By BB Bickel, Richa Dubey, Mai Sennaar

image of a paper calendar. The 2022 page is being removed, showing just the 2023 page

Image by Thad Allen

A new year always presages new trends and developments in the constantly fluctuating world of technology. Since technology is part of 2A’s DNA, it’s only natural that we’d pick out a few trends to highlight. Three notable movements stand out to us, which were backed up by their featured prominence at the latest AWS re:Invent conference. They are:

  • Innovation can be experimental and disruptive
  • Responsibility and bias mitigation in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
  • Sustainable and renewable technologies

Solutions arise from falling in love with the problem, not the product

Technology companies are making high-quality, high-velocity decisions. The outstanding ones remain stubborn on vision and flexible on details. Those that focus on building features customers will love, whether or not it’s the easiest feature to make, will succeed. Experimentation is the holy grail this year, with the goal of being bold and disruptive while innovating. True innovation is agreeing first on what the customer would love, and then developing a product to address that desire (or need), not the other way around.

Innovation also involves a bias for action, with blessings to move ahead with 70 percent of the data. This goes back to the roots of AWS. As Jeff Bezos said in his 2015 letter to shareholders, “…failure and invention are inseparable twins…Given a ten percent chance of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of ten…Big winners pay for so many experiments.”

Thus, if technology companies are going to win big, they’re going to fail big too. They will walk through the door and close it behind them. It’s all part of the process. They will constantly reinvent themselves by keeping the dynamism of Day 1 and consider a Day 2 mentality as stasis.

Responsibility in AI and ML

Diversity brings more perspectives to the table and is therefore critical to building responsible and inclusive AI and ML. Only with truly diverse teams can a company mitigate bias in their algorithms. People are at the center of these technologies and drive the decisions; machines only make recommendations.

People-centric design has become a different model for AI, as it considers others and seeks out not only explicit but implicit bias. Today, leadership places emphasis on helping engineers develop the right skills so that fairness, integrity, and dignity become part of AI’s DNA. In fact, in December, Amazon’s Machine Learning University launched a new course, “Responsible AI—Bias Mitigation & Fairness Criteria.” It is an entry-level course for technical individuals and explains where bias in AI systems comes from, how to measure it, and ultimately how to mitigate bias as much as possible. Since AI and machine learning touch so many aspects of peoples’ lives, it’s crucial to build trust and prevent disadvantages among subgroups of customers.

Sustainability

Sustainability could conceivably be the most important word in our world today. The statistics on climate change are horrific and only a focus on sustainability and renewable energy will make a dent. Thankfully, wind and solar energy technologies are growing at an unprecedented rate, and there is a greater interdependence between gas and electricity. According to Gartner, 80 percent of CEOs who plan to invest in new or improved products in the coming year cited environmental sustainability as the third largest driver, making it a competitive differentiator.

Among the cloud providers, AWS has done the lion’s share of work toward sustainability. The company’s mandate is to achieve net zero carbon by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Climate Accords, and it is working toward 80 percent renewable energy by 2024. Amazon buys more renewable energy than any other corporate buyer on the planet. In addition, Amazon has already invested $2 billion in clean technology.

As we kick off the third year of what has been the most unpredictable decade of the 21st century, here’s to making disruption work for us—and our planet.

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image of a hot air balloon with the text cloud cover vol. 8

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Gossip (for nerds) 

  • Remember when Microsoft face-planted with HoloLens and in a bid to still make it profitable, sold a gazillion of them to the military? Well, the dude who decided that was a good idea has left—and the initiative is in shambles. “I didn’t know I was supposed to LEAD this program,” he said. “I thought I was supposed to just riff on ideas from my swivel chair and let other people take the fall.” 
  • Investment bank UBS predicts a slowdown in Azure growth and has downgraded the stock, causing share prices to fall in a self-fulfilling prophecy. This follows Google’s report based on leaked Microsoft documents that estimated a $3B operating loss for Azure in fiscal 2022, then shared that with CNBC.  
  • Satya Nadella concedes it is going to be a rough ride for tech through 2025, stating that, unfortunately, average CEO pay will have to remain at 324 times that of their median workers. “Sorry, guys” Nadella said. 
  • But there’s a plan! Rumors abound that Microsoft is going to invest $10B in ChatGPT, to which this writing team says E tu, Brute? It would give Microsoft 75% of OpenAI’s profits, and the young company is soon to be valued at $29B.  
  • Why would Microsoft do this, assuming OpenAI has no intention of selling? To integrate ChatGPT into its products, including Bing. Except nothing is going to bring Bing out of the trashcan it belongs in, amiright. 
  • “They’re still trying to make Bing a thing?” said UBS analysts, who downgraded the stock again because Bing. 
  • Regardless, Satya says AI is the next major chapter for the tech industry, so expect more focus on this space from the major players.  
  • Microsoft is also pushing the metaverse, saying that we will eventually have a hybrid model of consumerism that is part IRL and part VR.  
  • AWS has, so far, remained blissfully untouched by Amazon’s layoffs, outside of its hiring pause. Most of the layoffs will happen in the company’s HR division, which is so on brand I can’t even.  
  • Microsoft has hired a chief sustainability officer who was previously with the National Security Council in the White House. In the meantime, Microsoft VP Teresa Carlson has left to join Flexport
  • You know what these female execs don’t have? The luxury of running with a headshot like this guy’s. A former Twitter VP, who strangely looks like Bradley Cooper and Santa Claus had a baby, has come onboard with Microsoft as a VP of design and research. Bonus points for drinking Sapporo. When can I get to a point in my career where a journalist covering my new role asks for a photo and I say “Here, use this one of me drinking Fireball while my dogs lay spread eagle on the couch.” 
  • There’s a reason those superhero Halloween costumes have to put “will not make you fly” on the package. I was raised by two lawyers and it seemed like adults just sued each other all day, and between Amazon and Microsoft, maybe lil’ Jane was on to something. Amazon’s Twitch has entered a patent-infringement lawsuit with an Israeli FOOD import/export company (???) BSD—just as Microsoft battles gamers IRL over Activision (please, please result in a courtroom full of LARPers). BSD has previously sued Microsoft and Apple. In the meantime, Meta is suing a different Israeli company over spyware. 

