Recent Blog Posts

Why Purpose Matters In Mobile Analytics Design

office-workers-tablet-collaboration-1.jpgA rise in the use of mobile devices and applications has heightened the demand for organizations to elevate their plans to deliver mobile analytics solutions. However, designing mobile analytics solutions without understanding your audience and purpose can sometimes backfire.

 

I frequently discover that in mobile analytics projects, understanding the purpose is where we take things for granted and fall short—not because we don’t have the right resources to understand it better, but because we tend to form the wrong assumptions. Better understanding of the “mobile purpose” is critical for success and we need to go beyond just accepting the initial request at the onset of our engagements.

 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the purpose as “the reason why something is done or used: the aim or intention of something.” Although the reasons for a mobile analytics projects may appear obvious on the surface, a re-evaluation of the initial assumptions can often prove to be invaluable both for the design and longevity of mobile projects.

 

Here are a few points to keep in mind before you schedule your first meeting or lay down a single line of code.

 

Confirm link to strategy

 

I often talk about the importance of executive sponsorship. There’s no better person than the executive sponsor to provide guidance and validation. When it comes to technology projects (and mobile analytics is no different), our engagements need to be linked directly to our strategy. We must make sure that everything we do contributes to our overall business goal.

 

Consider the relevance

 

Is it relevant? It’s a simple question, yet we have a tendency to take it for granted and overlook its significance. It doesn’t matter whether we’re designing a strategy for mobile analytics or a simple mobile report—relevance matters.

 

Moreover, it isn’t enough just to study its current application. We need to ask: Will it be relevant by the time we deliver? Even with rapid deployment solutions and the use of agile project methodologies, there’s a risk that certain requirements may become irrelevant if current business processes that mobile analytics depends on change or your mobile analytics solution highlights gaps that may require a redesign of your business processes. In the end, what we do must be relevant both now and when we Go Live.

 

Understand the context

 

Understanding the context is crucial, because everything we do and design will be interpreted according to the context in which the mobile analytics project is managed or the mobile solutions are delivered. When we talk about context in mobile analytics, we mustn’t think only about the data consumed on the mobile device, but also how that data is consumed and why it was required in the first place.

 

We’re also interested in going beyond the what to further examine the why and how. Why is this data or report relevant? How can I make it more relevant?

Finding these answers requires that you get closer to current or potential customers (mobile users) by involving them actively in the process from day one. You need to closely observe their mobile interactions so you can validate your assumptions about the use cases and effectively identify gaps where they may exist.

 

Bottom line: Focus on the business value

 

Ultimately, it all boils down to this: What is the business value?

 

Is it insight into operations so we can improve productivity? Is it cost savings through early detection and preventive actions? Is it increased sales as a result of identifying new opportunities?

 

What we design and how we design will directly guide and influence many of these outcomes. If we have confirmed the link to strategy, considered the relevance, and understood the context, then we have all the right ingredients to effectively deliver business value.

 

In the absence of these pieces, our value proposition won’t pass muster.

 

Stay tuned for my next blog in the Mobile Analytics Design series.

 

You may also like the Mobile BI Strategy series on IT Peer Network.

 

Connect with me on Twitter @KaanTurnali, LinkedIn and here on the IT Peer Network.

 

  A version of this post was originally published on turnali.com and also appeared on the SAP Analytics Blog

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Empowering Health: Are Avatars, Virtual Reality and Robots the future of Nursing?

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I was delighted to be invited to speak at Microsoft’s Empowering Health event in Brussels, Belgium recently, which brought together some 200 thought-leaders from across the world to discuss health IT issues in a ‘Mobile First and Cloud First World’.

 

I was looking forward to hearing about how some of the more progressive countries in Europe were utilising technology to deliver more personal, productive and predictive health to its citizens so it was pleasing to hear examples from the Netherlands around patient portals and from Sweden where virtual care rooms are helping to deliver a more efficient healthcare system through patient self-diagnosis. From these very real examples of today to discussions around the future of machine learning and robotics, the narratives were underpinned by the absolute need for clinical staff to have input into the technology solution they would be asked to use as early as possible.

 

Data: One Size Does Not Fit All

Some great statistics from Tom Lawry, Director of Worldwide Health Analytics, Microsoft, generated a real buzz in the room. Tom started his presentation by stating that ‘we spend a lot of money ONCE people are sick, while most money is spent on small numbers of people who are VERY sick.’ Clearly there are a lot of areas where technology is helping to move the needle from cure to prevention while all-in-one-day genome sequencing to personalised medicine is something we are working towards here at Intel as we look ahead to 2020. I was interested to hear examples from across the world on how healthcare providers are dealing with increasingly large amounts of data. Within the European Union there are very different takes on what data is classed as secure and what is not. For providers and vendors, this requires a keen eye on the latest legislation, but it’s clear that it’s a case of one size does not necessarily fit all.

 

Digital Education of Nurses

The breakout nursing session brought together a dedicated group of nurses with a real interest in how technology can, and will, help make nursing even better. We kicked off by discussing what level of digital education nurses have today, and what they need to equip them for the future. The consensus was that more needs to be done in helping nurses be prepared for the technology they’ll be asked to use, in essence making technology a core part of the nursing curriculum from day one.

