What’s the State of the Cloud? Hybrid Cloud, Multicloud on the Rise

cloud-multi

RightScale’s latest annual State of the Cloud survey shows private cloud is now playing a smaller role in both the hybrid and multicloud story as enterprises look to expand their public cloud use.

The RightScale research showed that private cloud adoption fell to 72%, down from the 77% reported in the company’s 2016 survey.

p1That pulled down hybrid cloud adoption, year-over-year, but the dip looks to be temporary as respondents say they plan to step up their deployments of hybrid and multicloud (which includes multiple clouds – private, public or hybrid.) The percentage of enterprises with a strategy to use multiple clouds grew to 85% this year, compared to 82% last year. Meanwhile, 58% are planning on hybrid cloud, versus 55% in 2016.

In addition, 20% of enterprises are planning for multiple public clouds, up from 16% last year.

This increase in public cloud use indicates growing confidence in its ability to handle tasks enterprises once reserved for private cloud, such as securing or managing sensitive data.

This year’s RightScale report surveyed 1,002 technical professionals across a broad cross-section of organizations and industries about their adoption of cloud infrastructure. The respondents were surveyed in January 2017 and ranged from technical executives to managers and practitioners. Here are a few additional RightScale findings that we found notable:

Security concerns drop, cloud waste worries increase

Cloud security was still the top challenge, as it was named by 25% of the RightScale survey respondents. But it was down from 29% the year before, and it shared the top challenge spot with “lack of resources/expertise” and “managing cloud spend.”

Even among enterprise central IT teams, who typically are most responsible for security, the percentage of those naming it as a challenge fell to 35%, compared to 41% in 2015.

p2At the same time, there was a significant jump in the percentage of respondents RightScale classifies at “mature cloud users” who named cost as a significant challenge, from 18% last year to 24% in 2017. RightScale also found that even with increased awareness of cost management problems, companies underestimate the amount of wasted cloud spend. They project 30% wasted spend, when it’s typically closer to 45%, according to measurements by RightScale.

The increased concern around costs is reflected in the fact that 53% of respondents cited optimizing cloud costs as one of their cloud initiatives for 2017, the highest percentage of any initiative.

Cloud benefits realized, and not

p3The top benefit reported by RightScale respondents was “faster access to infrastructure,” and it was named by 62% of respondents, the same as last year. But the next most-cited benefit, “greater scalability,” saw an increase, as it was cited by 61% of respondents, compared to 58% in 2016.

Meanwhile, some of the least-cited benefits also saw drops in the percentage reporting them. Only 34% of respondents reported that cloud improved “IT staff efficiency,” compared to 38% the year before. The next least-cited benefit, “cost savings,” was named by 35% of respondents in 2017, down from 37% in 2016.

A better way to maximize cloud benefits

At Equinix, we know the power of the cloud, and we believe a cloud-first future requires superior interconnection, especially if companies are going to achieve benefits like the cost savings the RightScale survey indicates some are struggling to achieve.

The key is an interconnection-first approach, such as an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy. This framework prescribes deploying IT close to people, location, clouds and data at the digital edge, where commerce, population centers and digital ecosystems meet. Proximity to your cloud providers is critical for the high-performance, secure connectivity necessary to optimize your cloud performance. The Equinix Cloud Exchange can be a key component of an IOA strategy deployed on Platform Equinix, as it offers direct, secure virtualized connectivity to multiple cloud providers from a single port.

Read our Interconnection Strategy Guide for greater insights into how an IOA approach can help companies excel in a cloud-first world.

Accelerating Oracle Cloud Data and App Access

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This week’s Oracle CloudWorld conference in New York City covered a wide range of topics, all focusing on the digital transformation that Oracle offers its IT and business customers through its diverse cloud PaaS and IaaS offerings. I was among the presenters and led a session where I discussed “Digital Transformation Through Interconnection.”

Together, Equinix and Oracle empower our enterprise customers to transform their businesses by integrating private and public cloud environments into a hybrid cloud infrastructure that increases operational efficiency, enhances system processes and improves the quality of experience for our customers.

Unleash the Power of Equinix: Digital Transformation through Interconnection from Equinix

We achieve this by providing businesses with the following capabilities:

  • Direct and secure interconnection via Oracle FastConnect on the Equinix Cloud Exchangebypasses the public internet to connect customers, employees and partners to the Oracle Cloud with significantly faster performance, greater security and a superior user experience.
  • Data control and compliance, enabled by private data access, provides secure, heavy-compute, low-latency workload performance with Oracle Cloud, while maintaining regulatory and compliance requirements.
  • Comprehensive global scalability that seamlessly unifies existing IT infrastructures with Oracle Cloud delivers unparalleled flexibility for legacy and native cloud applications.

