IT shops grapple with new healthcare codes for hurled turtles, fiery water skis

Starting Oct. 1, number of descriptive medical codes jumps from 14,000 to 68,000

While much of the media’s focus of late has been on electronic medical records (EMRs), what is proving to be a more daunting task is a new medical coding system affecting healthcare provider and insurance backend systems.

ICD-10, which represents the 10th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), will be used for classifying diagnoses and medical procedures.

The codes will dictate how the more than $2.8 trillion that Americans spend each year on medical care is paid out.

The new coding system is so complex that the mandate requiring it has been delayed twice. Its current deadline is Oct. 1, and there are industry rumblings that it may be delayed again.

The IT challenge for hospitals, physician groups and insurance companies lies with a new medical classification system that increases the number of descriptive codes from 14,000 in ICD-9 to 68,000 in ICD-10. It also changes a purely numeric system to an alphanumeric one.

Simply put, ICD-9 ran out of codes to describe all the new injury and disease descriptions and treatments that have ballooned over the past 37 years since it was put into use.

“Anything that’s going to be generating documentation in the billing cycle will need to be updated because it will need to be coded for ICD-10,” said Charles Christian, CIO of St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Georgia.

Not only will the number of database fields need to be quintupled to handle the number of codes, but the field lengths will need to be expanded to accommodate the longer ones. The greatest challenge, however, is ensuring medical billing systems and insurance claims systems speak the same language.
ICD-10 graphic
American Health Information Management Association

A survey of 545 healthcare managers commissioned last year by the American Health Information Management Association and two other entities revealed some processes and workflows would be more difficult after ICD-10 is rolled out.

“We need to ensure this will work from soup to nuts,” said Christian, whose IT staff began preparing for the ICD-10 changeover about four years ago.

Hospitals have many systems that must be upgraded. There are separate inpatient and outpatient billing systems and ancillary billing systems used by individual departments, from radiology and labs to pharmacies. EMRs must be ICD-10 compliant as well.

“On our physician practice side, we’re running five different EMRs in offices… and they all have their nuances in how the codes are handled,” Christian said. “So there’s a significant load put on those organizations to insure everything is going to work the day we flip the switch.”
Hit by a turtle? Yeah, there’s a code for that

The new ICD-10 code set describes in remarkable detail practically anything that could cause someone to seek treatment and the medical procedure used to treat it.

For example, when ICD-9 was rolled out in 1978, there was no such procedure as arthroscopy, where an endoscope is used to perform minimally invasive surgery on a joint. ICD-10 codes also add whether a procedure is an initial one or a subsequent treatment.

If a physician is treating a broken ankle, the code needs to be selected for which leg the ankles is on, whether it’s on the lateral or medial side of the ankle and if the injury is an open or closed fracture.

The detail with which ICD-10’s codes describe medical conditions can at times wander into the bizarre. For example, if you were stabbed while crocheting, your doctor would use the code Y93D1. Sucked into a jet engine? That’s a V97.33XD.

Burned when your water skis caught fire? Then your physician would use V9107XA. And, if you were unlucky enough to have been struck by a turtle, that’s a W59.22XD. There’s even a code for having been attacked by a squirrel.

“It is the largest and most challenging mandate we’d ever seen,” said Ryan McDermitt, vice president of software products at Edifecs, a tier-one vendor of B2B data trading networks. “There’ll be a real crush in the healthcare industry in the second half of the year.”

Along with hospitals and physician practices, large insurers, such as WellPoint and United, each have spent more than $100 million in systems upgrades since ICD-10 began, McDermitt said.

Along with insurers, the ICD-10 codes are used on claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid. Claims are also submitted by healthcare providers to enormous clearing houses, such as McKesson’s Relay Health, which checks them to ensure there are no mistakes before they head off to the payer. So, they too must be prepared.

ICD-10’s medical classification list was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and it’s used by developed countries around the world.

So why haven’t U.S. hospitals and physician practices already flipped the switch on ICD-10? Because unlike other developed counties, ICD-10 in the U.S. will not only be used to classify health problems and treatments, it will also be used for payments.

That means medical facilities need to test their systems with payers – insurance companies such as United Health, WellPoint, Aetna and Blue Cross, as well as smaller, regional payers.

