Oracle Unveils Sparc M7 Processor for Better Security, Efficiency

Not just being a leader in providing integrated cloud platforms and new-age Java, global software major Oracle has launched what is described as the world’s first microprocessor with enhanced security and better efficiency while running databases.

At the OpenWorld 2015 conference here, Oracle introduced Sparc M7 processor which incorporates unique hard-wired security and performance functions using a technique known as “software in silicon”.

“The future data centre is completely encrypted, and this is the first processor that enables that,” said John Fowler, Oracle’s executive vice president for systems.

“We’re providing very highly integrated and co-engineered products that include hardware and software,” he added.

The Sparc M7 processor is the result of five-and-a-half years of co-development by engineers fromOracle and Sun Microsystems which Oracle acquired in 2010.

The goal was to incorporate certain functions normally found in software directly into the microprocessor itself.

“It’s the product of a very disciplined, empirical, and engineering-driven activity,” Fowler noted, adding: “I see the Sparc M7 as a silicon expression of Oracle’s strategy.”

The Sparc M7 incorporates silicon-embedded advancements primarily in two areas: security and performance.

Another advanced security capability hard-wired into the Sparc M7 involves memory protection.

Known as “Silicon Secured Memory”, this feature recognises an illegal memory reference “when an application attempts to access memory that’s dedicated to another application” and stops it.

Illegal memory references cause vulnerabilities like buffer overflows that hackers can exploit.

Because “Silicon Secured Memory” works at the processor level, it has minimal performance overhead, unlike software, which affects processing significantly.

“It is not only a security feature – it is a programming best-practices tool which, when added to the processor, and enabled for all applications, can eliminate a pretty broad class of compromises,” Fowler explained.

In terms of performance, the Sparc M7 chip speeds up in-memory database operations by dispatching duties – scanning data and joining rows – normally performed in SQL (structured query language) processing.

Two new standalone servers, Sparc T7 and Sparc M7, that were also launched provide entry points that take advantage of the new processor’s unique embedded performance and security functions.

The new version of Oracle Solaris, 11.3, contributes to end-to-end security by supporting network encryption as well as “live” transfers of encrypted virtual machines from one server to another.

Tokyo Motor Show Kicks Off With a Spotlight on Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars, the latest fuel-cell technology and a concept vehicle with tablet-style touch screens aimed at the digital generation were among the innovations on display at the Tokyo Motor Show Wednesday.

Nissan unveiled an autonomous electric vehicle that it said would “revolutionise the relationship between car and driver, and future mobility”, while Volkswagen shifted into damage control with another apology for an emissions scandal that has rocked the auto industry.

The biennial motor show’s 44th edition, which runs until November 8, features 160 exhibitors from a dozen countries including foreign automakers such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Peugeot Citroen, Porsche and Jaguar.

It starts a week after Honda said it would put a commercialised self-driving car on the road by 2020, as automakers bet on vehicles that can drive and, in some cases, park themselves.

Its bigger rival Toyota plans to roll out an autonomous car by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics.

Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn said it was on track to put the self-driving technology in multiple vehicles by 2020. The company aims to put an experimental automated car on Japan’s highways as soon as next year.

“It compensates for human error, which causes more than 90 percent of all car accidents,” Ghosn told reporters.

“As a result, time spent behind the wheel is safer, cleaner, more efficient and more fun.”

Google has been testing self-driving cars in Silicon Valley, as have US-based Tesla and General Motors.

But the technology is far from perfect and is widely seen as limited in the short term to highway driving rather than urban traffic jams.

‘Digital space’
Japan’s auto giants will also be showing off their latest concept cars including Toyota’s Kikai.

The eye-popping vehicle conjures up images of the Terminator films with parts of its underbelly – including fuel tank and hoses – exposed, giving an inside look at the car’s machinery.

Nissan, a leader in electric vehicles, is showing a concept car with knobs and buttons replaced by tablet-style touch screens featuring controls and maps on a white instrument panel.

Music, video games and movies can also be played on the screens, in a nod to the smartphone generation.

“The car becomes a digital space when it’s parked,” said Nissan’s product planning general manager Hidemi Sasaki.

Toyota and Honda are exhibiting their latest fuel-cell offerings, seen as the holy grail of green cars because they emit nothing but water vapour and can operate on renewable hydrogen gas.