World domination 

  • Microsoft has acquired Fungible, a company that makes data processing units. For $190M, otherwise known as the going price for a dozen eggs, Microsoft will use Fungible’s tech team to improve Azure services. 
  • It is also investing in autonomous trucking startup Gatik AND collaborating with an Indian space agency. “We’re going to use the autonomous trucks to drive astronauts to and from the rocket ship, this way we don’t have to pay for an Uber,” said the guy who came up with the Army goggles idea. 
  • France just fined Microsoft $64M for cookies, and they don’t mean macarons. Great timing alongside the company’s rollout of EU data localization via its EU Data Boundary for the Microsoft Cloud. 

Best Friends Forever 

  • The Navy opened up its wallet and was like “here’s $724 million” to AWS. Sailors and stuff will get access to the cloud through 2028 and will work toward phasing out legacy IT systems per a mandate in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.  
  • Microsoft is making moves in automotive. Cognata, which develops autonomous driving technologies, has launched a new service on Azure so automotive companies can virtually evaluate their sensors. And General Motors will use Azure and AI services to simplify its software development. 
  • AWS is supplementing its hiring pause with even more emphasis on its partners. As a “critical part of our go-to-market strategy,” AWS says it will continue to invest in partners, especially partners who help customers adopt and mature on AWS. 
  • Speaking of partners: Montoux, an actuarial automation platform (SNOOZEFEST) is “strategically collaborating” with AWS so that customers can migrate and modernize their workflows with Montoux over to AWS. We could title the eBook: “Love, Actuary: Migrate and Modernize.” 
  • All other AWS Partner news in a nutshell: 
  • Entrust, which provides payment infrastructure, has put its cloud-based IAM solution on AWS Marketplace.  
  • Normalyze has hit AWS Marketplace. It’s a security platform that lets you see where all your data is in the cloud. eBook title could be, “Normal Eyes: Finally See Your Data.” 
  • Privacera, which sounds like a pharmaceutical drug with gnarly side effects for some embarrassing condition, is actually a company that provides a data security and access governance platform—and its earned its AWS Competency in Data Analytics.  
  • Cargo shipment optimization platform provider Awake AI has passed the AWS Foundational Technical Review.  
  • Solvo, which provides adaptive cloud infrastructure security solutions, has joined the AWS ISV Accelerate Program. 
  • Aspire, a global technology services firm, has become an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner. 
  • VMWare launched Cloud Flex Storage, a managed service for VMWare Cloud on AWS. 
  •  IoT solutions provider KORE is using AWS, including AWS IoT Core, to make and sell more secure stuff. 

New stuff  

  • AWS, Microsoft, and Meta want to break Google Maps’ hold on all of us with their Overture Maps Foundation that will yield “untold innovations for the benefit of the people,” a bold statement coming from a group that includes a social media company partially responsible for January 6th and COVID conspiracies. Among their WORLD-CHANGING efforts, which involves duplicating what Google has already done, is using VR/AR—appealing to my anxiety-ridden trolling of Maps for a place to park before I drive somewhere new. 
  • Even though Microsoft is all about productivity these days, it’s like they are testing our self-control, what with their new games on Teams and NOW, video filters! Yes, I am paying attention even though I just put a virtual top hat on my head! Yes, yes, I am listening even though I am presenting as an ear of corn.  
  • There’s a new AWS open-source tool in town called Finch. It’s cloud-agnostic and will allow devs to build, run, and publish Linux containers. The motivation for creating Finch? macOS and Windows make open-source container development difficult. 
  • To better compete with Amazon, Microsoft has released a pilot of the Microsoft Retail Advertising Network, which will help retailers sell your data even more monetize their website traffic. 

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

  • O happy day, S3 buckets will now be encrypted server-side by default! Which makes you wonder why that wasn’t a thing already!  

Miscellany 

By Nora Bright, The 2A Team

decorative image of album stickers

Image by Thad Allen

For the last few weeks, I’ve been looking forward to asking my coworkers to send me their favorite album of 2022 so I can assemble our annual round up. There’s something special and even intimate about hearing what songs have been keeping your colleagues company all year long. While I love working from home, I miss the casual interactions that happen in an IRL office, especially conversations about books, TV shows, movies, and music. The album round-up allows me to learn something new about a coworker I wouldn’t otherwise find out—and follow-up music chats are par for the course. 

Sometimes a coworker’s choice is a delightful surprise, and sometimes their pick feels perfect…as if I should’ve known all along that Al is a Beyoncé superfan or that Erin has a crush on Jens Lekman. 

This year we put together a playlist that highlights one song from each album. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into the music that speaks to your favorite 2A’ers soul (and strike up a musical conversation the next time you find yourself on a call with one of us)! 

The Linden Trees Are Still In Blossom – Jens Lekman 

I have a forever crush on Jens Lekman. This album is adorably awkward, semi-autobiographical, and a remix AND re-release of my favorite album of 2007, Night Falls Over Kortedala. It reminds me that our stories get more interesting and gain a new depth as we reflect on them with age.  —Erin McCaul 

Shringaar feat. Milind Soman (single) – Vayu, Raftaar, Aashta Gill, AKASA, Milind Soman 

Catchy beat. Danceable. This single features Milind Soman in a music video after 27 years. What’s not to love? —Richa Dubey 

RENAISSANCE – Beyoncé 

House music, celebrating black excellence, and Queen Bey… this album is sheer perfection! —Alyson Stoner-Rhoades 

Pompeii – Cate Le Bon 

I have never met a Cate Le Bon album that I didn’t like, and Pompeii is no exception. Drenched in dreamy synths, sax and clarinet, Le Bon’s pristine voice dances in the duality of light and dark, weaving through a lush musical tapestry that is both delicate and bold, angular and sweet, sad and hopeful. —Suzanne Calkins 