There are about 186,000 medical coders in the U.S. who work in hospital administrative offices and transcribe doctors’ notes into ICD codes. Those codes are used by insurance companies to determine how much to pay hospitals and doctors in physicians’ practices for the treatment they’ve provided. Miss a code or type an incorrect code, and the hospital or private physician could lose money.

Testing to ensure ICD-10 rollouts happen without disrupting patient treatment and payments to healthcare providers, therefore, has been rigorous. Healthcare providers have been testing and retesting because they understand what’s at stake.

“Not only do IT organizations have to be organized internally with a project team and manager, but they also have to get folks from other parts of the business — from finance and operations involved,” said Denny Brennan, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium (MHDC). “It’s not just a technical exercise.”

The MHDC is the nation’s oldest health data sharing organization. The consortium coordinates medical data sharing for 80% or 86 of Massachusetts’ acute care providers, the state’s Medicaid plan, known as MassHealth, and all in-state insurers. It has also spearheaded ICD-10 testing for hospitals in the commonwealth.

Brennan said testing of 95 Massachusetts payers or providers revealed that the claims systems at physician practices were not robust enough compared with hospitals.

“Different systems were used and that created problems. Other organizations had billing systems that weren’t HIPAA compliant or providing accurate codes,” Brennan said. “I’d say one big area, which I’d call data source systems, really got pressure-tested and in some cases they broke and had to be modified or enhanced.”

Even though MHDC began ICD-10 testing using common methodologies early in 2013, Brennan said only about 10% of providers and payers have completed their testing to date.

Robert Wah, president of the American Medical Association, said initial testing on ICD-10 systems has shown the potential for “a serious back-log in millions of health care transactions and significant financial disruptions for physicians that could threaten patients’ access to care.”

The AMA has called for delays in ICD-10’s implementation to ensure healthcare providers are ready for the changeover.

“Burdens on physician practices need to be reduced – not created – as we work to get the best value possible for the health care dollar and the nation undertakes significant payment and delivery reforms,” Wah said in an email reply to Computerworld.

The AMA is not alone. Brennan said there are many healthcare-industry lobbying groups who see ICD-10 as an unfunded mandate.

The delays, Brennan said, were “a blessing for healthcare providers and healthcare plans in Massachusetts who needed more time to upgrade their claims management systems.”

Not everyone agrees. St. Francis Hospital’s Christian said the delays have meant he’s had to keep IT teams in place that he’d prefer to move on to other technology projects.

“Every time we delay it, we create anxiety. We have IT folks who’ve been in constant process mode ensuring this is ready to go for years,” said Christian, who is also chairman of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

“I think we need to pull the Band Aid off and get it over with,” Christian added.

Delaying ICD-10’s rollout has been costly. The CMS estimated the added costs to healthcare and insurance providers range from 10% to 30% or $1.2 billion to $6.8 billion overall.

“We believe it is important to require implementation of ICD-10 as soon as the law permits because it will allow the industry to begin reaping the benefits of ICD-10 as soon as possible,” CMS stated in a report released in August 2014.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is also urging Congress to stick to the current deadline.

“The industry has already seen two delays in implementation, and each delay has cost the industry billions of dollars, as well as the untold costs of lost benefits from implementing a more effective code set has shown that the estimated costs, time, and resources required by physician offices to convert to ICD-10 are lower than initially estimated,” AHIMA stated in a press release.
ICD-10 graphic American Health Information Management Association

A survey of 454 healthcare decision makers last year revealed the systems they’re most concerned ICD-10 will affect.

The first round of Medicare end-to-end testing for ICD-10 coding will take place the week of Jan. 26. Last March, in a pilot test conducted by the CMS, 2,600 participating providers, suppliers, billing companies and clearinghouses (about 5% of all claim submitters in the U.S.) submitted 127,000 claims. The CMS said 89% of the test claims using the new ICD-10 coding were accepted.
ICD-10 benefits

ICD-10’s granularity, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), will improve data capture and analytics of public health surveillance and reporting, national quality reporting, research and data analysis, and provide detailed data to inform health care delivery and health policy decisions.