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The move towards distributed care generated some fantastic thoughts on how technology can help nurses working in the community – read my recent blog for more thoughts on that. We all agreed that access to healthcare is changing, it has to if we are to meet the demands of an ageing population. For example, millennials don’t necessarily think that they need to see a medical practitioner in a hospital setting or a doctor’s surgery, they are happy to call a clinician on the phone or sit in a kiosk for a virtual consultation, the priority being quick and easy access.

 

Nurses Actively Championing Technology

I was particularly impressed by a new app showcased by Odense University Hospital called Talk2Care – in short, it enables patients in ICU to ‘talk’ to nurses using an icon-based dashboard on a mobile device. This new way for patients to communicate, who would in some cases only be able to nod or shake their head, has been invaluable not only for nurses but the patient’s family too. What really pleased me was that nurses were actively championing this technology, encouraging patients to utilise it to help nurses deliver a better care experience.

 

We closed with thoughts on how taking care into the community was being revolutionized by technology. We’ve got some great examples of the role Intel is playing in the advance towards more distributed care, from the use of Intel IoT Gateways to help the elderly live more independent lives at home through to the KU Wellness car which empowers nurses to take advanced care into the community using mobile devices.

 

Virtual Reality Nursing

After a short break we returned to the main auditorium where I was pleased to be on stage with nurses from across the world. The future of the workforce was discussed in some detail, particularly around how the nursing and the wider healthcare community will manage the anticipated future global shortage of nurses. Technology will go some way to alleviating this shortfall through improved workflows but I like to think in a more visionary way, perhaps we will see the use of avatars, virtual reality and (thinking of discussions earlier in the day) robots. What’s clear is that nursing is changing in response to the move to distributed care, we need to skill not only nurses but other caregivers too, i.e. families, to make better use of the technology that is available today and tomorrow.

 

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Advice to a Network Admin Seeking a Career in Cybersecurity

Insider6.jpgEven after nearly 25 years, I continue to be excited and passionate about security.  I enjoy discussing my experiences, opinions, and crazy ideas with the community.  I often respond to questions and comments on my blogs and in LinkedIn, as it is a great platform to share ideas and communicate with others in the industry.  Recently I had responded to a Network Admin seeking a career in cybersecurity.  With their permission, I thought I would share a bit of the discussion as it might be helpful to others.

 

Mr. Rosenquist – I have been in the Information Technology field as a network administrator for some 16 years and am looking to get into the Cyber Security field but the opportunity for someone that lacks experience in this specialized field is quite difficult. I too recognize the importance of education and believe it is critical to optimum performance in your field. What would your recommendation of suggested potential solutions be to break into this field?  Thank you for your time and expertise.


 

Glad to hear you want to join the ranks of cybersecurity professionals! The industry needs people like you. You have a number of things going for you. The market is hungry for talent and network administration is a great background for several areas of cybersecurity.

 

Depending on what you want to do, you can travel down several different paths. If you want to stay in the networking aspects, I would recommend either a certification from SANS (or other reputable training organization with recognizable certifications) or dive into becoming a certified expert for a particular firewall/gateway/VPN product (ex. PaloAlto, CISCO, Check Point, Intel/McAfee, etc.). The former will give you the necessary network security credentials to work on architecture, configuration, analysis, operations, policy generation, audit, and incident response. The latter are in very high demand and specialize in the deployment, configuration, operation, and maintenance of these specific products.  If you want to throw caution to the wind and explore areas outside of your networking experience, you can go for a university degree and/or security credentials. Both is better but may not be necessary.

 

I recommend you work backwards. Find job postings for your ‘dream job’ and see what the requirements are. Make inquiries about preferred background and experience. This should give you the insights to how best fill your academic foundation.  Hope this helps. – Matthew Rosenquist

 

The cybersecurity industry is in tremendous need of more people with greater diversity to fill the growing number of open positions.  Recent college graduates, new to the workforce, will play a role in satiating the need, but there remain significant opportunities across a wide range of roles.  Experienced professionals with a technical, investigative, audit, program management, military, and analysis background can pivot into the cybersecurity domain with reasonable effort.  This can be a great prospect for people who are seeking new challenges, very competitive compensation, and excellent growth paths.  The world needs people from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and skills to be a part of the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

 

 

An open question to my peers; what advice would you give to workers in adjacent fields who are interested in the opportunities of cybersecurity?

 

 

Interested in more?  Follow me on Twitter (@Matt_Rosenquist) and LinkedIn to hear insights and what is going on in cybersecurity.

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Momentum Builds for the ‘Cloudification’ of Storage

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Here’s a prediction for 2016: The year ahead will bring the increasing “cloudification” of enterprise storage. And so will the years that follow—because cloud storage models offer the best hope for the enterprise to deal with unbounded data growth in a cost-effective manner.

 

In the context of storage, cloudification refers to the disaggregation of applications from the underlying storage infrastructure. Storage arrays that previously operated as silos dedicated to particular applications are treated as a single pool of virtualized storage that can be allocated to any application, anywhere, at any time, all in a cloud-like manner. Basically, cloudification takes today’s storage silos and turns them on their sides.

