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Ken Brown, Infamous for Claiming Linus Torvalds Didn't Invent Linux, Is Back

Debunked Institute Tries Anew

  • "Father of MINIX," Andy Tanenbaum, on Kenneth Brown's Claims Re Linux

      The Alexis de Toqueville Institution (ADTI), which became infamous last year for spuriously claiming that Linus Torvalds wasn't the true father of the Linux Kernel (Linus Torvalds Isn't the "Father of Linux"), is back with a report certain to raise hackles: it will argue that open-source software is on an inevitable collision course with standard intellectual property law.

      Last time round ADTI president Kenneth Brown met with instant repudiation, especially once it was discovered that the Institution receives funding from - among others - Microsoft.

      But nothing was more memorable that Linus Torvalds' own riposte, which was a brilliantly irreverent tongue-in-cheek response sent  to LinuxWorld.com by Torvalds (see "Linus Discloses *Real* Fathers of Linux"):

      "Ok, I admit it. I was just a front-man for the real fathers of Linux, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus."
      This time round Ken Brown will be claiming in his report, according to the UK-based TechWorld news site, that, "After a brief glance at much open source software development, it becomes readily apparent that a number of open source practices directly conflict with best practices associated with protecting intellectual property."  

      "Both intentionally and unintentionally, users, developers, and distributors are in conflict with traditional, staid intellectual property law," Brown intends to argue.  The report, he told the UK site, "will be made public shortly."

      Perhaps Linus Torvalds will have an equally refreshing reponse to Brown when it is. 
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      SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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      Most Recent Comments
      Been Watching AdTI 03/30/05 10:14:47 PM EST

      Anyone catch Ken Brown on _The Linux Show_, right after "Samizdat" was announced? Maybe he just doesn't come across very well in person, but the gentleman didn't seem to be able to defend his technical evaluation of Linux very well. All he could do was utter generalizations about how Linux wasn't very good and *could* contain others' IP. He didn't sound like someone who had just written a book "proving" that there was "borrowed" IP in Linux. Well, maybe he was just having an off day.

      AdTI appears to be a two man operation run out of a PO box. Their web site is full of dead-end or "under construction" links, and jumps from topic to topic, seemingly at random.

      I'm much more impressed with the writings of Andy Tanenbaum, Rob Pike and Dennis Ritchie.

      Oh, and yes, Open Source does make it hard to steal code. For the same reason that the code created under the Open Source development methodology is robust. Many eyes on the source makes for fewer errors and no IP theft.

      Will Smith 03/30/05 07:46:34 PM EST

      Getting your head around the GPL requires a far greater understanding and respect for copyright laws than writing proprietary software. I know far more about the collectively termed 'intellectual property' since I started working in open source.

      Perhaps it's not open source that's changing - it's best practices. From open publishing of scientific journals, to open access courses (lead by M.I.T., no less) to successful open projects such as wikipedia, to the BBC's experimentation with open licensing - the world is going open. Much of this was learnt from open source and the GPL.

      esker_melchior 03/30/05 07:07:49 PM EST

      ATDI FOSEDAL have ALL TRUETH!!! LIE-NUX = COMUNIST HIPPEY SATAN CONSPIRASEY agnest AMERICA!!! SCOX MEGA FIGTAR for teh FREE MARKETES = ALL DOOM of EVIL LIE-NUX!!! DID you now LIE-NUX create in PINKO SOCELIST OLD EROPE??? IT IS TRUE not can hides!!! CRUSH TEH LIE-NUX!!! ALL LIE-NUX USAR too ABU GRAB NOW!!! USA #1!!! ATDI FOSEDAL plus teh OGARA DESTRUCTES all you with MEGA SCOX JESUS POWAR!!!

      esker_melchior 03/30/05 07:06:44 PM EST

      ATDI FOSEDAL have ALL TRUETH!!! LIE-NUX = COMUNIST HIPPEY SATAN CONSPIRASEY agnest AMERICA!!! SCOX MEGA FIGTAR for teh FREE MARKETES = ALL DOOM of EVIL LIE-NUX!!! DID you now LIE-NUX create in PINKO SOCELIST OLD EROPE??? IT IS TRUE not can hides!!! CRUSH TEH LIE-NUX!!! ALL LIE-NUX USAR too ABU GRAB NOW!!! USA #1!!! ATDI FOSEDAL plus teh OGARA DESTRUCTES all you with MEGA SCOX JESUS POWAR!!!