The new standard also will improve quality measurement and reporting capabilities, tracking of illnesses and will reflect greater accuracy of reimbursement for medical services.
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“ICD-10 codes can be used for data mining to determine how we’re doing on specific disease processes,” Christian said. “If we get good clear documentation and it’s coded with specific data, we can extract that and use analytics on it. You can’t use free text data a lot because you can’t really understand what the inferences are based on how something’s said.”

A report released last year by health care consulting firm Nachimson Advisors for the AMA estimated the cost of implementing ICD-10 would range from as little as $56,639 for a small physician practice to as much as $8 million for a large practice.

The AHIMA, however, recently offered a far lower estimate than Nachimson Advisors’. AHIMA said ICD-10 implementation for a small physician practice (three physicians or fewer) should cost from $1,960 to $5,900.

While the rollout of EMRs has been gradual, taking place over three phases (including its own set of delays) and many years, ICD-10 will simply turn on like a light switch. That means, on Sept. 30, providers and payers will be using ICD-9, and on the next day, they’ll be using ICD-10.

“That’s the thing that makes ICD-10 so terrifying – the one-day cutover,” McDermitt said.

At the same time, medical billing filed prior to Oct. 1, will need to continue to be processed with ICD-9 systems after that time.

Between now and Oct. 1, hospital billing systems must be recoded and payer systems must be upgraded to recognize the new ICD-10-compliant claims as readable electronic data interchanges (EDI). Failure of systems to read the claims means hospital billing systems won’t receive claim acknowledgements.

It’s a complex exchange of data between providers and payers, and ICD-10’s medical terminology and coding is completely different from ICD-9.

“It’s completely independent of ICD-9. It’s like going between two languages, like Spanish and Italian that both share a native root language – Latin – but ICD-10 has a different clinical interpretation of clinical concepts,” McDermitt said.

Because ICD-10 is independent from its predecessor, old claim adjudication systems, many based on Cobol, have to be mapped to the new database systems so that data isn’t lost in the changeover.

For example, health insurance giant Humana created more than 15,000 maps to run in production so all of its businesses can run in ICD-9 and ICD-10 in parallel for dual processing during the changeover, according to McDermitt.

The risk of not property rolling out ICD-10 is huge and involves the potential loss of billions of dollars.

For example, if a healthcare provider fails to include a medical procedure received by a patient, the provider risks losing revenue, and if a provider’s claims system doesn’t interface properly with a payer’s, it will delay accounts receivables.

So not only do medical backoffices have to recode systems, but finance and operations must as well, Brennan said.

A survey of 454 healthcare employees conducted last year revealed that most are concerned about how IDC-10 will affect accounting and billing (42%), electronic health records (37%), analytics (35%) and the exchange of health information with other facilities (31%).

Of the 454 responses, 32% were from those with management and supervisory roles, 24% were directors and 16% were executives, while clinicians and other titles made up the remaining percentage.

The survey was conducted last June by the American Health Information Management Association, the eHealth Initiative and Edifecs.

Brennan said ICD-10 testing doesn’t need to be arduous. Testing with a massive number of real claims is less important than testing with a small number of high impact test claims using rapid cycle times.

“Probably the most valuable lesson we learned, and a real value for all the [test participants], was understanding what they didn’t need to do,” Brennan said. “If anything, the participants in our program are going into this year with a much more focused and hardened infrastructure for doing what ICD testing remains before October.”

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Windows 10 to be free upgrade for many during its first year

Four months after pitching Windows 10 to businesses, Microsoft is focusing on consumers at an event where CEO Satya Nadella and other officials are pledging that the new OS offers individuals significant advances over Windows 8, its problematic predecessor.

“Today is a monumental day for Windows,” Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Operating Systems group, said at Wednesday’s event, being held at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters and available vialive webcast.

The first big news: Windows 10 will be offered as a free upgrade to current users of Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 7 during its first year of availability.

However, Myerson said “this so much more than a free one-time upgrade.” Once installed, Windows 10 will be kept continually “current” throughout the lifecycle of the device. As the OS is treated more as an Internet service, asking what version of the OS someone has installed becomes irrelevant, he said.

As Microsoft has stated previously, Myerson reiterated that, unlike previous iterations of the OS, Windows 10 will deliver a consistent yet tailored product family across all types of computing devices, from screenless, embedded IoT sensors to all-in-one computers with gigantic displays. The Windows 10 family will also include versions for smartphones, tablets, wearables, hybrid tablet-laptops, TVs, PCs and the Xbox gaming console.

