Tencent adding five data centers to target cloud users outside China

Tencent Holdings has opened a data center in Silicon Valley on Tuesday, with four more planned outside China as part of its bid to grow its cloud business outside the country.

The proposed data centers in Frankfurt, Mumbai, Seoul and Moscow are targeted at Chinese companies looking to expand overseas and international companies expanding their businesses in China or other parts of the world, the Chinese internet giant said Tuesday. The centers are expected to go into operation this year.

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Rival Alibaba has also set up data centers outside China to expand its cloud business outside the country.

The new investment aims to meet growing demand worldwide for the company’s cloud services from online games and finance, video and other internet-related industries.

Tencent Cloud already operates over a dozen data centers across mainland China. It started its expansion outside the country in 2014 with a data center in Hong Kong, followed by centers in Singapore and Toronto. The company plans to expand both the Hong Kong and Silicon Valley data centers this year.

The company, which owns China’s large social network WeChat, reported in March that its cloud services revenue more than tripled year-on-year in 2016 as both the number of enterprise accounts and usage of existing accounts increased.

Starting from primarily serving game developers through its cloud services, Tencent has made deep inroads into other markets including online gaming, video broadcasting, internet finance, municipal service and enterprise.

The company believes that it has “a unique advantage” in its solid foundation of technologies in areas such as security, payment, big data analytics, photo processing mini programs and artificial intelligence. “Utilizing these technologies, Tencent cloud provides tailored solutions for various customers and industries,” Martin Lau, company president, said during an earnings call last month.

Tencent has also been making a number of strategic investments worldwide, including its acquisition of a 5 percent stake in car maker Tesla and its investment in Supercell, the Finnish developer of the mobile game Clash of Clans.

ONUG gets closer to making SD-WANs talk to each other

A group of networking engineers and vendors is making progress toward an API that would help enterprises merge SD-WANs from different vendors.

 

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The Open SD-WAN Exchange (OSE) initiative was launched last year by the Open Networking User Group (ONUG) to solve a shortcoming of software-defined wide-area networks: They often can’t talk to each other. On Tuesday at the ONUG Spring 2017 conference in San Francisco, OSE will make public the work it’s done so far.

SD-WANs control links to branch offices and remote sites with software, which ultimately should eliminate proprietary hardware and dedicated routing schemes. They also allow companies to use regular broadband connections instead of more expensive MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) services.

But most SD-WANs built with different vendors’ products can’t communicate with each other, said Snehal Patel, a member of ONUG’s board and a network architect at the retail company Gap.

That could be a problem after a merger or acquisition between two companies with separate SD-WANs. A lot of the agility and labor savings won through SD-WAN will be lost if the IT department has to go back to traditional networking to connect the two systems.

ONUG, a group of enterprise IT leaders advocating for technologies that better meet users’ needs, has been working on this issue for several years and launched the initiative to solve it at the ONUG Spring 2016 conference. IT executives from companies such as Gap, Bank of America, BNY Mellon and FedEx are working with vendors including Cisco Systems and Huawei Technologies.

SD-WANs can interpret and carry out policies for things like when a branch-office connection should switch from the internet to a private link to maintain performance. They’re based on industry standards, but vendors interpret those standards differently, so their network controllers can’t communicate policies and commands, Patel said.

Those controllers may someday talk directly to each other. But for now, OSE wants vendors to build a policy orchestration layer that can talk to all of them.

Developing the API is one part of this effort. It will define things like whether there needs to be a persistent connection between the controllers and the orchestrator and what happens if a controller loses contact with the orchestrator.

The group has already finished most of its work, according to OSE Co-Chair Steve Wood, a principal engineer at Cisco. It’s defined the requirements for the API, the architecture it will use, and other elements. OSE plans to publish the technical specifications during the summer for review by ONUG members, who include networking experts from hundreds of enterprises.

At last year’s spring conference, ONUG also launched three other initiatives, which have had different trajectories.

The Open Traffic Management Format group pushed for a way to bring together management data from different physical and virtual network devices so it could be analyzed together. This could help determine the effects of system failures. Another project, the Open Network State Format, would be for data about the current state of network devices, so big-data techniques could be used for better real-time management. Those two efforts have been merged into a Monitoring and Analytics initiative.

The other project, for an Open Interoperable Control Plane, didn’t fare so well. The OICP would work within data centers, connecting different parts of the infrastructure that are built on different architectures, such as OpenStack and VMware vCenter. Vendors and users met at workshops last year, but the effort is now on hold, according to Nick Lippis, co-founder and co-chairman of ONUG. He blamed stiff competition among vendors.

“On that one, we pushed the pause button, because the vendors don’t want to play with each other,” Lippis said.

Hipchat resets user passwords after possible breach

HipChat has reset all its users’ passwords after what it called a security incident that may have exposed their names, email addresses and hashed password information.

In some cases, attackers may have accessed messages and content in chat rooms, HipChat said in a Monday blog post. But this happened in no more than 0.05 percent of the cases, each of which involved a domain URL, such as company.hipchat.com.

