Blog

Jane Dornemann

An avid explorer of both continents and consonants, Jane matches her passion for travel with her enthusiasm for words. A former journalist and PR pro, she brings the one-two punch of a well-written story and solid strategy.

Managing Storyteller | LinkedIn
We’re here to find your skill gaps

11/02/2023

We’re here to find your skill gaps

By Jane Dornemann

We’re here to find your skill gaps

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’ 

  • Hi, welcome to weirdo upside-down world where Amazon is about to become its No. 1 competitor’s biggest customer (by a long shot). No, you are not tripping on shrooms like an Alaska Airlines pilot, this is real.  
  • The Mayo Clinic is testing generative AI applications with its clinical staff through Microsoft’s 365 Copilot early access program. This news comes at the same time as Microsoft’s announcement of new tools in Microsoft Fabric and Azure AI for healthcare organizations. 
  • Accenture and AWS have teamed up to create the Accenture AWS Business Group and the launch of Velocity, a “continuous innovation engine.”  
  • Microsoft has FINALLY closed the Activision Blizzard deal and I am so happy to never have to write about this again.  
  • World Energy, a producer of sustainable aviation fuel (that’s a thing?), signed a long-term agreement with Microsoft to….geez, the press release doesn’t even tell you, really. But if I had to read between the lines, it sounds like Microsoft will use World Energy to fuel executive private jets between Seattle and NYC. But let us never utter the term “private jet” lest the masses catch on to our tomfoolery. 

World domination 

  • Microsoft is building a data center in Aragon, Spain, which looks like it just got added to my travel bucket list…especially because the region JUST WON THE SPANISH PIG AWARDS!!! Yes, Aragon has the best-performing pig farms, and is now holder of the “Porc d’Or” award. As published in Pig Progress Magazine. I’m serious. ::Subscribes:: 
  • AWS is opening a development center in Nairobi to create software development and cloud support. The region has been dubbed the “Silicon Savannah,” which could also be the term for the space between two breast implants, but OK. 
  • In one of the biggest news events to happen in Wales is the building of a Microsoft data center. It’s located in Newport—you know Newport—the city right next to Croesymwyalch, not far from Cwmbran and Llanfrechta. Yeah, that one. Hopefully, this news doesn’t get drowned out by recent local headlines such as the reopening of a local mini supermarket and inspectors’ praise for the local nursery, Tiny Tots. 
  • Microsoft just laid off nearly 700 employees at LinkedIn, primarily in the engineering department. And it will now ramp up hiring in India. Classic move. Maybe that switcheroo will help them pay off the $29B they owe in back taxes. Yeah, I said it. Cash me ousside. 
  • India is HOT and I don’t just mean it’s 130 degrees there at night. I mean everyone wants a piece. In addition to Microsoft’s hiring spree in the world’s most populated country, the government is unveiling digital health IDs with AWS. Biometrics in government hands? I can’t see any potential issues with that.  
  • And India’s HCLSoftware is collaborating with AWS so customers can consume the HCLSoftware portfolio as cloud-native services/SaaS in AWS.  

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security 

  • AWS, Google, and Telegram have been targeted by a malware campaign that uses “typosquatting” and “starjacking,” both of which sound like martial arts moves that could mess you up. Also, I hope it happens to me just so I can say “DAMN IT, I’VE BEEN STARJACKED!!!” 
  • The AI technology that Microsoft has been pushing is also, apparently, helping hackers hit their victims harder.  
  • But don’t confuse that with the campaign that attackers are conducting on SQL Server instances. And if you’re still into SQL Server after that, then you’ll be happy about the public preview of Azure SQL Database free offering. Get hacked—for free!! 
  • AND Google, AWS, and Cloudflare saw the largest DDoS attack in their history. None of the articles name the hacking group, which makes me mad because I want to see how cool their name is. But anyway, Google saw 398 million requests per second, otherwise known as whenever I am trying to relax and my son is home. The DDoS graph looks like a Silicon Savannah ifyouknowwhatImean. 

Gossip (for nerds) 

  • Satya Nadella is blaming Google for the fact that nobody uses Bing in a federal antitrust trial against Google. To get out from under Google’s hold on search, Microsoft told Apple it would pay billions to replace Google on Apple devices.  
  • And funny story: Bing Chat is under fire for security concerns. It’s crawling with malicious ads. It’s Google’s fault!!! 
  • Despite that hot mess, Microsoft posted 13% YoY sales growth in its last quarter earnings, beating expectations and adding to an overall “comeback” of tech. 
  • It’s a good week for anyone who owns Amazon stock, once again driven by AWS. CEO Andy Jassy says the success of AWS belongs to its work in generative AI with solutions like Amazon Bedrock. And, AWS sales went up 12% YoY. 
  • Sdx Central says the top three cloud providers are “battling” for the data center market. The article comes with a fantastical rendering of a city full of data centers on fire, bombarded by planes. (“Midjourney, show me a battle for data centers.”) This reminds me of those Army recruiting commercials that used to show before movies, where they made it look like if you joined you’d be fighting some superpower on a planet with three moons.  
  • A Microsoft VP who has been with the company for decades is now moving to Amazon, overseeing devices and services. His name is Panos Panay, which I have been repeating to myself for fun all morning. First I pretended I was a caterer at a nice event with a silver tray of apps and I ask people all fancy, “May I interest you in some Panos Panay?” and then I was offering someone advice and turned it into a Latin saying …”Well, you know what they say – Panos Panay.” 
  • Or maybe it will help them spend $3.2B in a “charm offensive” in Australia to push AI and cloud. Australia is currently looking to regulate AI.  

New stuff  

  • The Microsoft Azure Incubation team has launched Radius, a platform that lets developers collaborate on building cloud-native applications. In typical Microsoft fashion, this announcement opens with a 43-word sentence. 
  • AWS has launched its Process Optimization solution, which uses AI and ML to provide engineers with insights on downstream and midstream operations.  
  • New to Microsoft Viva is Skills, which will help organizations understand workforce skills and gaps and then deliver personalized learning to close those gaps through Viva Learning. 
  • I hope you powerful people like getting codes by text and email because AWS is going to require highest-privilege users to complete MFA starting next year. See, this is where it’s good to be a nobody. 
  • Amazon DataZone has become generally available. Users can catalog, discover, share, and govern data stored across AWS, on-premises, and third-party sources. 

Best Friends Forever 

  • Microsoft is partnering with AV provider Legrand to create a hybrid conference space for Microsoft Teams Rooms. These will be Signature Teams Rooms and probably look like EVERY OTHER MEETING ROOM. Look people, a work meeting is a work meeting. Fetch is never gonna happen. 
  • Immuta, which sounds like the Italian phrase for “I’ve turned the sound off on the TV,” has integrated its Data Fabric Security with AWS. 
  • IBM is set to train 10,000 consultants on AWS generative AI services. Sounds like a blast. 
  • Our friends at Databricks are now listed in AWS Marketplace for the US Intelligence Community. Now incompetence can be data-driven. 
  • Global professional services firm Genpact is partnering with AWS to fight financial crime with generative AI. The two will message financial criminals using an AI chatbot that says, “Are you SURE you want to do this? It’s really bad and not nice.” 
  • Tenovos, a digital asset management firm, has achieved its AWS Retail Competency. The company has proved it can shop til it drops and find the best deals on designer wear.  
  • Technology consulting firm Credera has earned its AWS Migration Competency.  
  • Data protection company Commvault has joined the AWS Workload Migration Program (WMP). 
  • Duality Technologies has joined the AWS Partner Network. It provides secure data center collaboration. 
  • Roadway intelligence firm Rekor has joined the AWS ISV Accelerate Program. 
  • Dubai-based Superbo, an AI solutions provider, is partnering with Microsoft to deploy Azure OpenAI across the African continent. 
Did Microsoft try to speak French in France?  

10/05/2023

Did Microsoft try to speak French in France?  

By Jane Dornemann

Did Microsoft try to speak French in France?  