Brand New – Ben Rector 

I’m a sucker for song that tells a story. I frequently shed a lot of tears listening to many of Ben Rector’s songs. —Tammy Monson 

Midnights (3am Edition) – Taylor Swift 

As exciting as Swift’s rerecords have been, I am thrilled she dropped something totally new. The album is very self-reflective and has hit after hit! And the production stylings of Jack Antonoff are always a favorite of mine. —Julianne Medenblik 

age tape 0 – Arden Jones 

Youthful, angsty, ukulele. —Even Aeschlimann 

Un Verano Sin Ti – Bad Bunny 

Bad Bunny’s latest album is a quintessential curation of different types of summer vibes. Swaggering pop and reggaeton anthems are supported by a reflective b-side with plenty of unexpectedly good features and even a call for Zumba! This record packed everything I love about Benito’s cross-genre inspirations and is proof that good music requires no translation. —Madeline Sy 

The Guest 2 (Original Soundtrack) – Various Artists 

I love the 2014 movie The Guest, a devious genre-bender with a distinctive soundtrack that moodily mixed 80s goth rock and 21st-century synth jams. This April Fool’s Day I was surprised with the drop of a soundtrack album for the nonexistent sequel! It’s a lot of fun to imagine what the plot could’ve been by looking at the cover art and track titles, and this director-led “aural sequel” is a fascinating way to dive back into the movie’s unique soundscape. —Thad Allen 

Power Station – Cory Wong, Billy Strings 

When all the heavy hitters get in the same room and make noise together the result is this album. Jam packed with riffs that are sure to go down in history for the modern funk jazz era. —Matt deWolf 

Warm Chris – Aldous Harding 

The tunes on Warm Chris are just the right blend of off-kilter and catchy for my taste. Her songs are playful, strange, and beautiful—fitting for someone who chose the name “Aldous” as their nom de plume (her real name is Hannah Harding). —Nora Bright 

Stick Season – Noah Kahan 

I once saw a tweet that said Noah Kahan is “country music for the East Coast.” As someone who sort of lives in the country and once lived in New England, I can confirm that a) That is a rock-solid statement, and b) this album will hit home for anyone, no matter where you live or where you are from. —Emily Zheng 

By Richa Dubey

Storytellers / storied tellers in the house

Image by Julianne Medenblik

“Leveraging best practices for synergistically delivering elasticity across the content value chain to ensure that the asset is delivered to the client as committed priorly”—a gem that popped up in the 2A storytellers chat—makes as much sense as this line from a classic Bollywood film song: “You see, the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the hemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity.”

And that, dear reader, is what we in the trade call a run-on sentence.

Our storyteller team chat is called the Storyteller Shuffle. Here, we dissect sentences, punctuation, usage, style guides, and grammar. We also like our wordplay, so the shuffle often turns into a rumba…

This is where we take a break, have fun, ask for, and receive, unstinting help from each other. Writing can be a solitary activity, which is why the wisdom, support, and camaraderie we find here is so important. The Shuffle is also where we collectively make your asset shine. If you’re wondering at the ‘collectively,’ try proofing an eBook you’ve written without going cross-eyed. You need a fresh pair of eyes.

Holding each other up, learning together, and having fun is at the core of our little group. Witness this (not entirely) imaginary chat: “I’m slammed for capacity. Can anyone help me with this case study?” Katy Nally, Director of Storytelling par excellence, jumps in, “Sure, I’ve only got a million things to do. But I can take this. And let me fix your calendar so that you’re not overloaded.”

Stuck for punctuation? Kimberly Mass generously weighs in on a hot debate about the merits of commas versus em dashes in a sentence.

Looking to sharpen your interview skills? Shadow Mai Sennar who, with her background in theater, exudes calm confidence while drawing out even the most reticent clients.  

Want to keep up with what’s happening with the cloud biggies? Jane Dornemann keeps us in the loop about all things cloud with her tongue-in-cheek newsy blog.

Wondering how to write about a completely new technology? Get a load of BB Bickel’s confident, successful approach.

Need to pin the client down to answer tough questions? See what happens when Editorial Lead, Forsyth Alexander, wields her trademark Southern charm to soften critiques as she reviews a section of Gandalf’s CV.

Description of the battle with the Balrog in Lord of The Rings, The Two Towers, Book III, Chapter 5, The White Rider: “I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountainside where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.”

Forsyth marks it up and inserts a comment in the Word document: “Your story is utterly gripping! I was wondering, though, can you explain this gap in your resumé?”

As you can see, it falls to us ask the hard questions. You can also count on us to coax answers out of interviewees, keep your head in the cloud (and feet on the ground), and match the perfect storyteller to your project.

We’ll dot your ‘i’s
And cross your ‘t’s
We’re better than fries
We’re the bees’ knees

Your content, we’ll align
And be sure to make it shine
We’re the bounce in basketball
So don’t you wait—just give us a call

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image of a hot air balloon and text that says cloud cover vol 6

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • The biggest Microsoft news item lately is the multi-year partnership between NVIDIA and Microsoft. Together they’ll build a new supercomputer running on Azure, and it will be the best supercomputer. It will train AI workloads like no other AI workload you’ve ever seen before. (Did you read that in a Trump voice? You should have).
  • In the name of national security purposes, Microsoft and AWS are going to have to work together at the Pentagon to upgrade our ground and space communications infrastructure with next-gen networking technology. Things I learned from this article: we actually have a “Space Warfighting Analysis Center.”
  • Who cares about space fighting, let’s talk about Earth fighting! Lockheed Martin and Microsoft made a “landmark agreement” to blow shit up all day!!!….by way of the cloud. Microsoft’s latest secure framework will make Lockheed Martin the first non-government entity to independently operate inside the Microsoft Azure Government Secret cloud.
  • No money for paying teachers a living wage (unless you’re a college president) but plenty for 5G, say Cal Poly, which is working with AWS to “enhance connectivity” on campus.
  • Formula 1 has raced to extend its collaboration with AWS to inform F1 Insights, an AI-driven program that detects vehicle speeds and displays them on TV broadcasts.
  • Deloitte has turned to AWS for help launching its digital banking services. Named BankingSuite, Deloitte’s new suite of solutions will leverage Amazon Connect and other services.