In my presentation at Oracle CloudWorld, I talked about how an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) is a simple, practical digital transformation methodology to enable organizations to deploy hybrid cloud infrastructures. I also reviewed representative use cases of how our customers are leveraging these capabilities and an IOA strategy to gain fast and secure access to Oracle PaaS cloud services such as database backup-as-a-service, business continuity and disaster recovery, high performance computing and analytics, and Exadata-as-a-service.

Taking database backup-as-a-service for example, we can enable high-speed connections to move large data sets, such as database synchronization or database backup, and achieve some pretty dramatic results. Tests within the Equinix IT organization showed backup network throughput was up to six hours faster and data restore time was more than 3.5 hours faster.

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In addition, many of our customers and partners have reduced their costs by as much as 10 times, depending on data volumes and architecture. We recommend that our clients test the performance of their own applications within an Equinix Solution Validation Center to see the gains that can be achieved with Oracle FastConnect on the Equinix Cloud Exchange.

Equinix provides access to Oracle Cloud through a direct connect or Equinix Cloud Exchange in five metros in the U.S., Europe and Australia. We enable access to Oracle Cloud PaaS and IaaS solutions, including database, Java, integration, analytics, compute and storage. Business partners can directly connect to Oracle Cloud from their private cloud located adjacent to Oracle’s cloud edge in a common Equinix data center. Organizations can also establish private networking options with Oracle using the same interconnection methods they would use with public sessions.

Watch the video, “Oracle Cloud Marketplace and Equinix” to learn how your business can achieve greater growth with a hybrid cloud strategy by leveraging fast and secure access to data and applications via Oracle Cloud. Or download the Oracle Open Cloud Solution Brief.

European CIOs Invest in Hybrid Cloud to Accelerate Digital Transformation

Cloud computing continues to grow at a steady pace across Europe. IDC predicts that the EMEA public cloud market will expand 26% over the next four years. Hybrid cloud is driving public cloud adoption and is the catalyst for much of European enterprises’ digital transformation. In fact, a CIO Research survey showed that over half of CIOs and IT managers in France, Germany and the UK identified hybrid cloud as the most common cloud adoption model.

What we have seen from customers in our 62 Equinix data centers across EMEA, and heard at conferences such as this year’s Cloud Computing Expo in Paris, is that the enterprise cloud ecosystem grows along with a CIO’s trust! The following factors are influencing greater “cloud confidence” and adoption in the region, specifically at the digital edge where there are higher concentrations of users, applications, data and clouds:

Bigger and faster telco links
The telecom infrastructure is improving throughout Europe, with carriers providing higher bandwidth links, and 5G aiming to replace wired networks at industrial levels. The next generation of mobile networks will provide higher resiliency and performance, and enable enterprises to more quickly and easily offload on-premises compute and storage capabilities to the public cloud.

Flexibility and freedom to choose
The ability to start with one cloud service provider (CSP) and then switch to another on demand also encourages enterprise cloud adoption. Whether “bursting” to leverage cloud resources as needed, choosing the best cloud for a specific workload or application, or enabling redundancy, the agility companies gain from leveraging multiple cloud services and providers is compelling.

Data residency and compliance
Increasingly, European CSPs will guarantee that data will stay in country. In addition, many companies are gearing up to comply with the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) Privacy Compliance Guide by 2018. This will help allay fears over data being moved from the county of origin in the cloud.

European cloud adoption obstacles

Security has been a global issue hovering over cloud computing since its inception. Today, enterprise chief security officers (CSOs) are increasingly concerned around identity authentication management and controlling how users access data in the cloud. However, the CIO Research survey shows that recently European CIOs are trusting CSPs more and more, with half naming security as a primary reason for adopting cloud. In fact, we hear that many CIOs and CSOs believe the security, user and data management controls and availability levels of CSPs are higher than what their company could achieve on its own, or could ever afford.

Because of this increased cloud confidence, the first step toward migration for many European enterprises is creating hybrid infrastructures for backup and disaster recovery of data in the cloud. They replicate what they have on-premises or in a private cloud on a public cloud. Then, over time, they begin to take advantage of new public cloud services, typically for new applications.

European cloud ecosystems

The cloud ecosystems within Equinix data centers throughout EMEA are also growing, enabling enterprises to leverage the flexibility and choice they require to build hybrid cloud infrastructures. These ecosystems include network and cloud service providers and managed service providers and integrators, including Adelius, AWS, F5, Microsoft Azure, NetApp and SCC Flowline Technologies, just to name a few.