Toyota last year started selling the world’s first mass market fuel-cell car in Japan, the four-door Mirai.

The auto giant is hoping to build on the success of its popular gasoline-electric hybrid Prius to sell tens of thousands of the eco-friendly Mirai over the next decade, as it looks to stop producing fossil-fuel based cars altogether by 2050.

Honda’s rival Clarity Fuel-Cell vehicle features a cruising range of more than 700 kilometres (430 miles), which it said would be the longest on the market, and can store enough power to supply an average household’s energy needs for a week.

“By connecting the Clarity fuel-cell vehicle with hydrogen stations and external power providers, Honda wants to see a society where we’ll generate power, use it and connect through hydrogen-made energy,” said Honda president Takahiro Hachigo.

Limited range and lack of refuelling stations have hampered development of fuel-cell and all-electric cars.

For Volkswagen the show was a chance to start working on regaining customer trust after it admitted fitting 11 million of its vehicles with software designed to cheat official checks.

The revelation threatens to dent Volkswagen’s sales as it falls behind Toyota as the world’s biggest automaker.

“On behalf of my entire company, I’d like to apologise,” new VW chief executive Herbert Diess told reporters.

“I am sure we will overcome this crisis.”

PuzzlePhone Modular Smartphone Goes Live on Indiegogo Next Month

Modular smartphones are incredibly enticing. Just the idea of being able to swap the internal components and, as a result, keep the handset new and well-performing have many users excited. We now have a new contender in this race, and it needs your help. Finnish company Circular Devices says that it will put its modular handset called PuzzlePhone on crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo on November 3, and promises to ship the handset in the second half of 2016, provided it gets the funding.

Unlike the Fairphone 2, and Google’s Project Ara, the PuzzlePhone doesn’t offer as much customisation, however. It consists of three modules: brain (consisting of electronics), spine (display panel and frame), and heart (battery). At the time of launch, users will be able to purchase the handset with all the requisite internals, as well as purchase extra components.

The company says that it is hopeful that its handset will attract users and it will be able to raise money for the production of the PuzzlePhone. The company has set EUR 599 (roughly Rs. 43,200) as the final retail price of the handset, but early backers will be able to reserve their units for as little as EUR 299 (roughly Rs. 21,600) for the first 250 units, and EUR 449 (roughly Rs. 32,300) as the standard retail price on Indiegogo for the 16GB variant, and EUR 499 (roughly Rs. 36,000) for the 32GB variant.

Whatever happened to Project Ara?

Google’s Project Ara, which was the first to showcase a modular smartphone, has delayed the commercial launch of the handset a number of times. And this is what’s irking many supporters and enthusiasts. Everyone realises that this kind of product can set a new tone for the mobile industry and change the way we purchase mobile handsets. But we’re yet to see any major company deliver.

Oracle to Build High School on Its Silicon Valley Campus

Oracle founder Larry Ellison already owns an island in Hawaii. Now, his company is building a high school next to its Silicon Valley headquarters to help fulfill Ellison’s desire to teach students more about technology and problem-solving.

The plan unveiled Tuesday at an Oracle customer conference calls for the business software maker to complete the 64,000-square-foot school by August 2017.

Although it will be owned by one of the world’s biggest technology companies, the school isn’t going to be called “Oracle High.” Instead, it will be known as Design Tech, or “d.tech,” a public school approved last year.

The campus being built by Oracle will accommodate up to 550 students and 30 teachers in the shadow of Oracle’s towering office in Redwood Shores, California, about 25 miles south of San Francisco. The school will be free and open to any student living in California.

Since starting Oracle Corp. 38 years ago, Ellison has amassed an estimated fortune of $54 billion (roughly Rs. 3,50,829 crores) that has enabled him to buy most of the Hawaiian island of Lanai, own elaborate homes around the world and bankroll two victories in sailing’s premier race, the America’s Cup.

But Ellison isn’t financing Design Tech. Oracle is footing the entire bill, though the company isn’t disclosing how much it expects to spend.

Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz stressed the company wouldn’t be getting involved if Ellison hadn’t sketched out a vision to create a school where “students learn to think.”