Best Friends Forever

Gossip (for nerds)

  • Amazon has a hiring freeze in place through Q1 2023 and is totally boosting morale with statements like “target low performers.” The company has reportedly asked managers to rank employees like they’re a bunch of dudes in a dorm room rating chicks from 1 to 10. Maybe AWS didn’t get the memo that the capitalist overload approach didn’t bode well for Elon Musk.
    • Word on the street is that Amazon layoffs will touch Amazon Alexa staff, contractors, cloud gaming (within the devices division), retail, and HR.
  • Maybe Microsoft was tired of all the attention AWS has been getting from employee harassment claims, so they’ve taken matters into their own hands (WHICH THEY WILL KEEP TO THEMSELVES). The company released a 50-page annual report containing recommendations for not harassing peeps. One example? If you’re dating a co-worker, we all have to know. Microsoft employees can send their juicy office romance deets to [email protected]. P.S. I am super jealous of whoever’s job it was to conduct a “misconduct audit.” I would wear a bowtie every day, have very slick hair parted directly in the middle, and wear poofy pantaloons and the shiniest shoes and nobody could mess with me because that’s what I’m there to audit.
  • Two big things are happening for Microsoft on March 23: I go on vacation, and it’s also the deadline by which EU regulators decide whether Microsoft’s Activision deal can go through—or not. European incels who spend way too much time playing Call of Duty, mark your calendars!

World domination

  • If you need another reason to come to North Carolina next year aside from having a blast at a renaissance fair with myself and Forsyth, you can soon visit Microsoft’s $1B campus just outside Charlotte. Somehow all that money will only generate 50 new jobs.
  • More North Carolina news: AWS has entered a partnership with Duke Energy, a company that loves to keep charging me for heating at my old address. AWS will supply the cloud technology for Duke’s new smart grid software and services.
  • There’s a new AWS Region opening in Spain, which, among other things, will help European countries comply with EU privacy regulations like GDPR because those countries actually care about the people who live there.
  • Microsoft is all in on data centers across 11 regions in Asia, and Satya Nadella is giving special attention to China and India. China offers the opportunity for Microsoft to work with more multinational companies, and India is generating a high demand for cloud-native apps.
  • In the ongoing race for telecom dominance, AWS has secured a lead over Microsoft.
  • AWS has 5G stuff to sell and potential customers might need a little inspiration following speculation that it’s not that much better than 4G. Targeting buyers with bloated budgets and bad decision-making skills, AWS joined a coalition with Dell, Splunk, and Cisco to get government agencies to adopt 5G.
    • But the UK is on the 5G bandwagon—Vodafone plans to expand its AWS Wavelength-powered technology to customers who need to be within a certain distance to a cloud or compute instance.

New stuff

  • While companies are laying off staff and leaving one person to do the job of three, Microsoft thought it would be a good time to release games on Teams for “when you’re bored at work.” Engaging in some Solitaire and Minesweeper with your colleagues (the ones who are left!!!!) can make you “20% more productive” according to research from BYU, a school that only recently removed “homosexual behavior” as an honor code violation, so should be legit.
  • Microsoft announced its Supply Chain Platform which fuses AI, low-code, SaaS, and collaboration tools to create supply chain agility. Mexican snack powerhouse Grupo Bimbo is among the user pool, so never will your local store be out of Bimbos. And we can all relax about cheese, too, ‘cause Tillamook is on board.
  • After talking about the release of SQL Server 2022 incessantly since the dawn of time, it’s now released, and nobody cares because we all know. We know, OK?
  • Less talked about than SQL Server 2022 (basically any topic fits into that category) is Azure Quantum Research Estimator. What does it do? It “creates and refines algorithms for quantum computers,” which will bypass computation limitations of future quantum computers.
  • Passwords are not cool anymore, says Microsoft, which has made it possible to connect to Azure Active Directory using certificate-based authentication. It’s meant to protect hybrid workers doing business on their own devices from phishing scams.
  • Microsoft is tightening security on Azure for DevOps with granular Personal Access Tokens. It provides damage control when credentials are leaked or stolen.

Miscellany

  • Gartner released its newest Magic Quadrant for cloud infrastructure and platform services, and the usual suspects made the cut. Tidbits:
    • 3 of the 8 providers originate from China
    • AWS has the most breadth and depth of capabilities but needs to refine its strategy for customers who want a multi-cloud solution
    • Microsoft customers are frustrated by increasing Azure costs
  • AWS is accepting applications for its next cohort, calling for startups with solutions that address healthcare worker burnout.

By BB Bickel

Illustrated image of a desk with an open laptop

Image by Suzanne Calkins

“Would you consider working full time?” I never thought I’d jump at those words, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be the happy 2Aer I am today.

I was a freelance business writer for nearly 30 years and worked for big-name clients, like Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Pfizer, Motorola, KPMG, Novartis, Sun Microsystems (pre-Oracle buy out), …the list goes on. I did great work, clients loved me, and I made my own schedule. Get my nails done at 2 pm on Wednesday? Sure. Go clothes shopping at the mall all day? No problem. Play at the beach in the morning? Of course. I live in Fort Lauderdale, hence the beach.

There was a critical drawback though. Cashflow. I didn’t always have steady work and would have to chase down clients for payments. I couldn’t go on vacations—if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid.

After nearly three decades of freelancing, thoughts of a full-time job started to dance in my head.