 

There are many benefits to this new approach that pools storage resources. In lots of ways, those benefits are similar to the benefits delivered by pools of virtualized servers and virtualized networking resources. For starters, cloudification of storage enables greater IT agility and easier management, because storage resources can now be allocated and managed via a central console. This eliminates the need to coordinate the work of teams of people to configure storage systems in order to deploy or scale an application. What used to take days or weeks can now be done in minutes.

 

And then there are the all-important financial benefits. A cloud approach to storage can greatly increase the utilization of the underlying storage arrays. And then there are the all-important financial benefits. A cloud approach to storage can greatly increase the utilization of the storage infrastructure; deferring capital outlays and reducing operational costs.

 

This increased utilization becomes all the more important with ongoing data growth. The old model of continually adding storage arrays to keep pace with data growth and new data retention requirements is no longer sustainable. The costs are simply too high for all those new storage arrays and the data center floor space that they consume. We now have to do more to reclaim the value of the resources we already have in place.

 

Cloudification isn’t a new concept, of course. The giants of the cloud world—such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon Web Services—have taken this approach from their earliest days. It is one of their keys to delivering high-performance data services at a huge scale and a relatively low cost. What is new is the introduction of cloud storage in enterprise environments. As I noted in my blog on non-volatile memory technologies, today’s cloud service providers are, in effect, showing enterprises the path to more efficient data centers and increased IT agility.

 

Many vendors are stepping up to help enterprises make the move to on-premises cloud-style storage. Embodiments of the cloudification concept include Google’s GFS and its successor Colossus, Facebook’s HDFS, Microsoft’s Windows Azure Storage (WAS), Red Hat’s Ceph/Rados (and GlusterFS), Nutanix’s Distributed File System (NDFS), among many others.

 

The Technical View

 

At this point, I will walk through the architecture of a cloud storage environment, for the benefit of those who want the more technical view.

 

Regardless of the scale or vendor, most of the implementations share the same storage system architecture. That architecture has three main components: a name service, a two-tiered storage service, and a replicated log service. The architectural drill-down looks like this:

 

The “name service” is a directory of all the volume instances currently being managed. Volumes are logical data containers, each with a unique name—in other words a namespace of named-objects. A user of storage services attaches to their volume via a directory lookup that resolves the name to the actual data container.

 

This data container actually resides in a two-tier storage service. The frontend tier is optimized for memory. All requests submitted by end-users are handled by this tier: metadata lookups as well as servicing read requests out of cache and appending write operations to the log.

 

The backend tier of the storage service provides a device-based, stable store. The tier is composed of a set of device pools, each pool providing a different class of service. Simplistically, one can imagine this backend tier supporting two device pools. One pool provides high performance but has a relatively small amount of capacity. The second pool provides reduced performance but a huge amount of capacity.

 

Finally, it is important to tease out the frontend tier’s log facility as a distinct, 3rd component. This is because this facility key to being able to support performant write requests while satisfying data availability and durability requirements.

 

In the weeks ahead, I will take up additional aspects of the cloudification of storage. In the meantime, you can learn about things Intel is doing to enable this new approach to storage at intel.com/storage.

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Intel Supports CONNECT for Health Making Chronic Disease Patients’ Lives Better

By Alice Borrelli, Global Healthcare Director Tomorrow, Senate and House champions for remote care will take an important step toward making the lives of chronic disease patients better through the introduction of the CONNECT for Health legislation. Working with providers … Read more >

The post Intel Supports CONNECT for Health Making Chronic Disease Patients’ Lives Better appeared first on Policy@Intel.

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Powerless or Power-Less?

DCD Magazine, contributed articledatacenter-abstract-graphic.jpg

 

While every facet of data center management is changing at a rapid pace, operating budgets rarely keep up. Data volume doubles every 18 months and applications every two years; in contrast, operating budgets take eight years to double (IDC Directions, 2014).

 

IT has always been asked to do more with less, but the dynamic nature of the data center has been accelerating in recent years. Smart devices, big data, virtualization, and the cloud continue to change service delivery models and elevate the importance of flexibility, elasticity, and scalability.

 

Every facet of data center management, as a result, has been complicated by an incredibly rapid rate of change. Thousands of devices move on and off intranets. Fluid pools of compute resources are automatically allocated. Does this ultra-dynamic environment make it impossible for IT and facilities management teams to identify under-utilized and over-stressed resources?

 

If so, energy consumption in the data center will continue to skyrocket. And data centers already consume 10 percent of all energy produced around the globe, according to recent Natural Resources Defense Council reports.)

 

Fortunately, IT is far from powerless even within these challenging data center conditions.

 

Discovering some secret weapons

 

Ironically, in today’s data centers consisting of software-defined resources, the secret weapon for curbing energy costs lies in the hardware. Rack and blade servers, switches, power distribution units, and many other data center devices provide a wealth of power and temperature information during operation. Data center scale and the diversity of the hardware make it too cumbersome to manually collect and apply this information, which has led to a growing ecosystem of energy management solution providers.

 

Data center managers, as a result, have many choices today. They can take advantage of a management console that integrates energy management, have an integrator add energy management middleware to an existing management console, or independently deploy an energy management middleware solution to gain the necessary capabilities.

