VMware, the bell tolls for thee, and Microsoft is ringing it

Survey results from VMworld indicate that Microsoft is becoming a threat to VMware’s user base.

VMworld is about a month behind us now and I’ve had a little more time to noodle on the joint survey I did with virtualization management vendor Xangati. There was a tremendous amount of energy at VMworld and the show floor was one of the biggest and busiest I’ve seen in a long time. This might give one the impression that the VMware franchise is impenetrable, but the survey shows differently.

Before I go through some of the data, remember the survey was answered by current VMware customers, so the data is likely to be skewed pro-VMware, which makes the data even more surprising. VMware has had a virtual (pun intended) monopoly on the market, but there does seem to be some chinks in the armor that could be exploited by another solution provider.

The first question regarding VMware competition was “What are your plans for implementing Microsoft Hyper-V in your virtual infrastructure?” While 58.5% of the respondent base said they had “no plans,” 19.6% said they were currently implementing Hyper-V in production and test and dev environments. Another 20.9% are currently evaluating functionality within Windows Server 2012 for potential future deployment. Considering the survey consisted of existing VMware customers, this is a surprising large number.

The decision to bring Microsoft into the environment is being brought in by more of the “hands-on” individuals versus IT management. Of the respondents that are considering or using Hyper-V, 53.2% reported it was the technical team. Another 30.6% of the time it was the manager/director level was pushing for the hybrid environment. And only 16.2% said the VP or CIO level makes the decisions to create a hybrid Microsoft/VMware environment.

In the survey, we tried to uncover why customers are looking to add Microsoft to their virtualization environment by asking, “what are the executive-level drivers that are pushing a hybrid VMware/Microsoft hypervisor model?” The most common answer (34.7%) was VMware’s licensing and pricing. Another 26.2% chose “Perception that Microsoft functionality is now ‘good enough.’” In some way, these are tied together. If one can get good enough functionality for a better price, why not look at it? Now, it’s no secret that VMware’s vRam pricing scheme wasn’t exactly a hit. The company moving away from vRam may change the minds of some potential defectors. It’s good to see that VMware listened to its customers and heard them with regard to pricing, and were willing to make the change.

The second part of the above paragraph – whether or not Hyper-V is “good enough” – seems to be widely believed. Responding to the question – “based upon what you know of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 do you believe it can manage the performance of your infrastructure on par with vSphere?” – 52% of the companies said they did believe the technology was equivalent. Another 16.4% said they wanted different hypervisors for different applications. We didn’t ask much detail around this but I’m assuming that there’s a perception that Microsoft applications might perform better on Hyper-V. Only 10.2% responded they were bringing Microsoft in for price leverage, meaning the desire to use Hyper-V seems real.

VMware has been an early mover, which is an advantage when combined with a weak competitive landscape for the better part of a decade. As technically sound as Xen is, it doesn’t have near the channel that Microsoft has. So from the survey results, it appears the VMware “free ride” is rapidly coming to an end. The timing of the pricing range was spot on. But watch your back VMware, because Microsoft is coming.

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Broad Windows 8 deployment in enterprises could take years

Learning curve, satisfaction with Windows 7 cited by experts

Widespread Windows 8 adoption by businesses is years away, primarily because it is so different from Windows 7 that the learning curve for end users will be a nightmare, experts say.

Gartner says in a report coming out later this week that 90% of enterprises will bypass wholesale deployment of Windows 8 at least through 2014.

A desktop consultant to businesses says he doesn’t expect to recommend Windows 8 to customers for a year or two. “There’s nothing for the task worker that Windows 8 is going to improve on,” says Pete Lee, Engagement Manger of SWC Technologies, a software development and desktop consulting firm in Oak Brook, Ill., which is a Microsoft Gold Partner.

The difficulties stem from the many small ways Windows 7 differs from Windows 8, says Georges Khairallah, a network specialist at the Chino Valley Unified School District in Chino Valley, Calif., who has been using Windows 8 for weeks to administer his network. While the differences didn’t affect him adversely, he thinks they would have a crippling effect on end users.

“It’s going to be traumatic, I think,” he says, “especially if the organization doesn’t have an excellent training program for users.”

That doesn’t mean the new operating system won’t have immediate niche applications that make it worth deploying to certain segments of employees, particularly among mobile workers and in cases where navigating by touchscreen is important, Lee says.

He thinks there are good reasons for certain types of jobs to be supported by Windows 8, and he can see Windows 8 being deployed more widely in businesses with large sales and marketing staffs that are mobile.

The operating system could prove valuable to remote and traveling workers who in addition to doing work on portable Windows 8 machines would use them for personal business and entertainment as well. The Windows 8 machine could serve the purpose of a business laptop as well as a notebook for work and a personal tablet used for messaging, music, games that would otherwise call for a separate device, he says.

He could see a business deploying Windows 8 for such workers while keeping Windows 7 on traditional desktops to avoid training as well as the costs of deploying new operating systems and the hardware upgrades that it might require.

Lee says he plans to suggest Windows 8 in work environments where many workers share the same machine, such as in laboratories where many technicians need to access data or libraries where patrons search for books. The touchscreen would be convenient for such tasks and wouldn’t eat up space that would be needed for keyboards and mice, making for a less cluttered work area, he says The touchscreen aspects of the operating system are not well suited to corporate desktops, he says. Deploying Windows 8 with full functionality would require touchscreen monitors but wouldn’t improve productivity of workers who use traditional desktops, and the monitors alone represent a heavy investment, he says.

Deploying Windows 8 without touchscreen and having users work in traditional desktop mode would be an unwarranted expense that would gain minimal new functionality, he says.

Compounding the problem is that many enterprises are still deploying Windows 7 as an upgrade from Windows XP, which Microsoft stops supporting next spring. Khairallah says his organization is in the midst of that and it hasn’t been easy. “Going from XP to Windows 7 was horrible,” he says.

He says it makes more sense to wait for Windows 8 to be sold with home computers and let workers get used to it. “Let them have the learning curve on their own time and after that start deploying it slowly,” he says. “I really don’t see it going mainstream right away,” he says.


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Windows 8 coming out party: New Microsoft OS runs on all kinds of hardware

More than 1,000 devices certified for Windows 8 starting at less than $300.

Windows 8, Microsoft’s bold new operating system, officially debuted this morning at a coming out party in New York City highlighted by a display of the wide variety of devices on which it can run – from PCs to tablets to hybrids to laptops to notebooks.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says Windows 8 embraces so many different devices that it redefines the PC by giving what had been considered limited or specialized devices the full functionality of traditional desktops with the addition of touchscreen support.

“Windows 8 shatters perceptions of what a PC now really is,” he says. “It pushes the limits of what a PC is.”

Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows division, heralded the improved performance of Windows 8 devices over Windows 7 and touted the wide range of new hardware that will support it, starting at less than $300.

He says that vs. Windows 7, battery life is 13% longer and boot time is 36% faster – and that’s running it on a PC certified for Windows 7. With Windows 8 the improvements are even greater, he says.

While the operating system is designed for touch, Sinofsky says it works equally well on machines with keyboard and mouse, and any application that runs on a certified Windows 7 machine will also run on Windows 8.

Sinofsky also promoted so-called “modern” applications that are designed to take advantage of the touch user interface and that are available via the Windows Store, an online market that opens at the same time Windows 8 becomes available.