One day I saw a posting for a role at 2A Consulting, and I applied because it was 20 hours a week, remote, and it would be a steady gig. So off went my application. In time, I had my first video interview with Katy Nally, who headed up the storytelling team.

After we had talked for a while, she asked me, “Would you consider working full time?” My professionalism went out the window. I burst out, “I would love it! That’s what I’m really looking for!”

I then did tons of research on 2A and discovered I wanted to work there. After some interviews and writing tests, Katy scheduled another video call to talk about next steps. More writing? More interviews?

Nope. Katy started the video call by saying, “We really like you and we really like your writing. We’d like to offer you the job of storyteller.” I actually screamed! Yes, yes, yes!

Then I find myself ensconced in 2A. Moving from my own extremely flexible lifestyle to being at my desk eight hours a day, five days a week, had me in shellshock. Their onboarding process was intense but thorough. But 2A smoothed the way. They assigned me a buddy, Forsyth Alexander, for the first six months who I could go to with any sort of question. Since everyone works remotely, they offer random coffee chat pairings where you get to meet someone you don’t know. They also allow for incredibly flexible schedules so people can take care of their children or elderly parents or go to medical appointments or work in India for a while. But best of all, everyone, absolutely everyone, was so nice and so helpful.

The hard part—and this will sound odd—was being surrounded by other writers. After all, for nearly 30 years, I was the expert, the excellent writer that a company hired to write what someone couldn’t. Clients looked to me to sculpt their vision. I never compared myself to anyone. But now I was…and it made me question myself.

Then I had a talk with Kimberly Mass, a senior storyteller, who also had freelanced for years before coming to 2A. She’d gone through the exact same doubting experience I had. She taught me something very valuable. “Don’t compare. Look at the others as your support team. We all help each other.”

And that, my friends, is what 2A is all about. Helping each other. As I write this, I’ve been here six months. Still a newbie. But I feel completely included and so grateful that of all the companies I landed at, I have a place here. So, to other freelance writers, yes, there is a life that’s better than freelancing…it’s 2A.

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image of a hot air balloon next to text that reads cloud clover vol. 5

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • Honeywell has integrated its Walkie Talkie app with Microsoft Teams for “highly mobile” frontline workers, but really this push-to-talk app will be used by those obnoxious people on public transportation who have directionless convos over speakerphone and make you cringe when you think about how you’ll have to fight them for a can of beans in the climate change apocalypse.
  • If the spoiled rich “Daddy can you put more money in my account and I’ll love you foreverrrrrr” kid was a person it would be OpenAI, which is asking Microsoft for additional funding to pile on top of its $20 billion valuation. The deal could help grow Azure usage while also keeping OpenAI from AWS and Google Cloud.
  • Swiss banking firm UBS is expanding its partnership—and cloud footprint—with Microsoft to co-develop solutions for the financial services industry. Apps like “subprime mortgage bundling” and “auto-open tax dodging accounts” are likely to hit the marketplace next fall.
  • Uniphore, a “conversational automation” company that specializes in parent-child exchanges such as, “How was your day?” “Fine,” is officially an AWS ISV.
  • D-Wave Quantum has sauntered into AWS Marketplace, as has asset visibility and security company Armis.
  • Finally, Snowplow, a data creation software company that probably pissed off Snowflake when it launched, is now on AWS Marketplace.
  • OpenLegacy has joined the AWS Partner Network and slapped a solution on Marketplace. It helps companies connect their legacy systems to digital services via an API.
  • Another new partner is Digital River, which is helping AWS commerce customers with critical back-office functions to enable faster growth.
  • AWS Marketplace also welcomes solutions from Sentient Energy, which sounds like the small business of someone who rubs crystals all over you while making a weird moaning sound to channel another frequency. This company is more about analytics and visibility for power grids on the edge.

Gossip (for nerds)

  • If sales of antiperspirant and whiskey have skyrocketed lately that’s because it’s earnings time! Microsoft is down 30% from last year which explains why my 401K performance graph looks like a toddler was drawing and then fell asleep at the end. Of note: the energy costs associated with providing cloud services are a real money suck for Azure.
    • But even with that, they want to give you a deal! Microsoft has created a new payment option called Azure Savings Plans for Compute that can save customers 65% more than the pay-as-you-go model.
    • Perhaps Microsoft feels sufficiently buoyed by its gaming division following a record year of Xbox console sales. And they are super excited about their expanding partnership with the recession when nobody will have any money to do anything but play video games, especially after they’ve been laid off.
  • Ah, the schadenfreude of watching powerful companies stumble on earnings calls. Like Microsoft, AWS cited rising energy costs and sluggish customer spending as a factor for its slowest YoY growth since 2014. At a measly $20.5B, slightly above what Azure pulled in over Q3, it’s hard times. Looks like Bezos might have to sell his yacht, you know—the one with built-in parking space FOR ANOTHER YACHT. Steps away from a Dickens novel, I tell ya.
  • Or, a great way to lower cloud costs is to get off it entirely, according to Basecamp and Hey (why would you name your company Hey?). Parent company 37signals (which is not an early 2000s emo band) says they tried all the cloud had to offer and it sucks, hard—and calls on other larger companies to think about alternatives.
  • OK, nobody panic, Forrester is here with some common sense: the cloud market will actually become more lucrative during a global economic downturn, the firm says. The report was based off an intern bringing in her Magic Eight Ball and asking it “Will cloud be OK in 2023?” five times until she got “It is Decidedly So.”
    • A reporter with Yahoo! Finance who probably makes $25K a year and has a master’s degree is also not worried about AWS, so we’re all good.
  • The AWS exec who led the company’s professional services arm has skedaddled after bullying, discrimination, and harassment claims—which have since culminated in a lawsuit from an LGBTQ+ employee. I combed through the filing so you don’t have to: a male co-worker called her a bitch; she alerted HR, he was promoted to a “Level 10” position like this is the Church of Scientology, and she was fired. Sounds like my first job on Wall Street in 2003! The Wolf of Wall Street was extremely triggering for me!!!
  • GitHub workers, be ready to call Saul because Microsoft “stole” some (publicly available) code to train its AI tool in Visual Studio. Like open-source nerds would, the GitHub group launched a website about the investigation, ironically biting off the Wall Street Journal illustrative style.

