What to expect from the UK’s new health secretary

What to expect from the UK’s new health secretary

Taking over as health secretary during a pandemic was never going to be a walk in the park, but the public health crisis is only one among several daunting tasks awaiting Sajid Javid in his new post.

Javid was announced as the U.K.’s new health secretary on Saturday, after his predecessor Matt Hancock quit when a video of him kissing an aide and breaching coronavirus restrictions in the process emerged.

The former banker is no stranger to taking on big jobs, having previously served in a host of major Cabinet roles including home secretary and, most recently, a short stint as chancellor. But there is enough awaiting the new health secretary in his in-tray to strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned political operative.

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This is what the high street of the future will look like

This is what the high street of the future will look like

John Timpson knows a thing or two about the high street. The chairman of the UK shoe-repair chain that bears his family name was, after all, entrusted to lead a 2018 government review into what the future UK high street would look like.

Though at one time he envisaged a future where the number of shops in British town centres would have halved, he could never have imagined how quickly that revolution would come. The impact of the pandemic on our towns and cities has, he says, been seismic: “What we have seen is ten years of change on the high street all in one go, but it’s been all the negatives, without any positives,” he explains.

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BT Sign OneWeb Deal to Tackle UK Rural Broadband Slow Spots

BT Sign OneWeb Deal to Tackle UK Rural Broadband Slow Spots

UK ISP BT and satellite operator OneWeb, which is partly owned by the UK government, have reached an agreement that will see the two working together to bring ultrafast low-latency broadband speeds to some of the hardest to reach rural parts of the country, where even their £5bn Project Gigabit programme would struggle to go.

At present OneWeb has launched a total of 218 small Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites into space, with another 36 set to join those on 1st July 2021, and the initial plan is to build a constellation of 648 satellites, which is enough for a reasonable level of global coverage by around the end of 2022.

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How can businesses manage GDPR’s ‘Terrible Threes’?

How can businesses manage GDPR’s ‘Terrible Threes’?

GDPR is a ‘threenager’ this year, and despite battling through the terrible twos many organizations are still struggling to protect their data. Last year alone, the UK had the second-highest total value of GDPR fines across the EU, with companies paying £39.7m in total. And, at the start of the year, figures indicated that GDPR fines had reached a staggering £245m.
The risk of fines are, however, not confined to GDPR. Currently, there are 128 countries with data protection and privacy legislation — including CCPA, CCPA, PSD2, GLBA and a whole host of other acronyms.

At the same time, the business landscape has changed considerably in the last three years – cue obligatory mention of Brexit and COVID-19. To complicate the data protection challenge, the legislation itself could not have anticipated the fast-track adoption of technologies or the accelerated shift to cloud computing caused by the pandemic. A risk compounded by an unprecedented uptick of remote working and employees using home devices, and networks, that are almost certainly less secure than those found in the corporate environment.

These are not new concerns when it comes to data management and protection but the issue is that few businesses were prepared for how quickly things escalated. After all, many were focused on digital transformation to simply keep their business going so security in the design of new systems and processes was often neglected, albeit not through choice. The good news is valuable lessons have been learnt, particularly when it comes to protecting and managing data to ensure compliance. And through talking with many of our own customers, we can share a few.

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Virgin Media Ireland for sale

Virgin Media Ireland for sale

Liberty Global is likely to put its Virgin Media television and broadband business in Ireland up for sale. The Irish business was left out of the recently completed £31 billion merger of Virgin Media with O2. The main cable television provider in Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland also owns TV3 Group, the only commercial television broadcaster in the country, which was rebranded Virgin Media Television. With 438,000 fixed-line customers, the business could be worth up to €2 billion.

Previously trading as Chorus NTL and UPC Ireland, the Irish operation was rebranded Virgin Media Ireland in 2015.

The Irish cable network passes 948,000 homes, with 319,000 subscribing to its television service and 388,000 taking broadband, giving it a total of 438,000 fixed-line customers. It also has a modest 122,000 mobile subscribers, operating as a mobile virtual network operator on infrastructure from Three.

Virgin Media in the United Kingdom is now owned by Virgin Media O2, an equal venture between Liberty Global and the Spanish telecoms group Telefónica. The $31 billion merger completed on 1 June 2021, following clearance by the Competition and Markets Authority.

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Study Examines Capabilities of LEO Satellite Broadband Networks

Study Examines Capabilities of LEO Satellite Broadband Networks

Researchers at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics have tried to compare the estimated global data capacity of the four largest Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based ultrafast broadband satellite constellations – SpaceX (Starlink), Telesat, OneWeb, and Amazon (Kuiper). Interestingly, they end up closer than you might think.