A separate version of Windows 8 called Windows RT runs only on ARM processors to promote battery life and to enable smaller, thinner, lighter devices, he says. These devices only support modern applications; traditional Windows 7-supported apps will not run.

The idea is that Windows RT will only run applications that have been approved by Microsoft and that are downloaded from the Windows Store. Microsoft also controls updates, with the idea that over time security and performance of the machines will remain high, he says.

While the Windows Store has thousands of modern applications ready to go, the inventory pales compared to the hundreds of thousands available for Apple iOS or Android devices. But Sinofsky claims there are more applications in the Windows Store than there were in any similar application store when it opened.

Microsoft staffers demonstrated a wide range of Windows 8 machines including desktops, all-in-ones, tablets, convertibles, hybrids, laptops and notebooks. One device from Asus that was highlighted at the press conference has a detachable keyboard that contains a separate battery that extends the life of the system to 18 hours. It’s also available with a 4G wireless service from AT&T.

Microsoft mentioned its own Surface devices that compete with its partners’ machines, but downplayed their importance. One was pulled off a shelf holding a half dozen other devices built by Microsoft partners and demonstrated briefly in between descriptions of other portables.

Surface represents Microsoft’s foray into selling the accompanying hardware — a bold design of a thin tablet with an add-on tropical colored cover that doubles as a keyboard to turn the device into a notebook.

There are two major versions of Surface – Surface Pro and Surface RT. Surface Pro is based on x86 processors and carries the full Windows 8 operating system that can support traditional applications as well as modern applications designed specifically for Windows 8 and catering to its touch centricity.

Later during the launch press conference, demonstrations of machines made for Windows 8 showed how a touchpad on a laptop could be touched and swiped with the same gestures that would be used on a touchscreen, and Windows 8 would respond.

Windows 8 was also significant in the redesign of Office applications, the latest versions of which are optimized for touch, Sinofsky says.


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5 Things Microsoft Surface Must Do to Beat the iPad

5 Things Microsoft Surface Must Do to Beat the iPad
The Windows ship is leaking in a dozen places, pierced beneath the waterline by very pointy iPads. Where the Mac never really made a dent in Microsoft’s PC hegemony, the iPad is doing so: it’s being handed to children as a first computer, appearing in schools, and running point-of-sale systems for small businesses. If you consider the iPad a PC, then Apple’s the No. 1 PC maker, according to research firm Canalys.

That makes the iPad public enemy number one for Microsoft if it intends to maintain its PC leadership, and the new Surface tablet is Microsoft’s primary weapon. Surface comes in two versions. The Windows RT version matches the iPad on price, but has relatively few apps; all the same, this will be the model at which most consumers look. The more-expensive Windows 8 “Surface Pro” version will run existing business software.

I hate calling things a “such-and-such killer,” but Microsoft needs to at least slow the iPad penetration of iPads in business and claim a part of the consumer market. How can the company do that? Here are five paths to take.

Developers, developers, developers. Windows RT has fewer than 3,000 apps. The iPad has 250,000. Microsoft needs to beg, borrow, or steal to pump up the app count for RT. Fortunately, the company has plenty of experience with this – it’s managed to nurture more than 100,000 apps for Windows Phone even with that platform stuck in single-digit market share. Bring that experience to bear with the Surface and apps should ramp up nicely.

Bring Xbox to Windows RT. XBox is Microsoft’s most beloved consumer brand. And unlike the PS Vita and Nintendo DS, the Surface has enough horsepower to run pretty good approximations of Xbox games. Microsoft needs to bring as much of the Xbox experience as possible to the Surface. Once again, the company has done a pretty good job of this with Windows Phone, and it can do an even better job with the more powerful hardware here.

Reclaim Ground With Small Businesses. Small businesses are increasingly moving to iPad-based point-of-sale, order-taking and management systems. This major disruption has been brought on by Square and its ilk, and it’s cannibalizing the stodgy old world of retail business systems. Square’s Jack Dorsey has hinted at a Windows Phone app coming, but Square isn’t the be-all and end-all of small business systems. Microsoft needs to seize the day with custom Surface packages with hardware and software priced competitively to iPad solutions for different small business categories such as retail, real estate, and transportation.

Be Enterprise’s Best Friend. IT managers love a good relationship, and Apple has been cozying up to formerly PC-only shops, explaining to them how they can replace virus-prone, heavy PCs with light, secure iPads. Microsoft still has the infrastructure to take this back. Make sure that Surface RT can be managed with the same tools as enterprise Windows 8 installations, and then promote it as something that has all of the advantages of the iPad with more familiarity for Windows-friendly IT departments. If Microsoft wants to lean on SkyDrive, it needs to be enterprise-ready and secure enough for financial and legal firms.
Make Other Tablets Look Like Toys. Microsoft Office is the Surface’s greatest strength. It must integrate perfectly with the Office used on desktops, both from a user perspective (with even complex formatting intact, and features like version-tracking working properly) and from an infrastructure perspective (working with secure servers, domains, and policies.) Microsoft Office is, for better or worse, the backbone of American commerce. If Microsoft can make the Surface look like the only truly serious tablet, then it has a solid chance.



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Microsoft takes income hit prior to Windows 8 launch

Microsoft takes income hit prior to Windows 8 launch
Microsoft experienced a rough quarter, with a 22 percent decline in net income and an 8 percent decline in revenue

Facing a sluggish PC market and deferring revenue from sales of its upcoming Windows 8 OS, Microsoft reported US$4.47 billion in net income for its first fiscal quarter of 2013, a 22 percent decline from the same period a year earlier.

The company reported revenue of $16.01 billion for the quarter that ended Sept. 30, an 8 percent decline from last year. This figure fell short of what many analysts had expected the company to generate for the period. A poll from Thomson Reuters found that analysts, on the average, expected the company to earn around $16.42 billion in revenue for the quarter.

The company had generated $1.36 billion of revenue from customers who already purchased copies of Windows 8 and the next version of Microsoft Office, but Microsoft did not include this income because these products have not been released yet. With these sales factored in, Microsoft revenue would be approximately the same as it was for the same quarter in the previous year.

In the statement that accompanied the earnings announcement, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein attributed the slack in revenue to a slowdown in the demand for PCs due to the pending Windows 8 launch, while noting that other sectors of Microsoft continued to perform well.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did not address the slump in sales in the statement, but characterized the quarter as the end of an era for Microsoft, with the company focusing on building new products, such as Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, that would address shifting market needs.

“The launch of Windows 8 is the beginning of a new era at Microsoft,” Ballmer stated. “Investments we’ve made over a number of years are now coming together to create a future of exceptional devices and services, with tremendous opportunity for our customers, developers, and partners.”

It has been a busy quarter for Microsoft. The company released the newest edition of its operating system for servers, Microsoft Server 2012, in September. In July it released a preview of the next version of its office productivity suite, Microsoft Office 2013. Most importantly, next week Microsoft will launch its next-generation operating system, Windows 8, which was designed to work on both traditional computers as well as on tablet devices, including the company’s own Surface tablet.

For the quarter, the Windows division posted revenue of $3.24 billion, a 33 percent decrease from the same period of the prior year.

The Server and Tools business generated $4.55 billion, an 8 percent increase from the same quarter in the prior year. SQL Server and System Center in particular were strong sellers. The Microsoft Business Division generated $5.50 billion in first-quarter revenue, a 2 percent decrease from the prior year period. It too was affected by pre-sales deferrals, as the company deferred reporting revenue of Microsoft Office 2013. The company noted that some products in this division, such as SharePoint and Exchange, drove double-digit revenue growth.