New stuff

  • Microsoft has brought AI-translated Teams messages in more than 100 languages to your mobile device. So, if you’re on the go and need to send a reminder about deadline to your collaborators in Inuinnaqtun, Zulu, or even in KLINGON for Dave in accounting, you can.
  • AWS has doubled the computing power of its Snowball Edge device, so, um, congrats to that thing, I guess!
  • The company has also made it easier to run batch workloads in the cloud with a new integration from AWS, which connects AWS Batch and Amazon EKS services.
  • There’s a new serverless option for Amazon Neptune and you’ll never believe it, but it’s called Amazon Neptune Serverless.
  • A new solution to the Microsoft scene is AKS Lite, a tool for running Kubernetes in resource constrained IoT and edge environments.
  • DDoS attacks, the method of choice for amateur hackers, my second favorite type of hacker after really good professional hackers, can be a thing of the past for SMBs with Azure DDoS IP Protection now in public preview.
  • Windows Dev Kit 2023, a device that lets developers build Windows apps for Arm using an AI processor and absolutely looks like something I would leave behind in an Uber, is officially on sale in select countries.

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

  • Trend Micro says threat actors are attempting to grab access keys from Amazon EC2 using a technique called “typosquatting,” an issue I also have until my eyeglass prescription gets updated this month.

Miscellany

  • Since AWS launched that big career training center last month, it has decided to shut down the teams behind the AWS online tutorials. Now what am I going to fall asleep to?? Maybe I’ll take a cue from my husband and drift off to that Japanese guy on YouTube who makes knives out of meat.
  • A Container Build Lens has become part of the AWS Well-Architected Framework, which is a fancy way of saying they updated a mind-numbing whitepaper that the noob in IT is going to have to read so they can be the human CliffsNotes for the CIO.
    • The noob should also earmark that AWS got a FedRAMP certification for High Authority to Operate for its cloud-based contact center service, Amazon Connect.

By Jane Dornemann

Image of a hot air balloon with text that reads

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • Parallel Wireless, a telecoms service provider in New Hampshire, has selected AWS, specifically Amazon EKS, to deliver cloud-native “Any G” (2G through 5G). I hope this young rapper from Belgium does not file a cease and desist!
    • Any G the rapper isn’t the only one coming for you on this one, AWS—Microsoft wants to stop eating your dust in the telco market. That’s why they’re prepping to launch commercial Azure Operator Distributed Services (AODS). They COULD really get ahead with telecoms if they produced some amazing industry case studies with 2A, but if they want to do this the hard way, they can.
    • But better act fast because AWS is co-developing a new set of computer vision AI services with SK Telecom.
  • Now that I’ve dry heaved into my office wastebasket after simply seeing a mention of Meta, you should know the company has partnered with Microsoft to bring content, Windows apps, and Teams integrations to the Metaverse—part of Zuckerberg’s $10B plan to “make it impossible for remote workers to hide from their bosses.” ::pulls wastebasket closer::
  • Obviously, anyone driving a fossil fuel-powered Benz is thinking first and foremost about sustainability even if they clearly had the budget to buy an electric car. That’s why Mercedes-Benz has partnered with Microsoft to connect passenger car plants to Microsoft cloud! Now Mercedes-Benz can produce fossil fuel cars while monitoring how much natural resources they are using to do it. Great idea, love the innovative thinking.
  • Microsoft may have landed Mercedes-Benz, but AWS has snagged BMW Group. The two will develop customizable cloud software to simplify data management and distribution among millions of connected vehicles.
  • This popped up in my recent Google search but CIO.com has 404’d it… scandalous. The since-deleted report said that IBM and AWS are working together to pursue a variety of industry-specific solutions.
  • Newly minted AWS ISV Illumio has made its Zero Trust Segmentation Platform available on AWS. Also new to the ISV club: Syte, a product discovery platform, and SysAid, a provider of IT service automation.
  • So many partners, so little time. So, I’ll be brief:
    • Red Hat unleashed its Ansible Automation Platform on Azure in Azure Marketplace, helping customers simplify hybrid cloud automation.
    • Cisco extended its SD-WAN integration with Azure by doing stuff that I don’t understand because when I was growing up “computer science class” meant playing Oregon Trail in 8-bit. Thanks, Brooklyn Public Schools.
    • MongoDB is one of several companies that makes up Microsoft’s news Intelligent Data Platform Partner Ecosystem. Developers using MongoDB Atlas can now build apps within Marketplace and Azure Portal.
    • Fivetran (which makes me think of a boy band) has added capabilities with Azure to accelerate data-driven transformations. They are ALSO part of the Intelligent Data Platform ecosystem and this club is getting less exclusive by the minute. If Microsoft keeps this pace they are going to end up like Michael Kors.

World domination

  • AWS can’t take over the world unless there’s a center for ants kids who can’t read good, which is why it’s opening a learning facility in Arlington, VA. The center is mostly to skill 29 million adults, but some unlucky classrooms will be bussed to the “interactive exhibits on the role of cloud computing.” A really cool initiative, though, is that the center will offer career support to Ukrainian refugees.
  • New data centers, yay! AWS is bringing three data centers to Loudoun County, VA, which will be too busy to notice because they are banning “sexually explicit books” like 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale. If they think 1984 is steamy, wait until they read Ezekiel 16:17, Ezekiel 23:18-21, Exodus 4:25, Genesis 19:35…you get the idea.
    • AWS also announced plans to launch an infrastructure region in Thailand, a country that has not yet regressed to banning important classic books that have shaped their literary culture.
  • AWS Graviton2 chips are huge in Japan, with two of the archipelago nation’s largest companies saying they’re consuming 72% less power than the previous chips they were using to support their 5G network.