      enydonae 03/30/05 07:02:34 PM EST

      The heirs of Alexis de Tocqueville have an excellent case for suing an institution which has 1) illegally appropriated a proper name associated for 174 years with objectivity and probity and 2) slandered it beyond all hope of restoration to its former position of public esteem. If they get away with it, I plan to found the "Tomás de Torquemada Institute for Religious Freedom" and solicit the Vatican for funding.

      crackpot buster 03/30/05 04:55:28 PM EST

      A debate with Brown is not a constructive thing to do, and only would lend credibility and attention to their crackpot agenda. The 50 or so persons on this planet that would benefit from this agenda do not deserve equal airtime with the 5 billion or so who think they're crooks. There's democracy at work for you, Fossedal. When push comes to show, democracy is really just a mock agenda for you.

      jesse 03/30/05 03:11:55 PM EST

      Fossdal spelled it wrong -

      onomatopoeic, (of words) formed in imitation of a natural sound. (www.hyperdic.net)

      In otherwords - noise that sounds like words. Combining it with the word "logically" is semantically incorrect.

      Now if he ment "illogical" arguments, then the proper word would be "illogical".

      Ironically, the same thing the author expressed....

      Now the PROBLEM with such a "debate" is that the debator must be capable of expressing axioms, facts, and logical deduction.

      None of wich Ken Brown/ADTI is known for...

      skeptic6 03/30/05 10:04:09 AM EST

      I donøt see how AdTI's Gregory Fossedal thinks he is helping his case here - "logically onomatopoeiac" is a cute phrase but what on earth does it MEAN????

      David Roth 03/29/05 09:23:38 PM EST

      The problem with Mr. Brown's writing is that he doesn't present any facts up front. For example, from the TechWorld article:

      "After a brief glance at much open source software development, it becomes readily apparent that a number of open source practices directly conflict with best practices associated with protecting intellectual property," [Mr. Brown] writes.

      A number of open source practices. Okay - name one.

      It has been said before and apparently bears saying again: the copyright laws which make Free and Open Source Software work are the same ones that everyone else is using. If you want to use GPL code to develop your own software, great. Just abide by the license.

      AdTI 03/29/05 07:50:15 PM EST

      Thanks for the replies, which are, if I may say so, what might be called "logically onomatopoeiac" in light of my posting above about having a subsantive debate. That is:

      1. If Ken Brown is such a callow, easily-refuted mouthpiece, one of you fellas should be able to humiliate him in a debate, and in so doing, raise your standing in the Linux community.

      2. For someone who spews forth FUD, "isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer" (A. Tanenbaum), and "isn't even worth debating," &tc. -- I mean your opinion of Mr. Brown -- you fellas sure do a lot of talking about him.

      AdTI's offer remains an open one.

      If you find any inaccuracies in Mr. Brown's works, AdTI, his publisher, will (by policy) cheerfully post a correction.

      If you'd like to debate, you're welcome; and if it makes you feel safer, we'll invite Eric Raymond ("C and B," page 33, and Torvalds jacket comment, "This is how we did it") to moderate.

      Appreciatively, Gregory Fossedal

      Sten Drescher 03/29/05 05:56:14 PM EST

      Overseer wrote "Linux’s own Corey Shields admitted, “The worry is that if someone wanted to be malicious, they could change core software and users could be using corrupted packages.""

      That's true, but it's also true that backdoors have been hidden in commercial software which have remained widely unknown for years. In at least one case, such a backdoor was quickly discovered when the publisher converted the product to open source.

      Maintainers of open source projects generally do not blindly accept contributions, and widely used packages, which would be the most attractive targets, also have the most people looking at the source, increasing the likelyhood that someone would see the backdoor. Is it possible that malicious code could be inserted into an open source project? Yes. Am I more concerned about malicious code in closed source software? Yes.

      Da Moggie 03/29/05 01:20:11 PM EST

      You play your part so well, Greggie...

      Meaningful response? Every single name cited in your previous trash 'study' has not only repudiated your statements, but gone on to criticize the methodology of Brown's 'research', yet you don't find that meaningful?

      Ken's talent is in twisting words to sound like they add up to complete sentences while containing little or no fact and hinging on tenuous logic and broad strawman arguments that have no connection to truth, fact or the real world.

      This latest piece is more of same. To imply that open-source software is a widespread infringment of intellectual property yet somehow proprietary software is not is simply hiding behind the fact that proprietary code is not available for inspection so you can't be called on your allegations. And to build the whole strawman around the argument that since it hasn't happened yet that it must be imminent and unavoidable is ridiculously simplistic.