Online Services enjoyed a 9 percent increase in revenue, to $697 million, thanks to ad revenue in search. The Entertainment and Devices Division, which manages the company’s Xbox gaming and multimedia console, posted revenue of $1.95 billion, a decrease of 1 percent from the same period in the prior year.

Financial analysts covering Microsoft seemed to be most concerned about how the shifting PC market would affect future sales of Windows, to judge from the questions they asked during an investor teleconference call held after the release of the financial results. How will the proliferation of new form factors for computers — tablets, convertibles, all-in-ones — alter the usually predictable sales of the Windows OS?

Microsoft positioned Windows 8 as an OS that can encompass this wider market. This OS, unlike competitors such as iOS and Android, can offer a single unifying experience across different devices.

“The exciting thing about Windows 8 is that it really redefines what people think about devices, and how they think about devices,” Klein responded. “Up until now, [customers] have been forced to choose between PCs and tablets, and make trade-offs of what they get. With Windows 8, you can get whatever you want at whatever price you want.”

The adoption process of Windows should continue unabated, Klein said. Enterprise rollouts are steady, and Windows XP will reach end of life in a year-and-a-half, which will spur demand for the new OS.

The weakening demand for Windows over the past three months was due to a number of seasonal and situational factors, Klein explained. OEMs spent the past quarter letting their stock of Windows 7 machines dwindle in anticipation of new Windows 8 machines. Economic sluggishness around the globe — and in Europe in particular — slowed sales as well.

“It’s a summer quarter, I don’t know if I would read too much into one period,” added Frank Brod, Microsoft’s chief accounting officer, who also was on the investor call.


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FAQ: The ins and out of Windows 8 pricing

What’s it cost to whom and for what

Last week, Microsoft and its retail partners revealed a few more details about Windows 8 pricing, clarifying what the Redmond, Wash., developer has purposefully left muddy in the months leading up to its release next week.

Windows 8 may come in fewer flavors than its predecessors, but pricing seems as confusing as ever, in large part because of Microsoft’s secrecy — this cycle it’s dribbled out information so slowly it’s driven some analysts half-crazy — with a dash also due to a record-setting discount for upgraders through the end of January.

We’ve tried to answer the most-pressing questions, filled in the blanks as best we could, and thrown up our hands when we had no more of a clue than you.

If Microsoft answers the open questions — it again declined to do so last Friday — we’ll be back with an updated FAQ.

Can I score a free copy of Windows 8? Yes, you can, but the OS is good for just 90 days.

The free trial of Windows 8 Pro RTM (release to manufacturing) can be downloaded from this Microsoft website. But when the 90 days are up, you have to replace the trial with a purchased copy or another operating system, and reinstall all applications, other software and files.

Sorry, I like OSes that stick around. What else do you have? How about $14.99? That’s the price of a Windows 8 Pro upgrade from Windows 7 for anyone who purchases a new PC between June 2, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2013.

To get the cut-rate upgrade, PC buyers must register at the Windows Upgrade Offer site.

Thanks, but that doesn’t work for me. How much for my best deal? For most Windows users, the $39.99 Windows 8 upgrade, which Microsoft will kick off Oct. 26 and offer through Jan. 31, 2013, will be the most economical.

First announced July 2, the upgrade — from XP, Vista or Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro — will be available only as a download at that price. It’s unclear if Microsoft will open registrations or pre-orders for the download before Oct. 26, but it definitely will go live on Windows.com that Friday.

At Windows.com, look for something called “Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant,” a tool that checks your PC to ensure it will run the OS, takes your order, then kicks off the download and installation process.

I want something I can hold in my hands. How much for an upgrade on DVD? Microsoft will sell you one of those for Windows 8 Pro at the discounted price of $69.99.

From the hints on Newegg.com, one of the online retailers also selling the SKU, or “stock-keeping unit,” the price for a Windows 8 Pro upgrade on physical media will jump to $199.99 after Jan. 31, 2013.

In other words, just like the $39.99 online upgrade offer, you should strike quickly.

The $30 surcharge for a DVD may seem steep, but Microsoft has actually done a little bit better by customers than rival Apple: In 2011, Apple sold a USB drive with OS X 10.7, also known as Lion, for $39 more than the download price. Apple didn’t even bother to reprise the offer this year for Mountain Lion.

[Note: The Windows 8 Pro online upgrade lets you create a bootable installation DVD or USB drive, so unless you have a very slow Internet connection and want the media to save hours of dial-up agony, that’s a less expensive way to get a DVD.]

I run Windows in a virtual machine (VM) on my Mac. What’s the damage? Looks like $99.99 for Windows 8, $139.99 for Windows 8 Pro, is the cheapest bet for now.

Those are Newegg.com’s pre-sale prices for what Microsoft is now calling “System Builder” — formerly known as “OEM” — an edition aimed at small-scale or homebrew PC makers, as well as users who want to run the OS in a virtual machine or in a dual-boot setup on a Mac or PC.

System Builder includes a license that allows for installation in a virtual environment, but offers one-time-use only. “We grant you the right to install [Windows 8] … as the operating system on a computer that you build for your personal use, or as an additional operating system running on a local virtual machine or a separate partition,” states the end-user license agreement (EULA) we’ve seen. “If you want to use the software on more than one virtual computer, you must obtain separate copies of the software and a separate license for each copy.”

I already run older Windows in several virtual machines. How much do I pay? For each VM you upgrade — up to a max of five per person — you pay $39.99 to migrate to Windows 8 Pro from XP, Vista or Windows 7 through Jan. 31, 2013.

You upgrade the VMs (or partitions, like a second boot partition on a PC, or Boot Camp on OS X) the same way someone upgrades a physical machine: by running the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant on Windows.com.

Any chance that the System Builder SKUs will fall in price after Oct. 26? We don’t think so.

The list prices for the Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional System Builder equivalents are $128 and $179, respectively, according to Amazon. Not surprisingly, Amazon’s prices are less: $92 and $128, or close to the Windows 8 System Builder prices on Newegg.

In other words, unless Microsoft drastically reduces the list price of System Builder, the numbers on Newegg are probably the discounted prices.

How much to upgrade a new Windows 8 system to Windows 8 Pro? $69.99 during the discount stretch.

Microsoft’s calling this the “Windows 8 Pro Pack;” It consists of an activation code that turns Windows 8 into Windows 8 Pro. The Pro Pack is analogous to the in-place upgrades the company touted as “Anytime Upgrades” for Windows 7.

Newegg said the Pro Pack’s $69.99 price was a $30 savings over the regular price of $99.99, with the latter presumably the upgrade’s eventual list price. If so, that’s a $10 increase over the Windows 7 Home Premium Anytime Upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, which costs $89.99.

It may be cheaper to buy the new PC with Windows 8 Pro already installed, if the option’s offered. Sony, for example, charges an additional $50 to bump up a pre-ordered Windows 8 notebook to Windows 8 Pro. (Dell, on the other hand, adds the same $70 as the price for the Windows 8 Pro Pack to juice a Windows 8 machine to Windows 8 Pro.)

What about Windows 8? What will it cost to upgrade to the consumer version, rather than Windows 8 Pro We don’t know because Microsoft’s not saying.