New stuff

  • Microsoft unveiled three new Surface computers (tablet, laptop, desktop) available 6 days before Halloween because that’s how I measure all time once October 1st hits.
  • AWS launched The Landing Zone for Healthcare, which sounds like an indoor trampoline park but is actually a no-code solution for governing multi-account environments.
  • At Ignite this year, Azure was the diamond of the season (that was for my Bridgerton geeks), with several items/features announced for general availability—Azure Arc for SQL Server, Edge browser, and Azure Cosmos DB for PostreSQL.
    • Don’t forget Power Platform, the successful, modern cousin who everyone mentions at family gatherings, but nobody ever sees anymore because ever since he moved out to L.A. he’s just too good to come home to see his extended family in Tulsa, I guess. Anyway, Power Platform has been updated with natural language AI capabilities that have a few neat use cases, as well as some governance features. This nice-looking man, who may or may not be actively building a miniature of Mordor to scale in his basement, says Power Platform is among several offerings that will continue to be a focus of Microsoft.
  • AWS is expanding its Amazon WorkSpaces desktop-as-a-service portfolio with a new managed infrastructure-only cloud VDI offering. VDI sounds like something you get when you hook up with too many people (such a thing??) but actually, it’s “Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.”
  • Welcome Syntex (again), a low-code AI and automation product relaunched by Microsoft that automated content creation, indexing, and discovery.
  • SMBs can get in on that firewall action with Microsoft’s Azure Firewall Basic, now in public preview.

Gossip (for nerds)

  • Upon its 2018 acquisition, Microsoft promised that its subsidiary GitHub would remain cloud agnostic and perhaps that’s open to a little interpretation; GitHub has been introducing new features and products built on Azure, which work best on Azure.  “WHAT, WE’RE NOT DOING ANYTHING WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT” —Microsoft
  • New Relic yoinked a second AWS person in as many weeks. Their secret? An office kegerator.
  • A new KPMG survey of 1,000 executives showed that 67% were reevaluating cloud spending after failing to achieve a significant ROI. The cause, according to this journalist, is that fools rushed in.
  • Microsoft has more leaks than my first NYC apartment—this week it’s an internal presentation on the tech giant’s “cloud revenue” for 2022, which hit $91.2B, but without saying how much of that figure is thanks to Azure.
  • 1,000 Microsoft employees have seen better days following their layoff this week. Layoffs include the Azure division, which follow the voluntary departures of some Azure execs. Meanwhile, Amazon froze hiring for technology and corporate positions, but AWS will continue to hire new people.
  • In an attempt to compete with design app Canva, Microsoft launched—wait for the name—Designer. And it’s free with an Office software subscription. The amount of shade thrown in this article is pretty sweet…in response to the launch, Canva was like, mmm ok that’s cute. And then Microsoft was like, but Adobe is still our BFF! And Adobe was like, that’s right girl ‘cause Canva is for basics with a capital B.
    • And what better time to start using Design, which will be forced upon you like a U2 album, then after you’ve created something in DALL-E 2? It’s coming to (invited) Azure AI customers.
  • Oh look, it’s nice Mordor man again! He says that he doesn’t see organizations slowing their move to the cloud amidst economic uncertainty…and he said that 6 days before layoffs. Otherwise known as 19 days before Halloween.
  • “Silver and Gold” isn’t just everyone’s least favorite Christmas song, it’s also Microsoft’s least favorite partner strategy—that’s why the company is ditching the silver and gold competencies.

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

  • DataDog released its annual security report on AWS. Among the findings: more than a third of respondents had publicly exposed S3 buckets. Ouch on several levels.

By Annie Wegrich

decorative image

Image by Brandon Conboy

The audience is settling, light chatter reverberates from high ceilings. House lights blink once, twice, and give way to silence. It’s keynote time.

Lights, camera, action!

The session launches. Video rolls. Enter stage center, a totally fresh take on video—2A’s user interface (UI) animation, just like this one.  

You, passionate business manager, and your CTO also in attendance both sit up a little straighter, this is not the brand hype video you expected. Animation, music, UI, with crystal-clear messaging. You look around. Everyone in the audience from executives to sellers, and engineers to marketers, is paying more attention than usual for a product launch.

Behind the scenes

Tightly targeting your audience is essential in successful marketing. Brands cannot be everything to everyone. But, for something like an event session, product landing page, or PR announcement, you need to resonate with a broader group.

The UI animation is your headliner here. It offers a concise and engaging way to show and tell what makes your product great. It doesn’t bog users down with multiple clicks. It doesn’t require reading. It’s easy to share and mobile-friendly.

Let’s go behind the scenes for a minute to see why these UI animations are so captivating. The animation frames and focuses attention on core product features and interactions. Then the UI-based visuals provide product truth. The audience can follow along thanks to a narrator who explains product benefits in perfect harmony with the visual cues. Lively music catches attention, while words on screen give context. And to top it off, the right fonts, closed captions, and tactical contrast provide enhanced accessibility.

The after party is just getting started

Consider the UI animation to kick off your next marketing campaign or launch event. Let’s make your product the star of the show!

By Jane Dornemann

hot air balloon with the title cloud cover vol. 4

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • AWS got a free pass to pahk its cah in hahvad yahd: In an alliance with Harvard, AWS is working to advance quantum networking research with a bunch of awesome nerds. The goal is to inform development of the quantum internet, which I hope involves the ability to grab real doughnuts through my computer screen, and other crucial-to-humanity innovations.
  • If you haven’t heard about this, I’d like to rent some space in that rock you’re living under, but: Adobe acquired design platform Figma for $20B. Adobe will likely bundle Figma with its Adobe Creative Suite, which includes its Creative Cloud that runs on Microsoft Azure.
  • Management consulting firm McKinsey has joined forces with Microsoft to create an integrated solution that will help companies move toward more sustainable operations.
    • Funny timing because Microsoft has announced it will help oilfield company Schlumberger make “data-driven decisions.” Chevron is also in on this partnership.
  • Our Future Health, a UK-based health research program, is going to use Azure for its initiatives around personalized disease detection and treatment.
  • Palo Alto Networks’ VM-Series Virtual Next-Gen Firewall is now available on Azure Marketplace for the infamous private 5G* network with multi-access edge compute.
  • In a historic move, Oracle has made its MySQL Heatwave database available on AWS, which sounds more like a hair crimping tool from the 80s than anything else.
  • AWS named OutSystems its software partner of the year, a “testament to the high-performance power of low-code.”