      Using your logic, we'd better all invest in hardhats and declare Chicken Little to be the new messiah, because the sky is surely falling soon.

      I'm sure your puppet (pay) masters appreciate all your hard work, but it's rather telling that the only place your drivel is published or taken seriously is on sites paid for by same.

      Rex Ballard 03/28/05 07:15:24 PM EST

      You discovered this 13 years later!!!
      The interesting thing about Open Source is that it's really easy to be prosecuted for publishing code that really has been illegally copied from other sources. If I decided to take code from some commercial product, such as Adobe Acrobat, and publish it as GPL software, Adobe wouldn't have any trouble prosecuting me. They have the published software, the source code, the license, and billing or support information. If I don't provide this information, no one would touch my code with a 10 foot pole. The minute I do, if I know that I've illegally copied the code, I also know that I could be facing a minumum of 5 years in a federal penitentary and a $150,000 fine. This iays assumed that one of the reasons that AT&T sold UNIX to Novell was because they knew that BSD and Linux had wiped out the bulk of the value. AT&T had lost their court case with BSD, and settled for terms which restricted very little of the code. Linux had cooked up alternative solutions to many of these still protected versions of code using approaches which were clearly NOT rip-offs of AT&T.

      Ironically, it has been companies like Microsoft who have now been using Open Source software and documentation to defend itself from unethical lawyers representing kitchen-table "software companies" (often little more than consulting companies).

      Which is more likely? Nhat some Open Source author will take an employer's source code and publish it as his own, assuming that no one will ever notice the similarity between his published source code, and his employer's code? Or that some well-funded company with a huge legal team will grab some open source software, hand it to some junior programmer, as "boilerplate" and then let them mangle it up a bit as they try to add a few new features, then cover the whole mess up with strict nondisclosure agreements, strict reverse engineering restrictions, and restrictions on all publications of comparative "benchmarks" such as comparing features, or performance, or reliability, or any other "similarities" between the proprietary technology and it's OpenSource counterpart.

      Thus far, I haven't seen Red Hat or SuSE threatening to sue anyone who makes such comparisons - even between distributions. What I have seen is a few proprietary vendors claiming that ALL open source code is suspect because someone MIGHT have put code that looks SIMILAR to code that's in a propriatary fork of BSD Licensed software, into their GPL software.

      Maybe it's time for a little common sense here?

      The fact is that Microsoft and SCO have benefitted generously from the Open Source community, especially source code licensed under the BSD copyrights, which allows authors to make derivative works under either proprietary or GPL licenses.

      What I find most amusing, and offensive, is when Microsoft feels that it must defy court rulings and settlements to protect a 10 line change to a 200,000 line BSD based library.

      Microsoft adds little twists to industry standard protocols, implemented under Open Source licenses, refuses to submit those alterations to any standards bodies, refuses to publish even the most basic patches, then claims that it's GPL that is viral and terrible. Microsoft rips off 200 staff-years of development effort then insists that it's 2 staff-weeks of effort is more valuable.

      SCO has enjoyed the benefits of BSD, X11, GNU, and hundreds of other Open Source projects and is now filing a fraudulent lawsuit, claiming that because this Open Source code exists in both Linux and SCO, that this constitutes a violation of SCO's intellectual property rights and contractural agreements.

      That's like coal calling the snow black.

      Rex Ballard

      Rex Ballard 03/28/05 07:15:05 PM EST

      You discovered this 13 years later!!!
      The interesting thing about Open Source is that it's really easy to be prosecuted for publishing code that really has been illegally copied from other sources. If I decided to take code from some commercial product, such as Adobe Acrobat, and publish it as GPL software, Adobe wouldn't have any trouble prosecuting me. They have the published software, the source code, the license, and billing or support information. If I don't provide this information, no one would touch my code with a 10 foot pole. The minute I do, if I know that I've illegally copied the code, I also know that I could be facing a minumum of 5 years in a federal penitentary and a $150,000 fine. This is as it should be.

      And do you really think that anyone who was even REMOTELY involved with any variant of UNIX wasn't watching Linux with a very intense electron microscope?

      I've always assumed that one of the reasons that AT&T sold UNIX to Novell was because they knew that BSD and Linux had wiped out the bulk of the value. AT&T had lost their court case with BSD, and settled for terms which restricted very little of the code. Linux had cooked up alternative solutions to many of these still protected versions of code using approaches which were clearly NOT rip-offs of AT&T.