 

Regardless of the deployment option, a holistic energy management solution allows IT and facilities teams to view, log, and analyze energy and temperature behaviors throughout the data center. Automatically collected and aggregated power and thermal data can drive graphical maps of each room in a data center, and data can be analyzed to identify trends and understand workloads and other variables.

 

Visibility and the ability to log energy information equips data center managers to answer basic questions about consumption, and make better decisions relating to data center planning and optimization efforts.

 

Best-in-class energy management solutions take optimization to a higher level by combining automated monitoring and logging with real-time control capabilities. For example, thresholds can be set to cap power for certain servers or racks at appropriate times or when conditions warrant. Servers that are idle for longer than a specified time can be put into power-conserving sleep modes. Power can be allocated based on business priorities, or to extend the life of back-up power during an outage. Server clock rates can even be adjusted dynamically to lower power consumption without negatively impacting service levels or application performance.

 

Energy-conscious data centers take advantage of these capabilities to meet a broad range of operating objectives including accurate capacity planning, operating cost reduction, extending the life of data center equipment, and compliance with “green” initiatives.

 

Common uses and proven results

 

Customer deployments highlight several common motivations, and provide insights in terms of the types and scale of results that can be achieved with a holistic energy management solution and associated best practices.

 

  • Power monitoring. Identifying and understanding peak periods of power use motivate many companies to introduce an energy management solution. The insights gained have allowed customers to reduce usage by more than 15 percent during peak hours, and to reduce monthly data center utility bills even as demands for power during peak periods goes up. Power monitoring is also being applied to accurately charge co-location and other service users.

  • Increasing rack densities. Floor space is another limiting factor for scaling up many data centers. Without real-time information, static provisioning has traditionally relied upon power supply ratings or derated levels based on lab measurements. Real-time power monitoring typically proves that the actual power draw comes in much lower. With the addition of monitoring and power capping, data centers can more aggressively provision racks and drive up densities by 60 to more than 80 percent within the same power envelope.

  • Identifying idle or under-used servers. “Ghost” servers draw as much as half of the power used during peak workloads. Energy management solutions have shown that 10 to 15 percent of servers fall into this category at any point in time, and help data center managers better consolidate and virtualize to avoid this wasted energy and space.

  • Early identification of potential failures. Besides monitoring and automatically generating alerts for dangerous thermal hot spots, power monitoring and controls can extend UPS uptime by up to 15 percent and prolong business continuity by up to 25 percent during power outages.

  • Advanced thermal control. Real-time thermal data collection can drive intuitive heat maps of the data center without adding expensive thermal sensors. Thermal maps can be used to dramatically improve oversight and fine-grained monitoring (from floor level to device level). The maps also improve capacity planning, and help avoid under- and over-cooling. With the improved visibility and threshold setting, data center managers can also confidently increase ambient operating temperatures. Every one-degree increase translates to 5 to 10 percent savings in cooling costs.

  • Balancing power and performance. Trading off raw processor speed for smarter processor design has allowed data centers to decrease power by 15 to 25 percent with little or no impact on performance.

Time to get serious about power

 

Bottom line, data center hardware still matters. The constantly evolving software approaches for mapping resources to applications and services calls for real-time, fine-grained monitoring of the hardware. Energy management solutions make it possible to introduce this monitoring, along with power and thermal knobs that put IT and facilities in control of energy resources that already account for the largest line item on the operating budget.

 

Software and middleware solutions that allow data center managers to keep their eyes on the hardware and the environmental conditions let automation move ahead full speed, safely, and affordably – without skyrocketing utility bills. Power-aware VM migration and job scheduling should be the standard practice in today’s power-hungry data centers.

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Intel’s Secret Cybersecurity Advantage

2016 Intel IT cybersec 2.jpgIntel Corporation has a secret advantage to protect itself from cyber threats; a world class Information Technology (IT) shop. The 2015-2016 Intel IT Annual Performance Report showcases the depth of security, operational efficiency, and innovation to deliver robust IT services for business value.

 

IT is typically a thankless job, relegated to the back office, data centers, network rooms, and call-center cubicles.  Although not a profit center, Intel IT has an important role in the daily business of a global technology innovation and manufacturing giant.  Cybersecurity is an integral part of IT’s job to keep Intel running. 

 

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I spent many years working within Intel IT and security operations.  I can say with confidence it is one of the best IT shops in the industry.  The proof is in the report.

 

Intel IT has produced an annual report for many years to highlight their efforts to enable growth of the business, improve productivity of employees, manage costs, and protect the confidentiality of data and availability of critical systems.

 

This year is no different.  Intel has a massive network and digital net-worth to protect.  Intel presents a big target to attackers, both internal and external, and must defend itself with industry best practices.  In many cases it is involved in the development and proof-of-concept testing with the Intel Security solutions teams to vet products and request needed capabilities in response to new threats. 

 

Here is a quick rundown of how Intel IT security stands guard.  Security supports over 100k employees in 72 countries, at 153 sites.  They are charged in protecting networks, clouds, servers, storage, PC’s, tablets, phones, and all the applications connecting them.  They must protect very sensitive silicon manufacturing, assembly, and test facilities where robots, chemicals, and people are making the magic of computer chips a reality.