The Equinix Cloud Exchange  creates hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures among a variety of cloud providers (see diagram below), allowing for the agility, flexibility and security that most CIOs require. In addition, physical proximity to numerous cloud providers enables low-latency interconnection to and among cloud service peers for greater application performance at the digital edge.

Get started on planning your hybrid cloud migration at the digital edge by reading the IOA Playbook.

Why cloud is the cornerstone of digital transformation in healthcare

Today every part of the business is subject to new expectations, competitors, channels, threats and opportunities. Every business has the potential to be a digital business. As the numbers of smart, connected devices from phones to cars to wearables are growing, companies that quickly deliver digital solutions or services, and use insights to rapidly optimise their value chain are gaining competitive advantage. Businesses that digitally transform will be able to connect more closely with customers, speed up the pace of innovation and, as a result, claim a greater share of profit in their sectors. In fact, according to a report earlier last year from IDC, the global economic impact of digital transformation to date already exceeds £14 trillion, a staggering 20% of global GDP.

Put simply digital transformation is the trend of enterprises shifting away from traditional systems in favour of digital options to enable major improvements in productivity and unlock new lines of business value creation.   In recent years digital transformation has been driven by the explosion of cloud computing, big data, and mobile technologies.

While big data and mobile have driven digital transformation, the cornerstone of it all is cloud.

Flexible, cost efficient and accessible from anywhere, the cloud has already been a transformative technology for many industries. However, while migrating to the cloud is a top priority for virtually all organisations embracing digital transformation projects, the path to get there involves navigating a great many obstacles, especially for those operating in highly-regulated industries. Healthcare, in particular, is at the top of the list.

Over the past few years, cloud adoption has been on the rise in the healthcare industry. To date, organisations have primarily been testing the waters by focusing on modernising the back-end of their systems, moving financial, operational and HR applications into the cloud. Now there is increasing demand for transforming core healthcare systems and applications in order to improve the quality of patient care with new digital services that empower patients to take control of their own health and reduce costs of operations as well as modernise infrastructure and create a more efficient environment in order to again take costs out.  In fact according to a recent study by Accenture, the healthcare industry stands to save over £44 billion in the long-term by making the right strategic technology investments today.

However, as anyone managing IT for a hospital or clinic can tell you, moving to the cloud is not as simple as signing up for a public cloud service. For IT leaders in the healthcare industry, it involves taking into account a wide array of complex factors, including regulatory compliance, information security and organisational change. Indeed, security mandates are increasing due to the upswing in cyberattacks on health providers, you only have to look at the WannaCry ransomware attack last year and how that impacted many NHS hospitals across the UK to see how healthcare and in particular health information and systems are being targeted.   This has led many healthcare providers to closely examine enterprise cloud options for hybrid and off-premises deployment models that meet or exceed high security and compliance requirements whilst offering utility-based billing and cloud flexibility.

The good news is that healthcare IT is now trending towards the cloud and digital transformation is well underway with hospitals, care centres and clinics all undergoing some form of digital transformation, integrating their electronic patient record (EMR) platforms and new patient engagement systems and as well as emerging precision health platforms.

Here at Virtustream, we have our own Healthcare Cloud which is purpose-built for mission critical healthcare applications, with availability SLAs of up to 99.99%, full automation for HIPAA and HITECH compliance, and rigorous end-to-end security to protect patient information.

With organisations continuing to migrate to the cloud, healthcare providers require a fast turnaround when getting infrastructure up and running. Cloud applications such as Virtustream’s have been successful in delivering this within just six months.  Applications that offer consumption billing means organisations are only charged based on the resources they use, allowing for major cost savings. For healthcare providers, the result is a flexible cloud infrastructure that runs as a single entity, no matter the location.

As digital technology continues to transform the healthcare industry, the right cloud infrastructure can pave the way for providers of every kind.

So, what should healthcare organisations look for in a cloud provider?

  • Partner with a cloud provider that guarantees the safety and security of patients’ health data with a full suite of security and compliance capabilities and delivers true ‘cloud’ benefits such as pay-as-you-go with the flexibility to scale up or down
  • Look for a cloud provider with the cloud infrastructure and managed services needed to manage all of the categories of mission critical applications including EMRs; ERP systems; workforce management systems; precision medicine platforms; picture archive and communication systems (PACS) as well as many other health IT systems
  • Check that your provider offers guaranteed in-region hosting, to meet country-specific data residency requirements
  • Choose to work with a cloud provider that has a solid track record and proven expertise

By choosing a cloud provider with superior service, governance, security and flexibility, healthcare providers can make significant improvements to their current IT infrastructure, while at the same time transforming their systems to be future-ready. Today digitally transformed companies have an edge; tomorrow, only those businesses that have digitally transformed will succeed.