We should point out that each network is at a different stage of development (e.g. Telesat and Amazon are still a fair way from commercial service) and the technologies they use, as well as the ground stations, are constantly evolving and expanding. As a result, the MIT study should be seen more as a ‘current’ estimate of each network’s expected throughput, or global data capacity, based on their technical specifications as reported to the FCC.

Likewise, the research doesn’t really consider the commercial model for each network, as well as how network throughput may vary between countries or how much network contention may be applied per user. As such, the report is only able to give a very general global overview of capacity, which is interesting if perhaps not as relevant for understanding future service impacts for consumers in specific countries.

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A Big Touch of Technology in the UK Correctional System

A Big Touch of Technology in the UK Correctional System

Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has a vital role in overseeing correctional services in the UK. The organisation sits under the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) responsibility, but usually has its own ICT objectives and challenges to tackle. On 15th June 2021, HMPPS published its Digital, Data and Technology Strategy for 2021-2022, including a long term vision on what it expects to be implementing up to 2024.

In this article we will highlight the most important developments on HMPPS’s pipeline and some of the implications of these projects to the development of the correctional system in the UK.

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Will SASE Mark the End of the Network as We Know It?

Will SASE Mark the End of the Network as We Know It?

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), the increasingly popular framework that transforms security and network connectivity technologies into a single cloud-delivered platform, promises to revolutionize wide-area networking to the extent that it will soon eradicate conventional SD-WAN technology.

Kate Adam, senior director of security products at Juniper Networks, said that network leaders shouldn’t view SASE as the end of the network as it’s currently known, but as a “natural evolution in network technology, one that makes it more scalable and extensible by leveraging the public cloud global infrastructure.”

Arthur Iinuma, president of ISBX, an app development firm serving clients including Apple, Nike, L’Oreal, Warner Brothers, Lexus, and Red Bull, observed that SASE offers a cloud-based edge computing solution that gives distributed workforces secure network access. “With an increasingly remote, highly mobile workforce, this solution is needed now more than ever,” he stated.

Multiple benefits

SASE offers an entirely new network architecture that brings applications closer to end-users worldwide, as well as providing secure access. “Connectivity and security services that were previously delivered from a ‘heavy branch’ are moving to a thin branch, cloud-delivered model where networking and security come together,” Adam said. “This [approach] simplifies network and security architecture and promotes a threat-aware network with access and security policies that follow users wherever they go.”

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Vodafone UK begins commercial standalone 5G pilot

Vodafone UK begins commercial standalone 5G pilot

The operator has switched on their standalone (SA) 5G network in London, Manchester, and Cardiff

Today, Vodafone has announced that it has launched the UK’s first commercial SA 5G pilots, setting the networks live in London, Manchester, and Cardiff.

As part of the deal, Ericsson will support Vodafone’s entire cloud-native 5G Core Standalone for packet core applications.

According to Vodafone, the pilots will focus on testing the various new technologies that SA 5G unlocks, such as network slicing, as well as allowing partners to trial various SA-enabled devices.

“Delivering 5G Standalone for the UK is an important step forward for our customers and our partners. The new features this delivers, such as new levels of reliability, latency and flexibility, are a gamechanger for customers and developers looking to create new applications,” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK.

In the press release, Dona also drew attention to Vodafone’s investments in Multi-access edge compute (MEC) capabilities, the Internet of Things (IoT), Mobile Private Networks (MPN) and OpenRAN, suggesting that all these network elements are complementary and will benefit from SA 5G.

“When we bring all these technologies together, we open up entirely new possibilities for customers, and move beyond being a core connectivity provider to being a true digital champion,” she said.

Vodafone UK first showcased SA 5G technology with a new network built for Coventry University last summer. Now, as part of this pilot launch, a dedicated network slice has been configured for use by Coventry University in delivering virtual reality distance learning.

Vodafone is also notably trialling a SA 5G core pre-commercial network in Spain, with the technology again provided by Ericsson

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NHSX unveils new data strategy to support delivery of patient centred care

NHSX unveils new data strategy to support delivery of patient centred care

NHSX has unveiled new data strategy to provide patients with better access and greater control over their health and care data.

The draft strategy ‘Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data’ builds on the NHS’ work undertaken to provide treatments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The improved access to data is expected to help people in managing appointments, refill medications and speak with required health and care staff.

Moreover, patients can safely access their test results, medication lists, procedures and care plans from across all parts of the health system. This can be done via patient apps, such as the NHS App.

UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: “More effective use of data will deliver better patient focused care. It will free up staff time to focus on patients and allow clinicians to make better, more informed decisions on treatment and support.

“This strategy seeks to put people in control of their own data, while supporting the NHS in creating a modernised system fit for the 21st century which puts patients and staff in pole position.”

The draft strategy also proposes to provide easier access to the right information to health and care staff through shared records and simplified information governance.

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Why Android is the OS of choice for emergency services

Why Android is the OS of choice for emergency services

As Microsoft phases out support for its mobile operating systems (OS) many Emergency Services that previously relied on Windows-based mobile computers are evaluating strategies to migrate to Android.
Android has an 85% market share globally, which makes it very user-friendly. It also offers a number of key benefits to enterprise users that aren’t available with other OS options. Of course, migrating to a new technology is not as easy as buying a mobile device from a local retail store or wireless carrier. Emergency Services IT professionals should prioritize their unique security and operational needs when shopping for a new handheld mobility solution. Here are some key questions to ask when evaluating the various OS options and comparing consumer-grade, business-grade and enterprise-grade rugged mobile computers.

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Remote working in the UK civil service: from emergency response to business as usual

Remote working in the UK civil service: from emergency response to business as usual

The Covid-19 pandemic precipitated a huge change in working practices across the civil service, with nearly 90% of the 430,000 staff dispatched to their homes for months on end. At a recent webinar, experts from the Government Property Agency and Dell discussed what this mass remote working experiment might mean for the future of the civil service workplace

“In many ways, fixing the workplace and fixing the technology is easy. It costs money, but it’s relatively easy,” said Dominic Brankin, director of workplace services at the UK Cabinet Office’s Government Property Agency. “Supporting a change in behaviour and thinking and belief is much harder, and I think a longer road for us to travel.”

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Ofcom Requires UK ISPs to Offer Emergency Video Relay Service

Ofcom Requires UK ISPs to Offer Emergency Video Relay Service

Ofcom has today finalised their decision to force all UK broadband and phone providers – oddly including those that may not even deliver phone services – to offer a free (inc. zero-rated data usage), 24/7 video relay service for British Sign Language (BSL) users to contact the emergency services, via a dedicated mobile app and website.

The changes, which were first proposed back in 2019, are designed to ensure that disabled people (particularly deaf users) can access the communications services they need in an emergency (i.e. the principle that disabled people should have equivalent access to emergency communications).

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Virgin Media O2 provides ‘shot in the arm’ for small businesses with upload speed

Virgin Media O2 provides ‘shot in the arm’ for small businesses with upload speed

Virgin Media O2 is increasing upload speeds for its fibre business broadband customers in the first major service development since the £31 billion merger.

The enlarged company says it wants to provide a boost for SMBs that have seen revenues drop during the pandemic and are now more reliant than ever on connectivity for continuity.
Cloud applications, file sharing and video conferencing have all become essential tools to support distributed workforces and to deliver services to customers who are increasingly demanding digital experiences.

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Civil service supremo praises use of data and tech in light of ‘tricky questions’ raised by Covid

Civil service supremo praises use of data and tech in light of ‘tricky questions’ raised by Covid

The reform plan unveiled this week will make government more “skilled, innovative and ambitious” but great commitment and discipline will be required to deliver on its goals, according to the country’s most senior civil servant.

In an all-staff memo, cabinet secretary Simon Case said the civil service must build on its work during the coronavirus pandemic to cement “long-term transformation”, through the Declaration on Government Reform unveiled by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

“In the crucible of the pandemic, our staff, systems and structures have been in constant flux, forcing us to look again at all our ways of working,” Case wrote.

Comparing the civil service to a marathon runner who ends one race only to begin training for another, he added: “As many of you have found while wrestling with outdated processes and legacy systems, we will need an even more skilled, innovative and ambitious organisation to pull it off. Our plan is to create a modern civil service that works better for the people we serve, for the government we support and for us.”

In particular, he praised civil servants for finding ways to use data and technology more effectively, and for working across silos.

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Crown Commercial Service awards new Tech Services 3 framework

Crown Commercial Service awards new Tech Services 3 framework

Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has awarded the new Technology Services 3 (TS3) framework which has additional services and improved call-off terms.

With the latest version of the framework, customers will be able to procure information and communication technology services across the entire lifecycle which ranges from strategy to transition and operational deployment.

The latest agreement builds on the success of the Technology Services 2 (TS2) framework and makes it easier for customers to procure services related to IT.

Set for launch in July 2021, TS3 will run for a period of four years and replaces TS2, which will expire in September.