 

Every day about 13 billion events get logged in the security tools.  These are critical to detect threats and attacks.  In the past year, 225 million pieces of malware were blocked from infecting Intel’s networks and computers.  Keeping systems patched and squashing vulnerabilities is a huge and constant job.  Over 12 million security events were addressed to close system vulnerabilities.  Intel IT security systems, people, and management are vigilant and focused in their role.  More importantly, they and the fellow employees they serve understand the value of their contribution, security policies, and continual awareness training.  Security is a tremendously big job, but when management, employees and security professionals work as a team, incredible results are possible.

 

The 2015-2016 Intel IT Annual Performance Report can be downloaded for free here: http://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/best-practices/intel-it-annual-performance-report-2015-16-paper.pdf

 

 

Interested in more?  Follow me on Twitter (@Matt_Rosenquist) and LinkedIn to hear insights and what is going on in cybersecurity.

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New Meaningful Use 3 Requirement: Inclusion of Patient Generated Health Data

In December, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced final rules of Meaningful Use 3 (MU3)—the third and final iteration of the Meaningful Use Program. The principal goal of this incentive program is to ensure that electronic health records are being used by providers in a way that improves quality of care (e.g., used for e-prescribing, or for submission of clinical quality measures). MU requires providers to meet these criteria in order to receive incentive payments and avoid downward reimbursement adjustments.

 

As part of MU3, eligible providers will be required to integrate Patient Generated Health Data (PGHD) with clinical data in the EHR for at least 5 percent of the patient population. PGHD includes any data that is generated outside of the clinical setting. Examples include data captured by a device such as a smart phone, or self-reported data (e.g., diet, functional status, emotion well-being) that is manually recorded by the patient. The patient both captures and transfers that data to the provider.

 

Inclusion of PGHD in this third and final phase of Meaning Use is exciting for several reasons  

First, this new rule has potential to incentivize providers to invest in the technology and infrastructure (e.g., data storage and security) that will support the integration and use of this data, which to date has not been systematically incorporated into routine patient care.

 

Second, this new rule coincides with the rapidly growing wearable device market and consumer use of these devices that allows patients to capture their own health data outside of the clinic or hospital setting. Integrating these data points with clinical data and allowing providers to use these data at the point of care will contribute to patient engagement, patient activation, and self-management.

 

Third, at the policy level, this is likely to drive interoperability and data security standards, which could have broader and positive implications for other types of healthcare data and analytics.

 

How should providers prepare?

This new ruling will go into effect in 2018, thus giving providers time to make changes to current EMRs and technology that will support the use of the transfer, use, and storage of this data.

 

At Intel, we are working to advance these goals through data security efforts, big data analytics, data storage capabilities, and wearable devices that promote and support PGHD.

 

One such initiative within Intel Health & Life Sciences involves Big Cloud Analytics and its COVALENCE Health Analytics Platform. The COVALENCE Health Analytics Platform is powered by Intel Xeon processor-based servers in the cloud, which ensures a secure, reliable, and scalable infrastructure. Big Cloud Analytics utilizes the Basis Peak watch, which provides 24×7 real-time heart rate monitoring, and supplies metrics for sleep patterns, steps taken, skin temperature, and perspiration. It collects readings on 50 biometric data points every 60 seconds and syncs the data security with the Basis Cloud.  This allows insurance providers, healthcare institutions, and employers to securely use wearable device data to engage patients with event-triggered personalized messaging.

 

Biometric sensor data gathered from the device is also transmitted to the cloud or on premise data storage and aggregated in the COVALENCE Health Analytics Platform. This platform transforms data into business intelligence and predictive analytics. It then generates wellness scores, bio-identity scores, and many others. Insights based on analysis of the data points and trends provide an early indication of potential health issues or lack of progress toward health goals.

 

PGHD as part of routine care: opportunities and challenges

While PGHD will substantially increase the number of data points that can inform healthcare and lead to new insights, we recognize that operationalizing the transmission and use of PGHD will not happen instantly, nor effortlessly. Many questions remain as to how this data will be most effectively used by providers and patients. For example, what is relevant data?  How should providers communicate this to patients so that the appropriate data can be collected and transferred? How much data will providers want and need to obtain in order to make this data useful for patient care? How often will providers want to see this data? How might this influx of data affect staff or clinic workflows? From a user experience perspective, how will this data be best displayed so that providers and patients alike can act upon it? Perhaps further research, particularly ethnographic research that takes into account both the clinician and patient perspective, is needed if we are to use this data in way that translates to better patient outcomes.

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Does Your IT Enterprise Have an Internet of Things (IoT) Strategy?

The Internet of Things (IOT) – the technology world is abuzz about it. Today, more objects are connected to the Internet than there are people in the world, and the number of IoT objects is expected to grow to between 25 and 50 billion by 2020, depending on which analyst you read. Security cameras, household and business appliances, lighting fixtures, climate control systems, water treatment plants, cars, traffic lights, fetal heart monitors, and power plant controls, just to name a few—the opportunities to collect and use data are seemingly endless.