      Ironically, it has been companies like Microsoft who have now been using Open Source software and documentation to defend itself from unethical lawyers representing kitchen-table "software companies" (often little more than consulting companies).

      Which is more likely? Nhat some Open Source author will take an employer's source code and publish it as his own, assuming that no one will ever notice the similarity between his published source code, and his employer's code? Or that some well-funded company with a huge legal team will grab some open source software, hand it to some junior programmer, as "boilerplate" and then let them mangle it up a bit as they try to add a few new features, then cover the whole mess up with strict nondisclosure agreements, strict reverse engineering restrictions, and restrictions on all publications of comparative "benchmarks" such as comparing features, or performance, or reliability, or any other "similarities" between the proprietary technology and it's OpenSource counterpart.

      Thus far, I haven't seen Red Hat or SuSE threatening to sue anyone who makes such comparisons - even between distributions. What I have seen is a few proprietary vendors claiming that ALL open source code is suspect because someone MIGHT have put code that looks SIMILAR to code that's in a propriatary fork of BSD Licensed software, into their GPL software.

      Maybe it's time for a little common sense here?

      The fact is that Microsoft and SCO have benefitted generously from the Open Source community, especially source code licensed under the BSD copyrights, which allows authors to make derivative works under either proprietary or GPL licenses.

      What I find most amusing, and offensive, is when Microsoft feels that it must defy court rulings and settlements to protect a 10 line change to a 200,000 line BSD based library.

      Microsoft adds little twists to industry standard protocols, implemented under Open Source licenses, refuses to submit those alterations to any standards bodies, refuses to publish even the most basic patches, then claims that it's GPL that is viral and terrible. Microsoft rips off 200 staff-years of development effort then insists that it's 2 staff-weeks of effort is more valuable.

      SCO has enjoyed the benefits of BSD, X11, GNU, and hundreds of other Open Source projects and is now filing a fraudulent lawsuit, claiming that because this Open Source code exists in both Linux and SCO, that this constitutes a violation of SCO's intellectual property rights and contractural agreements.

      That's like coal calling the snow black.

      Rex Ballard

      crackpot buster 03/28/05 05:30:08 PM EST

      Another expose on adti (from now on referred to as "The think tank that reeks"):
      http://www.ecosyn.us/adti/AdTI_Villians.htm

      Son of Nergal 03/28/05 05:16:42 PM EST

      MOG, why have you been removing the comments from some of your articles? Why the censorship. Don't you believe in Freedom of Speech?

      Why did it take you a week to write an article about VarBusiness giving SCOXE five stars when Esker Melkior posted it last week in response to one of your articles. Why didn't you give him credit?

      crackpot buster 03/28/05 05:08:16 PM EST

      As to Fossedal & Co being disappointed with Linus' initial response to their "research", I can't see how he could have taken it serious. An episode of the Benny Hill show has more factual value than Ken Brown's Samizdat. The tooth fairy comment was indeed an appropriate response to Brown's loopy rag.

      crackpot buster 03/28/05 05:02:56 PM EST

      In short: ADTI is a bunch of hacks operating by the tricke-down effect. The Big boys want to garner support for some fiendish scheme. Money trickles down to the hacks at ADTI, and voila, another "research" report is born, proving whatever outlandish scheme is on the menu.

      crackpot buster 03/28/05 04:50:20 PM EST

      ADTI is also a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition.
      (Mission Statement: Global Warming is a Myth. Funding: Big Oil)

      Overseer 03/28/05 04:43:24 PM EST

      Linux’s own Corey Shields admitted, “The worry is that if someone wanted to be malicious, they could change core software and users could be using corrupted packages."

      Sounds like you all have a problem to me. Start arguing the fact and stop acting like little girls. Ad-hominem attacks only make you look intellectually depleted.

      Michael 03/28/05 04:30:30 PM EST

      Dwiget, if there weren't money backing their systematic criticism, Ken Brown couldn't pay the rent on the post office box they use as their office.
      And we probably wouldn't hear another thing from them.

      dwiget 03/28/05 04:17:13 PM EST

      Oh, Gregory, I forgot one:

      "...Linux now has a systematic critic."

      I wonder how much of a "systematic critic" you would be if there was NO MONEY paying for you to be a "systematic critic".

      I highly suspect that Linux would not even be on your radar.

      In the words of a friend of mine "Kindly go pound sand".

      dwiget 03/28/05 04:11:36 PM EST

      Gregory, Gregory, Gregory.