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

New stuff  

  • Oooooh Mesh for Teams in public preview! You’ll need a Teams Premium account to create your Metaverse. It is very meta—we roleplay at work already, so now we will roleplay our roleplay. Whatever it takes to bring bongos to an earnings call.  
  • And the new Azure Update Manager, a SaaS solution for managing software updates on Windows and Linux machines across Azure, is now generally available. 
  • AWS launched EC2 R7iz instances, which offer a high CPU performance for intense workloads (do these workloads look like Kristen Stewart in every Twilight movie?). Nah, think simulations and electronic design. It also launched AWS Private CA Connector for Active Directory, which lets customers…do something more complicated than I care to explain here.   
  • Who cares about the ousted Speaker of the House when there’s a new AWS Competency in town?? AWS Partners can now earn a Telecommunications Competency, which includes key areas like communications as a service (CaaS) and business support systems (BSS). 
  • Telecom is so hot right now, says AWS, because the industry is “eagerly embracing” generative AI through an identified 17 use cases. 
  • Amazon Bedrock, which is not the jungle version of the Flintstone’s world but instead a solution that plays a major role in the AWS AI strategy, is now generally available—along with a few other AI innovations. 
  • Dell has launched APEX Cloud Platform for Microsoft Azure, making them the first MSFT partner in the cloud provider’s Premier Solutions for Azure Stack HCI category. 
  • Are you a gigantic company? Do you want Microsoft 365 Copilot to supplement your core productivity apps? Congrats, it’s here for you
  • Microsoft has unloaded some new generative AI tools for the advertising industry. 

Wheelin’ and dealin’ 

  • IT solutions giant Infosys is partnering with Microsoft to meld their AI capabilities as a way to “lead the generative AI revolution.” Thanks for the specifics, I can’t wait to see the results of whatever you didn’t say you’re doing. 
  • Build Your Own Lake (BYOL) is a new part of the expanded partnership between AWS and Salesforce. It lets customers infuse AWS AI-centered services like Amazon SageMaker through Salesforce’s Einstein Trust Layer and unify Salesforce Data Cloud with AWS data-centric services like Amazon Redshift. 
  • AWS and Cloudera signed an agreement that allows the Cloudera Cloud Platform to integrate directly with AWS services. Cloudera will also build all its generative AI stuff on AWS. 
  • And then (a lil’ late to the party) Oracle says it wants to form multi-cloud agreements with Salesforce, AWS, Workday, and every other major cloud app. This article has some pretty interesting takes from Larry Ellison.  
  • The biggest AWS news to grace our media-overloaded brains is Amazon’s $4B investment in Anthropic AI, an AI safety and research company. In exchange, AWS gets partial ownership and will be Anthropic’s primary cloud provider. Anthropic will also use Amazon’s AI chips. Cute! 
  • Of related interest is this Q&A with Diya Wynn, the responsible AI lead at AWS. 
  • There’s a healthcare system called Mercy. Literally that’s the whole name. And they’re partnering with Microsoft to use AI to “lighten the load” on healthcare employees. The two are exploring more than four dozen mercy-packed uses of AI to transform care experiences for patients and employees. If I were in charge of marketing, the slogan would be “Have Mercy” and the logo would be Uncle Jesse’s face.   
  • And Accenture is helping New York’s Mount Sinai Health System move to Azure. 
  • Oracle is expanding its deal with Microsoft and will co-locate Oracle’s Exadata database-optimized server and Real Application Clusters in Microsoft Azure data centers. Why does Oracle remind me of the roommate who said no to takeout but then when yours arrives they want to know if you’ll split it with them?  
  • Sports gaming company FanDuel is further moving its operations to AWS to “support…millions of simultaneous players as they place bets…” If that’s not critical societal innovation, I don’t know what is. 
  • Application software security platform Contrast Security now integrates with AWS Security Hub. This will allow customers to address security concerns before their apps are deployed. So I guess Microsoft won’t be using it. 
  • Mission Cloud, a managed cloud services provider and AWS Premier Tier Partner (they get a free drink in first class), signed a collab with AWS to develop the consulting firm’s data, analytics, ML, and generative AI solutions on AWS. 
  • Cloud-based remote monitoring and management company Atera has launched a new AI-powered IT suite with Microsoft Azure Open AI. 
  • Every day is Earth Day for KPMG and Microsoft, who will jointly release a new educational platform on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). 
  • Cloud connectivity company Cloudflare is collaborating with Microsoft to make it easier for companies to run AI in the location of their choice. I don’t mean, like, the snack kitchen. I mean like on networks and stuff. 
  • In finance, Finastra announced it would modernize its trade platform using a microservices architecture on Azure.   

World domination 

  • British banking and insurance company NatWest group is partnering with AWS to accelerate the use of generative AI. The two will co-create responsible AI products using Amazon Bedrock as part of NatWest’s new AWS Generative AI Innovation Center. 
  • I swear to god the EU is just going down the list of Microsoft products one by one—they are now scrutinizing the Teams Video app. Did an American Microsoft person cut their spaghetti with a knife or something? Try to speak French in France? Say they were vegetarian in Greece? Show up 10 seconds late for a meeting in Germany? Geez… 
  • On the topic of Germany: Deutsche Telekom unveiled the commercial availability of a full-stack private 5G network service that rides on Azure’s private multi-access edge compute (MEC) platform. 
  • Two companies from the two biggest oil producers in the world are screaming “sustainability now!” so it must be legit. Saudi Arabian business Abdul Latif Jameel has selected AWS as its preferred cloud provider and in turn will provide AWS with clean energy capacity via solar in Spain.   
  • Also, Amazon got permission to plan three new data centers in north Dublin to which a group called Friends of the Earth, Not Here Not Anywhere said the projects would increase the country’s emissions. The government was like no, you’re wrong. And then the resistance group was like, no, we’re actually right because we did the math, we got receipts. And then the government was like, that’s nice we like money, byyyyeeee.  

Gossip (for nerds) 

  • Jeff Bezos is still worth more than OpenAI. But we’ll see how long that lasts now that OpenAI is launching ChatGPT Enterprise, which offers enterprise-grade privacy and security, advanced data analysis, and a longer context window. Some of the money will pay for lawsuits, which may be straining the relationship between Microsoft and OpenAI. 
  • AI uses a lot of water and energy, and there is only so much to go around (unless you’re Coca Cola in which case they’ll just let your crops die because you know what helps distract from hunger? A nice cold coke). For this reason, Microsoft is considering nuclear energy. 

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security 

  • A Chinese hacker stole 60,000 emails from 10 U.S. State Department accounts thanks to a flaw that let the hacker improperly use an Azure Active Directory key. And then another flaw led the key to not even be detected. So, in short, we’re doing real good.  
  • This is a Microsoft news update so we all know there was going to be more than one security problem. And maybe if they didn’t force people into the new Teams I’d be nicer about it, but what’s done is done. Microsoft AI researcher exposed terabytes of sensitive data on GitHub; the data included two of Microsoft employees’ entire workstations. 
  • On the plus side, GitHub Advanced Security for Azure DevOps is now generally available LMAAAOOOOOO. 

Best Friends Forever 

  • MSFT:  
    • New to Azure Marketplace are CGI’s All Payments solution; LeapXpert’s Communication Platform; and Lightbits’ Cloud Data Platform. 
    • ECS is now a solution partner in three designated areas: Azure Infrastructure, Digital & App Innovation, and Data & AI. 
  • AWS: 
    • Arduino, an open-source electronic prototyping platform—otherwise known as the kit my husband bought two years ago and still hasn’t touched but insists he will—has joined the AWS Partner Network to assist customers in industrial and commercial sectors deliver enterprise-grade Arduino products. Arduino Cloud has run on AWS infrastructure for the last three years. 
    • SequenceShift earned AWS Travel and Hospitality Competency and TCS achieved AWS Automotive Competency. 
    • New to AWS Marketplace: Veriff, a global identity verification provider; Contentful’s Composable Content Platform; Bright Security’s Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) scanner; MixMode’s Cloud Detection and Response (CDR) for AWS; and IRONSCALES (they don’t have to yell!), a cloud email security solution.  
    • Tray.io, which offers a platform for generating money-making AI content, is now an AWS APN member. Its platform is also available in AWS Marketplace. 
    • Ripcord, which offers a document intelligence as a service (DIaaS) platform, has joined the AWS ISV Accelerate program. 