You will be able to use your phone as a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard in Android P

  • Development code in Android P points to a feature enabling you to use your phone as a wireless keyboard or mouse.
  • You can do this currently in Android, but only if you root your device first. This new feature would eliminate the need to root.
  • While not exactly a highly demanded feature, it would be incredibly useful to use your phone as a mouse in certain situations.
  • Over at XDA Developers, Android enthusiasts have been working tirelessly to round up all the rumors of upcoming features in Android P, the next iteration of the Android operating system. It looks like one of those features will be the ability to use your phone as a Bluetooth input device, like a wireless mouse or keyboard.

You can read the recent XDA blog post to get the nitty-gritty details, but essentially the code to perform wireless input functions has been present in Android since 2016. The Android team just never turned the feature on. Why, we don’t know, but it looks all but certain that the function will finally get switched on whenever Android P makes its debut.

Technically, rooted devices have had this feature for quite a while. Simply root your phone, download the Bluetooth Plus app, and then take your pick from any of the Bluetooth mouse/keyboard apps available on the Google Play Store.

However, making the feature built into Android will enable users to do this without rooting their phone, which is a big deal for people who are not tech savvy enough to root their device or who simply don’t want to go through the hassle.

You may or may not see any real advantage to using your phone as an HID (human interface device), but for people who give lots of presentations, it would be quite useful. Not having to carry around a wireless mouse with you to navigate through a presentation would be nice indeed. And people who use desktops as their media center control might like to use their phone to navigate around rather than keeping a wireless mouse on their coffee table.

Ultimately, we won’t know 100% for sure if this feature will be present in Android P until Google announces as such, but the code seems to support that certainty.

Now, the real question is: will it be Android Pie, Android Pop, or Android Popsicle?

STAY ORGANIZED Gmail Android app updated with support for inbox types

Rolling out to all Gmail users now.

Gmail continues to be one of the most popular email clients on Android, and today Google’s adding support for various “Inbox Types.” This is something that’s been available on desktop for some time, and it enables you to customize the various priorities of the emails you receive.

First and foremost, if you have a specific inbox type that you use while accessing Gmail on your computer, you’ll now see that same setup in the Android app. For example, if you want your unread messages at the top of your inbox and everything else to populate below them, you’ll now see those changes reflected in the Android app.

In addition to this, you can hop into Gmail’s settings on your phone to change the inbox type you’re currently using.

To do this, go to Settings -> Inbox type, and then choose the one you want – including Default Inbox, Important first, Unread first, Starred first, and Priority Inbox.

This is rolling out to all Gmail users starting today, and it should be widely available over the coming days.

Why we need a 21st-century Martin Luther to challenge the church of tech

It’s 500 years since Martin Luther defied the authority of the Catholic church. It’s time for a similar revolt against the hypocrisy of the religion of technology

Left to right: Sergey Brin of Google, Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Steve Jobs of Apple and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

Anew power is loose in the world. It is nowhere and yet it’s everywhere. It knows everything about us – our movements, our thoughts, our desires, our fears, our secrets, who our friends are, our financial status, even how well we sleep at night. We tell it things that we would not whisper to another human being. It shapes our politics, stokes our appetites, loosens our tongues, heightens our moral panics, keeps us entertained (and therefore passive). We engage with it 150 times or more every day, and with every moment of contact we add to the unfathomable wealth of its priesthood. And we worship it because we are, somehow, mesmerised by it.

In other words, we are all members of the Church of Technopoly, and what we worship is digital technology. Most of us are so happy in our obeisance to this new power that we spend an average of 50 minutes on our daily devotion to Facebook alone without a flicker of concern. It makes us feel modern, connected, empowered, sophisticated and informed.

Suppose, though, you were one of a minority who was becoming assailed by doubt – stumbling towards the conclusion that what you once thought of as liberating might actually be malign and dangerous. But yet everywhere you look you see only happy-clappy believers. How would you go about convincing the world that it was in the grip of a power that was deeply hypocritical and corrupt? Especially when that power apparently offers salvation and self-realisation for those who worship at its sites?

It would be a tough assignment. But take heart: there once was a man who had similar doubts about the dominant power of his time. His name was Martin Luther and 500 years ago on Tuesday he pinned a long screed on to the church door in Wittenberg, which was then a small and relatively obscure town in Saxony. The screed contained a list of 95 “theses” challenging the theology (and therefore the authority) of the then all-powerful Catholic church. This rebellious stunt by an obscure monk must have seemed at the time like a flea bite on an elephant. But it was the event that triggered a revolution in religious belief, undermined the authority of the Roman church, unleashed ferocious wars in Europe and shaped the world in which most of us (at least in the west) grew up. Some flea bite.