Although Oracle will own the high school, the company won’t be involved in the curriculum. Design Tech gained Oracle’s financial support because it “reflects Larry’s vision for a unique high school founded on principles we believe in: innovation, creativity, problem-solving and design-thinking,” Catz said.

Oracle’s commitment to Design Tech comes less than a week after Facebook’s billionaire CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced plans to finance a school for pre-school through eighth-grade students in one of Silicon Valley’s few least affluent communities, East Palo Alto. The Primary School will provide health care services in addition to educational instruction for up to 700 students.

Zuckerberg and Chan also have given $100 million (roughly Rs. 650 crores) to schools in New Jersey and pledged to donate another $120 million (roughly Rs. 780 crores) to other schools located in low-income communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Internet Freedom Falls for Fifth Year in Row

Global online freedom declined for a fifth consecutive year as more governments stepped up electronic surveillance and clamped down on dissidents using blogs or social media, a survey showed Wednesday.

The annual report by non-government watchdog Freedom House said the setbacks were especially noticeable in the Middle East, reversing gains seen in the Arab Spring.

Freedom House found declines in online freedom of expression in 32 of the 65 countries assessed since June 2014, with “notable declines” in Libya, France and Ukraine.

The researchers found 61 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where criticism of the government, military or ruling family has been subject to censorship.

And 58 percent live in countries where bloggers or others were jailed for sharing content online on political, social and religious issues, according to the “Freedom on the Net 2015” report.

In a new trend, many governments seeking to censor content from opponents have shifted their efforts to targeting online platforms, pressuring services like Google, Facebook and Twitter to remove content, the report said.

“Governments are increasingly pressuring individuals and the private sector to take down or delete offending content, as opposed to relying on blocking and filtering,” said Sanja Kelly, Freedom House’s project director.

“They know that average users have become more technologically savvy and are often able to circumvent state-imposed blocks.”

Freedom House said governments in 14 of the 65 countries passed laws over the past year to step up electronic surveillance.

Criticizing France
The report said online freedom took a hit in France from new restrictions on online content that could be seen as an “apology for terrorism” and from a new surveillance law.

It also noted France’s “sweeping legislation requiring telecommunications carriers and providers to, among other things, install ‘black boxes’ that enable the government to collect and analyze metadata on their networks.”

In Libya, Freedom House cited “a troubling increase in violence against bloggers, new cases of political censorship, and rising prices for Internet and mobile phone services.”

In Ukraine, the report highlighted “more prosecutions for content that was critical of the government’s policies, as well as increased violence from pro-Russian paramilitary groups against users who posted pro-Ukraine content in the eastern regions.”

The report said most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where the emergence of the “Arab Spring” in 2010 and 2011 was aided in part by activists’ use of online social media, were cracking down on government critics.

It cited a case in Morocco where police detained 17-year old rapper Othman Atiq for three months after he criticized authorities in online videos and said other regimes in the region resorted to “public flogging” of bloggers.

Overall, 18 countries were rated as “free” online, while 28 were classified as “partly free” and 19 “not free.”

The most free among the 65 countries assessed was Iceland, followed by Estonia, Canada, Germany, Australia, the United States and Japan.

At the bottom of the list was China, worse than runners-up Syria and Iran in terms of a lack of online freedom. Cuba and Ethiopia rounded out the bottom five.

Freedom House voiced special concern in the report about laws and policies, like France’s, requiring Internet firms to keep so-called metadata, which includes the time, origin and destination of online communications.

“While acknowledging that these laws are often intended to assist law enforcement in investigating crimes or security threats, the UN Human Rights Committee, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, and other entities have recognized that the requirements inherently infringe on the privacy rights of all in a manner that is disproportionate to the stated aim,” the report said.

“Nevertheless, many countries – including democracies – have moved to retain or expand such rules.”

Flipkart 'Goes Offline' to Let Customers Preview Phones Before Ordering

Flipkart announced Wednesday its partnership with Spice Hotspot stores, where its ‘exclusive’ portfolio of phones will be showcased offline, on its retail store network. Under its new assisted e-commerce model, customers can try and buy Flipkart’s range of smartphones at selected Spice Hotspot outlets, the company said.

The store staff will assist them to place their order on the Flipkart app and customers can take the delivery of the phones at the store or at their home.