Among the blank spots in an imaginary Windows 8 pricing chart are those for the entry-level edition. So far, Microsoft’s only talked about upgrades to Windows 8 Pro.

The company may be waiting until Oct. 26 to divulge a price for a Windows 8 upgrade, or dawdling until early next year, after the discounted $39.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade offer expires.

Or the omission may mean more. It’s possible that Microsoft won’t even bother to sell an upgrade to Windows 8, leaving that SKU to OEMs to pre-install on their least-expensive consumer PCs, and to the System Builder line.

Clues to that include: The silence surrounding Windows 8, the Oct. 26 availability of Windows 8 Pro Pack, and the absence of a multi-license SKU for Windows 8. Microsoft sold one dubbed “Family Pack” for $150 that was able to upgrade three PCs to Windows 7 Home Premium, but Microsoft’s said nothing of something similar for Windows 8.

If the sans-Windows 8 alternative is what Microsoft chooses, it will be even more important for upgraders to move before Jan. 31, 2013, when the $39.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade expires.

Minus a Windows 8 upgrade option, the choices would narrow to a $199.99 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, or one of the System Builders, which don’t provide support from Microsoft. Neither sounds very attractive.

What if I hate Windows 8? How much will it cost me to get Windows 7 back? Depends.

If it’s an old PC you’ve upgraded to Windows 8 Pro, it should cost you nothing except a lot of time. You’ll need to reinstall the previous OS from your media — which is why it’s a good idea to make sure you have it before you try Windows 8 — and all your applications, as well as restore your files and other data from a backup.

But if you bought a new PC with the new OS already installed, you may need to pony up. Only Windows 8 Pro comes with “downgrade” rights, and then only to Windows 7 Professional, so you’ll need media for the latter to use the license that came with the machine.

If you don’t have that media, or have Windows 8 on the PC, you’ll have to fork over for a new Windows 7 license. Your best bet: A System Builder-like “OEM” Windows 7 license. As we said earlier, Amazon sells that for $92 for Windows 7 Home Premium, $128 for Windows 7 Professional. On Newegg, the prices are $99.99 and $139.99, respectively.



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Top 10 cloud jobs

Dice.com, the popular tech-focused job site, posts upwards of 3,800 cloud-related job listings on any given day. Researchers there crunched the numbers to come up with a list of the top 10 most available jobs in the cloud. These job descriptions and credentials were compiled using multiple job listings in each category.


Cloud architect
Job description: Spearhead the development and implementation of cloud-based initiatives to ensure that systems are scalable, reliable, secure, supportable, and achieve business and IT performance and budgetary objectives.

Required credentials: B.S. in computer science or engineering; 10+ years experience in large-scale, multi-platform networks; expert in Shell, VBScript, Perl or Python; expert knowledge of Linux and Windows; significant experience designing, installing and administrating virtualized environments.

Requested credentials: Experience working with public cloud providers; expert understanding of firewall and load balancing concepts; prior work creating PCI-compliant solutions.

Cloud software engineer
Job description: Responsible for design and development of distributed software modules that integrate with cloud service providers.

Required credentials: B.S. in computer science or engineering; 2+ years professional experience in software development; work experience with ETL (Extract-Transform-Load) tools and techniques; work experience with system configuration and deployment automation technologies; hands-on programming experience on a Linux/Unix operating system; excellent understanding of at least one compiled-code language.

Requested credentials: Experience in deploying software to cloud computing infrastructure; experience in SOA technologies; ability to provide accurate ETA for software modules.


Cloud sales: cloud sales executive, cloud sales representative, cloud sales consultant, cloud sales manager

Job description: Develop and grow a book of outsourced cloud business with C-level professionals in midsize and enterprise-level customers.

Required credentials: Bachelor’s degree in business administration and 5-10 years business experience in client-facing roles, with some of that spent in outsourcing or systems integration; highly effective communication skills; strong understanding and successful experience in building strategic and/or developmental partnerships at the C-level within midsize and large corporations; demonstrated consistent quota attainment in selling infrastructure, IT, cloud and security services.

Requested credentials: Ability to travel more than 50% of the time on the job.

Cloud engineer

Job description: Plan and conduct technical tasks associated with the implementation and maintenance of internal enterprise-shared virtualization infrastructure.

Required credentials: B.S. in computer science; 5+ years of implementation experience with highly virtualized shared infrastructure, platforms or applications architecture at a large enterprise or service provider.

Requested credentials: Vendor-specific virtualization certification such as VMware Certified Professional.

Cloud services developer

Job description: Design and build the multi-platform customer-facing tools — such as sales interfaces and management portals — that serve as the gateway into how end users consume the underlying cloud services.

Required credentials: B.S. in computer science or computer engineering; 5 years of experience with cloud architecture and design; 5 years of experience architecting and deploying Web services on SOA platforms (examples: Amazon EC2, Heroku, Azure, Rackspace); 5 years of experience with PHP Python, Java, or C++ with software development methodologies like Agile.

Cloud systems administrator

Job description: Configure and maintain the systems that comprise the underlying cloud platform. Troubleshoot when problems arise and plan for future cloud capacity requirements.

Required credentials: B.S. in computer science or computer engineering; 3 years of experience in operating system administration; 3 years of experience in supporting enterprise-level platform installations; strong Linux command-line skills; experience in performance monitoring and capacity planning for enterprise platforms.

Requested credentials: Knowledge of cloud-based development.

Cloud consultant

Job description: Conduct technical studies and evaluations of business area requirements and recommends to IT management appropriate cloud technology options.

Required credentials: At least 8 years of related IT consulting experience; outstanding understanding of cloud technologies available and vendors providing cloud services; top-notch communication skills.

Cloud systems engineer

Job description: Build the virtual systems that support the cloud implementation.

Required credentials: B.S. in computer science, information technology or related technical degree; 5-10 years of systems engineering experience, holistic understanding of the Internet and hosting from the network layer up through the application layer; experience in a 24×7 hosting environment.

Requested credentials: Experience with monitoring tools, scripting, configuration management, clustering, Drupal and Internet security.

Cloud network engineer

Job description: Perform the implementation, operational support, maintenance and optimization of network hardware, software and communication links of the cloud infrastructure.

Required credentials: Related degree in computer science ; 4 years’ in-depth network engineering experience; proven deep understanding of TCP/IP, Subnetting, DNS, DHCP, NAT and routing; strong knowledge of Layer 2 network protocols; strong knowledge of Layer 3 IP routing; proven scripting abilities in one or more language — Perl, Shell or Python.

Requested credentials: Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)/Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification.

Cloud product manager

Job description: Perform product planning for cloud-based offerings including creating product concept and strategy documents, creating requirements specifications, identifying product positioning and enabling the sales processes (licensing, pricing, packaging, benefits, etc.).

Required credentials: Bachelor’s degree in business or computer sciences or equivalent work experience; minimum of 3 years of experience working with a software development company that deploys its offerings using a SaaS or cloud-based model; very strong communication skills.

Requested credentials: Advanced degree in business or computer sciences.


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Inspector Gadgets: 13 Windows 7 gadgets for monitoring your PC

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See your computer’s key operations at a glance

Computerworld – It’s been nearly two years since Windows 7 was released, and yet there are still some features that Windows 7 users may not be taking full advantage of — such as desktop gadgets. Similar to the Mac’s Dashboard Widgets, Windows desktop gadgets are mini-applications that reside on your desktop and can display live data, perform simple functions like search or password generation, or give you a sneak peek inside the inner workings of your PC.