 

What does all this mean for enterprise IT?

 

As the Industry Engagement Manager in Intel IT EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), I’m working with my colleagues to implement IoT solutions that align to our IT IoT strategy.

 

Why does IT need an IoT strategy you ask? Well, considering the growth of IoT solutions over time, business groups in many companies are looking for their own IoT point solution to solve their problems. They may not come to IT for the solution. Many may implement differing solutions, such as sensors, gateways, protocols, and platforms. This is not the most cost-effective or efficient approach for Intel for many reasons. Who will manage and support these point solutions over time? Who will verify that they are secure? Can the network handle the new data volume growth? If the solution “breaks,” will the business groups ask IT to fix them – if so, IT may inherit solutions that do not match the enterprise architecture needs and therefore may need to be redesigned, replaced, or both. These are all important questions, and there are many other reasons to have an IoT strategy, which I will discuss in a future blog. As IT professionals, we need to have a seat at the table when IoT solutions are being defined, to ensure the business gets it right the first time.

 

We recently published a white paper, “Integrating IoT Sensor Technology into the Enterprise,” describing the best practices we have developed relating to IoT. The paper shares the 14 best practices we use that enable us to successfully launch an IoT project. We hope that by sharing these best practices, we can help others to also successfully implement IoT solutions in their enterprise.

 

What we’ve learned is that once you’ve defined the process, IoT projects can be implemented in an efficient and streamlined fashion. Each step does require some effort to define its requirements, but once the steps are defined, they can be used in a repeatable manner. To summarize our defined best practices, here’s the flow:

 

Blog-Roadmap.pngPre-Explore the Technology and Concept

  • Best Practice #1: Build an IoT Team
  • Best Practice #2: Define the IoT System

 

Explore the Project Feasibility and Value

  • Best Practice #3: Determine the Business Value
  • Best Practice #4: Acquire Stakeholder Agreement and Funding

 

Plan and Scope the Project

  • Best Practice #5: Classify the Sensor Data
  • Best Practice #6: Design the Network Infrastructure and Choose IoT Devices
  • Best Practice #7: Review Environmental Conditions
  • Best Practice #8: Define Space and Electrical Power Needs

 

Develop and Deploy the IoT System

  • Best Practice #9: Secure the IoT Devices and Data
  • Best Practice #10: Align with Privacy and Corporate Governance Policies
  • Best Practice #11: Design for Scalability
  • Best Practice #12: Integrate and Manage the IoT Devices
  • Best Practice #13: Establish a Support Model
  • Best Practice #14: Plan the Resources

 

Using these best practices, we’ve done many IoT proofs of concept across our enterprise, using components of the Intel® IoT Platform and the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework. Over time we are adding elements to the Intel IoT platform deployed in our environment. We are currently using many aspects of the Intel IoT platform, and so are other companies, and they are turning to Intel for advice on how best to implement their IoT solutions. For example, Siemens has adopted Intel’s IoT hardware and software stack for their smart parking initiative.

 

Our mission is to standardize on an end-to-end Intel IoT Platform-based solution that meets the wide and varied IoT needs of Intel, a global organization. Intel IT wants to transform the business by providing the IoT “plumbing” – that is, the platform building blocks – that enable Intel’s business groups to easily deploy IoT solutions when they need them.

 

Examples of IoT technology enabled by Intel include the Intel® Quark™ microcontroller D2000, Intel Gateways featuring Intel® Quark™ or Intel® Atom™ processors, and Intel® Security (McAfee) solutions integrated within our Wind River OS (Linux* or RTOS-VxWorks*). Wind River, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel, also has an edge management solution for centrally managing edge devices, known as Helix* Device Cloud.

 

The IoT projects that we’ve done so far have shown great promise, and have resulted in significant ROI. Fully integrating the IoT into the enterprise isn’t an overnight project – it’s a continual journey and is a significant change in how business is done. But putting the building blocks in place now will make the journey shorter and easier, and will enable Intel to fully realize the business value of the IoT. You can learn more about our other IOT projects by reviewing our recently published 2015-2016 Intel IT Annual Performance Report.

 

I’d be interested to hear what other enterprise IT professionals are doing with IoT. Please share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below – I look forward to the conversation!

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Criminals are Getting Excited for Tax Filing Season

tax-idtheft-logo.jpgCyber criminals are plotting to take advantage of tax season, by fraudulently impersonating consumers and scamming Americans.  For the citizens of the United States, tax season is upon us, where we diligently file our annual tax returns with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  The problem is, in this digital age of electronically filing forms, the checks and balances to protect from fraud have not satisfactorily kept pace. 

 

Tax ID Fraud is a Terrible Problem

FTC ID theft 2015.jpgCyber criminals are taking advantage of weak identification validation controls to commit tax fraud. Tax identity theft happens when someone files a fake tax return using your personal information and submits information which results in a refund, to them not you.  They use your name and Social Security number with fictitious data, such as a different employer and address to get a tax refund from the IRS.  The IRS, not knowing better, accepts the information and is compelled to issue the refund in a very timely manner, else they must pay interest.  So the common practice is to accept the information at face-value and issue the refund to the submitter.  Thieves will have the funds placed on a pre-paid debit card or obtain a refund check they will quickly have cashed.  If things are later found to be incorrect, the IRS may move to resolve the problem, but the criminal in most cases is long gone.  The real citizen is then left with a rejection notice stating a filing has already taken place when they file their legitimate tax forms.  It can take a very long time to correct the matter, over a year to receive an earned refund, and many frustrating hours navigating through the crowded process. 