Call-off contract durations can be from two to seven years.

Crown Commercial Service commercial director and chief technology procurement officer Philip Orumwense said: “Technology Services 3 has been designed and developed using an extensive discovery and consultative process with many of our customers, suppliers, and partners.

“This framework truly reflects and represents their expectations and provides the platform for the country to build back better with the right mix of quality and innovative suppliers, including SME providers.

“This is another example of how CCS is putting customers at the heart of everything we do to help support the public sector to continue on its digital transformation journey.”

As part of the changes to the framework, sub-lots were removed from Lot 4, a new Service Integration and Management (SIAM) lot and new call-off terms have been designed ‘to better reflect the diversity of technology services offered’.

The new agreement includes 253 suppliers, 64% of which are SMEs, and aims to build on the progress made on making it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to become suppliers.

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Protecting your business from email compromise attacks

Protecting your business from email compromise attacks

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a fast-growing cybersecurity threat that all businesses, especially small and medium-sized (SMB) ones, face. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported in their 2020 Internet Crime Report that they fielded 19,369 Business Email Compromise (BEC) complaints amounting to over $1.8 billion in adjusted losses in the United States for that year.
BEC attacks primarily use email, but can be carried out using SMS messages, voice mail messages, and even phone calls. BEC attacks are notable because they rely heavily on so-called “social engineering” techniques, meaning they use trickery and deception against people.

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Vodafone puts social and environmental responsibilities at heart of new strategy

Vodafone puts social and environmental responsibilities at heart of new strategy

New Vodafone UK CEO Ahmed Essam has pledged to give the company a sense of purpose that extends beyond the mere provision of connectivity services, reflecting the elevated role of connectivity in society in a post-Covid world.

Speaking at his first major event since replacing Nick Jeffery as UK chief executive in February 2021, Essam praised the achievements of his predecessor, who is credited with overseeing a turnaround at the company through network investments, new propositions, and improvements to customer service.

The former Vodafone Group Chief Commercial Operations and Strategy Officer said he was joining a “resurgent” company and had inherited a platform that would allow the company to react to the changing needs of customers and businesses in an increasingly digital world.

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Royal Navy uses artificial intelligence for the first time in test off the west coast of Scotland

Royal Navy uses artificial intelligence for the first time in test off the west coast of Scotland

The Royal Navy has made its first at-sea use of artificial intelligence (AI) to track supersonic missile attacks, as part of a NATO exercise taking place off the west coast of Scotland.

HMS Dragon, a destroyer, and frigate HMS Lancaster are testing how two AI software packages can support personnel in reacting to missile threats.

Startle monitors airspace and generates alerts and recommendations, while Sycoiea builds on this to identify incoming missiles and recommend weapons to deal with them.

The AI software is designed to help personnel react faster, rather than replacing humans.

“I was able identify missile threats more quickly than usual and even outwit the operations room,” said above water tactician leading seaman Sean Brooks on HMS Lancaster.

“Observing Startle and Sycoiea augment the human warfighter in real time against a live supersonic missile threat was truly impressive – a glimpse into our highly-autonomous future,” added the ship’s weapon engineer officer lieutenant commander Adam Leveridge.

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What inflation tells us about the UK economy – and how you’re spending your cash

What inflation tells us about the UK economy – and how you’re spending your cash

With price changes in the public eye as Britain edges towards post-pandemic recovery, an ONS statistician explains what they mean.
One of the key economic statistics we produce at the ONS is consumer price inflation, a measure of the prices people pay for goods and services. With this number slowly creeping up, partly as a response to the short-term effects of the pandemic, this metric is again being drawn to people’s attention.

In the first two decades of this century, inflation – using our most comprehensive measure, CPIH – averaged around 2 per cent a year. On the surface, this sounds quite modest (and, dare I say, dull?). Of course, inflation has not remained steady throughout this period, from a high of 4.8 per cent in 2008 to a low of 0.2 per cent in 2015, so the 2 per cent figure is merely an average. But there are two points to remember.

Firstly, inflation cumulates over time – in fact it ‘compounds’, to use the more technical language, so the 2 per cent a year means that prices in 2020 are 48 per cent higher than in 2000. A price increase of nearly one-half is much more dramatic: an item that cost £10 in 2000 would cost around £15 in 2020.

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New government reform programme to ensure UK builds back better from COVID-19

New government reform programme to ensure UK builds back better from COVID-19

The programme will ensure that the government has the tools and resources it needs to deliver on its agenda to level up across the UK.

It will rebalance government away from Whitehall, open up the Civil Service to fresh skills, talent and ideas, and embrace digital technology and data based decision-making.