For developers, there will be a common development platform, whether they’re building enterprise software or games, and a single application store to purchase, distribute and update the apps.

Joe Belfiore, the vice president of the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft, followed Myerson on stage, and showed the Cortana voice-activated digital assistant working for the first time on a Windows 10 PC, using a pre-release build of the OS that will be released to testers in the coming months.

There are currently about 1.7 million [m] people signed up with the Insider program to test Windows 10 before it ships commercially, which is expected to happen by mid-year.

Since the release of Windows 8 in 2012, Microsoft has been in a persistent damage-control mode regarding the OS, so it’s hoping to turn over a new leaf with Windows 10 and close the chapter on its predecessor. With Windows 8, Microsoft misread the market and botched the product’s user interface, leaving a trail of many unhappy customers.

Windows 8 horrified critics with its radically different default Modern UI, which was optimized for touchscreen tablets, and with its alternate traditional desktop, which was included to run legacy Windows 7 applications but lacked key familiar features like the Start button and menu.

Users also complained that the process of toggling between the Modern interface and the traditional desktop was clunky and erratic. Microsoft addressed some of the biggest complaints in Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update, but it never fully fixed the problem.

To drive the point home that it has listened to the criticism, Microsoft decided to skip a number for the next major edition of Windows, jumping from Windows 8 to Windows 10, which the company has described as “a whole new generation” of the OS that delivers what consumers and enterprises “demand and what we will deliver.”

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Please don’t use these passwords. Sincerely, the Internet

You may have protected your personal data with strong passwords, but when hackers seize control of other computers, the resulting “botnets” can cause plenty of collateral damage. The depressing part is that one of the biggest holes is the easiest to fix: terrible passwords. SplashData has just released its annual list of the worst ones (gleaned from hacked file dumps), and things haven’t changed much over last year. The most common stolen password is still “123456,” which edged out perennial groaner “password.” Other top picks in the an alphanumeric hall of shame are “12345678,” “qwerty,” “monkey” and new this year, “batman.” According to security expert Mark Burnett, the top 25 (below) represent an eye-popping 2.2 percent of all passwords exposed.

The good news is that fewer people are using bad passwords than in 2013, perhaps thanks to some well-publicized data breaches at Sony, Target and elsewhere. SplashData reminds folks to create passwords with at least eight mixed characters — preferably more — not based on easy-to-brute-force dictionary words. As pointed out by Buffer Open, other methods include pass phrases, mnemonic devices and other memory tricks — including a gem from XKCD. You shouldn’t use the same password on more than one site, so if you have a lot, it’s a good idea to use one of the many password managers out there, like LastPass or SplashID. Those let you access your entire collection of passwords with just a single passphrase — one that had better be a lot stronger than “123456.”

Rank Password Change from 2013

1 123456
2 password
3 12345
4 12345678
5 qwerty
6 123456789
7 1234
8 baseball
9 dragon
10 football
11 1234567
12 monkey
13 letmein
14 abc123
15 111111
16 mustang
17 access
18 shadow
19 master
20 michael
21 superman
22 696969
23 123123
24 batman
25 trustno1

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How colleges are failing their students

Some colleges and universities haven’t caught on to the fact that if students don’t have the skills they need to land a job a degree isn’t worth much.

Most traditional four-year colleges are great at teaching students theoretical knowledge, critical thinking, history, literature and even computer science, but where these institutions fall short in a key area: teaching graduates the skills they need to land jobs after school and manage their careers.

“There’s a major disconnect between what colleges believe their students need to get a job and what those students actually need. The job market and the economy have changed so drastically in the last 20 or 30 years, but at many traditional colleges, it may as well be 1985 – or 1955,” says career management coach, consultant, resume expert, author and speaker Rick Gillis.

A Degree Is No Longer Enough

Based on his experience coaching and assisting clients in their job searches, Gillis finds major disconnect between what many career services departments promise and what they can actually deliver.

“The myth that simply having a degree is enough to land a job hasn’t been true for decades; it’s an oversell that is really harmful to graduates. What college career services should be are liaisons between the student body and the job market, helping students learn the practical skills and processes of going through a job hunt, networking, interviewing,” Gillis says.