Miscellany 

  • You have until 2025 to say your goodbyes to Azure Database MariaDB. 
  • AWS has selected 13 tech startups to be part of its first GovTech accelerator, which will provide cloud support for businesses focused on criminal justice and public safety. Prisoners will be able to see which color uniforms best compliment their skin tones using an AI-powered filter. 
Gen AI—America’s favorite snack

09/12/2023

Gen AI—America’s favorite snack

By Jane Dornemann

Gen AI—America’s favorite snack

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Gossip (for nerds)

  • NVIDIA chips have become a hotter item than black market kidneys as companies “go to extreme lengths” to remedy the GPU shortage. In response, AWS is promoting its own AI chips and the adoption of Amazon Bedrock, which bakes chip needs into the offering. Meanwhile Microsoft is offering refunds to customers who curb their GPU usage.
  • If you don’t want to return to the Amazon office then get ready to like government cheese. Andy Jassey said that employees should forget about the Amazon mantra of “disagree and commit” for leadership’s push to return to soul-sucking cubicle life. This message was delivered in the bravest of fashions using the good old pre-recorded session.
  • SAP’s new global head of AI was previously the Microsoft VP of AI for the business and application platform group. She has a PhD from MIT…how mid.
  • A shake-up may be coming to the AWS Partner program. The cloud giant teased changes to partner-to-partner engagement and AWS Marketplace in relation to generative AI. I actually know about one of these changes and while I don’t have a PhD from MIT, I did major in KEEPING SECRETS at life university with a weighted GPA of 4.18.
  • Microsoft has changed its policy to allow customers to use Microsoft 365 on Amazon WorkSpaces. Why such a big licensing change now? The report speculates that the move may be a result of pressure from large customers and the EU’s ongoing examination of anti-competitive practices. Amazon WorkSpaces is on a shortlist of software that can now run on Microsoft 365, leaving other big firms, like VMware, to ask when it will be their turn.
  • AWS has hired two new executives to its senior leadership team, one for AI and one for EC2 (the third is for Amazon, check out her amazing profile here).
  • The whole “I’ll patch it in two years, MAYBE” security approach that Microsoft has had over the years is not flying with customers anymore, including the federal government. A mounting number of infosec professionals and vendors are getting loud about Microsoft’s lack of transparency, lack of urgency, and increasing occurrence of security issues. It’s gotten to the point where the US Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation into Microsoft’s handling of a major attack on its Azure cloud infrastructure. This will definitely hurt the cloud company’s attempt to position itself as a cybersecurity leader.
  • It’s rumored that Google plans to release its contender to OpenAI’s GPT-4, Gemini, this fall.
  • More people with a 1.7 GPA in keeping secrets: Microsoft is planning to start selling a new version of Databricks software that helps customers make AI apps for businesses.

World domination

  • Africa: AWS opened its first international AWS Skills Center in Cape Town, South Africa. It offers free training to help people move into cloud careers. And startups from six African countries have been chosen to participate in a boot camp run by AWS and Harvard Innovation Labs’ NextGen Accelerator. 25 Black-led startups were selected in total, with founders from U.S. HBCUs also in the cohort.
  • Asia: AWS APJ is tapping Korean startups to be part of its six-week-long Generative AI Accelerator program. And AWS debuted a new Dedicated Local Zone in Singapore, which will help organizations in the public sector and regulated industries meet regulatory standards.
  • Europe: Finland’s Savings Bank Group is moving all of its data and systems to Azure. Boring news from a boring country. I love you Finland, but you are not the Friday nights of countries!

New stuff

  • AWS introduced HealthImaging, a HIPAA-eligible service that lets healthcare providers store, analyze, and share medical imaging data at scale. Wait, so I can just…get images? You’re saying, AWS, that I don’t have to call up my old neurologist at NYU and request my brain MRI only to be told I have to make the request in person, so I fly to New York City, sign a release waiver, wait two days, go to pick it up only to find out my other doctor needs it in a different format, then fly back to NYC again, except this time the front desk tells me oh sorry that lady you spoke to was new, we no longer provide imaging in that format anymore and then I just, I dunno, die?
  • AWS wants to teach its healthcare customers and partners in Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean how to build solutions. It will do this through its pilot of AWS Industry Quest: Healthcare, which sounds a lot like you’ll be playing Tomb Raider instead of developing apps.
  • Microsoft feels like the one thing missing from this world is another male voice, so it added one to its Azure AI Text to Speech tool.
  • AWS launched an EC2 service powered by custom Intel Xeon Scalable processors, otherwise known as Sapphire Rapids.
  • Microsoft has announced the general availability of its Azure Operating Nexus for telcos. The explanation of what it does is a real snooze fest and my workday ends in 15 minutes so you’ll have to go without.
  • In its ongoing love letter to startups, AWS has unveiled AWS Build, a global program meant to help early-stage startups get their ideas off the ground.
  • Can’t leave frontline and shift workers out of the Copilot revolution. It must be high on their list of must-haves, well above cost of living pay raises and sick days, for sure. Fret not field service workers because now there’s a preview of Copilot in Dynamics 365 just for you.

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • Are DDoS days the new snow days? Cyberattacks have increasingly led to lost learning in K-12 schools, so AWS has pledged $20M in grants for cybersecurity resiliency efforts in education. This is part of the White House’s increased federal support for school cybersecurity.
  • Digital pathology provider Paige has teamed up with Microsoft to build the world’s largest image-based AI intelligence model for identifying cancer.
  • AWS has announced that its Service Catalog now supports HashiCorp Terraform Cloud. This facilitates self-service provisioning with governance so that developers don’t have to wait on cranky IT folks to set their shiz up.
  • BMW chose AWS as the platform on which it will develop its next-gen driver assistance system, set to launch in 2025. Qualcomm will also play a role in development.
    • Separately, Qualcomm is touting its growing influence in the automotive sector, including a strategic partnership with AWS.
  • Microsoft and AI startup Synthetaic are working together to analyze data from space and air sensors. This was the same company that independently tracked the Chinese spy balloon, something that was on my shortlist of Halloween costumes but is now too obscure.
  • Aptos, a blockchain platform developed by a former Facebook employee (I bet it’s a GREAT place for women to work), is partnering with Microsoft to bring AI to blockchain. That includes building tools to help banks explore blockchain on Azure.
  • EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHERS are helping businesses accelerate AI adoption:
    • LeanIX, which sells a transformation platform that helps companies with visibility and governance, has partnered with Microsoft to launch LeanIX Assistant. The press release goes on to say it’s the first of its kind, but I’m gonna spoiler alert you and let you know that it’s not.
    • IBM Consulting is helping clients implement and scale Azure OpenAI Service. It will guide businesses in defining an adoption strategy and identify use cases.
    • AWS has “let me show you how to use this thing” collabs too! HCLTech will help AWS customers adopt AI using AWS services such as Amazon Bedrock and Amazon CodeWhisperer.
    • And government modernization facilitator CACI struck a deal with AWS to help the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, and law enforcement use AI to do things like share sensitive data to generate insights. SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA.
    • IT infrastructure services provider Kyndryl is working with Microsoft to launch an AI-readiness program that will enable the ethical adoption of enterprise AI solutions.

Miscellany

  • Have you ever offered to do something for somebody, and as soon as it came out of your mouth you were like, why did I just offer to do that? That’s Microsoft this week after saying it will accept liability for any customer’s copyright infringement over material generated by its AI software! The idea is to get more people comfortable with using the software. This applies exclusively to paying customers of GitHub Copilot, which creates computer code with generative AI, as well as Microsoft 365 Copilot, which applies AI to products including Word, Teams, and PowerPoint.
  • Amazon has acquired Fig, a startup that produces tools to assist developers. It will be folded into AWS.
  • Microsoft has ended unlimited storage for OneDrive business plans because you can never have too much money. It’s also ended Windows support for Cortana in favor of focusing on Copilot.
  • AWS is ending its low-code Honeycode service. The end-of-life announcement drew only six replies from customers. Is this like when Phish announced they were retiring in 2004?
  • Another reason why Europe offers a better quality of life: Microsoft will stop forcing Windows 11 users into the Edge browser.

Best Friends Forever

  • New to Microsoft Azure Marketplace:
    • Globalgig’s Orchestra platform, which helps businesses manage global network services.
    • DeskConnect, an AI/ML solution that extracts and analyzes text from documents, including handwritten ones. I know a former president who hates to read but loves documents who would have liked that about a year ago.
  • Red Hat OpenShift for the U.S. Intelligence Community is now available in AWS Marketplace. It will help the government innovate while also maintaining stringent security. Both of those things are new concepts to the government, so take ‘er nice and slow there guys. Also new to AWS Marketplace:
    • SOCi, which offers a platform that helps multi-location enterprises employ automation tools and data management to drive customer engagement.
    • Outreach, an AI-powered sales execution platform.
  • PingSafe, a CNAPP provider, has joined the AWS ISV Accelerator and so has ComplyAdvantage, a financial crime intelligence company.
  • Alfa, a finance software provider, joined the AWS Partner Network after passing the technical review.
  • HashiCorp has joined Microsoft’s Intelligence Security Association.
  • Consulting firm Protiviti earned its AI and ML specialization from Microsoft.
  • Data science and AI solutions provider Tredence has achieved its AWS Service Delivery designation for Amazon EMR and Amazon RDS. Analytics company SAS achieved AWS Digital Customer Experience Competency. Onebeat, which provides AI-enabled supply chain solutions for retailers, was awarded the AWS Retail Competency. And Zero Trust company Netskope earned its Security Competency status in the Infrastructure Protection category.
Photo of the 2A team sitting on a stage

08/22/2023

You can’t have collaboration without feedback 

By Jane Dornemann

Photo of the 2A team sitting on a stage

Image by Alejandra Maria Photography

Feedback is the cornerstone of the creative process at 2A, whether it’s an internal discussion on the best way to revise an introduction or debating how to integrate client feedback about a design. That’s why we asked Michaela Ayers of Nourish to lead a workshop on navigating “creative conflict” and constructive feedback at our company retreat this year. Here’s what we learned.