Each new Windows 7 system ships with a handful of gadgets that show dynamic data such as the time, the weather and current news headlines, but there are more than 5,000 gadgets available that run the gamut from the frivolous to the essential. A few come from Microsoft, but the vast majority were written by third-party developers, and most work with both Windows 7 and Vista. All are available for download at Microsoft’s Windows Live Gallery.

Windows 7 desktop gadgets array

An array of system-monitoring gadgets.

There are gadgets for gaming, monitoring online auctions, keeping up with email or social media, playing music, encrypting files and even showing the phase of the moon. More important, though, gadgets can be extremely useful for system monitoring.

In the following pages, I’ve gathered a dozen handy gadgets that display data about key computer operations: networking, system resources, component status, battery level and more.

While these gadgets sometimes duplicate functions provided by built-in Windows tools, what sets them apart is that they’re always on the desktop in easy view. Together, they provide a wealth of information about how your computer is operating in an at-a-glance format.

The best of them go a step further by linking to key system software. For instance, with the Network Meter gadget, it takes one click to refresh the PC’s IP address, saving the half-minute of clicking it normally takes to manually refresh the connection.

Like other Windows gadgets, these system monitors are small (from 26KB to around 2MB) and have a highly focused scope. Most take less than a minute to download and install and don’t adversely affect the system’s performance.

The best part is that they are all free for the download — a great way to add to your system without subtracting from your wallet.

System overview

With Windows 7 having something like 15GB of software code, figuring out what’s going on inside a PC is no easy task. The SysInfo and System Control A1 gadgets provide a valuable peek.

By default, SysInfo appears as a small icon that doesn’t show any data, but click on the icon and a huge panel displaying system information in a wide variety of categories pops up. On top of things like operating system details and the capacity utilization of the processor, there’s data on the computer’s drives, network connections and battery life.

SysInfo doesn’t provide all the details that more specialized gadgets like Network Monitor provide, but it’s an excellent overview, and there’s an uptime clock that shows how long it’s been since the system was started. You can choose to have SysInfo display all its info on the desktop or just in clickable category headers or the single icon, and you can adjust its size on the desktop.

Download SysInfo (265KB)
SysInfo gadget
The SysInfo gadget can display just headlines (left) or system data details (right) on your desktop.

System Control A1

In contrast, System Control A1 focuses on the essentials. In addition to a prominent digital clock that shows the current time (in a 12- or 24-hour format) as well as uptime, System Control presents a nifty bar graph showing how much memory the system has as well as its free memory available.

It also monitors the utilization of the processor’s threads (which it calls cores) over time and displays the results in graphs — useful information for those who push their systems to the limit.

Unfortunately, System Control’s display isn’t adjustable, and it can steal a lot of desktop area.

These two gadgets complement each other nicely: SysInfo does a good job of showing a snapshot of many of the current goings-on inside your system, while System Control A1 graphs processor utilization over time, which can be helpful in trying to trace a program that’s been using a lot of system resources.
Inspector Gadgets

One of these gadgets — or both — belongs on every PC.

Download System Control A1 (26KB)


Temperature gauge
Core Temp Gadget

There are few things worse for your computer than allowing its processor, often its most expensive part, to overheat and burn out. All it takes is one key transistor in the chip shorting out and the whole thing is an expensive piece of garbage.

ALCPU’s Core Temp Gadget can help keep your PC from getting hot under the collar. For it to work, you’ll also need to load the free Core Temp application, but the whole process takes just a couple of minutes.

Version 2 of the Core Temp Gadget shows what processor your system has, its actual clock speed and how much of the system’s memory is being used. On many systems, it’ll also display the chip’s voltage, although some processors — mine included — don’t support this.
Core Temp gadget
Keep an eye on the temperature of your CPU’s cores with Core Temp.

The center of attention, however, is its temperature readings: Core Temp shows how hot it is inside your processor in surprising detail. The gadget displayed not only the temperature in each of my processor’s four cores, but graphed them in a line plot. It’s excellent information for trying to troubleshoot an intermittent overheating problem.

On top of adjusting the size of the gadget, you can change what information to show, the colors to use and how the graphs are set up. The gadget works with recent AMD and Intel processors, although some Phenom and Phenom II chips have a single temperature sensor and provide only one reading for the entire chip.

In the event that your system does start to overheat, Core Temp has your back. It will display “(!)” next to the temperature reading, open a pop-up warning and even start shutting the system down if you want it to.

Think of it as free insurance for your computer.

Download Core Temp Gadget (389KB)

Process watch
Top Process Monitor

Inside a PC there are thousands of individual software processes running, including those that interact with your computer’s CPU, RAM and hard drive. The fabric of a working computer is the sum of these processes.

The Top Process Monitor gadget acts as your PC’s greatest hits chart, showing which processes are using your computer’s resources the most. It can show the top processes for various operations including CPU use, memory use, virtual memory use, input-output operations and drive reads and writes.

You can also choose to view any individual process along with its usage data, or have the gadget cycle through any group of them. It’s the ultimate snoop to see what’s going on inside your computer.

On top of letting you adjust the size of the gadget, Version 2.5 of Top Process Monitor lets you choose which type of operations to display and customize the number of individual processes to show (up to 20) and the colors used.

A nice touch is that Top Process Monitor lets you set a threshold for the amount of system resources any process uses. If it’s exceeded, the software gives you a warning. It’s a great help if, for example, a sloppy program is using too much virtual memory.

Connection info
Network Meter

Having connectivity problems? The Network Meter gadget can help you keep an eye on your connections.
Network Meter gadget

Network Meter takes the concept of “utility” to its natural conclusion. It’s chock-full of key networking data, including current upload and download speeds as well as total data moved. It even shows your system’s internal and external IP addresses.

The gadget can show you data about a wireless or wired connection as well as the network interface card in use. It’s a great first step in troubleshooting a faulty Web connection, helping you pinpoint where to start: the router, the broadband connection or inside the PC.

You can adjust the gadget’s size, color scheme and how often it gets new data. At any time you can refresh the local or external IP address, which in itself can save a minute or two of clicking. There’s also a link to SpeedTest.net to check your online bandwidth.
Inspector Gadgets

DC Wireless Network Monitor
DC Wireless Network Monitor gadget
DC Wireless Network Monitor shows just the basics about your Wi-Fi status.

The DC Wireless Network Monitor gadget, on the other hand, shows only the Wi-Fi basics in a tiny rectangle that takes up almost no room on your desktop. Below the main signal strength bar is the name of the network you’re connected to as well as the system’s IP address and a padlock symbol if it’s an encrypted link.

And that’s about it, except for the ability to change the color of the gadget. It’s ideal for minimalists who just want to keep an eye on their wireless connection.

Download DC Wireless Network Monitor (42KB)

Disk space and usage

O&O DiskStat

Wondering how much space you have left on your hard drive or whether your drive is working too hard or overheating? O&O DiskStat brings that info and more to your desktop.

O&O DiskStat gadget
O&O DiskStat’s default display is shown at right. Click it and the second screen (left) slides out with more information.

By default, the gadget shows two circular gauges: One is a pie chart of drive capacity and availability, and the other shows the drive’s activity level. When the drive is idle, it shows 0%; when it’s maxed out, it shows 100%.