 

Attackers are committing a lot of fraud and both the IRS and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are concerned as the problem swells in size every year.  Tax or wage ID theft complaints more than doubled from 109k in 2014 to over 221k in 2015.  In the US, ID theft is on the rise.  FTC received over 490 thousand consumer complaints, a 47% increase over 2014, with the biggest contributor to the rise being tax refund fraud.  Bureau of Justice estimates 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014.  That is about 7% of the US population aged 16 years or older.

 

Most of the IRS efforts to date have been around prevention.  For 2016, the IRS and FTC have rolled out consumer education and incident reporting sites.  Tax identity theft, which can include other forms of tax fraud, has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the past several years.  The IRS prides itself in quick turnaround for processing electronic filings and issuing a refund, targeting around 10 days.  Within that process is a set of filtering algorithms, which improves every year, to identify fraudulent tax submissions.  In 2015 the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) flagged about 5 million suspicious returns, protecting $11 billion. 

 

Recently, the federal government targeted south Florida, one of the nation’s hot-spots for ID fraud, and issued a Geographic Targeting Order (GTO) for check cashing companies to take extra steps in verifying customer’s identification before cashing income tax returns.  For refund checks over $1000, customers must provide valid government-issued identification, the check cashing company must take a digital picture of the customer and obtain a clear thumbprint for the transaction to proceed.  Extreme measures to be sure, but one targeted specifically for 2 counties to stem the flow of tax fraud. 

     

Best practices to protect yourself from Tax ID Fraud:

  1. File your taxes as early as possible.  Sadly, it is a race.  The first submission, whether it be you or a fraudster, will likely be the return accepted from the IRS.  So get your tax return into the IRS as fast as possible.  File electronically if you don’t already to expedite the process
  2. Protect you Social Security Number (SSN).  Nowadays, many different organizations from healthcare to utilities may ask for your SSN.  Challenge them and verify how they will use and protect the information.  For every company who has your SSN, the chance of it being lost due to a data breach goes up.  Many companies will use the SSN as a unique identifier or as part of a verification process, but are open to use a different number if asked.  So ask!
  3. Check your credit report.  Unusual activity can be an indicator of trouble.  So get a copy and look for activity which you did not initiate.  By law, these reports are free at least once a year.  Go to the FTC site for more information or directly to annualcreditreport.com to order your free annual report.
  4. Report ID theft quickly, if it occurs.  Visit IdentityTheft.gov, the federal government’s one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. You can report identity theft, get step-by-step advice, sample letters, and your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. These resources will help you fix problems caused by the theft.  If your SSN has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
  5. Consider getting an Identity Protection PIN (form 14039).  An IP PIN is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers to help prevent the misuse of their SSN on fraudulent federal income tax returns. It is important to note you currently can’t opt out once you get an IP PIN. You must use the IP PIN to confirm your identity on all federal tax returns moving forward.

 

Be wary of IRS scams

This time of year IRS scams are rampant.  Sometimes they come in the form of a phone call, while others arrive via email.  Beware such engagements which state you owe money to the IRS and demand immediate payment.  The IRS only sends mail, not calls or email.  IRS will never: 1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill; 2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe; 3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.  If you receive these IRS imposter scams, report them to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484.

 

 

Be prepared and informed

Tax season is upon us and the criminals are busy with fraud and scams.  Be aware and move to protect your tax return.  Early efforts can save you from a long year of frustration.

 

More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC and the IRS at:

 

 

 

Interested in more?  Follow me on Twitter (@Matt_Rosenquist) and LinkedIn to hear insights and what is going on in cybersecurity.  To see a full listing of blogs, videos, presentations and other thoughts, go to the collection of My Previous Posts

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SSD as a system memory? Yes, with ScaleMP’s technology.

I hope you’re excited as me and looking forward seeing first 3D XPoint™ based products in the market. Intel® Optane® SSDs have been already publically demonstrated at IDF’15 and Oracle Open World 2015. Not every performance detail is disclosed, keep in mind these were prototypes, but some key benchmarks (especially small random I/O at low queue depth) were shown. This brings the SSD close to memory than ever. But how close? Can we actually use it as an extension to a system memory? Short answer – yes, we can. There are different ways to do so, starting from a simple swapping/paging, application changes to use nmap()/dinmap()/SSDAlloc(), and some very special products like ScaleMP technologies discussed below. 

 

You may have heard of ScaleMP from their fame of SMP virtualization technology, which allows one to turn a cluster of x86 systems into a single system (SMP), where ScaleMP’s software, vSMP Foundation, runs below the OS layer and handles all the cache coherency and remote IO over the cluster fabric transparently to the OS.  That allows the OS and applications to utilize the entire cluster resources (compute, memory and IO) for a single application.