The Thomas-Kilmann Model is a great way to understand conflict management styles. Have you ever had someone steamroll your idea, and you stayed quiet? Or have you and a colleague experienced tension over opposing ideas you were championing, but tried to find a happy medium?  

We all have certain habits when it comes to navigating sticky situations based on our personality and preferences.  Understanding how you and your collaborators instinctively respond to conflict can help you be more efficient in your approach to delivering constructive feedback. (This writer NEEDS the compliment sandwich.)

The Thomas-Kilmann model below states that the way we work with others tends to fall into different behavioral patterns: competing (high in assertiveness, low in cooperativeness); compromising (high in both assertiveness and compromising); accommodating (low in assertiveness, high in cooperativeness); and avoidance (low in both assertiveness and cooperativeness). At the center of this graph is the golden ticket, collaboration. Often, our management styles will shift depending on the context of whom we are working with and what we are working on.  

Image adapted from the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict model

Each of these styles has pros and cons. None of these styles is better than the other, they are simply different, encompassing various “light” and “shadow” traits. For example, an accommodating team member may be able to resolve conflict faster and keep the peace but can later harbor resentment over their unheard opinions. A competing team member is a decisive, efficient problem-solver—but they can be ego-driven and dominating. (Hey, stop thinking of that person. Stick with us for the rest of this.)

What does collaboration look like? True collaboration is about working toward a win-win in which everyone feels heard, valued, and uses creative problem-solving. But even collaboration has a downside: it’s time intensive. And effective collaboration requires something that research has shown to be highly important in the workplace, which is psychological safety. Aligned with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, achieving psychological safety builds upon itself through stages—so fostering growth of these elements at work is crucial to effective collaboration based on well-delivered (and well-received) feedback.  

So…how do you build psychological safety? It’s not simple or overly prescriptive, but the overarching idea is to connect with the people you’re providing feedback to; observe their work and feelings; communicate the impact of the recommendations; listen to their thoughts, and then iron out a mutually beneficial solution. In our open discussion, we found that the collegial relationships we’ve nurtured with each other have laid a strong foundation for mutual respect and safety in expressing ideas (which might be why we have five stars on Glassdoor). 

After another successful retreat on the books, we’ve noticed that we’re already putting what we’ve learned into practice. And we bet our clients will notice, too. 

If you’re interested in hosting a workshop like this for your teams, reach out to Michaela



decorative image of a hot air balloon

08/10/2023

Does your cloud worm need a scarf?

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image of a hot air balloon

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • Multinational IT company Capgemini is collaborating with Microsoft to build an Azure Intelligent App Factory. It will help businesses develop responsible and sustainable generative AI capabilities that will generate “tangible outcomes.” Do they know what “tangible” means? Is the office building going to be smoother? Will the CEO’s skin get softer?
  • Occidental, an international energy company, is migrating to AWS. One of the things it plans to do is develop a system for its large-scale carbon dioxide capture plants…HURRY IT UP WE’RE ROASTING/DROWNING/STARVING OUT HERE!!!
  • Tackle.io, an end-to-end solution for B2B software companies, is co-selling a solution with AWS that will help ISVs accelerate their move to the cloud. It includes everything from training to system integration.
  • “Nonprofit” insurance provider Blue Shield of California has partnered with Microsoft to build a new data hub on Azure. It’s called the Experience Cube (sounds like a weird secret medical experimentation thing). It will bring together provider, patient, and payer data in real time so that services are more personalized. “In the Experience Cube, we want to see how many medical procedures people can withstand without anesthesia, while also remaining alive, so we can personalize approvals and billing,” one Blue Cross employee said, citing pain control for invasive surgeries as a “largely unnecessary” practice.
  • Trend Micro has seen sales soar since entering AWS Marketplace. Good for them I guess.
  • In a mutually beneficial arrangement, professional services firm Genpact will use Azure OpenAI to offer new capabilities to clients. This includes applications such as “transition management” in which an AI-generated likeness of Gary Busey tells you you’re fired. Anyway, I went through the release to see where Microsoft wins in this, but no dice.
  • Observability platform LogicMonitor has expanded its monitoring coverage across AWS services.
  • Caylent, a cloud services company, signed a strategic agreement with AWS to expand data and generative AI solutions for its customers. Caylent plans to use this collaboration to scale its Canadian presence, which will include requiring all employees to constantly say thank you, please, and sorry, as well as consume at least 5 pounds of maple syrup and Canadian Bacon (known as “bacon” in Canada) daily until they’re in good with our northerly neighbors.
  • Hitachi Vantara, a subsidiary of Hitachi, released its Unified Compute Platform for Azure Stack HCI. It helps businesses manage different environments and hybrid cloud setups.
  • The federal government has approved the use of Azure OpenAI service for projects involving highly sensitive data. LOL see you in the security section of this newsletter next week.

World domination

  • AWS launched a Local Zone Edge location in Phoenix. It has already melted.
  • And then it launched a new infrastructure Region in Tel Aviv, Israel. But that also melted!!
  • Brazil’s B3 stock exchange, one of the world’s leading financial markets, is migrating to AWS. AWS is one of the exchange’s three cloud providers (the others being Microsoft and Oracle).
  • Feel-good story time! An amazing 13-year-old in Nigeria just wowed the tech world by becoming Africa’s youngest Certified AWS Developer. He studied up to five hours every day for six weeks to pass the certification test. The youngest person in the world to achieve this designation to date is Karthick Arun, a ten-year-old based out of Arizona. Who has his own LinkedIn profile. Sorry about your melted Local Zone, Karthick.
  • UK-based Telecom giant Vodafone is expanding its work with AWS (primarily using AWS Wavelength) to bring low-latency services to several locations in Spain.

Gossip (for nerds)

  • Google is doing more poaching than a restaurant kitchen at brunch. It has recently hired a total of five big execs away from AWS and Microsoft. See who they are here.
  • European Commission has opened a formal investigation into claims that Microsoft breached EU competition rules by bundling together Teams to suites such as Office 365 and Microsoft 365. It’s not so much a bundling as it is more of a…hugging. They’re hugging each other. Don’t be a patriarchal Ken.
  • The former Enterprise Executive Strategic Advisor at AWS has jumped to digital transformation services firm GFT, where she’ll be SVP, Global Head AWS Sales and Strategy.
  • Amazon’s earnings saw 12% growth YoY in Q2—beyond what analysts expected—largely driven by its AWS division. CEO Andy Jassy said the revenue is coming less from cloud migrations, which many companies have already done, and more from those looking to innovate in the cloud. The other money maker was the release of Amazon Bedrock, which simplifies AI model deployment.
  • Meanwhile, Microsoft saw 8% growth in Q2 and a 20% rise in profit. However, it’s never enough for some people, so shares fell 2.1% after investors expressed disappointment about Azure’s slower than desired growth. (Wow this takes me back to 12-year-old Jane at the pediatrician’s office.)
    • Even still, Microsoft says it’s proud of the growth its Salesforce rival, Dynamics, has seen. Dynamics is growing faster than any of the company’s other major product categories. To drive even more sales, it is offering subsidies to potential customers.
  • In response to government concerns, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other large tech firms made a commitment to meet a set of AI safeguards. If this promise to the White House is anything like the promises coming out of the White House, we are in trouble.