      AdTI's "Scamisthat" is a big steaming pile, nothing to debate in regards to it or the new steaming pile you and Ken are trying to cook up.

      Ken had a number of pre-conceived ideas and conclusions about Linux and its start BEFORE he started putting together "Scamisthat". He had a definite viewpoint he wanted to communicate, which was evident from A) the publication that was supposed to be published as a book but NEVER was and B) interviews regarding it. IMHO, he has a "paid axe to grind" and is nothing more than a paid shill and I include you both in those categories.

      I can't wait to see then next, bought and paid for "big steaming pile" Ken puts out. His twisted and fase information and conclusions are at least mildly entertaining.

      Oh, and despite the big steaming piles that he and you are responsible for or promoting, I hold you both in the highest regard.

      A Different Linux User 03/28/05 04:02:45 PM EST

      Gee, "Linux user's" remark doesn't look like a setup for Fossedal or anything, does it?

      ADTI has systematically impugned its own credibility, GAF. Get used to it, and indeed, enjoy it: it's the freedom of realizing you're utterly inconsequential.

      Bye!

      Terremce W. Zellers 03/28/05 03:54:06 PM EST

      Unfurling TP against Brown FUD:

      http://www.ip-wars.net/story/2005/3/26/25110/8669

      -- TWZ (aka ColonelZen)

      PT Barnum 03/28/05 03:12:25 PM EST

      ADTI blast from the past. There was an article exposing Fossedal as pumping SCO stock last year. I bet the investors who took that advice is a few pennies short of amused....

      http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20040726085048643

      crackpot buster 03/28/05 02:36:03 PM EST

      Fossedal keeps running around saying that Argentina had a coup. Fosssedal preaches democracy, but he hates the will of the people. Fossedal is an eager follower of the Chicago mafia, who's done untold harm all over the world in order to enrich a few robber barons. Fossedal is the perfect robber baron's pet.

      From Wikipedia: "Although Menem, who was president from 1989 to 1999, won the first round of the election on April 27, 2003, he only got 24% of the valid votes – just 2% ahead of Kirchner. This was a Pyrrhic victory, as Menem had by then a strongly negative image among a large segment of the Argentine population and had virtually no chance of winning on the run-off. After days of speculation, during which polls forecast a massive victory for Kirchner with about a 30%-40% difference, Menem finally decided to stand down. This automatically made Kirchner president of Argentina. He was sworn in on May 25, 2003 to a four-year term of office."

      crackpot buster 03/28/05 02:17:09 PM EST

      Fossedal, your organization have in the past proven to be very wrong, so why should anyone ever listen to what you have to say? You are either crackpots, or disingenious. You have first amendment rights to say whatever you like, and the rest of us have first amendment rights to expose your "PR disguised as research" for what it is.

      jesse 03/28/05 02:05:55 PM EST

      "After a brief glance at much open source software development, it becomes readily apparent that a number of open source practices directly conflict with best practices associated with protecting intellectual property."

      Keyword is "brief".

      Meaning short.
      Not very long in looking.
      Surface look?

      as in "Gee I looked at it..." but my fingers were crossed?

      so he really doesn't know the subject.

      Gregory Fossedal 03/28/05 01:39:44 PM EST

      AdTI appreciates the spirit of the comment above, and would be happy to debate and discuss Mr. Brown's controversial studies. I too was disappointed by Mr. Torvalds's initial, snide response, especially considering we had contacted him more than once in an effort to provide him with an opportunity to respond meaningfully. Though I noted he issued a more serious clarification a few hours later -- and a few days later, announced the plan to improve Linux's standards for checking and attributing code, at least in the future.

      We believe an honest review of most of the discussion of Samizdat, for example, would reveal very little substantive engagement coming from the Linux side. Meanwhile, the discussion going on in publications like Wired, Linux Business Week, and CIO Today (Paul Murphy) -- not to mention Eric Raymond's 1999 book -- has all tended more or less to confirm the basic thrust of Brown's critique of Linux's IP problems, from creation to the present. AdTI is happy to present Brown's work, discuss it, and, where appropriate, will issue a correction to any mis-statements or errors of the facts.

      Linux now has a systematic critic. Get used to it, and indeed, enjoy it: All movements, causes, products, and ideas benefit from having a gadfly or an "opposition party" around to prod them forward... but it will be more so if the discussion is civil. -- GAF

      Linux user 03/28/05 10:17:57 AM EST

      I hope that Linus this time comes up with something more then a funny tongue-in-cheek response. It wasn't really what I was wanting to hear from him.

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