There’s certainly a need for teaching those basics, but in today’s economy graduates need job search tactics, tricks, hacks and strategies to help them succeed in landing a role, Gillis says. “What happens all too often is that these departments fall short; they’ll show you how to make a cookie-cutter resume, shake hands properly and tell you to dress appropriately before patting you on the back and ushering you out the door,” says Gillis.

“My younger clients tell me that what they really could have used were courses on networking; on how to write a strategic resume that can beat applicant tracking systems; how to use keywords; social media do’s and don’ts; strategic internships,” Gillis says.

“Instead, they’ve paid their tuition — a cut of which went to the career services department — got their degree, and they still had to hire me after graduation because they didn’t have the skills they need,” says Gillis.

A Winning Partnership

To bring those practical job search and career management strategies to students, Missouri’s Webster University is forging a partnership with Right Management, the workforce consulting arm of ManpowerGroup, to offer career management and coaching services to students and alumni of the university’s Walker School of Business & Technology, says Mary Haskins, regional vice president and practice leader at Right Management.

“With the rising cost of degrees, parents and students should have the expectation that graduates will land a job after graduation. Schools are starting to understand that they have to shift their paradigms, and better prepare their students for these opportunities,” says Haskins.

The new Career Management and Coaching Program at Webster University, launching in July 2015, will offer a for-credit course on career management, one-on-one career coaching and lifetime access to Right Management’s career resources, alumni network and job bank.

The approach turns the traditional career services model on its head by tapping the expertise of career management professionals from Right Management and integrating their knowledge and experience into the curriculum, helping students perform an effective job search that will land them a role.

“So many career services departments are not equipped to support students the way they need to in today’s job market. They need to know how to create an effective resume, how to develop a ‘personal brand,’ how to prepare for an interview, how to negotiate salary if a job offer is made – these aren’t topics traditionally taught in college, but they are certainly necessary. As experts on career management, we’re uniquely equipped to do that for students,” says Haskins.
Colleges Should Give Graduate an Edge

Programs like the Webster University and Right Management partnership are a great example of how innovative institutions can help better prepare students for life after graduation. By acknowledging the need for these practical skills and leveraging outside experts to bring that information on campus, institutions can give their graduates a significant edge in a tight market.

“There are so many talented career management, coaching and job search resources out there that colleges and universities should be taking advantage of. They can focus on education and we can focus on our area of expertise — it’s a winning situation for everyone,” says Gillis.

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Will Microsoft sue the makers of Adblock Plus?

European publications claim Microsoft could go after the ad-blocking service, but without citing sources.

Microsoft, Google, and a group of French publishers are reportedly planning to sue developers of ad-blocking software because it has been a bit too effective and popular.

Adblock Plus, a simple add-on to Chrome and Firefox, has about 144 million active users, up 69% in a year, according to a September report from software publisher Adobe and PageFair, a company that helps publishers see which ads are being blocked. It’s detailed in a report (PDF) that discusses “How Adblock Plus is changing the Web.”

There are other ad blockers, and according to the Adobe/PageFair report, 54% of male survey respondents said they use some kind of ad blockers. There was no mention of female users.

Since many sites depend on ads for revenue, those missing out on the advertising dollars aren’t happy about this. The online version of French newspaper L’Equipe, one of the companies that could file a suit against Adblock Plus and other developers, will not let anyone access its site at all if they have Adblock Plus installed.

“This is no small matter; it affects all publishers. Our members have lost an estimated 20-40% of their advertising revenue,” Laure de Lataillade, CEO of GESTE, an association of web publishers in gaming, media, music and other domains, told AFP.

Microsoft’s involvement is not much of a surprise. It has some big online sites, like MSN and Bing, and it provides ads to other sites through Bing. The Adobe/PageFair report says Microsoft’s Internet Explorer only accounts for 4% of the ad blocking, with Chrome at 63% and Firefox at 26%. Much of that is due to the fact that IE doesn’t have an add-on market like Chrome and Firefox.

Microsoft declined to comment. Normally they offer up some kind of canned quote, but not this time. I’m reluctant to read too much into this, mostly because I’d hate to think it’s come to this conclusion. But if the CESTE CEO comments are indeed true, they have a legitimate gripe. I just have no idea what the law is on this subject.