In posting his theses Luther was conforming to an established tradition of scholastic discourse. A “thesis”, in this sense, is a succinctly expressed proposition put forward as the starting point for a discussion. What made Luther’s theses really provocative, though, was that they represented a refutation of both the theology and the business model of the Catholic church. In those days, challenging either would not have been a good career move for an Augustinian monk. Challenging both was suicidal.

To understand the significance of this, some theological background helps. A central part of Catholic theology revolved around sin and the consequences thereof. Sins were divided into three grades – original, venial and mortal. The first was what you were born with (because the default setting for humans was “flawed”) and was absolved by baptism. The second category consisted of peccadillos. The third – mortal – were grievous sins.

The church had established an elaborate machine for enabling its members to deal with their moral transgressions. They could confess them to a priest and receive absolution on condition that they did a prescribed penance. But for a medieval Catholic, the visceral fear was of dying with an unconfessed – and therefore unabsolved – mortal sin on your record. In that case, you went to hell for eternity, tortured by perennial fire and all the horrors imagined by Hieronymous Bosch.

If you died with just unabsolved venial sins, however, then you did time in an intermediate prison called purgatory until you were eventually discharged and passed on to paradise. Being in purgatory was obviously better than roasting at gas mark six, and your place in heaven was ultimately guaranteed. But if you could minimise your time in the holding area then you would.

Into this market opportunity stepped the Roman church with an ingenious product called an indulgence. This was like a voucher that gave you a reduction in your purgatorial stay. Initially, you could get an indulgence in return for an act of genuine penitence – following the confessional model – or for visiting a holy relic. But there came a moment (in 1476) when Pope Sixtus IV announced that indulgences could be purchased on behalf of another person – say a deceased relative who was assumed to be suffering in purgatory, and therefore lying beyond the reach of confession and absolution. In a continent of credulous and devout believers, this turned indulgences into a very big business. And, as with the US sub-prime mortgage market pre-2007, it got out of hand. By 1517, as Luther saw it, indulgences had become a racket in which a crass financial transaction substituted for the serious duty of real repentance. A couplet coined by a particularly enthusiastic indulgence-hawker captured this crudity nicely:

As soon as a coin in the coffer rings,
The soul from purgatory springs.

The audacity of Luther’s 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences came from the fact that in attacking the theology underpinning the doctrine of purgatory they were also undermining the business model built upon it. In two consecutive theses, 20 and 21, for example, Luther set about attacking the very essence of papal authority. “When he [the pope] uses the words plenary [ie total] remission of all penalties,” Luther wrote, “he does not actually mean ‘all penalties’, but only those imposed by himself.” Therefore, continues thesis 21, “those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.”

This might not look like much to a modern reader, unfamiliar with the intricacies of 16th-century Catholicism, but it was the equivalent of calling the pope a liar. And in the Europe of 1517, that was fighting talk. People had been burned at the stake for less. In the ordinary course of events, the church would have squashed such a turbulent friar as one would a mosquito. All it would have required was a letter to his religious superior, followed by a kangaroo court in Rome, and that would be that.

But it didn’t happen. Instead, Luther escaped death, survived excommunication and went on to light the fire that consumed Christendom. How come? Historians cite two main reasons. The first is that Luther was lucky in that Frederick the Wise – the local bigwig who was one of the seven electors of the Holy Roman Emperor – protected him and indeed saved his life (protection that was continued by Frederick’s heirs and successors). The second is the printing press, which is what enabled Luther to “go viral”, as modern parlance has it.

Of course we’ve known for eons about the role of print in the Reformation. But it’s especially interesting to look back at the story in the light of what has happened to our own media ecosystem in the past few years. After all, we have lived through political earthquakes that were fuelled at least in part by new media, and we find ourselves contemplating what has happened with the same kind of “informed bewilderment” that must have afflicted Pope Leo X as he watched his pestilential priest become the most famous man in Germany.

An 1817 edition of Martin Luther’s 95 theses

What happened, in a nutshell, is that Luther understood the significance and utility of the new communication technology better than his adversaries. In that sense, he reminds me of Donald Trump, who sussed how to use Twitter and exploit the 24-hour news cycle better than anyone else. But whereas Trump contributed nothing to the communications technology that he exploited, Luther did.