New stuff

  • Do hyper-productive Oompa Loompas work at Microsoft? Because the company has announced a bunch of new products, short of a chocolate river flowing through Redmond:
    • Microsoft announced the preview of Azure Application Gateway for Containers and the public preview of Azure Deployment Stacks.
    • It’s also previewing Microsoft Azure Boost, which will improve the performance of virtual machines.
    • Microsoft introduced TypeChat, a library that enables large language model development.
    • It announced a more secure version of its AI-powered Bing chat. “We really need to protect the 17 people who use Bing chat worldwide,” a spokesperson said.
  • The “we can do it better than Google Maps” triad of Microsoft, AWS, and Meta has released its first “open map” dataset, which includes four layers: transportation networks, geopolitical boundaries (can’t WAIT to see what they put for Taiwan), buildings, and places of interest.
  • In the last cloud cover, I mentioned that Microsoft was partnering with Teladoc to do transcription things. Well, looks like AWS is doing it, too, with the announcement of HealthScribe.
  • While AWS and Microsoft have both opened education centers around AI for IT and developers, there is still more ground to cover. Which is why AWS has unveiled its free Skill Builder program for executives on its YouTube channel. Since it’s for executives the first step they cover is how to turn on your computer.
  • AWS has unveiled AWS Entity Resolution, which sounds like it’s an exorcist. But it just matches and links disparate records to create a 360-view of customers. This can be used for industries from finance to travel.
  • Amazon EC2 P5 instances for AI/ML and HPC workloads is now generally available. A result of the company’s collab with NVIDIA, the solution reduces latency and makes scale-out performance more efficient.

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security

  • Zenbleed, which sounds like a Buddhist monk with a papercut, is a new vulnerability that could touch 62% of AWS environments. AWS is working on fixing it, but in the meantime, Google has released patches.
  • Tenable’s CEO is calling attention to Microsoft’s four-month-long process of releasing a still-nowhere-to-be-found patch for a vulnerability in Azure. He had some choice words for Microsoft, which you can find here. Cage fight!
  • Bad people have been controlling AWS System Manager agents by using a separate, maliciously owned AWS account. I feel like I maliciously own things, like my Brita that always, always needs to be refilled. Forever, until I die.
  • Check Point Research says Microsoft is THE most imitated brand used for phishing attacks (we’ve all danced with Microloft, haven’t we?). In a highly American move, Microsoft said it’s Russia’s fault, as it crushed a Bud Light can against its forehead while riding a tractor that mows down poor people. But one Senator disagrees, and is calling for a Justice Department investigation into Microsoft’s “negligent cybersecurity practices”—citing the company’s role in a recent disastrous attack by Chinese hackers.
  • Hacker group TeamTNT started targeting AWS environments before it expanded to Azure and Google Cloud. The TeamTNT has been improving their attack scripts over time to do everything from mining crypto to conducting straight up data theft. There are suspicions that the hackers are preparing to release an “aggressive cloud worm.” I WANT AN AGGRESSIVE CLOUD WORM. I’d dress him up in a little scarf and coat and he could sleep on a flower and maybe then he’ll turn nice.

Best Friends Forever

  • AWS has named CrowdStrike the 2023 US ISV Partner of the Year.
  • AWS needed more Cowbell and that’s what it got. SMB cyber insurance provider Cowbell (they HAD to know what they were doing) is now part of the AWS Cyber Insurance Partner Initiative.
  • ML tooling company Edge Impulse has joined the AWS ISV Accelerate Program while data protection and management solutions vendor Commvault has joined the AWS ISV Workload Migration Program.
  • Aquia, a SaaS company headquartered in the well-known and often-talked-about city of Millsboro, Delaware, has achieved Advanced Tier Services Partner status within the AWS Partner Network.
  • Skyflow, a data privacy vault company, has joined the AWS Partner Network and is now in AWS Marketplace.
  • Digital transformation firm Grid Dynamics has become a member of Microsoft’s Azure Migration and Modernization Program.
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07/27/2023

Is Florida for sale? Because I know a newly rich salesperson. 

By Jane Dornemann

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Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’ 

  • Tax, audit, and advisory firm KPMG has made a multi-billion-dollar commitment to Microsoft (OMG who got that sales comish?! Maybe that person can just buy Florida and put us all out of our misery already). The company will use the Microsoft Cloud and AI services to do things like run smart auditing, get more integrated access to data, and create specialized client solutions. 
  • Teladoc Health plans to integrate Microsoft’s AI-enabled notetaking tools for clinical documentation so physicians can auto-transcribe things like patient visits. OH NO, what if someone comes into the ER and says on arrival, “I’ve got a high temperature!” and the transcription doesn’t work so when the doctor says, “Patient said on arrival they were hot” turns into “Patient dead on arrival, they were hot.” Then someone goes out to tell the family the terrible news except the patient isn’t actually dead, it’s just a fever, and then in the courtroom during the ensuing lawsuit, the doctor is accused of sick thoughts for thinking a dead person was sexually attractive. Maybe we should hit the brakes on this one. 
  • Lacework, which always makes me think of grandma’s doilies, is expanding its partnership with AWS to offer anomaly detection with composite alerts linked to Amazon GuardDuty findings. It also includes integrations with Amazon Security Hub. 
  • In its “growing partnership with Meta…as a preferred partner,” Microsoft and Snowflake announced their support for the Llama 2 family of large language learning models (LLMs). Available on Azure and Windows, this will help developers build generative AI-powered tools. (Not to be confused with AI power tools, which don’t exist but should.) 
  • Snowflake and Microsoft are also working together to simplify their joint customers’ AI projects. The two are working on integrations with Microsoft products like Power Apps and Azure ML. A bigger deal is that joint customers will be able to use Azure OpenAI Service with records stored in Snowflake.  
  • Dell thinks Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 are too complicated to use together, so it’s offering professional services to show businesses how to do so successfully.  
  • Data development platform provider MongoDB is expanding its global efforts with Microsoft to include integrations, service options, and joint marketing initiatives. 
  • Splunk announced it will build its new cloud solutions natively on Azure. Splunk is also previewing its AI Assistant, a generative AI chat interface that is an improved version of the former SPL Copilot. 
  • Global banking firm BBVA will use AWS to deliver advanced analytics and data services in the cloud as part of its data and AI transformation process. Automated insights! Unified data! I can hardly contain myself over this new look. I LOVE makeovers and think this should be a reality show. It would be a Queer Eye meets The Office meets Billions meets Silicon Valley.  
  • In a new collab with Microsoft, Teradata is bringing its VantageCloud Lake to Azure, which will broaden Teradata’s generative AI use cases. 
  • French company Teleperformance, which provides digital communications services to businesses, is using Azure OpenAI in a $185M deal to improve its business communication services. 

World domination 

  • The ability to leave Ohio is no longer the best thing about it—AWS is investing $7.8B to expand its central Ohio data center.   
  • AWS has launched a CloudFront edge location in Lagos, Nigeria. It’s the first one in the country. 
  • In a pioneering act for Japan, banking firm Mizuho is rolling out Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service to 45,000 employees. Staff are pitching ideas on how to use it, but some have already been using it for things like scanning wealthy client portfolios. I wanna scan wealthy client portfolios!!  
  • Leading African payments technology company Flutterwave is working with Microsoft to build its next-gen platform on Azure. 

Gossip (for nerds) 

  • Just as Microsoft dropped a hefty price tag for its corporate AI tools, AWS says it’s focusing on lowering the computing costs customers will need to implement AI, including the price performance of its chips. 
  • It’s a LinkedIn key party! Raejeanne Skillern is now AWS VP and CMO; former AWS data center exec Chris Vonderhaar is now VP of demand and supply management at Google; and once-AWS CMO Rachel Thornton is CMO at Fivetran. 
  • Analysts have no doubt that AI will be Microsoft’s cash cow, driving a potential $100B in revenue by 2027. That is like, 100 Kardashians. In turn, expect the stock price to jump about 25%. Within this broader AI push are six money-making strategies, which include AI APIs, telecom, “bringing Copilot to the masses,” and generative AI for government. (In fact, the company did just add AI tools for Azure Government.) Bing was also cited as a driver but hey, analysts can’t get it right all the time. 

New stuff  

  • Time to learn good! AWS is investing $100M in a generative AI center that will teach businesses how to create and deploy AI projects. The center is already working with companies like Ryan Air and Lonely Planet. 
  • At Inspire, Microsoft said some AI features are headed to Azure, most notably Vector Search, which uses ML to understand the meaning and context of unstructured data.  
  • AWS announced the General Availability of AppFabric, a no-code service that stitches together SaaS applications and security tools. Eventually, AppFabric will get AI capabilities powered by Amazon Bedrock, where The Flintstones live. 
  • Microsoft thinks people are a bunch of AI dumb-dumbs and that we need to get smart on the technology, so to motivate our lazy asses the company is doling out grants, courses, and toolkits for teachers.  
  • Laminar, which sounds like a cheap finishing that goes on my kitchen cabinets but is actually an agile data security platform, co-built a security solution with AWS. It automatically installs, configures, and integrates with native AWS Cloud Foundational Services across multiple domains. 