If the S.M.A.R.T. drive-monitoring technology is enabled on your system, DiskStat shows the hard drive’s temperature below the gauges. You may be able to enable S.M.A.R.T. in your system’s BIOS or use a utility like Ariolic’s ActiveSMART ($30), which doesn’t require a system restart to work.

Click on any part of the DiskStat gadget and it doubles in size, revealing a new section with more details about the drive, including its size and free space.

O&O DiskStat can look at only one drive or disk partition at a time; you choose which drive to monitor in the setup screen. Click on the monkey wrench icon on the right side to get to it.

Of all the gadgets I’ve seen, O&O DiskStat is the best looking; it displays the right amount of information without seeming cramped. There are two skins that can help this gadget fit into your desktop decor, and you can remove the O&O logo for a minimalist approach. You can’t adjust its size, but the gadget lets you choose whether you want the temperature displayed in Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Drive Meter gadget
Drive Meter can track disk activity for multiple drives.
Drive Meter

Those who have multiple hard drives or multiple disk partitions on a single drive should consider running Drive Meter as well. It shows how much data is going into and coming out of each drive as well as its percent utilization.

It doesn’t watch the drives’ temperature or show you how much space is available, but it provides a good way to keep an eye on disk activity for up to three drives or partitions simultaneously.

Download Drive Meter (33KB)

An eye on graphics
GPU Monitor gadget
GPU Monitor keeps an eye on your graphics subsystem.
GPU Monitor

Unlike general system gadgets, GPU Monitor cares about just one thing: your graphics processing unit and how well it is running. A fount of information about your system’s graphics and video, this gadget can help pinpoint problems whether you have a budget PC with integrated graphics or a high-end system with a discrete GPU.

In addition to showing which accelerator chip your system uses and key stats such as video memory used and graphics processor load, GPU Monitor shows the chip’s and graphics board’s temperatures. You can have the gadget warn you with an audio alarm if the graphics subsystem starts overheating, although it can’t initiate a system shutdown to prevent damage.

For those experiencing intermittent problems with video, GPU Monitor can keep a log file containing info on any of five main graphics parameters, such GPU temperature and if the fan is on, along with time stamps to help troubleshoot the issue.

GPU Monitor presents a lot of data and can seem crowded, but you can customize it by limiting the types of data it shows, showing data in separate graphs or a single one, and changing the gadget’s size and color combination.

Note: Some users with integrated graphics systems might need to load the RivaTuner software, which collects the data that GPU Monitor shows. It’s free, and you can download it from within the gadget.

Download GPU Monitor (1.2MB)
Firewall status check
Windows Firewall Profile

Buried inside the Windows Firewall settings page (accessible via the Control Panel) is the ability to set your firewall profile as Public (for unsecure networks, like café hot spots) or Private (for your secure home or business network). Each profile involves a different mixture of which incoming connections are allowed or blocked.

When connecting a laptop from the road, many travelers move around between secure private connections and public hot spots several times a day. But changing your computer’s firewall settings for public or private connections each time you switch networks is a tedious task, and one that’s easy to forget. The Windows Firewall Profile gadget assures you that you’ve made the change properly.
Windows Firewall Profile gadget
Is your Windows firewall profile set to Private or Public? Windows Firewall Profile knows.

One of the most basic gadgets around, Windows Firewall Profile doesn’t actually help you change your profile setting; it just shows you the current status (Private or Public) in a small black rectangle. Its size can’t be adjusted, and there isn’t much to configure either, aside from how frequently the system’s firewall status is checked (from 10 seconds to 5 minutes).

But what this gadget does, it does well. It immediately figured out when I changed my firewall profile from Private to Public settings and back again during a busy road trip.

Ideally, the gadget would provide a way to adjust the firewall settings or at least link to the firewall settings dialog. All the same, it’s reassuring to see what the firewall status is at a glance, without having to wade into the system settings to check.

Windows Firewall Profile (119KB)
Juice meter
9-skin Battery Meter

When you’re on the road and far from an AC outlet, it’s important to know how much power is left in your notebook’s battery. Windows 7 includes a battery gauge in the taskbar tray, but it stays hidden during most use; you have to click on it to see the charge level.
9-skin Battery Meter gadget
Keep an eye your laptop’s battery level with 9-skin Battery Meter.

That’s where 9-skin Battery Meter comes in. It does an excellent job of putting your battery level in your face in an artistic way.

The gadget comes with nine different decorative skins (hence the name) that range from a circular gauge to something that looks like an AA battery. You can either open the gadget’s Options to select one or give the gadget a double-click to bring up a new one.

The gadget glows green when the system is charging, and most of the battery gauge designs have eight elements that change color to show that the cells are running down. All turn to orange and then red for the last two segments; some add a triangular caution sign as the end nears.

Unlike many other gadgets, 9-skin Battery Meter can’t be resized, although you can choose whether to have the gadget display how much time remains before the system dies.

Download 9-skin Battery Meter (1.89MB)

Brand-specific gadgets

While the focus of this story is on gadgets that everyone can use to get some insight into how their system is working, I’ve also included two great gadgets that require specific hardware or software to work: the gadget that’s included with Symantec’s Norton Internet Security software and the Intel Core Series gadget for looking at certain Intel processors.
Norton Internet Security gadget

Symantec’s Norton gadget is among the most colorful. When the software is up to date and Internet bad guys are kept at bay, there’s a prominent green banner across the top of the gadget that says “Secure.” You’ll immediately know that something is amiss if, for instance, your version of the software is out of date, because the banner turns red and says “At Risk.”

Below the banner are icons that lead to the four major elements of the security suite. You can see details about the system’s current security status, discover what other members of your family have been doing online (the software keeps tabs on other computers on your network that share your Norton Internet Security license), check if your backups are up to date and find out if a website is safe before clicking to it.
Norton Internet Security gadget
The Norton gadget (inset) ties directly into the Norton Internet Security software.

There’s no download link for the Norton gadget: The only way to get it is to buy Norton Internet Security (regularly $70; now on sale for $50).
Intel Core Series

By contrast, the Core Series gadget is available online and can tell you a lot about your system’s processor — but only if it’s a recent Intel CPU.

The gadget wasn’t written by Intel, but it does a great job of interrogating Intel processors. (AMD has a similar system monitoring program, but it’s a full Windows 7 application, not a gadget.)
Intel Core Series gadget
The Core Series gadget shows a wealth of information about recent Intel CPUs.

Like System Control A1, the Core Series gadget monitors up to eight processing threads (rather than cores, as it says), but it’s valuable information nonetheless. It adds a handy overall CPU Usage rating and a graph below. If you add the WinRing0 software, which Core Series can download for you, the gadget can display the chip’s actual clock speed as well.

You can choose a color scheme for the gadget and tell it what to include in the graph along the bottom: individual threads, all the operating threads, core temperature, or temperature and threads together. You can’t resize it, though, which is a problem because the graph is rather crowded.

Download Intel Core Series (169KB)
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Ad industry calls IE10’s ‘Do Not Track’ setting ‘unacceptable’

Ad industry calls IE10’s ‘Do Not Track’ setting ‘unacceptable’
Privacy advocates hit back, call demands ‘bizarre’

Many of the country’s largest companies lashed out at Microsoft this week, claiming that its decision to turn on the “Do Not Track” privacy feature in Internet Explorer 10 would “harm consumers, hurt competition, and undermine American innovation.”

