier on top of the existing HDDs and SSDs in the system for capacity expansion and off-site data warehousing whenever necessary.

IT can manage all of this from a new dashboard that consolidates all of these features and allows administrators to control all of the storage and data management services included in the service.

Microsoft has long been betting that large enterprises will opt for hybrid cloud deployments for the time being. StorSimple 8000 handles the storage aspect of this for large enterprises, but businesses who don’t quite need the full power of the 8000 series can still opt for the 5000/7000 series, too.

As part of this focus on hybrid clouds, Microsoft also today announced that it will expand access to Azure through ExpressRoute – which allows for private connections between Azure and on-premise infrastructure — to six new locations around the world (up from three in the U.S. and Europe that were available at launch).

But there is more: Azure’s Machine Learning service for big data modeling, which was announced earlier this year, will be available for public preview next week; the Azure Government Cloud is adding more partners and customer solutions, and the Azure Preview Portal — Microsoft’s new central management dashboard for all things Azure — is getting a number of new features, including support for Azure SQL Database.

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