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security 

  • It was not a great month for Microsoft security. Orca Security, forever the Microsoft tattletale, disclosed two vulnerabilities in Azure Bastion and Azure Container Registry. 
  • An Azure Portal outage affected 77% of users due to a DDoS attack led by the hacker Anonymous Sudan. But before you’re all like, stop being a jerk Sudan, it was actually Russia. ::Feigns shock:: 
  • Then, a Chinese cyber-espionage group known as Storm-0558 breached the emails of 25 organizations, INCLUDING the US State and Commerce Department. And Microsoft still doesn’t know how they got a hold of the keys they used to access an inactive Microsoft account. 
  • THEN, Microsoft admitted that a Russian cybercrime group called RomCom exploited a vulnerability that is YET TO BE PATCHED in a phishing attack against organizations attending the NATO Summit. The phishing attack “deployed payloads called RomCom Backdoor” which just…takes on a whole different vibe.  

Best Friends Forever 

  • AWS  
    • Multimodal synthetic data generation platform Gretel is now on AWS Marketplace. Can you imagine how boring a marriage to someone would be who works at a multimodal synthetic data generation platform company? I would DREAD the obligatory “what happened at work today?” question. Ugh, prepare my gallows. 
    • Planetscale, a serverless database management company, has joined the AWS ISV Accelerate program. 
    • Digital product engineering company Simform has achieved SaaS competency status with AWS. 
    • Snowflake achieved the US Department of Defense Impact Level 4 Authorization on AWS GovCloud. Sounds scary! Do they get to see Area 51, or what? If not, then ignore this news because it doesn’t matter.  
  • Microsoft 
    • Vector database company Pinecone is now available on Microsoft Azure.  
    • UK-based Sandbox provider NayaOne has arrived on Azure. It helps banks to accelerate solution discovery, prototyping, and scaling. 
    • Whatfix, a digital adoptions platform, is now listed on Azure Marketplace. 
    • Mobile app defense company Appdome has integrated its Cyber Defense Automation Platform with Microsoft Azure DevOps. 

Miscellany 

  • TCS is training 25,000 of its engineers to certify them in Azure OpenAI.  
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06/15/2023

Someone take the wheel at the AWS Mumbai data center! 

By Jane Dornemann

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Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Gossip (for nerds) 

  • AWS is bleeding dudes!!! The dude that oversees AWS data centers globally peaced out abruptly—with no public explanation—after 13 years at the company. This comes at the same time as Puneet Chandok’s resignation; he was the head of AWS in India and South Asia. No update as to where these dudes are going, if anywhere. 
  • Investors expressed concern over Microsoft’s (and Apple’s) unprecedented influence over the S&P 500—ya see, the two added $1T to their market value this year. This comes just after Microsoft announced it didn’t have the budget to give raises in 2023. Microsoft is practically cutting bologna slices in half to survive over there, huh. 
  • Microsoft is calling upon the government to establish a regulatory body for AI, including licensing requirements for operating the most powerful AI technology. I’m sorry, you want the GOVERNMENT to oversee AI? Is this the same government that asked Mark Zuckerberg questions like “When I use the Google, can Facebook hear my advertisements on Alexa?”  
  • The company will watermark AI-generated images and videos, so we’re saved! (Check out our blog on 2A’s experience with AI-generated images.) 
  • The FTC says Microsoft violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act when it collected personal information about children who signed up for its Xbox gaming system. The cloud giant will pay $20M to settle the claim. So, it looks like this Activision acquisition is off to a great start.  
  • PSYCH no it’s not. The FTC requested a temporary block on the deal and a judge granted it. This is huge because if this deal does not go through by July 18, Microsoft would have to pay Activision $3B dollars. Do you know how many violations of the Children’s Protection Act that would be? 150 violations. 

World domination 

  • Oh no, we lost the data center dude and the head of India dude, which is bad timing for the land purchase for this new AWS data center in India. Mumbai, look out, there’s nobody at this wheel!!! 
  • AWS is Hungary for some European real estate and has opened an office in Budapest ::overly aggressive elbow nudge to make sure you acknowledge my word play:: 
  • For its first-ever fintech accelerator based in Africa, AWS has selected 25 startups in pre-seed and seed stage. Fun fact: of the seven unicorn startups to emerge from Africa, six are fintechs. 
  • Japan’s NEC Corporation has expanded its strategic collaboration with AWS to include solution development, AWS training for NEC employees, and usage of AWS Direct Connect for hybrid environments. 
  • What do you get when you combine an espresso with a data center? Microsoft’s first cloud region in Italy
  • Asia-Pacific BetterPlace is collaborating with Microsoft to “transform the employee experience” for frontline workers. It will use Microsoft’s enterprise Cloud and AI platform to assist with onboarding, compliance, payroll, and vendor management.  

Wheelin’ and dealin’ 

  • Cantaloupe, everyone’s least favorite in a fruit salad but also a publicly traded software company, has moved to AWS. “We’ve experienced nearly zero downtime since moving to AWS,” their spokesperson said, inviting hackers everywhere. 
  • A few months ago, search and analytics engine company Elastic was all like “Get off my lawn!” when it won a heated legal dispute against AWS. But that’s in the past now. They did some Ayahuasca together and decided to strategically collaborate to advance customers’ cloud journeys and do GTM stuff. Elastic also achieved its AWS Security Competency. 
  • Microsoft is bringing AI to federal agencies that are Azure Government cloud
  • To accelerate healthcare IT, AWS is working with the Interoperability Institute to launch Interop.WORLD, a virtual innovation center, to “address the most pressing healthcare challenges of our time.” So…is this virtual innovation center going to rein in health insurance lobbying and big pharma, or pay nursing school tuition? No? Just information technology? Great. Can’t wait. 
  • Legal, media, and accounting conglomerate Thomson Reuters is investing $100 million a year into AI, starting with integrating Microsoft 365, Copilot, and other AI tools into its legal products and productivity suite.   
  • Multinational mining company BHP is improving “copper recovery” (do pickpockets “recover my wallet”?) in Chile using AI-based recommendations from the Azure platform.  

New stuff  

  • While voicing that we need to stem the tide of AI-driven human destruction, Microsoft’s Build event was full of AI tools for developers to “accelerate AI breakthroughs.” A reporter covering Build says Microsoft is “sprinkling OpenAI everywhere” to keep software engineers engaged.   
  • You may be familiar with the AWS Snowball device, but there’s a new member in the Snow family. (Not you, JOHN, who just WALKED AWAY FROM YOUR RIGHTFUL THRONE.) Only available to the US military, “Snowblade” is a dense device that has all the mega compute power and storage that AWS loves to brag about PLUS it can withstand extreme temperatures, vibrations, and shocks. 
  • Microsoft has released Microsoft Fabric, “an end-to-end, unified analytics platform that brings together all the data and analytics tools that organizations need.” 
  • Another new product announced at Build is Microsoft Mesh, a mixed reality communication and collaboration platform. It’s in private preview. Is anybody actually asking for this stuff? Like, I don’t need to give status updates in a 3D environment. Enough already.   
  • Amazon Security Lake, which helps customers centralize security data and simplify its management, is now available. Kyndryl and AWS have already collaborated on a threat intelligence platform that is powered by Amazon Security Lake. 
  • Palantir, the lovechild of the CIA and some billionaires, has released its Foundry for Manufacturing on AWS. Panasonic is already using it.  

Best Friends Forever 

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security 

  • Microsoft sounded the alarm that a Chinese hacking group has compromised critical US cyber infrastructure to gather intelligence. The group is named “Volt Tycoon”—cool name, NOT cool purpose. In response, China said, um, actually, YOU GUYS are the “champion of hacking”…and all of a sudden, this tension has turned into us throwing each other a bunch of compliments and kudos about how good we all are at being bad. I kinda like it. No, YOU have the most talented, strategic tech minds on Earth! NO, YOU DO! 
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05/31/2023

You can pay with Teams…or your hands  

By Jane Dornemann

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Image by Evan Aeschlimann

World domination 

  • AWS plans to invest nearly $13B in its presence in India, a key overseas market for the cloud provider, by 2030. It will create jobs in engineering, construction, and telecom.  
  • Next door, Southeast Asia is seeing a surge in public cloud adoption. Get ready for those 1 a.m. meetings, Seattle. I’m gonna have to take my mouthguard out and everything.
  • Latin America is also on the AWS radar. While Brazil is its biggest market, the company is driving digital transformation through channel partners in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico. 
  • Now let’s travel to the crumbling late-stage capitalist house of cards known as the United States. Originally, Oregon wanted to stick to its sustainable ways and was mulling whether or not to approve some more AWS carbon-spewing, energy-sucking data centers. Not only did Oregon approve five of them, but it also threw in $1B in tax breaks. ‘Cause it’s too late anyway, guys. It’s too late. 
  • Microsoft has made concessions to appease EU regulators following complaints from Slack. The cloud giant will now charge different prices for Office with Teams and without Teams. 
  • Good lord, the EU is on Microsoft like white on rice because all their competitors are tattling. Next target is Microsoft Azure, which has received a variety of complaints that include price gouging and restrictive licensing terms.  