A quick analysis of the six smartphones listed on the OnlyOnFlipkart page reveals that most of the phones are not exclusive to Flipkart any more. The Galaxy J5 is available on Amazon India, and Motorola’s phones are not exclusive to Flipkart since September, The Asus ZenFone 2 is not longer an online exclusive, while the Nexus 6 is available on the Google Play store. That leaves the Micromax Canvas Xpress 2, and the two Huawei phones, the Honor 4X and Honor Holly.

Flipkart will also be unable to leverage some its online exclusives at offline stores, considering brands like Asus and Samsung have their own priority stores.

According to Flipkart, the association is aimed at reaching out to a larger target audience, especially the not-so-tech-savvy customers as they can now get a first-hand experience of these exclusive products and place their order conveniently at a store near them.

In an emailed statement, Sandeep Karwa, Director Retail, Flipkart said that this initiative will become a big customer conversion tool for Flipkart’s smartphone category, empowering customers from from Tier-3 and Tier-4 towns to shop online.

Spice Hotspot has over 300 retail stores across key metro cities in India. A company spokesperson was unable to state at time of writing how many of them will showcase Flipkart’s exclusive range of phones

Oracle Says Fully Supports 'Digital India' Initiative

Giving a fillip to Oracle CEO Mark Hurd’s commitment to expand its base amid a positive mood in India, top Oracle executive Thomas Kurian announced that the leading cloud services provider fully supports the latest digital initiatives launched by the Indian government.

“Oracle is committed towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Digital India’ initiative. In the days to come, the world will see Oracle investing in more Indian cities to open new product development centres,” Thomas Kurian, Oracle’s president of product development, told IANS.

The announcement came at a time when Oracle’s closest rivals Microsoft and Amazon have firmed up their plans to set up data centres in India.

Kurian, who grew up in Bengaluru and has been with the company since 1996 in various product development positions, said that India is one place that has every product line from Oracle – be it dataware, middleware, analytics or business suites.

“We came to India in 1990. Today, we have 33,000 employees in India. We have been investing heavily in India as the country has some of the best talent as far as Oracle and its portfolio is concerned,” he added as five-day Oracle’s OpenWorld 2015 conference entered its third day on October 27.

Oracle has already hired 2,300 engineers in product development in India this year. The company has 12 development centres in India, including facilities in many emerging cities like Vijayawada, Thiruvananthapuram, Noida and Ahmedabad.

“You will see a robust investment drive from Oracle soon, with more and more Indian cities joining the product development plans,” noted Kurian.

Since 2008, Kurian has led development for Oracle’s family of cloud offerings, including software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

He is responsible for leading Oracle’s software development organisation and transitioning the company’s technology to Oracle cloud.

For several years, Kurian has been responsible for Oracle Server technologies and the Oracle Fusion Middleware family of products.

Earlier, responding to an IANS question, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd said that he is committed to expanding Oracle’s reach in the burgeoning cloud and software market in India.

“We are seriously working on the expansion plans in India. It is really a good time for this,” he told IANS, adding that Loic Le Guisquet, Oracle’s president for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and Asia Pacific, has already initiated the expansion plan.

India software revenue totaled $4 billion (roughly Rs. 25,596 crores) in 2014, an 8.3 percent increase from 2013 revenue of $3.7 billion (roughly Rs. 24,046 crores), according to a latest Gartner report.

The five-day conference, which ends October 29, is taking place at 18 locations throughout downtown San Francisco with the iconic Moscone Centre serving as its epicentre.

Over 60,000 people including Oracle partners, customers and developers from 141 countries have gathered for the OpenWorld and JavaOne conferences.

Tata Communications Posts Profit in Q2 on Voice, Data Business

Tata Communications Tuesday reported a consolidated net profit of Rs. 6.02 crores for the quarter ended September 30, 2015.

The company had reported a net profit of Rs. 92.39 crores in the corresponding period last fiscal, Tata Communications said in a filing to the BSE.

Total income from operations increased to Rs. 5,154.35 crores for the reported period as compared to Rs. 5,071.59 crores last year.

The company said data business continued its upward trajectory with a strong, broad-based growth with an uptake in solution led offerings across various industries. “Q2 FY16 data revenues increased by 16.9 percent year-on-year,” the company said.