His understanding of the new media ecosystem brought about by print has been expertly explored by the Reformation historian Andrew Pettegree in a brilliant book, Brand Luther: 1517, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation (Penguin, 2015). Unlike most scholars of his time, Luther was both interested in and knowledgable about the technology of printing; he knew the economics of the business, cared about the aesthetics and presentation of books and understood the importance of what we would now call building a brand.

He knew, for example, that his message would only spread if he gave printers texts that would be economical to print and easy to sell – unlike conventional scholarly books in the early decades of printing. Because paper was expensive, printing a standard scholarly tome required capital resources for buying and storing the necessary reams of paper. And because there was no developed market for distributing and marketing the result, many printers went bankrupt – which is why most printing and publishing was concentrated in large towns with established universities where at least some of the necessary infrastructure existed.

Although the original 95 theses were in Latin, as were most theological books of the period, Luther decided that he would write in German. In doing so he immediately expanded his potential market by orders of magnitude. He also developed a literary style that was, as Pettegree observes, “lucid, readable and to the point”. But his masterstroke was in enabling printers to make money by publishing his works. Because paper was expensive, he channelled his output into extended pamphlets that could be printed on one or two sheets of paper, suitably folded into eight or 16 pages at most.

The strategy worked. Within five years of posting his theses he was Europe’s most published author. A printed sermon or a commentary by Luther was a surefire seller, and appealingly inexpensive to produce. The nascent printing industry was quick to respond: Wittenberg, which had a solitary shambolic printer when Luther began, was soon home to a handful of presses, including one run by Germany’s most accomplished publisher, Moritz Goltz. Luther, proactive to a fault, took care to spread his work among all of these new publishing houses and was, Pettegree observes, “sufficiently popular to put bread on the table of publishers throughout Germany”. By the time Luther died in 1546, nearly 30 years after posting the 95 theses, this small town in Saxony had a publishing output that matched that of Germany’s biggest cities.

Luther was clearly a remarkable, complex individual – charismatic, divisive, inspiring, intense, gifted, musical, courageous, devout and lucky. He also had a very unattractive side – as seen most starkly in the misogyny and ferocious antisemitism with which his works are peppered. But I’ve always been fascinated by him, and as the 500th anniversary loomed and Trump rose to power on the back of our new media ecosystem, I fell to pondering whether there are lessons to be learned from the 95 theses and their astonishing aftermath.

One thing above all stands out from those theses. It is that if one is going to challenge an established power, then one needs to attack it on two fronts – its ideology (which in Luther’s time was its theology), and its business model. And the challenge should be articulated in a format that is appropriate to its time. Which led me to think about an analogous strategy in understanding digital technology and addressing the problems posed by the tech corporations that are now running amok in our networked world.

These are subjects that I’ve been thinking and writing about for decades – in two books, a weekly Observer column, innumerable seminars and lectures and a couple of academic research projects. Many years ago I wrote a history of the internet, motivated partly by annoyance at the ignorant condescension with which it was then viewed by the political and journalistic establishments of the time. “Don’t you think, dear boy,” said one grandee to me in the early 1990s, “that this internet thingy is just the citizens band [CB] radio de nos jours?”

“You poor sap,” I remember thinking, “you have no idea what’s coming down the track.”

Twenty-five years on, I now describe myself as a recovering utopian. When the internet first appeared I was dazzled by its empowering, enlightening, democratising potential. It’s difficult to imagine today the utopian visions that it conjured up in those of us who understood the technology and had access to it. We really thought that it would change the world, slipping the surly bonds of older power structures and bringing about a more open, democratic, networked future.

We were right about one thing, though: it did change the world, but not in the ways we expected. The old power structures woke up, reasserted themselves and got the technology under control. A new generation of corporate giants emerged, and came to wield enormous power. We watched as millions – and later billions – of people happily surrendered their personal data and online trails to be monetised by these companies. We grimaced as the people whose creativity we thought would be liberated instead turned the network into billion-channel TV and morphed into a new generation of couch-potatoes. We saw governments that had initially been caught napping by the internet build the most comprehensive surveillance machine in human history. And we wondered why so few of our fellow citizens seemed to be alarmed by the implications of all this – why the world was apparently sleepwalking into a nightmare. Why can’t people see what’s happening? And what would it take to make them care about it?

Why not, I thought, compose 95 theses about what has happened to our world, and post them not on a church door but on a website? Its URL is 95theses.co.uk and it will go live on 31 October, the morning of the anniversary. The format is simple: each thesis is a proposition about the tech world and the ecosystem it has spawned, followed by a brief discussion and recommendations for further reading. The website will be followed in due course by an ebook and – who knows? – perhaps eventually by a printed book. But at its heart is Luther’s great idea – that a thesis is the beginning, not the end, of an argument.