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Wireless charging — McDonald’s is lovin’ it

Prior to the rollout, only nine McDonald’s offered wireless charging

McDonald’s is installing 600 wireless charging stations for enabled mobile devices in 50 restaurants in the U.K.

The announcement represents a major expansion of wireless charging technology that’s still in the early stages of deployment in public places.

The charging stations from Aircharge are based on the Qi (pronounced “chee”) wireless standard, which is backed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC).

Of the 20 million consumer devices estimated to have shipped in 2013 with wireless charging capabilities, nearly all were built with the Qi specification, said market research firm IHS.

According to IHS, 80% of consumers want wireless charging in public places.

Prior to this latest announcement, only nine McDonalds restaurants in Hannover, Germany had installed Qi chargers in its tables.

“This is a major step for McDonalds, but in a way, they are catching up with other restaurants across the world who have already deployed Qi in their establishments, ” said John Perzow, vice president of market development for the WPC.

Other restaurants, such as Kitchen 67, based in Michigan, and the Kanga Café, Balzacs Coffee Bar, Sense Appeal and Thor — all in Toronto — have also installed Qi-standard wireless charging.

The expanded rollout comes after a successful initial market test between Aircharge and McDonald.

The largest rollout of wireless charging technology has been at Starbucks, where last year the coffee shop conglomerate announced a nationwide rollout.

Starbucks, which like McDonald’s spent months testing the technology in city locations, is deploying Duracell Powermat chargers.

Duracell ‘Powermat Spots’ are being placed in designated areas on tables and counters where customers can place their devices to charge wirelessly.

Duracell Powermat is a member of the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), one of the three consortiums rolling out products. The PMA last year also announced a deal to share technologies with the third consortium, the Alliance For Wireless Power (A4WP).

Earlier this week, the PMA and A4WP announced a merger that pits them squarely against the WPA.

The A4WP is backed by more than 140 companies, including Intel and Samsung Electronics, and the PMA has 70-members that include ATT on its board. The WPA consortium, however, is the largest; it has 217 members that include Philips, Qualcomm and Nokia.

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10 predictions for IT in 2015

If I am right, this will be a tough year for tech and everyone else.

With the year coming to a close, a lot of people are making their predictions for 2015. So naturally I had to join the party. A whole lot of issues seem to be coming to a head and will need to be addressed in the next year, and I think it will happen all at once. So heed the words of Patridamus.
forecast 2015

1) Wearables continue to tank
This is yet another case of the industry looking for new growth opportunities and a chance to expand by driving something the public doesn’t really want. People don’t want another device to carry or remember to wear, they are often inaccurate, and the newness wears off quickly and they get tossed in the drawer.

2) IoT proves a hard sell
Take what I said above and multiply it by 10. I don’t know anyone screaming for an Internet-connected refrigerator. Then again, Steve Jobs did famously say “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” But with concerns about privacy by government and corporate snooping, security from all the hacks and general public tech illiteracy (the Silicon Valley is so myopic about this), IoT will be a hard sell.

3) BYOD chickens come home to roost
Many firms established BYOD rules when the trend first began, and they never revisited them. Eventually, there will be a reckoning where companies have to set down rules concerning data security and loss prevention, not to mention who pays the bills. It’s only a matter of time before we get stories of employees giving up on BYOD and telling their boss to just provide a device.

4) Stock market crash and burn
The stock market has been going gangbusters, but it won’t last. Every seven years, the stock market melts down like Chernobyl. We all remember 2008, and the recent “Cromnibus” budget deal in Washington has set us up for a repeat. In 2001, it hit the skids due to the Dot Bomb crash and 9/11. In 1994, the bond market went into the toilet. And in 1987 we had Black Monday with the massive sell-off. And if you don’t believe me, maybe this guy’s words will carry weight.

5) AMD finally bottoms out, Qualcomm acquires it for IP protection
AMD is in a real tough spot. Its CEO change caused a collapse in confidence and stock, neither of which has bounced back. Nvidia is gaining market share and is now over 70%, according to Jon Peddie Research. There are hints of big things to come but nothing concrete, and the company has been through endless rounds of layoffs.

Nvidia wouldn’t be allowed to buy the company, unless it was torn in half and it got the x86 business (and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has repeatedly said he doesn’t want an x86 business), with the GPU side going to Intel. A more likely outcome is Qualcomm grabbing the company primarily for IP protection against Intel.