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HipChat didn’t say how many users may have been affected by the incident. The passwords that may have been exposed would also be difficult to crack, the company said. The data is hashed, or obscured, with the bcrypt algorithm, which transforms the passwords into a set of random-looking characters. For added security, HipChat “salted” each password with a random value before hashing it.

HipChat warned that chat room data including the room name and topic may have also been exposed. But no financial or credit information was taken, the company said.

HipChat is a popular messaging service used among enterprises, and an attack that exposed sensitive work-related chats could cause significant harm.

The service, which is owned by Atlassian, said it detected the security incident last weekend. It affected a server in the HipChat Cloud and was caused by a vulnerability in an unnamed, but popular, third-party library that HipChat.com used, the company said.

No other Atlassian systems were affected, the company said. “We are confident we have isolated the affected systems and closed any unauthorized access,” HipChat said in its blog post.

This is not the first time the messaging service has faced problems keeping accounts secure. In 2015, HipChat reset user passwords after detecting and blocking suspicious activity in which account information was stolen from less than 2 percent of its users.

When breaches occur, security experts advise users to change their passwords for any accounts where they used the same login information. Users can consider using a password manager to help them store complex, tough-to-memorize passwords.

HipChat has already sent an email to affected users, informing them of the password reset.

In 2015, rival chat application Slack reported its own breach, and as a result rolled out two-factor authentication to beef up its account security. HipChat does not offer two-factor authentication.

Oracle plans ‘startup organization’ focused on cloud computing, AI and VR

Oracle is hiring people for a “new startup organization” inside its North America operation that will focus on key technology trends, including cloud computing, internet of things, artificial Intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality.

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The Solution Engineering organization the company is setting up will consist of Solution Engineering Centers in Reston, Virginia and Denver, Colorado.

The database and enterprise software company has previously indicated its interest in investing in some of these technology areas like machine learning and analytics.

It announced in September last year that it was investing in intelligent cloud applications, called Adaptive Intelligent Applications, “that automatically offer individualized recommended actions and streamline the tasks of business users such as human resource or finance professionals.”

Oracle also announced at OpenWorld last year tools for creating intelligent chatbots that integrate with its software.

Among the jobs listed for the new organization are the positions of director of the Denver and Reston units, who will each be responsible for managing an entire Solution Engineering Center, described as a “physical hub of solution engineers.” The company is also hiring solution engineers for the centers.

Oracle did not immediately comment on the posts and on how the new organization would operate as a startup. The new unit appears to be closely linked to the company’s immediate business goals with the director, for example, “measured on key metrics around revenue, pipeline, new innovations, talent development and customer success.”

Oracle is asking for hands-on experience in third-party cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Salesforce from applicants for the position of solution engineers at the centers.

“The mission of the organization and these two centers is to build and engineer cutting-edge solutions for our customers around cloud computing, big data analytics, mobile computing, internet of things, cybersecurity,” according to the job listings, first spotted by Bloomberg.

“Additional trends we are considering to investing in are Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality and many other exciting technology trends that interest us all. Our mission is simple, we build new and innovative technology solutions for real world problems that our customers face,” according to the posts, which did not provide details of how AR and VR would be used by Oracle in its products and services.

Sling TV expands its Cloud DVR ‘First Look’ to Apple TV

Sling TV is adding more devices to its ‘First Look’ for the new Cloud DVR feature. Sling TV subscribers with an Apple TV can now try the beta service for $5 per month, which gets you 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage.

Cloud DVR first showed up as an invite-only beta last December on Roku devices and select Smart TVs. At the time our general impression was that it was a nice feature, but still a work in progress.

Several months later, in March, Sling TV began selling the ‘First Look’ version of Cloud DVR to Amazon device owners. Then earlier in April, the ‘First Look’ rolled out to Roku and regular Android devices.

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Now, it’s Apple TV’s turn. For an extra $5 monthly on top of a Sling TV subscription, the ‘First Look’ Cloud DVR lets you watch recorded broadcasts on all currently supported devices. The feature includes what Sling calls “conflict-free recording,” which means you can record multiple programs at the same time. There’s no specific limit on how many programs you can record at one time.

Sling TV also lets you keep your Cloud DVR recordings as long as you want, similar to many set-top DVRs. Other services, such as PlayStation Vue, let you keep recorded programs only for a limited time. However, by default Sling TV will automatically delete older recordings to make room for new ones once you get close to the 50-hour limit.

The impact on you at home: Cloud DVR is a great addition for Sling TV subscribers, but one glaring problem still remains with the service. Namely, certain channels do not work with Cloud DVR. In December, that list included FX, FS1, FS2, FXX, National Geographic, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, and Disney XD.

That means no ESPN or FS1 sporting events can be recorded, and popular TV shows like The Americans, Fargo, and Star Wars: Rebels are also out. We’re checking with Sling TV to see if the list of restricted channels has changed at all. Regardless, any channel restrictions on DVR recordings are the biggest drawback to using the new feature.