*4G, ok? It’s 4G right now. Not the creative “4G/5G” they pull in this article. You can’t be married if you’re still engaged.

Gossip (for nerds)

  • Former Microsoft Azure IoT partner Bert Van Hoof (love the name) is now president AND CEO (greedy, Bert, greedy!) of Willow, a digital twinning proptech firm. Microsoft Teams VP Bhrighu Sareen has moved to software startup Highspot.
    • Some of the Microsoft execs who are sticking around will be richly rewarded with high-stakes projects they better not blow. How do we know this? My fave gossip source: leaked documents.
  • Microsoft announced that it will not label fake news on social media as false to avoid any claims of censorship. So, you know, if you want to believe that Joe Biden is the 46th president and he’s 79 years old and 4+6+7+9=26 and 2+6=8 and it’s 2022 so 2+0+2+2 is 6 and…well well well look at that, another 6. You know what 3 sixes are? That’s right. SATAN.
  • There’s more research out of Microsoft Viva that dishes all the dirt on the workplace, such as: 85% of employers don’t believe you’re being more productive in your hybrid work setup, you lazy liars. How can companies fix it? By buying Viva with its new enhanced capabilities.
  • A communications watchdog in the UK has opened an investigation into the market domination of AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. The three own 72% of European cloud spend.
  • Security, reliability, and performance improvement company Cloudflare has AWS in its sights. Cloudflare is pulling from the AWS playbook, wooing startups by connecting them with VC firms looking to invest in Cloudflare users. Weird flex, but OK. “We’re not ‘stealing’…we’re earning it,” said the Cloudflare CEO, which is the same argument I’ve heard millionaires make about tax evasion through Panamanian bank accounts.
    • Cloud storage company Wasabi Technologies is also set to compete with AWS (psshh sure) after a $250M investment.
  • The secrets to AWS’ growth strategy? APAC/Japan expansion and telco partnerships—as reflected in its investment in India and recent partnership with Sateliot, a satellite telecoms operator, to build a cloud-native 5G service.

New stuff

  • Microsoft released a bunch of new security features for Windows 11, emphasizing Zero Trust. Their differentiator? A focus on hardware-based protection.
    • They also released some other features for Windows 11, which is growing in popularity now that support for Windows 10—which accounts for 72% of its Windows users—ends in 2025.
  • In a bid to compete with AWS’ custom Graviton systems, Microsoft has unveiled its family of Azure VMs running on Ampere Arm-based processors. Like every family, these VMs pick fights with each other when bored and “borrow” clothes without asking.
  • AWS Glue is great if you don’t sniff it, especially now that it supports a bunch of stuff that will take me 100 years to understand.
  • New Relic has some new blood after poaching some AWS and Salesforce execs.
    • To get even, AWS and Salesforce are not inviting New Relic to their strategic expansion party, which will be Buzz Lightyear-themed. An integration between Amazon SageMaker and the Salesforce platform will allow mutual customers to easily build AI models.
    • To make nice, New Relic announced support for Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Flow Logs.
  • AWS has established a startup accelerator for sustainable cities. Smart infrastructure entrepreneurs will be “rewarded” with $10k in cloud credits, some Snickers bars, and other things that don’t actually pay the rent.
  • AWS has also created the brand new AWS Smart City competency, largely intended to help the public sector. AWS Partners can get this competency in part by sharing customer case studies.
  • AWS can’t get enough smart stuff—it has also launched AWS IoT FleetWise for general availability. Like an overly possessive boyfriend, the service collects vehicle data from built-in sensors.
  • AWS customers can now deploy Amazon EKS clusters on AWS Outposts, making AWS even more Kubernetes-friendly.

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

  • Researchers found a vulnerability that would allow malicious actors who have Microsoft file system access to steal credentials from Teams users. This impacts all Government Community Cloud Desktop Teams customers, including defense contractors and infrastructure operators.
  • The storytelling team doesn’t have to worry about a hacker “mimicking users while online” because as soon as they see that our chat is full of debates about commas and citations, they will peace out faster than you can say, “Dirimens copulatio” (look it up!).
  • Even with all this, analysts over at Seeking Alpha say Teams is overtaking Zoom in the corporate world.
  • Another security firm found ways to exploit flaws in Azure Active Directory. The good news is that one of the crypters is named DarkTortilla, which sounds like a super cool nightclub residing in a strip mall that I’d go to. Because I go to those.

World domination

  • People who are glad they weren’t on Microsoft’s M&A legal team this past year? Me. Microsoft Teams is merging with Deutsche Telekom’s mobile network, dubbed “Mobile für Microsoft Teams” and you HAVE to say it in an angry scary German accent or else it means something else.
  • More München! German open-source software company SUSE has entered into a multi-year collaboration with AWS to offer migrations acceleration programs for customers moving from SAP to AWS.
  • Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” stores are set to expand their merchandise, and new ones recently opened in Dallas-Fort Worth and DC airports. After 2A worked on the latest promo video for Just Walk Out at Lumen Field, Amazon has decided to make our very own Guy Schoonmaker their mascot. Because who doesn’t want a super nice dude greeting you on your milk-and-bread run?
  • AWS had so much fun at DarkTortilla with us that it has decided to expand its presence in Mexico starting in 2023. Aside from opening a few offices in various Mexican cities, it will construct a new Local Zone in Querétaro, considered the country’s “third most beautiful city.”