In a letter addressed to three top Microsoft executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer and the company’s top lawyer, Brad Smith, companies ranging from McDonalds and General Motors to Intel and Visa demanded a sit-down with Microsoft to discuss Internet Explorer 10 (IE10).

IE10 is slated to ship alongside the Windows 8 operating system on Oct. 26. Although Microsoft has promised to also release a version of the browser suitable for Windows 7, it has consistently refused to give a timetable.


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“ANA’s Board of Directors is very upset that the choice being made by Microsoft is one that will ultimately threaten to reduce the vast array of free content and services available to consumers,” the advertisers claimed. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is an industry lobbying group.

Microsoft drew the ire of online advertisers — and praise from many privacy advocates — when in late May it announced that IE10 would have the “Do Not Track” (DNT) option switched on by default. Later, it backed away slightly, saying users could turn it off when they were first told of the feature as Windows went through its setup paces.

Do Not Track is a browser feature that signals whether a user wants online advertisers and websites to track his or her movements. Four of the five major browsers — Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari — can send a DNT signal. Google has pledged that Chrome will support DNT by year’s end.

“When presented as a default ‘on,’ by design Microsoft is no longer creating a choice of whether or not data about consumers will be tracked,” the ANA’s letter continued. “Rather, Microsoft appears determined to stop the collection of Web viewing data. That is unacceptable.”

The letter was the harshest criticism yet by the advertising industry of Do Not Track in general and Microsoft’s position with IE10 specifically. The ANA used phrases like “fundamentally bad for consumers,” “undermines consumer interest” and “cheat society” in its missive.

Essentially, the ANA argued that if advertisers could not track users on the Web — and then use that information to deliver targeted online ads to them — the Internet as it’s now known would vanish. IE10’s on-by-default stance threatened that tracking.

“Microsoft’s decision to block collection and use of information by default will significantly reduce the diversity of Internet offerings and potentially cheat society of the robust offerings that are currently available,” the ANA said.

Privacy proponents hit back.

“The online advertising industry has dropped its facade of negotiating Do Not Track in good faith,” said Jonathan Mayer, one of two Stanford researchers who devised the HTTP header concept used by browsers to signal a user’s DNT decision. “This week’s letters to Microsoft and W3C leadership are part of that.”

The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) is a standards-setting group that is trying to finalize DNT’s implementation. The group is meeting this week in Amsterdam to continue discussions. Mayer is active in the W3C discussions.

Other privacy advocates were even tougher on the ANA and its demand that Microsoft reverse course.

“In recent days, we have suddenly seen an all-out blitz of attacks on Do Not Track, both in Washington and Silicon Valley, decrying Do Not Track as a disaster that would destroy the advertising-supported Web,” said Leslie Harris and Justin Brookman of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) in a Wednesday blog post.

Harris is the CDT’s president and CEO, while Brookman is the advocacy group’s director of consumer privacy.

Mayer noticed the uptick in rhetoric, too. “In recent weeks industry trade groups have turned to obstructionism and vitriol within the W3C multi-stakeholder process,” Mayer said in an email reply to questions. “Outside the W3C, they’ve placed negative coverage, penned misleading op-eds and lobbied Republicans in Congress to challenge the FTC.”

The ANA’s blast against IE10 made some suspect it had been the tipping point. “It is possible that this uproar stems entirely from Microsoft’s decision in June to aggressively steer its users to turn on Do Not Track during install,” said Harris and Brookman.

Not so, countered an online ad executive.

Steve Minichini, who leads the interactive marketing group at the advertising agency TargetCast, disagreed that IE10 had been a trigger for any recent anti-DNT blitz on the part of advertisers. “We’ve been talking about this for years,” Minichini said in a Wednesday interview.

He acknowledged that the debate had heated up, but blamed Microsoft. “The main reason there’s so much conversation is the principle of it,” said Minichini, referring to IE10’s on-by-default setting. “IE10 will not have a big foothold in the market at first, but as the years roll on, year after year, it will grow. [Microsoft’s move] is just a marketing strategy to grab headlines.”

Some would agree with Minichini’s point: Many Microsoft watchers and analysts have interpreted Microsoft’s decision to push users to DNT as a way for it to differentiate the browser from competitors.

Microsoft is on somewhat shaky ground with IE; the browser has lost share for years, although that decline has slowed during 2012, according to California-based Net Applications, which on Monday said all versions of IE accounted for 53.6% of those used in September. (Irish metrics firm StatCounter, however, says that IE has shrunk to just 32.7%, second behind Google’s Chrome.)

IE10 has a negligible share: Neither Net Applications nor StatCounter have begun tracking it.

It’s unclear how the W3C will, or even if it will, resolve its differences on IE10 to, for instance, either demand that websites honor its DNT signal or allow them to ignore it.

Harris and Brookman of the CDT wondered where it would end, too. But one possibility would kick off what they called a “privacy arms race” pitted with tit-for-tat responses by advertisers and Microsoft to block, unblock and re-block DNT.

“The result would be turning the online ecosystem into an ever-escalating war between privacy interests and advertisers, precisely the war that a negotiated Do Not Track setting was designed to avoid,” said Harris and Brookman.

Others have noticed a change in advertisers’ tone in the most recent DNT discussions. Last week, Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz told the Wall Street Journal that the industry “appears to be backing off from its commitments” made last February.

The FTC backs Do Not Track, but Leibowitz has not expressly thrown his weight behind Microsoft and IE10.

Microsoft on Wednesday declined to address the ANA’s allegations, instead repeating a previous statement that said, “Our approach to DNT in Internet Explorer 10 is part of our commitment to privacy by design and putting people first.”

In an op-ed piece in Adweek last month, however, Rik van der Kooi, Microsoft’s top ad executive, said critics were losing perspective. “Instead of debating whether DNT is ‘on’ or ‘off,’ we should redouble our efforts as an industry and educate consumers about how advertising pays for the free Web experience we all now enjoy,” van der Kooi wrote.

It may be difficult to get the two sides — the ad industry and privacy-first advocates — to agree when words like “outrage,” “bizarre” and “unacceptable” are bandied by the parties.

The ANA, which did not reply to a Computerworld request to make someone available for an interview, asked Microsoft for a face-to-face meeting between executives. “We respectfully suggest an immediate dialogue with key Microsoft executives prior to the anticipated release of Internet Explorer 10,” the trade group said in its letter.

Harris and Brookman had hope for a resolution. “At the end of the day, privacy advocates will have to settle for something less than they would like in an ideal world [and] advertisers must honor their commitment to comply with users’ Do Not Track instructions,” they said.

The debate isn’t limited to the U.S., as European regulators have also weighed in on DNT, and expressed support for Microsoft’s position on IE10.

“[The advertising industry] now stands in open defiance of policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic and, more importantly, the tens of millions of users who have enabled Do Not Track in their browser,” said Mayer. “[But] the primary effect of their efforts has been to call more attention to Do Not Track.”

“We’re going to continue to do what we do, which is to put privacy at the top of mind,” countered ad exec Minichini, who clearly would like users to run any browser but IE10. “Consumers are empowered by the browsers they choose. But Microsoft is forcing DNT on the consumer population, something we’re strongly against, and something we think consumers will be strongly against.” mcts online training and mcitp online training

Geek of All Trades: The new certifications

There’s a whole “new” crop of reconfigured and reclassified Microsoft certification exams, but how much has the focus and the gravitas changed?
Greg Shields

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) is back, but does this mark a return to the good old days? Microsoft’s resurrection of the long-treasured MCSE could reignite certification’s glory days of long lines at testing centers and sold-out classrooms. The biggest question is: Do certifications still matter? And will today’s test objectives stand above the issues experienced by the last generation of MCSE-certified IT professionals?