It further said transformation services for carriers, new business models in the media and entertainment industry, growth in the data centre business, VPN connectivity and Internet transit have been the key drivers for growth. “We are encouraged by the upswing in customer demand globally. We continue to focus on creating the right partner ecosystems and transformational services such as cloud and mobility for our customers,” Tata Communications MD and CEO Vinod Kumar said.

The company said voice business net revenues during the second quarter were up 9 per cent year-on-year. “Both the voice and data businesses have continued to generate free cash flow in-line with our expectations,” Tata Communications CFO Pratibha K Advani said.

In a separate filing, the company said it has re-appointed Vinod Kumar as the MD and Group CEO for a further term of five years, with effect from February 1, 2016 till January 31, 2021.

In 2011, Kumar was appointed as the MD and Group CEO with effect from February 1, 2011 till January 31, 2016. “The board of directors of the company at its meeting held on October 27, 2015 has re-appointed Vinod Kumar as the MD and Group CEO of the company for a further term of five years, with effect from February 1, 2016 till January 31, 2021,” the filing said.

The said appointment is subject to obtaining necessary approvals from the shareholders and any applicable statutory and regulatory approvals as may be required, the filing added.

Skull Face Dead Comet to Hurtle by Earth on Halloween

A massive space rock that will shave by Earth on Halloween looks like a dead comet with a skull face, Nasa said after gaining a closer look at the spooky space junk.

Astronomers initially thought the object was an asteroid when they spotted it in early October, and named it Asteroid 2015 TB145.

But using the US space agency’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, experts “have determined that the celestial object is more than likely a dead comet that has shed its volatiles after numerous passes around the sun,” Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement late Friday.

Scientists have also spotted an eerie skull-like resemblance on the face of the rock, based on radar data from the National Science Foundation’s 305-metre (1,000-foot) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

“In the Arecibo images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby,” said Kelly Fast, IRTF program scientist at Nasa and acting program manager for the US space agency’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program.

The space rock has already grabbed attention with its unusually high speed and big size, about as large as a football stadium at 2,000 feet (600 metres) in diameter.

There is no danger of it hitting Earth, however.

When it zips by Saturday at 1pm (5:00pm GMT or 10:30pm IST), it will do so at a distance of 302,000 miles (486,000 kilometres).

That’s about 1.3 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Jabong Ropes in Benetton's Sanjeev Mohanty as CEO

Online fashion marketplace Jabong Saturday said it has appointed Sanjeev Mohanty as its CEO and Managing Director. Mohanty, whose appointment is effective early December this year, has over 20 years of experience in the fashion industry, the company said in a statement.

Prior to this, he has worked with Benetton India for over 11 years, including 8 years as Managing Director. Mohanty will play a crucial role in reviving the company’s business that has lost ground to rivals like Flipkart, Myntra and Amazon India.

Prior to Benetton India, Mohanty was associated with Madura Garments as General Manager and Brand Head for SF Jeans. He has also worked at Levi Strauss as Product Manager for the top wear category.

“His strong leadership skills and deep understanding of fashion and the Indian consumer, coupled with the continued commitment from GFG’s shareholders, will allow Jabong to further strengthen its position as the leading online fashion destination in India,” Global Fashion Group (parent company of Jabong) CEO Romain Voog said.

While Jabong has faced issues like senior-level exits, erosion in market share, mounting losses as well as speculations of a possible sell-out over the past few months, the new team under Nils Chrestin (CFO at GFG) has been working on turning around the company.

The company recently appointed Saurabh Srivastava as its chief marketing officer (CMO).

Last year, Jabong investors – Investment AB Kinnevik and Rocket Internet AG – had merged the Indian online fashion retailer with four other firms to create a new global fashion e-commerce group, GFG.

GFG has raised about $1.5 billion (roughly Rs. 9,810 crores) in capital since 2011.

“There could be no better opportunity than Jabong given its scale and consumer brand recognition… we have identified a number of growth drivers that will allow us to deliver an unparallelled experience to delight our customers and suppliers,” Mohanty said.

Lorenzo Grabau, Chairman of GFG and CEO of Investment AB Kinnevik said India is a hugely exciting market. “GFG’s shareholders and management remain committed to building Jabong to the benefit of its customers, employees and partners. We look forward to supporting Sanjeev as the company starts a new chapter this Diwali,” he added.