Well, ScaleMP has introduced new extensions – just like they enable the one called “Memory over Fabric” and use algorithms to optimize access patterns and yield magnificent performance, they also enable you to use NVM as if it was DRAM. As simple and transparent as it sounds! vSMP requires having NVMe based SSDs and supports only Intel® SSD Data Center Family for PCIe.

AK-blog.png

 

For the examples below, consider a dual-socket system in early 2016. Using commodity DRAM you could reach 768 GB of DRAM (24 x 32 DDR4 DIMMs). The memory subsystem alone would cost ~ $6,000 (32GB DIMMs retail online for about $250 these days).  With the ScaleMP we are targeting two key use-cases for Storage Class Memory (SCM) being used as main system memory:

 

1. Replacing most of the DRAM – using ScaleMP’s technology, you could reduce DRAM to 128GB, using 4 x 32GB DDR4 DIMMs only, and use 2 x Intel® SSD DC P3700 of 400GB each. The benefits?

 

a. CAPEX saving as the hybrid memory (DRAM+NVM) cost is lower by at least 33%.

b. An OPEX saving of 96 Watts (and similar savings in cooling)

(20 x 6W per DIMM vs. 2 x 12W per 400GB NVMe)

c. Performance in the 75% ~ 80% of DRAM performance range for demanding workloads such as multi-tenant DBMS running TPC-C.

 

2. Expanding on-top of DRAM – using ScaleMP’s technology, you could easily increase total system memory of the dual-socket server to ~ 8 TB

 

a. For reaching 8TB RAM using only DRAM, one would need to have the highest-end servers that could support 192 DIMMs and populate it with 128 DIMMs of 32GB, and 64 DIMMs of 64GB.  Such servers are power-hungry and require lots of space in the rack.

The alternative, using the dual-socket system described above, would require simply adding 4 NVMe devices of 2TB each – saving over 50% of the memory cost and rack space.

b. On the OPEX side, the difference is dazzling.  A high-end system would require 1,152W just for its 192 DIMMs, and the alternative would require ~ 75% less power.  I’ll skip describing the additional advantage of improved server density and datacenter standardization.

c. This setup allows the user to run 10x the number of memory demanding workloads on a single server, with the overall throughput being marginally affected.

d. This allows the user to run massive in-memory DBMS in the most economical manner.

 

By this point, I am sure you are wondering: “the $$$ savings look great, but what about performance?”.  Well, performance test results using Intel® SSD DC P3700 are fresh from the oven.  First, some details of the benchmark and configurations used:


The selected benchmark was an OLTP load. 5 instances of the MySQL DBMS (Percona distribution) concurrently running TPC-C benchmark, each instance using 25 warehouses with 128 connections – totaling 330GB of memory (all data loaded to main memory) + 160GB of buffer cache.

• Warmup – TPCC runs for a period of 6,000 seconds.

• Measurement – TPCC runs for a period of 7,200 seconds.

 

The hardware used was a dual-socket E5-v3 system, with one of two configurations:

• DRAM-only: 512 GB RAM (DDR4) – baseline server configuration (no ScaleMP software used for this setup)

• Hybrid DRAM-NVM: using same server, but keeping only 64GB RAM (DDR4), and adding 2 x Intel DC P3700 NVMe SSDs to provide the missing 448GB to the system memory.  ScaleMP’s software was used to make the system look the same as the above to the OS.

 

When running the Linux command ‘free’, the result was same on both configurations (see below).  Clearly the ScaleMP software did the job by hiding from the OS the fact that it is using hybrid DRAM-NVM memory subsystem.

[root@s2600wt-0 ~]# free –gh

              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available

Mem:           503G        3.4G        316G        9.6M        184G        499G

 

 

Now, for the benchmark results.  We summed the result of the 5 instances of TPC-C, which are measured in tpmC:

• For the “DRAM-only” configuration we got 217,757

• For the hybrid DRAM-NVM we got: 166,782

 

In other words, Intel® SSD DC P3700 used as memory replacement reached 75%~80% of DRAM performance!  (76.6% to be precise).  Keep in mind that number may vary from one application to another, but consider TPC-C representative as basic datacenter workload. It’s good reference point.

The pricing and performance info above is valid for early 2016, and based on only Intel® SSD Data Center Family for PCIe. Think about upcoming Intel® Optane® SSDs, based on 3D XPoint™ technology, will likely enable Intel and ScaleMP to push the performance further closer to DRAM performance.

 

If Intel and ScaleMP deliver on the promise of improved performance with Optane SSDs, they will arguably eliminate the border between Main Memory and Storage Class Memory (SCM).  It will allow SCM to be used for OS and application memory transparently, without any code changes.  While the Intel Optane SSDs will reduce the latency to storage, ScaleMP software already makes it byte addressable from application perspective and uses smart caching technology to reduce the average latency to values that are very close to overall DRAM performance. TCO stories look great even considering licensing for vSMP software which is not covered here at all and I should direct you to the ScaleMP’s web site for the details.

If your application is limited by the amount of DRAM in a box, now we can easily say that the sky is the limit for that application!

 

 

Andrey Kudryavtsev, Intel Corp.

Benzi Galili, ScaleMP.com

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