6) IT continues to dump its own data centers in favor of the cloud
The trend of shutting down an on-premises data center in favor of a cloud solution has been going on for some time, but it will take off in 2015 for one very good reason – Windows Server 2003 is reaching its end of life and there are 10 million 2003 server installations out there that need upgrading. Many companies may decide it’s easier to move to the cloud than buy new servers and go through a rip-and-replace routine.

7) Windows 10 is a hit, mostly
Windows 10 seems to have a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings around it, and it will likely revive PC sales, especially in the enterprise. The only thing that will mute Windows 10 at this point is declining interest in PCs. If the trend toward tablets as PC replacements continues, well, there’s nothing Microsoft can do about that except get the tablet experience right, which it seems to have done with Surface 3.

8) Big Data’s growth will be hampered by talent shortages
Big Data is an important new trend in tech, but it’s also a significant change in how computer science is done. It requires people with specialized, advanced degrees, and there are not a lot of them on the market. In fact, there have been repeated predictions of talent shortages of data scientists and other people to make Big Data work. The people who have that kind of experience, however, will make some serious money.

9) Tablets will crash and burn
Tablet sales are already slowing down and the trend likely won’t reverse in 2015. Some experiments have failed, like the Los Angeles Unified School District’s $1.3 billion tablet boondoggle. I expect as the batteries start to die on these things and they are not replaceable, that will also hurt. The main problem, though, is that tablets don’t have an advocate. Steve Jobs was the big champion of the tablet and no one has stepped forward to take up the mantle.

10) MMOs start dying off
My one consumer prediction. For some time now, every game company and a whole bunch of startups had massively multiplayer online games in the works. Then they all started failing. “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” “Final Fantasy XIV,” and “Elder Scrolls Online” all bombed recently, and when an “Elder Scrolls” game bombs, that’s a big warning. Many other MMOs have faded into nothing. And Blizzard killed its MMO codenamed “Titan” after seven years of R&D. The reality is these games demand too much time and people who play them frequently suffer from health problems for their addictions.\


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SDN in 2014: A year of non-stop action

Review of dozens of SDN moves may hint at what’s in store for 2015

The past year was a frantic one in the SDN industry as many players made strategic and tactical moves to either get out ahead of the curve on software-defined networking, or try to offset its momentum.

Juniper unveils a version of its Junos operating system for Open Compute Platform switches, commencing a disaggregation strategy that’s expected to be followed by at least a handful of other major data center switching players in an effort to appeal to white box customers.

Cisco declares “game over” for SDN competitors, and perhaps the movement itself, prompting reaction from two industry groups that the game has just begun; Alcatel-Lucent and Juniper also virtualize their routers for Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) requirements; AT&T and other unveil ONOS, an open source SDN operating system viewed as an alternative to the OpenDaylight Project’s code.

Cisco joins the Open Compute Project, 16 months after criticizing it as a one-trick white box commodity pony that has “weaknesses” and is destined to “lose;” Internet2 demonstrates a nationwide virtualized multitenant network, formed from SDN and 100G, that operates as multiple discrete, private networks; increased competition, largely as a result of VMware’s $1.26 billion acquisition of network virtualization start-up Nicira, goads Cisco into selling most of its stake in the VCE joint venture to EMC; Dell increases its participation in OpenDaylight after initially having doubts about the organization’s motivations; Start-up SocketPlane emerges to establish DevOps-defined networking; Cisco invests $80 into a cloud venture with Chinese telecom vendor TCL.

Cisco boosts its Intercloud initiative, an effort to interconnect global cloud networks, with 30+ new partners, 250 more data centers, and products to facilitate workload mobility between different cloud providers; HP opens its SDN App Store; Brocade becomes perhaps the first vendor to unveil an OpenDaylight-based SDN controller; Cisco loses two key officials in its Application Centric Infrastructure and OpenStack efforts; Cisco acquires OpenStack cloud provider Metacloud; Infonetics Research says the SDN market could hit $18 billion by 2018; SDN’s contribution to the Internet of Things becomes clearer.