Gossip (for nerds) 

  • Microsoft announced that “due to tough economic conditions” (which somehow include surpassing analyst expectations on the most recent earnings??) there will be no raises this year. But there will be bonuses, stock awards, and promotions.  
  • These tough economic conditions for Microsoft must also include the $69B Activision Blizzard acquisition, which was FINALLY approved. The green light came after Microsoft agreed to some notable concessions. 
  • Google doesn’t want to feel left behind following Microsoft’s Chat GPT/Bing integration. After the little (and by little I mean outrageously expensive) snafu with its AI, Google is now rolling out its AI to its core search engine, making this writer wonder how much meth the Google chef is sprinkling on all that free food. It’s like Salt Bae, but with meth. 
  • If Google won’t be responsible then Microsoft will, surely. After gutting what was essentially its responsible AI team, the company wants to…hire a responsible AI team? I’m serious.  

Wheelin’ and dealin’ 

  • Scepter—a self-proclaimed air monitoring entity—and ExxonMobil are working with AWS to develop a data analytics platform for measuring methane emissions in the United States. Since an oil company is involved, I feel completely confident that these measurements will be honest and exact. Because really, isn’t that what Exxon is known for? Honesty?  
  • Enterprise cloud data management company Informatica is expanding its partnership with AWS to include GTM efforts, vertical solutions, and more integrations across data, analytics, and AI. 
  • Microsoft is making like Amazon and doling out cloud credits to startups. “Pegasus” is an extension of Microsoft’s Startup Founders Hub and is a two-year program that goes beyond credits and into advice and stuff. Lots of advice. And sales help.  
  • NVIDIA’s hardware has powered the rise of generative AI, including for Microsoft, but now the cloud giant is looking to get cozy with AMD to improve GPU capability. The details are scant but I SHALL keep an eye on this. 
  • Time for a four-way starring Microsoft, Dell, VMware, and Red Hat. The foursome wants to help improve multi-cloud management and mobility of distributing apps and data via Dell’s Apex multi-cloud services portfolio. 

New stuff  

  • AWS has improved the price performance of its Amazon Aurora relational database and increased cost predictability by optimizing its data input and output operations.  
  • Private access to the AWS management console is now in general preview. It’s a security feature that lets users limit access to the console from their VPC. Basically, the bouncer won’t let you into the club without the right IP address.  
  • Getting into da club takes me to: IDs may be headed for the circular file. Since we all want to live in Blade Runner 2049, Amazon is preparing to launch a touchless payment device that lets you scan your palm and sign over your soul and alter your DNA for a beer.  
  • Small businesses can now use a payment app in Teams. Microsoft says it lets SMBs “collect payments from within Teams on your desktop or mobile device during a meeting.” Uh…what kind of meetings are these? Am I the only one that sees the possibilities or…? I mean…have we all known people who “run small businesses” where they “collect payment” during a “meeting”?  
  • Also coming to a Microsoft Teams channel near you is Collaborative Stageview. You’ll be able to open app content in a new window that participants can engage with.  
  • Azure Container Storage is now in public preview. Organizations can use this cloud-based service to create and manage block storage volumes for container applications and workloads (how was that not a thing already?). 

Miscellany 

  • Antimetal, which is not an indie band but a startup, is going to reduce cloud wastefulness—starting with AWS users. Using a proprietary AI- and ML-based model, it’s promising customers they’ll save on their AWS bills by rooting out inefficiencies. Normally, companies sign yearslong contracts with AWS to bring cloud costs down…but now they won’t have to. In response, Jeff Bezos is currently charting a course to run over the founder of Antimetal with his yacht—the one parked inside the bigger yacht. If he used the bigger yacht, it would be too obvious. He has to use the smaller yacht. Which, again, is inside the bigger yacht. Little known fact: The smaller yacht is enjoyed by a miniature Jeff Bezos that lives inside the Jeff Bezos we all know and love. 

Best Friends Forever 

  • Fintech and security were the big winners in this round’s AWS Partner activities: 
    • Global consulting firm Credera has achieved AWS Premier Tier Services Partner status. It can definitely cut the line at the hottest hand-scanning clubs. 
    • Swiss financial software provider Temenos has integrated its core banking solutions with AWS. 
    • FinTech company and SoFi subsidiary Galileo Technologies has added its solutions to the AWS Marketplace. And security and IT solutions provider Claro has put its Enterprise Cloud Connect solution on AWS Marketplace
    • New Relic has a new AWS integration that will let users automatically deploy its monitoring infrastructure agent through some AWS…stuff. Benefit: one-time setup with automatic instrumentation.  
    • “Cyber deception technology leader” Acalvio has successfully completed the AWS Foundational Technical Review and joined the AWS Partner Network, so it can unleash its deception in the cloud. 
    • SAP and Microsoft are taking the next step in their relationship to collaborate on generative AI. What that really means is that SAP is integrating its SuccessFactors solutions with Copilot in Viva Learning and Microsoft 365 Copilot. 
  • It’s not Suntory time, it’s Microsoft Partners time: 
    • Enterprise AI SaaS company SymphonyAI has launched Sensa Copilot and integrated it with Azure Cognitive Search and Azure OpenAI services. The solution offers sophisticated AI assistance to financial crime investigators. Oof, better stay away from Congress amiright. 
    • Palo Alto Networks unveiled its Next Gen Firewall for Azure as a fully managed service. Only a measly year and three months after it did so for AWS.  
    • Orca Security is the inaugural cloud-native protection platform to be fully integrated with Microsoft Azure OpenAI Chat GPT-4.  
    • Break out the breakfast pastry, because Danish master data management solutions provider Stibo Systems has joined the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program as an ISV. 

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security 

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05/17/2023

Fast, smart, but not quite there—why we’re not sold on AI for image creation

By Emily Zheng, Jane Dornemann

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Image by Emily Zheng and DALL-E 2

When we shared what our writers learned from using generative AI tools like ChatGPT, our design team naturally decided to use generative AI to create the blog image. That led us down another rabbit hole around the pros and cons of integrating smart platforms into our design process—from choosing amongst the latest offerings, like Midjourney and DALL-E 2, to wrestling with the ethics of them.

As of now, here’s what we know about generative AI for image creation:

These things are freaking fast. When we say we’re wowed by the speed of generative AI, we don’t just mean it can whip up an image in mere seconds—we’re thinking about how quickly it gets our minds going. Working with technology companies means we need to generate images for a lot of abstract concepts versus physical items. How does one depict the Internet of Things (IoT) or access management?

Typically, if we’re really stuck, we might run a Google image search on these terms to get some inspiration. But now, we can just enter those terms into tools like DALL-E and it spits out visual representations. These get us thinking of more original design concepts in a fraction of the time—making it ideal for brainstorming sessions and mood board creation. Kind of like Google…but on steroids.

They ignore a crucial part of our process. One thing the 2A design team treasures and sees as essential to producing a stellar product that aligns with a client’s ask is the feedback loop. No first-crack design, whether human-created or AI-generated, is going to be the final product. Design is a process—and this is where generative AI is of no help.

You can ask the AI to change a shade of blue to be darker or lighter, but that leaves a lot of room for the AI—not you—to choose. Sometimes you ask it to change just a few pixels and it ends up changing other aspects of the design you didn’t want. To really address feedback with our signature eagle-eye attention to detail, we would’ve had to import and manually edit our AI-generated works in more traditional design software. Since DALL-E 2 only lets users download non-editable PNGs, it becomes challenging to think of effective ways to manipulate these flat images. Not only does this defeat the purpose of a fast and at-the-ready product that AI seems to promise, but it ultimately can take up more time. The limited 1:1 aspect ratio of DALL-E 2’s images also required us to continue our work in Outpainting, which extends the borders of artwork beyond its original frames. It also ate up all our credits.

We must find the words. Having design vocabulary and training is extremely helpful in crafting prompts, because how you word a request will entirely determine what you get in return. Not only will infusing design concepts in your prompt help you get something closer to what you want, but it will help to create a visual that is more distinct from what everyone else is getting.