The door of Wittenberg castle church, where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses.

John Naughton’s theses

No 19: The technical is political
This thesis challenges the contemporary assertion of the tech industry that it stands apart from the political system in which it exists and thrives. This delusion has deep roots – for example in the fact some of the dominant figures of the 1970s computer industry were influenced by 1960s “counterculture”, which was suspicious of, and hostile to, the US political and corporate system that had enmeshed the country in the Vietnam war. It found its wildest expression in John Perry Barlow’s 1996 Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

The idea that the tech industry exists, somehow, “outside” of society was always misconceived, even when the industry was in its infancy. After all, it was built on the back of massive public investment in defence electronics, networking and research conducted in corporate laboratories such as Bell Labs or consultancies such as BBN. But in an era where it’s clear that Google and Facebook have, unintentionally or otherwise, been influencing democratic politics and elections, it is positively delusional. We have reached the point where almost every “technological” issue posed by the five giant tech companies is also a political problem requiring political and possibly legislative responses. The technical has become political.

No 92: Facebook is many things, but a “community” it ain’t
One of the favourite phrases of Mark Zuckerberg is “the Facebook community”. Facebook is many things, but a community it is not. It’s a social network, which is something quite different. In a social network (online or off), people are connected by pre-existing personal relationships. Communities, on the other hand, are complex social systems because they consist of people from different walks of life who may have no personal connections at all. A good example is the English village where I live. I am friends with some villagers, and know my neighbours pretty well. But there are many others in the village whom I don’t know and with whom I may have little in common. But there’s no doubt that they and I are all members of the same community.

Online groups confirm the power of homophily – the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with others of similar ilk. Facebook provides a framework that contains innumerable homophilic groups. But it isn’t a community in any meaningful sense of the world.

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs: All about refinements

While last year’s Samsung flagships featured more or less the same list of specifications (barring screen size, battery capacity, and dimensions), the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs differ in a few more areas. The company is taking more of an Apple approach to its smartphone lineup this time around, which means buying the Plus version will get you more than just a bigger display.

The biggest difference between the phones is that you’re only getting a dual-camera setup on the Galaxy S9 Plus. The bigger of the two phones feature a wide-angle Dual Pixel 12 MP sensor with f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures, and a 12 MP telephoto lens. The smaller Galaxy S9 features one Dual Pixel 12 MP sensor with the same dual apertures as the S9 Plus.

There are a few other differences between these phones, too. The most obvious one is the difference in display size — the S9 Plus has a bigger 6.2-inch Quad HD+ display while the S9 has a 5.8-inch screen. You’ll get more RAM and battery capacity with the Plus model, too. The Galaxy S9 Plus features 6 GB of RAM and a 3,500 mAh battery, while the S9 has 4 GB of RAM and a 3,000 mAh cell.

Both phones will come with either the Samsung Exynos 9810 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoCs (depending on the region), 64 GB of storage, microSD expansion up to 400 GB, as well as IP68 ratings and the Dolby Atmos audio codec built in.

Below you’ll find the full list of Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs:

Samsung Galaxy S9 Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Display 5.8-inch Curved Super AMOLED
2,960 x 1,440 resolution (Quad HD+)
570 ppi
18.5:9 aspect ratio
6.2-inch Curved Super AMOLED
2,960 x 1,440 resolution (Quad HD+)
529 ppi
18.5:9 aspect ratio
Processor Global: 10 nm, 64-bit, octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.8 GHz quad + 1.7 GHz quad)

U.S.: 10nm, 64-bit, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

Global: 10 nm, 64-bit, octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.8 GHz quad + 1.7 GHz quad)

U.S.: 10nm, 64-bit, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

GPU ARM Mali-G72 (Exynos)
Adreno 630 (Snapdragon)
ARM Mali-G72 (Exynos)
Adreno 630 (Snapdragon)
RAM 4 GB 6 GB
Storage 64 GB
microSD expansion up to 400 GB
64 GB
microSD expansion up to 400 GB
Cameras Rear: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12 MP AF sensor with OIS, f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures

Front: 8 MP AF sensor, f/1.7 aperture

Rear: Dual camera with dual OIS
Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12 MP AF sensor with OIS, f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures
Telephoto: 12 MP AF sensor, f/2.4 aperture

