The UK’s beloved former state-owned telco outlined Q1 numbers today and finally provided a full-year forecast for fiscal 2021 – the outlook isn’t pretty but then again it isn’t for so many in the industry.
Revenue for the three months ended 30 June fell 7 per cent year-on-year to £5.248bn and pre-tax profit dropped 13 per cent to £561m. All of BT’s divisions, except Openreach, posted declines.
Consumer fell 7 per cent to £2.362bn, “impacted heavily by COVID-19” with “limited sport to broadcast” and “the closure of our retail stores”. Britain was locked down on 23 March, right at the end of BT’s previous financial year. Some 80 per cent of the stores were reopened following an easing of lockdown rules.
In the Enterprise wing, revenue dropped 9 per cent to £1.352bn, “primarily due to ongoing declines in legacy products and sharply reduced business activity… as a result of COVID-19”. BT said its SMEs segment in particular had seen lower call volumes and fixed and mobile upgrades.
The unit has hired a new boss, Rob Shutter, former president and CEO of African telco MTN Group. He will replace Gerry McQuade who is “retiring from BT” at the end of the current financial year, BT said.
BT’s Global division was also down 9 per cent to £990m, and again the virus was blamed, along with a deliberate decision to exit low-margin legacy businesses. A favourable move in foreign currency and higher videoconferencing volumes meant sales shrinkage wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
Openreach was the only part of BT to report growth, albeit up just 1 per cent to £1.286bn. Higher rental bases in fibre, up 19 per cent, and Ethernet, up 10 per cent, were almost offset by declines in legacy kit and price reductions.
BT previously suspended dividend payments for this current fiscal.
“Although uncertainties remain, we are now able to provide an outlook for this financial year,” said CEO Philip Jansen, who himself became infected by COVID-19 in March. “Despite our strong operational performance in the first three months of the year, it is clear that COVID-19 will continue to impact our business as the full economic consequences unfold.”
BT reckons revenue for fiscal 2021 ending March will decline between 5 to 6 per cent and adjusted earnings before income tax, depreciation and amortisation is estimated to fall between £7.2bn and £7.5bn, down from £7.9bn in the prior financial year.
This week, Openreach committed to building FTTP for 3.2 million areas by 2025/26 and stop selling copper to around 1.2 million FTTP-enabled premises in 117 exchange areas from June next year. ®
Oracle aims high-end cloudy database release at existing customers in ‘defensive’ move
Oracle has brought out a new Exadata Cloud Service based on the Exadata X8M platform, bringing its high-end persistent memory feature to the cloud. Well, Oracle’s cloud at least.
The transactional and analytics database system Exadata X8M was first released last year in a launch Oracle claimed would reduce IO latency by up to 10 times with its use of persistent memory and remote direct memory access (RDMA) over Ethernet.
Bringing the system to the Exadata Cloud Service makes it available on a consumption basis in the Oracle cloud, including 26 global cloud regions and its on-prem service, Cloud@Customer. The omnipresent enterprise computing biz claimed it could help run applications needing multiple workloads and data types in a single converged Oracle Database, avoiding integration of multiple different database services.
Oracle claimed this meant 2.5 times higher transaction processing IOs, and 10 times better IO latency than its previous Exadata Cloud Service release.
The Exadata Database Machine started life in 2008 as an in-memory database appliance that supports OLTP (transactional) and OLAP (analytical) database systems. It was the result of a collaborative project between Big Red and HP (as it was then known), but was later ported to Sun hardware. A version has been available on Oracle Cloud since 2015.
David Floyer, CTO at Wikibon, said that with IO latency of around 20 microseconds and a 25 PB data warehouse available, Wikibon assessed it as the “highest-performance cloud database service available.”
Regardless of its performance, part of the positioning is to boost Oracle in the cloud market, as it was with the Zoom deal earlier this year, said Philip Carnelley, associate vice president of software research at IDC.
It would suit Oracle’s existing customers who want options in the cloud, he added.
“If you’ve already got loads of Oracle everywhere, then it’s becoming more viable to move what you want into the cloud: that’s their big thrust. There is such a huge install base of Oracle, it’s offering them everything in the cloud, on prem, or wherever they want it. From Oracle’s point of view, it could be seen as defensive. This will appeal to very large organisations with a very large investment in Oracle,” he said.
Carnelley said businesses were looking to move to the cloud as soon as possible, while at the same time IT departments would be reluctant to abandon their existing investments. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: you don’t want to change too many things and fewer things you have to change, the better,” he said.
But outside Oracle’s install base, the appeal becomes less certain. In transaction systems Oracle would go up against IBM’s Db2 and SAP’s in-memory HANA database, both of which are available on the public cloud from the usual suspects.
On the analytical systems, Oracle must compete with cloud-native data warehouses such as Snowflake, AWS’s Redshift, Google’s BigQuery and Microsoft’s Synapse. ®
OpenStack’s 10th birthday is next week, but you get the present of a new release today!
On October 21st, 2010, something new hit the world of enterprise infrastructure software: it was free software called OpenStack “Austin” and comprised the Nova VM-wrangler and the Swift Object store.
Enthusiasm for OpenStack has waxed and waned since. In its early years the project’s openness saw the likes of Cisco, Rackspace and HPE tout it as a better alternative than proprietary clouds from AWS Microsoft.
We know how that turned out: AWS, Azure and Google dominate the cloud and while OpenStack runs plenty of colossal web companies, the project’s own user surveys suggest that the majority of deployments are at organisations with between 100 and 10,000 employees.