A Juniper Networks sponsored study finds 52.5% yay, 47.5% nay on implementing SDNs; Cisco ships its ACI controller, and announces pricing and packaging of its programmable networking lineup; The IEEE forms a 25G Ethernet study group after a number of data center switching vendors with considerable operations in SDN and cloud form a consortium to pursue the technology; Big Switch Networks unveils its Cloud Fabric controller; The Open Networking User Group establishes working groups to address what it sees as the biggest pain points in networking, and issues a white paper describing the current challenges and future SDN needs; After initially claiming it wasn’t SDN, Cisco now says ACI is the “most complete” SDN; Cisco says its acquisition of cloud orchestrator Tail-f will complement its own Intelligent Automation for Cloud product.

Facebook unveils its homegrown “Wedge” SDN data center switch; Cisco acquires cloud orchestrator Tail-f, which gives it entrée into AT&T’s SDN project; HP unveils an SDN switch with a midplane-free chassis, similar to Cisco’s Nexus 9500; Market researchers find that SDN “hesitation” is slowing spending on routers and switches; Avaya, citing its experience at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, describes a plan to ease implementation of SDN and other environments using its fabric technology.

HP clarifies its views on open source SDNs; A Goldman Sachs report concludes that Cisco’s ACI provides a 3X better total cost of ownership than VMware NSX; Cisco CEO Chambers dashes talk of Cisco acquiring cloud provider Rackspace; Cisco offers products to allow earlier generation Nexus switches to participate in a programmable ACI environment; SDN prompts more questions than answers at a Network World conference; Seven months after dismissing OpenDaylight and open source SDNs, HP raises its investment and participation in OpenDaylight; Cisco’s Noiro Networks open source project is revealed as a contributor to a policy blueprint approved for the OpenStack Neutron networking component.

CloudGenix debuts as the latest SDN start-up targeting enterprise WANs; Michael Dell shares his views on SDNs after his namesake company allies with SDN companies Big Switch Networks and Cumulus Networks; Juniper appears ready to accept OpenDaylight after initially dismissing it when it develops a plugin to link its own OpenContrail SDN controller to the open source code; Cisco and VMware take the SDN battle to the policy arena; Cisco unveils the OpFlex policy protocol, largely viewed as an alternative to OpenFlow and other southbound protocols, for ACI and SDNs.

New certifications are expected as SDN takes hold in the networking industry; three years after pledging not to enter cloud services and compete with its customers, Cisco enters cloud services through its $1 billion Intercloud initiative; Dell unveils a fabric switch and SDN controller designed to scale and automate OpenStack clouds; Cisco rolls out new chassis configurations for its Nexus 9000 switches, the hardware underlay of its ACI programmable networking response to SDN; OpenDaylight commissioned study concludes that everyone wants open source SDNs; Cumulus garners additional support for its bare metal NOS; SDN preparation may require 11 steps; Goldman Sachs says there’s nothing really new to SDNs; AT&T, NTT and others share SDN implementation experiences at Open Networking Summit 2014; Brocade becomes an early provider of OpenFlow 1.3; NEC looks to scale OpenFlow SDNs.

HP Networking head Bethany Mayer is tapped to lead the company’s new Network Functions Virtualization effort; Juniper expands its carrier SDN portfolio with controller and management products at Mobile World Congress; Research finds that enterprise adoption of SDNs lags that of service providers due to several factors, primarily the criticality of the network itself; Big Switch explains why it is optimistic after rebooting its SDN business; OpenDaylight announces that its “Hydrogen” SDN release is now available, after a delay; SDN start-up Pluribus Networks ships its server-switch product.

IBM is reported to be looking to sell its SDN business for $1 billion; JP Morgan downgrades Cisco stock based on challenges in emerging markets, and on the potential impact of SDNs; Cisco announces ACI Enterprise Module, a version of its ACI SDN controller for enterprise access and WAN programmability; ACG Research finds that sales of SDN products for live service provider deployments will reach $15.6 billion by 2018, while those that have live deployment potential will reach $29.5 billion; SDN startup Anuta Networks unveils a network services virtualization system for midsize and large enterprises; Reports surface that an SDN schism has developed at Juniper, pitting Junos and OpenDaylight programmers against CTO and Founder Pradeep Sindhu and prompting the exit of many engineers; AT&T determines that Cisco’s ACI is too complex and proprietary for its Domain 2.0 SDN project, according to an investment firm’s report.

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