Those questions will be fully answered in time. For now, though, we can peer deeply into the variety of new MCSEs with an eye toward the technologies Microsoft deems important. If you haven’t looked yet, you might be surprised at the focus of their attention.
I say “‘Cloud,’ you say ‘System Center’
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The Microsoft certification overview Web site states the new generation of MCSEs has been reinvented “to maintain their market relevance as the industry shifts to the cloud.” The cloud is in fact a central theme in all of the current literature regarding the new certification program. The previous Microsoft IT professional certifications, the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), are categorized under Microsoft Certifications. The new Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and MCSE certs are referred to as Microsoft Cloud-built Certifications.

While that distinction might be important to Microsoft, I wonder how it will be percieved by the everyday IT professional. Many don’t yet see themselves as caretakers of a cloud-based datacenter, although many work within virtual environments that fit the definition—more or less.

Dig a bit deeper and you’ll find the term “cloud” has special meaning for Microsoft. Look through the objectives in any new-generation MCSE exam. You’ll likely surmise that for Microsoft, “Cloud-built” does in fact mean “System Center.”

Microsoft Exam 70-415 is an excellent example. This exam is the first of two (the other being 70-416) required to upgrade a new-generation MCSA to an MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure. While you can easily accomplish the majority of objectives atop Windows Server 2012 by itself, a remarkable few require System Center experience.

For example, the 70-415 objective, “Implement Zero Touch deployment,” is a task you can only accomplish with the help of System Center Configuration Manager. Another objective, titled “Implement an updates infrastructure,” requires actions in Configuration Manager and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM). Objectives in 70-416 include references to App-V (“Manage application virtualization environments” and “Design and implement a resilient virtual application delivery infrastructure”), as well as Configuration Manager (“Deploy applications to the desktop” and “Plan and implement application updates”).

The days are gone when a prospective MCSE could learn everything he needed from Windows Server. Getting MCSE-certified these days requires myriad “other” skills that will require additional effort.
MCSA: The new MCSE

It’s worth mentioning that the MCSE prerequisite certification—the MCSA—doesn’t appear to have the same focus on System Center. While System Center experience doesn’t appear necessary for a prospective MCSA test-taker, a casual review of objectives reveals a more mature MCSA. This isn’t your father’s entry-level certification. The objective domains in this generation’s MCSA exams feel eerily similar to those in the last generation’s MCSE.

Obtaining the MCSA requires passing three exams: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 (70-410), Administering Windows Server 2012 (70-411), and Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services (70-412). Passing these three now requires a broader range of topics that will greatly challenge the last generation’s “paper MCSEs.”

For example, answering the questions in the 70-411 exam (Administering Windows Server 2012) requires knowledge across a wide array of technologies with acronyms such as WDS, WSUS, DCS, DFS, FSRM, ERS, DNS, VPNs, NPS, NAP, SPNs, UGMC, RODCs, GPOs, CSEs and even a little DirectAccess to boot. As a test-taker, if these acronyms mean nothing, you’ve got a long road ahead. Obtaining today’s MCSA might indeed be just as challenging as obtaining the last generation’s MCSE.
MCSE ‘flavors’


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The new MCSE has evolved beyond its original intent, so that realization is actually a good thing. An oft-noted problem of the last MCSE was its binary nature. You either had it, or you didn’t. As a consequence, the process of attainment became less important than the actual attaining. Jane may have taken a more challenging path to her certification, involving elective tests in obtuse and complex technologies. John chose Network Essentials and IIS. At the end of the day, though, both are MCSEs.

The new MCSE program attempts to change that perception by eliminating the previous generation’s electives. Replacing them is a variety of “flavors” of the MCSE. A candidate with server experience can obtain an MCSE: Server Infrastructure by taking one path. Another who focuses on desktops can take another path for the MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure. There are MCSE: SQL Server 2012 and MCSE: Private Cloud certifications also available.

One assumes that each of these new flavors better focuses the proven skills of the certification holder on the topics of interest to that person’s employer or potential employers.
‘A mile wide and an inch deep’

One of these flavors merits special attention due to its focus on essentially everything within the Microsoft wheelhouse—MCSE: Private Cloud. Among the range of new certifications, this one is a bit of an enigma. Its test objectives bring to mind a saying long ago associated with the objectives in the (ISC)2 CISSP exam: “They’re a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Like all flavors of the MCSE, obtaining the MCSE: Private Cloud first requires obtaining an MCSA. The difference here, however, is that that MCSA is in Windows Server 2008. The current MCSE: Private Cloud also notably tests against Windows Server 2008 R2 technologies and not Windows Server 2012. Then, you’ll need to complete two exams. One is 70-247 (Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012), and the other is 70-246 (Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012).

This MCSE is different in part because its focus is almost entirely on System Center technologies. It even tests against the core hypervisor that sits on Windows Server 2008 R2. To pass 70-247, you’ll need to know Hyper-V. You’ll also need experience in almost the entire System Center suite, including VMM, Data Protection Manager, App Controller, Service Manager, App-V and Operations Manager. Only Configuration Manager appears to be absent from the objectives.

Whereas the 70-247 exam focuses on laying down the building blocks for a private cloud, 70-246 tests on monitoring and operations. A review of its objectives reveals that it tests against the same System Center components in this exam as in the other one (with the exception of Orchestrator, which has been added to one objective domain). Only the tasks you’ll be accomplishing with those System Center components are different. As its name suggests, you won’t be building your private cloud here. You’ll be automating its operations.
Breadth of topics: a challenge for the classroom approach?

The Microsoft certification program has historically aligned its exams with Microsoft Official Academic Courses. That trend doesn’t change with this generation of MCSE. What may change, however, is the efficacy in learning the necessary content via the traditional classroom learning approach.

Bluntly put, there’s a ridiculous amount of content to cover, and the best classroom instructors tend to be those with personal experience in implementing the technologies they teach. That personal experience can be hard to find when the range of testable topics in any exam is so broad across Windows Server and the entire System Center portfolio.

That classroom learning experience might also be hindered by the sheer number of virtual machines (VMs) required to drive all these functions. That count of VMs is exacerbated by an insidious limitation of System Center. Each component must be installed to its own Windows Server instance. Powering them all might require a significant hardware investment for the learning centers that offer the courses. The System Center components are large in number and hungry in hardware requirements. You can’t help but wonder if alternative learning approaches such as prerecorded computer-based training might have an advantage here in best delivering the knowledge transfer.
Re-legitimizing the MCSE

Having said all this, this MCSE is indeed an impressive certification. The breadth of its content can be overwhelming for the typical IT professional just starting out in his career. That same breadth, however, is also this MCSE’s greatest strength. Many last-generation MCSE holders felt betrayed by the diminishing value of their certification effort as scores of minimally experienced individuals lined up with certification papers in hand.

Make no mistake, this MCSE appears to be quite a bit harder to obtain. While that difficulty might not reinvigorate a second explosion in Microsoft IT certification, it does stand to create a smaller and more reliable cadre of experienced and proven IT professionals. That’s the kind of certification legitimacy that ultimately benefits everyone.