China turned out to be a big part of the OpenStack story: its web giants Baidu and Tencent are known users, while the nation’s big three telcos – China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom – also adopted the stack. They’ve adopted it because OpenStack now offers over 40 modules that are collectively capable of doing just about anything a cloudy or webscale stack requires.
The Register will properly assess OpenStack’s first decade soon, but for now we need to consider the project’s 22nd major release, dubbed “Victoria”, which landed earlier this week.
The new release includes over 20,000 code changes by 794 developers from 160 different organisations and over 45 countries.
The OpenStack Foundation rates improved Kubernetes support, including support for containerised network functions, as among its most important new additions. More FPGA support has been added, specifically for Intel and Inspur accelerators, just in time for the SmartNIC craze to crest. And because too much security is seldom enough, the Octavia module now supports HTTP/2 over TLS using Application Layer Protocol Negotiation (ALPN).
The Ironic module, dedicated to provisioning bare metal servers, has a new communications flow for agent tokens that should make it safer to communicate with devices on the edge. Ironic had a 66% increase in activity compared to the OpenStack Ussuri cycle, and added more security for edge deployments by combining the communication flow for agent token which was added in Ussuri with the automatic agent TLS feature. Now, malicious attackers are unable to possibly intercept the “token” and through standard communication exchanges with the Ironic services. The Foundation also highlighted the following enhancements for “complex networking issues”:
- The SDN module Neutron now provides metadata service over IPv6 and has added support for flat networks for Distributed Virtual Routers (DVR), Floating IP port forwarding for the OVN backend, and router availability zones in OVN.
- Load-balancing module Octavia now support version two of the PROXY protocol.
- Container networking module Kuryr has added support for autodetection of VM bridging interface in nested setups.
OpenStack has published a full list of enhancements present in Victoria here. The next OpenStack release has been named “Wallaby” and should hop into view in April 2021. The release’s timeline and goals can be found here. ®
Your web browser running remotely in Cloudflare’s cloud. That’s it. That’s the story
Network services giant Cloudflare wants to host your web browser in the cloud so it can send you only safe content.
On Thursday, the biz invited customers to sign up for the beta release of its Browser Isolation service, a third component in its evolving Cloudflare for Teams offering that came from S2 Systems, a Kirkland, Washington-based startup acquired earlier this year.
Browser isolation generally involves running a headless web browser – the browser foundation without its graphic interface – on a remote server, now commonly referred to as “the cloud,” and then buffering its visual output in some kind of format to send to software on the user’s computer to display. Scrubbing the web content of bad stuff before it’s rendered is a possibility, too, and that’s what Cloudflare’s Browser Isolation appears to do.
There are also client-side variations like Apozy’s Native Browser Isolation, and HP-acquired Bromium (now HP Sure Click), which relies on running browser tasks inside a hardware-isolated micro virtual machine.
Cloudflare floats cloud grand unification theory based on zero-trust access and security
Browser quarantine regimes have won corporate fans as a way to mitigate web-based security threats, and also to manage how workers interact with the unwholesome web. Think of web content as a package containing a bomb; if it explodes, you’ll wish you opened it in a concrete, reinforced bunker so that adjacent bunkers and buildings aren’t taken out. That’s browser isolation: containing any malicious stuff that spills into and out of the browser on your employees’ PCs.
Companies playing in the browser isolation market like Authentic8, Broadcom (Symantec), Menlo Security, and Webgap, among others, generally point to business-justifying stats compiled by consultancies.
Cloudflare, for instance, cites Gartner’s 2018 claim that web browsers are the source of 70 per cent of endpoint compromises. The IT research firm, declaring the public internet “a cesspool of attacks,” also projected that by 2022, 25 per cent of enterprises will adopt browser isolation technology for high-risk users and specific use-cases, up from one per cent in 2017.
Tim Obezuk, principal solutions engineer at Cloudflare, contends that Cloudflare Browser Isolation has an advantage over other approaches that rely on pixel pushing or DOM reconstruction. The former involves streaming rendered screen pixels to a remote user (slow) or loading pages remotely, checking them, then repacking and relaying them to a remote client (misses threats and prone to errors).
“Instead of streaming pixels to the user, Cloudflare Browser Isolation sends the final output of a browser’s web page rendering,” said Obezuk in a blog post. “The approach means that the only thing ever sent to the device is a package of draw commands to render the webpage, which also makes Cloudflare Browser Isolation compatible with any HTML5 compliant browser.”
Cloudflare Browser Isolation relies on Network Vector Rendering (NVR) technology from its S2 Systems acquisition. This intercepts the draw commands directed at the the remote Chromium browser’s Skia graphics rendering layer, then encodes, compressed, and encrypts them in a highly compact form before sending them to the remote client browser – which can be any HTML5-compliant browser (e.g. Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari).
Using an NVR WebAssembly library with an embedded Skia library that has been pushed to the local web browser, the transmitted draw commands can be unpacked, decrypted, and replayed with speed that approaches native device code.
It’s an approach that looks like it could work well given Cloudflare’s edge-centric network – with more than 200 data centers around the globe, latency between the user and the Cloudflare Browser Isolation host is likely to be less than it would be for a service operating under a more centralized network architecture.
We asked Cloudflare if browser add-ons will fit into its isolation approach, and a spokesperson told us:
If hosted browsers of this sort catch on, it may be time to stop referring to them as “user-agents” and call them something more accurate like “admin-agents.” ®
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