A first ever joint meeting of the Cabinet and departmental Permanent Secretaries agreed today the Declaration on Government Reform.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also delivered a speech entitled ‘The Obligations We Owe: Reforming government in the shadow of COVID-19’:

He said:

It’s been a consistent feature of our history that the national weaknesses, fissures or fractures that have been laid bare or exacerbated by crises should be addressed with the same energy and single-mindedness required for a successful response to the crisis itself.

It is precisely because the Covid crisis revealed weaknesses in our government and society, because it also showcased strengths, because it forced government to adapt and improve delivery, because the public demand we build back better and because we have knowledge now that we did not possess before that this government is determined to deepen and accelerate our programme of reform.

Key parts of the reform declaration include:

Making the civil service more open to external talent, with all senior civil service roles advertised externally and new, flexible entry routes to the civil service
Looking beyond London to all corners of the UK, relocating 22,000 civil service roles outside of the capital by 2030, including 50% of senior civil servant roles – rebalancing of the workforce as most senior and policy positions are currently in London
Investing in new training for both civil servants and ministers, strengthening traditional skills and building expertise in digital, data, science, and project and commercial delivery. A new training campus will be established, the prestigious Fast Stream graduate scheme will be updated and new apprenticeships will be introduced
Embracing digital technology and data to deliver better services, developing a single sign-on for online government services, making it easier for citizens to access the services they need, and improving data sharing across government
Improving delivery of projects and programmes with more rigour and accountability, and launching a new Evaluation Task Force, based in the Cabinet Office, to ensure proper scrutiny of real world results
A new system of pay, reward and performance management, including the introduction of capability based pay for the senior civil service will be brought in. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary will oversee the performance of Permanent Secretaries, ensuring that they are delivering within their departments
More opportunities for interchange and secondments for civil servants between the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments and the Northern Ireland Civil Service

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Most employees believe hybrid working is helping productivity

Most employees believe hybrid working is helping productivity

Many employees believe hybrid working is good for productivity and overall mental state, and would love to see the practice kept on after the pandemic, according to a new report from Slack, which found that the majority (57%) of adults think employers should continue to offer hybrid working.

Some workers are quite passionate about hybrid working, with almost a quarter (22%) saying they would think about changing jobs if it was no longer an option.

Those aged 25-34 were the most passionate, with more than a third (35%) saying they would consider leaving their current role if there was a change.

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IoT cloud services: How they stack up against DIY

IoT cloud services: How they stack up against DIY

Eager to cash in on the massive potential for IoT-based data storage and analytics, public-cloud vendors are diving headlong into the IoT market, offering enterprises everything from individual building blocks to fully managed services and every combination in between.
he amount of data that is expected to be generated by IoT devices is staggering. IDC predicts that by 2025, there will be 55.9 billion connected devices worldwide, 75% of which will be connected to an IoT platform. IDC estimates the amount of data generated from IoT devices will be 79.4 zettabytes by 2025.

The hyperscalers certainly have the capacity to handle that amount of data, as well as the machine learning and AI expertise to perform the analytics. Most enterprises do not, and even if they did, organizations realize that machine-generated data is fundamentally different than human-generated data and should be handled in a different way.

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Addressing business mobility in a post-pandemic world

Addressing business mobility in a post-pandemic world

The pandemic continues to evolve and influence how we do business. Although, with the vaccine roll-out looking optimistic, there is hope that life will soon start returning to normal – with offices opening their doors and employees back at their desks.
When the mass return to the workplace commences, and a newly flexible workforce emerges, addressing the new business mobility puzzle will become ever more important. However, said puzzle is increasingly complex. In the wake of the pandemic, organisations will need to navigate changing employee expectations when it comes to ways of working, new technology requirements and the challenges that come with adopting these.

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The great cloud computing surge

The great cloud computing surge

We reached a big milestone in 2020: Cloud services revenue finally surpassed enterprise spending on data centers, according to the Synergy Research Group. One of the longest-running trends in IT – moving to the cloud – has been turbocharged, driven in part by a pandemic that pushed enterprises to avoid the logistical challenges and capital expense of deploying on prem.

But the endless capacity to add horsepower without provisioning your own infrastructure isn’t the biggest draw. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have become launchpads for the latest technology innovations, which developers can jump on to build innovative new applications. Machine learning libraries? Globally distributed databases? IoT platforms with all the bells and whistles? The big three clouds have ‘em all – ready, waiting, and API-accessible. It’s enough to make you wonder why you’d bother to build and maintain your own datacenter.

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