For example, we found that Midjourney tends to generate images that have a similar underlying style. (To see for yourself, check out this Instagram account that generates AI images based solely on headlines from The New York Times.) The ones that felt unique included requests to take inspiration from particular artists or included design terminology. For our ChatGPT blog image, we asked DALL-E 2 to create an image of “women looking at computer” in Corporate Memphis style, but the results didn’t quite hit the mark. So we asked it to mimic the works of Magdalena Koźlicka, a Polish digital artist. While the result was neither Corporate Memphis nor that of our chosen artist, we like what it gave us. Getting to the final product took more than 30 iterations.

Here’s a peak at what we got throughout the process:

How we issue credit? After all is said and done, who deserves the credit? As creatives, we want to honor the rights that other artists have to their own creations. But generative AI has resulted in a grey area where images have more than one creator. For the blog visual we published, we decided to credit both our designer and DALL-E to show that our designer used AI in her creative process. While DALL-E did most of the work, the final product would not exist without the designer’s carefully crafted prompts, edits in Outpainting, and overall creative direction (and none of it can be copyrighted).

But with AI clearly pulling inspiration from existing art—and likely influenced by all the prompts that others submit—it’s clear this is an ethical question that doesn’t have an answer yet. And while this question may be new to AI-generated art, there are plenty of notable visual artists who conceive of a piece but don’t create it themselves, such as Sol Lewitt and Ai Weiwei, yet the credit is theirs alone. To sum it up, generative AI can speed up the creative process, but that involves an element of luck in how on-point its image generation is. And sometimes that saved time is spent editing files that are challenging to manipulate. We see generative AI in design today much like what the introduction of the calculator must have been like: did mathematicians feel like they were cheating? Was it still their work if they had assistance from a machine? It’s true that generative AI has helped us do our jobs—but is it doing our jobs? That’s one question we can answer—and the answer is no. For now, at least.

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05/09/2023

Phishing was so last season 

By Jane Dornemann

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Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • HSBC, the only ethical bank on the planet that has absolutely never moved nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels, is using machine learning powered by AWS for its new AI Global Tactical Index. “This means we can execute criminal acts and simply blame AI,” one exec said. “AWS is the best thing to happen to us since Pablo Escobar. I mean, Teddy Roosevelt. Yeah, Teddy Roosevelt.”
  • Ball Aerospace is working with Microsoft and Loft Federal (Ann Taylor for public servants?) on a mission to carry 10 satellites with “experimental payloads” (drugs?) to space (aliens on drugs?). Microsoft is providing productivity solutions, as well as cloud and ground station infrastructure. Interesting that Loft Federal’s website looks like a middle schooler did the bare minimum for a computer class 101.
  • Media giant Sinclair Broadcasting Group has announced its selection of AWS as its preferred cloud provider. Sinclair will use AWS to create more compelling local news (MY FAVORITE) and sports content. The company also said it would be using the new (take a big breath:) AWS Elemental MediaConnect Gateway.
  • Looks like Microsoft has a fever and the only prescription is more…healthcare software. Microsoft and EPIC, a leading EHR platform, are going to develop and integrate generative AI solutions. Microsoft launched a similar collaboration with healthcare personalization engine CueZen.
  • Fever is still high: “health enablement solutions” provider Lightbeam is adopting Azure SQL Database.
  • Bloomberg announced that customers can access real-time trading and other high-performance data using a private connection in the Azure Virtual Network.
  • Cognizant is expanding its partnership with Microsoft to build an integration roadmap between the two companies’ healthcare solutions. Cognizant will run its SaaS healthcare solutions on Azure and migrate clients there, too.

Gossip (for nerds)

  • Amazon’s CEO warned shareholders that the short-term is going to be rough (read: falling profits and projection shortfalls) because companies are putting their wallets away. Or as the CEO puts it, they are “cost-optimizing” 🤮 But not to worry, he says, because the new customer pipeline is robust—90% of global IT spending is still on premises and yet to migrate to the cloud.
    • The good news is that the government is still spending all your tax money like there’s not a care in the world (except if you need it for healthcare or children or education). Public cloud spending is up 22% from last year, according to Gartner.
  • Microsoft shares rose 9% after its third-quarter earnings call, surpassing expectations. Its foray into AI is the reason, analysts speculate.
    • Coincidentally, Microsoft is allegedly working on an AI chip, codenamed “Athena,” to support large language models.
    • Which is interesting considering the person who was responsible for that at Microsoft just left to go help Meta do its own AI chip thing.
  • He’s like the Voldemort of tech so I won’t even say his name, but he wants to launch a rival to Microsoft-backed ChatGPT. Hopefully it won’t catch on fire and crash itself like his other products. Not sure why this headline says he is doing it quietly, this man has never done anything quietly since that would require self-control. Anyway, in line with being the prince of petty, he’s also thinking about suing Microsoft because it’s pulling data from Twitter to train its AI.
  • Microsoft and Google have been the main cloud contributors to open-source projects, but AWS may be pivoting its strategy around customer obsession to include open-source efforts. Read the speculation here. Or read this one instead, which was written first. By a woman. And it’s better.
  • Generative AI-ish company SambaNova Systems has hired an ex-AWS managing director and an ex-VP of Google Cloud. I hope you’re sitting down for this shocking news, but they are both white dudes.

World domination

  • Oil-rich Bahrain made a slick move by transferring 85% of its government data to AWS. If gas prices go up maybe there can be a lil’ outage or somethin’, I dunno…just spit-balling scenarios and whatnot.
  • Who knew there was a UK wing of an Italian defense company? Leonardo will be the first major defense company in the UK to move to Azure. It will take longer than normal once you factor in two-hour lunch breaks/siesta hybrids, and then a three-month vacation.
  • AWS put its kilt on to sign a memorandum of understanding with The National Quantum Computing Centre in Edinburgh and the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. AWS will provide hardware to help establish a proof of concept that we can, in fact, bring Sean Connery forward through time.
  • Microsoft is going to stop bundling Teams with Office to appease EU regulators.
  • Brazilian telecom group Vivo is working with Microsoft Azure OpenAI service to develop solutions in a lab of sorts that could apply to different use cases, such as helping agents understand customer queries faster.

New stuff

  • Big news for the AWS Well-Architected Framework!!! (Just as I wrote that I realized that this isn’t how I imagined my life, but I like it OK). A new version is out, and the same PR person who said budget cutting was “cost optimization” also came out with the term “enhanced prescriptive guidance” which makes it sound like the Well-Architected Framework is seeing a therapist. But no—it has just folded in some of the newer AWS services with 127 new or updated best practices, including implementation steps.
  • Amazon GuardDuty, the favorite child of AWS security offerings, has three new capabilities. After crawling through the vast desert of despair that was this press release, I got to the updates: new container runtime protection for Amazon EKS, extended coverage for data stored in Amazon Aurora, and support for serverless applications in AWS Lambda.
  • AWS announced the startups in its third cohort of its Space Accelerator program, and there’s a Seattle-based company in there. You can see the list here.

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security

  • Phishing is so yesterday. It’s smishing now. Smishing steals the credentials of administrators using mobile devices to remotely log into accounts.
  • Microsoft is offering millions to any tech nerd who can find bugs in the new Bing chat. “Go get an English degree,” they said. “It’ll be great,” they said.
  • To address security concerns first discovered by Orca Security, Microsoft will tighten how Azure Functions works with Azure Storage.

Best Friends Forever

  • InfoSys is now a launch partner for AWS Cloud Operations Specialization.
  • Torch.AI, which provides data infrastructure for AI, is now an Advanced Tier Partner and AWS Public Sector partner.
  • Trend Micro achieved AWS Level 1 Managed Security Service Provider Competency.
  • Seeq, which offers IoT analytics software, has earned its AWS Manufacturing and Industrial Competency.
  • New to Azure Marketplace: Information risk management company HITRUST’s MyCSF subscriptions and connected healthcare cybersecurity platform, Cynerio.
  • Federal tech consulting firm Acuity has acquired its Microsoft Solutions Partner status in Digital & App Innovation. And Xoriant earned a designation as a Microsoft Solutions Partner for Security.
  • Elevate Security is co-selling with Microsoft.
  • Semiconductor company AMD joined the AWS ISV Accelerate Program to co-sell integrated solutions.
  • Merkle, the customer experience company and not the much-missed German PM, achieved AWS Digital Customer Experience and Data and Analytics Competency statuses. Caylent also achieved a D&A Competency.
  • Arc XP, a digital experience platform, has earned its AWS Media & Entertainment Competency.
  • New on AWS Marketplace: Conversational AI and automation provider Uniphore; SAS’ Customer Intelligence 360; monitoring and observability stack Grafana Labs; physician consultation service Atropos Health; and SecureFrame’s security and compliance automation platform.