Front: 8 MP AF sensor, f/1.7 aperture

Battery 3,000 mAh
Non-removable
Fast Wired Charging compatible with QC 2.0
Fast Wireless Charging compatible with WPC and PMA
3,500 mAh
Non-removable
Fast Wired Charging compatible with QC 2.0
Fast Wireless Charging compatible with WPC and PMA
IP rating IP68 IP68
Network Enhanced 4X4 MIMO / CA, LAA, LTE Cat. 18 Enhanced 4X4 MIMO / CA, LAA, LTE Cat. 18
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz)
VHT80 MU-MIMO
1024QAM
Bluetooth v5.0 (LE up to 2 Mbps)
ANT+
USB Type-C
NFC
Location: GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz)
VHT80 MU-MIMO
1024QAM
Bluetooth v5.0 (LE up to 2 Mbps)
ANT+
USB Type-C
NFC
Location: GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou
Sensors Iris
Pressure
Accelerometer
Barometer
Fingerprint
Gyro
Geomagnetic
Hall
HR
Proximity
RGB Light
Iris
Pressure
Accelerometer
Barometer
Fingerprint
Gyro
Geomagnetic
Hall
HR
Proximity
RGB Light
Authentication Lock type: pattern, PIN, password

Biometric lock type: iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, face recognition, Intelligent Scan

Lock type: pattern, PIN, password

Biometric lock type: iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, face recognition, Intelligent Scan

Audio Stereo speakers tuned by AKG, surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology

Audio playback format: MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, APE, DSF, DFF

Stereo speakers tuned by AKG, surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology

Audio playback format: MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, APE, DSF, DFF

Video MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM
Virtual reality Gear VR with controller (SM-R325NZAXAR)

Google Daydream View

Gear VR with controller (SM-R325NZAXAR)

Google Daydream View

Software Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Dimensions and weight 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm
163 g
158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm
189 g
Colors Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple, Titanium Grey Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple, Titanium Grey

What do you think about the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs? How do you feel about Samsung offering different RAM/camera setups for the different models? Let us know what you think in the comments.

What can you do in ARCore right now?

It’s time to experience your world in augmented reality, with your phone

ARCore is a new set of API’s, Frameworks and tools to allow real-time Augmented Reality(AR) apps to work on a standard Android device. What is AR as opposed to Virtual Reality (VR)? Great question! It’s a program that will put digital objects and visuals in your view of the actual world through your VR Headset or, in this case, your phone screen. Based on the work they’ve done with Project Tango, ARCore removes the need for specialized hardware making room scale VR in reach of the common Cell Phone

How do You Install The ARCore App?

Before you had to jump through way too many hoops just to get ARCore working on your phone. Now that ARCore version 1.0 has been released, getting it onto your phone is that much easier and you can download it right from the Google Play Store! Now, remember, ARCore is just an app you download that will allow the other supporting ARCore apps to work. So when you click on the app and it opens like a library, don’t be discouraged. To use the full benefit of this app, check out the list of other apps below.

After you download other apps that use ARCore you just launch those apps from your phone!

The New AirPods Could Have Hands-Free Siri

One thing Apple does consistently is deliver new versions of its existing products. Except the Mac mini. Sure, these aren’t always the most innovative upgrades, but they are upgrades nonetheless. And it looks as though a new version of the AirPods is already on the way.

New rumors suggest that Apple is currently working on new AirPods. The AirPods may have split opinion at launch — read our review to see what we thought — but they have been a big seller. So much so that Apple gave the AirPods the starring role in its holiday ad.

And now, the second generation of AirPods is (rumored to be) on the way in 2018.

The Devil Is in the Detail

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg states that Apple is “working on upgrades to its wireless AirPods headphones.” So far, so utterly predictable. However, the devil is in the detail, and those same sources claim to know what’s changing.

The first upgrade will be a new wireless chip. The AirPods are actually rather good at finding and maintaining a Bluetooth connection, but there’s always room for improvement. So, expect the W2 chip from the Apple Watch at the very least.

The second upgrade will be the option to summon Siri using just your voice. At the moment, you have to tap the headphones to activate her, but the second generation of AirPods should bring hands-free Siri to the fore. Which would be a Godsend.

Finally, looking even further forward, Bloomberg’s sources claim the third generation of AirPods, due to be released in 2019, will be water resistant. While they’re unlikely to survive a drowning, this future version of AirPods should survive a little rain.

Persuading People to Upgrade

Apple took a gamble with the AirPods, but that gamble has paid off. So it’s no surprise to find the company eager to release a new version sooner rather than later. And adding hands-free access to Siri is bound to persuade plenty of people to pay for the upgrade.

Do you own a pair of AirPods? What do you like about them? And what do think could be improved? Would you buy a new pair for the improved wireless? For hands-free Siri? Or for better water resistance? Please let us know in the comments below!