Top 5 technology movers and shakers

In case you missed it, here’s a list of the top 5 technology movers and shakers over the last few months.

Umbraco

This open source Content Management System (CMS) platform has been around since 2004 yet within recent months Microsoft has shown a keen interest in this .NET-based offering, having first listed the tool under its WebMatrix program at the start of this year and now actively encouraging uptake.

The WebMatrix program in itself may demonstrate that whilst Microsoft is not afraid to grow and innovate through acquisition and new development, there are possibly some areas where the business is happier partnering with existing, working solutions currently out there – even open source options such as Umbraco. Of course, the fact that Umbraco evaluated several cloud platforms to meet its needs and ultimately decided to use Windows Azure may have caught Microsoft’s interest!

Microsoft & Skype – An acquisition of users?

Well known for its procurement of technology companies, Microsoft’s recent purchase of Skype Communications topped its near-150 acquisition list as the most expensive of them all. The rest of us are left asking the obvious question, why?

Steve Ballmer’s idea that the partnership will “create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world” lends itself to possibilities such as integration into or consolidation with MSN messenger, but surely this exercise wouldn’t be worth $8.5bn alone?

Skype has up until now been a loss-making venture year on year, so what else has Microsoft bought? Skype is by no means an exclusive option in the VoIP market but it is used by more than 170 million people, worldwide, with 663 million registered users. Following the big news, downloads of Skype’s software increased significantly; seemingly the news itself raised company awareness and triggered further public demand.

In an age of constant takeovers, mergers and acquisitions, in the IT sector at least, it is no longer simply intellectual property that is up for grabs but rather goldmines of personal data. This data may not have the same kind of value as that held by the likes of Facebook and Twitter, but in Skype’s case does present Microsoft with an immediate and vast pre-existing user base on which to unleash new products and services in the communications arena.

It may not be possible to put a value on user data but it will almost certainly always be valuable to someone, and the more individual user data available, the more valuable the data becomes.

IPv6

The inner workings of networks rarely make headlines however there has been recent renewed interest in the network protocol IPv6.

IPv6 has long been known to be the official successor to IPv4, yet despite the fact that the protocol itself is well established, its uptake has been minimal. This seems set to change with several influential organisations (i.e. Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Cisco, W3C, Microsoft) involved in live Internet tests of IPv6 using their own websites under the guise of “World IPv6 Day”.

Whilst these tests won’t have any significant impact whatsoever on the majority of users, the protocol itself does renew the discussion over how we might use 340 undecillion IP addresses on the Internet. Whilst we might now be asking the question “why” would you want to have your microwave connected to the Internet, in a few years this will probably be completely normal!

Internet Security

Big organisations should certainly be on alert in recent months following several security breaches uncovering user data; Sony, Nintendo and Codemasters have all been affected. Just weeks after Sony’s Online Entertainment system was hit, its Brazilian music website was invaded and its movie division attacked – all of which have cost the company an estimated $171 million.

The storage of user data is not an area to be ignored; whilst scalability is the obvious focus, security must be considered at the same level from the outset of any system design. It is no longer acceptable to wait for compliance demands from the likes of the PCI Security Standards Council or worse still act after exposure or theft of your private data.

Even with all recommended security models in place, you can never be too vigilant about the security of your systems; an attack may be directed directly at your website as an anonymous denial-of-service bombardment but it could just as easily come via a phone call to your ICT department with a request for seemingly innocuous information from another department.

In a recent interview with Unveillance’s CEO Karim Hijazi, it was revealed that during their systems intrusion from LulzSec, personal e-mail was solicited, breached and read. Hijazi suggests that simply employing two-factor authentication might have been sufficient prevention – something that all of us with web-based e-mail accounts can set up ourselves.

Public Services on demand

In a move that could finally see public services streamlined into one easily accessible resource, a small development team within the Government Digital Service have created a test site – alpha.gov.uk – in just three months, with a beta site already in development.

This ‘prototype’ is a fully fledged HTML5 implementation incorporating rich content with underlying use of jQuery and specific targeting of mobile devices.

This represents an impressive effort in such a small space of time. Teething issues are inevitable at this stage but the concept of consolidating Government services and information onto one platform seems sensible and progressive. Marrying up underlying legacy B2B functionality across the different public sectors may of course be more of an issue!

Thomas Coles co-founded MSM in 1998 and is the largest shareholder with 44.7%. His key achievements so far include growth from 2 to 40 FTE; high levels of customer satisfaction and retention, as well as surviving the sector downturn from 2001-2003 and growing the business in the 2008-2009 recession. Thomas’ business acumen was apparent from a young age. As a child (aged 8) he was already budgeting his pocket money on a spreadsheet. His passion for technology was also evident, as, aged 10 he was writing programmes for his Amstrad. Thomas started the MSM business soon after graduating with his father, who remains a non-executive director today. A strong believer in applying common sense to any situation, Thomas says his objective is to continue to be criticised for being too honest. Away from the office Thomas enjoys family life with his wife and three children and likes to take part in half marathons, going to the gym and watching Formula 1 motor racing. Thomas is also a trustee of a local charity.