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Google admits Kubernetes container tech is so complex, it’s had to roll out an Autopilot feature to do it all for you

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State of Maine orders review of $54.6m Workday project as it alleges delivery failure and threatens cancellation

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The US State of Maine is requesting an official review of its $54.6m project to renew its HR system, currently being built by Workday under a contract the state is threatening to cancel, a move which could leave the state government continuing to rely on its 30-year-old mainframe-based system.

If the state ends the project, it will be the second time it has abandoned efforts to modernise its HR system, having cancelled an Infor-base project in 2018.

The state’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability has requested a review of the project including implementation issues related to personnel and timelines, budgets, spending and payments to vendors, contractor performance and officials’ response to implementation.

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According to the official document, Maine went out to bid for a comprehensive human resources management system to replace the state’s 30-year-old mainframe payroll-only system in 2015.

In 2016, the northeasternmost US state contracted with Infor to provide the HR system and the pair planned to have the system up and running in 2018. That contract was “terminated for lack of delivery” in June 2018.

Later in 2018, Maine contracted with SaaS vendor Workday to provide both an HR system, this time expecting a go-live date of 2020. That date has since been revised to 2022.

The document says the total project spending earmarked until FY 2023 is $54.6m.

The Office of the Attorney General is reviewing and handling the contract dispute between Workday and the State of Maine, the document added.

In a letter dated 25 February, Kirsten Figueroa, commissioner for the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, wrote to Workday giving it notice that should it fail to remediate issues with the system within 30 days, the state would proceed with immediate termination of its professional services agreement with Workday.

The letter alleged Workday has failed to provide a Labor Cost Distribution solution that meets its requirements, resulting in “significant delays in the project.” It said Workday’s proposed solution was a finance module workaround, and was not provided until all testing phases had been closed for the April 2020 launch date. “To date, this item is yet to be successfully and completely configured,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, Workday has failed to provide “ad-hoc reporting capabilities” promised in the terms of work. The state discovered this functionality “could only be achieved if all security roles were removed,” the letter alleged.

On 11 March, Figueroa wrote to the Joint Standing Committees on Appropriations and Financial Affairs saying that annual subscriptions were set to be $1.5m per year for modules including HCM, Cloud Connect for Benefits, Recruiting, Payroll, and Time Tracking.

Using its current multiple legacy software systems led to integration problems, inherently inefficient processes, and incompatibility with supporting systems that are no longer supported by vendors. She noted the “significantly out of date computer systems” also required knowledge of computer languages that are no longer taught. She added that the problems had led to “considerable administrative burden and/or cost for the upkeep and functionality of these legacy systems” as well as “vulnerability to cyber-attack and/or malfunction.”

In its case for terminating its Workday agreement, the state said it would seek $22.2m repayment from the vendor “due to incomplete deliverables and failure to meet the State’s requirements.”

“The Office of the Attorney General is continuing to evaluate next steps on the contract dispute,” the letter said.

A Workday spokesperson insisted to The Register that the firm was doing its part and was “committed to partnering with the State of Maine to successfully complete this project.”

“However,” the mouthpiece said, “technology deployments are highly collaborative and require all parties, including customers, to participate and deliver on their commitments, and we have been doing our part to try and engage with the State to move the deployment forward. The State of Maine has no basis to terminate our agreement for cause.”

The state of Maine has been contacted for a response. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/03/31/maine_workday_dispute/

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Salesforce to face trial after software used by Backpage ‘to track sex traffickers, pimps, johns on social media’

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Salesforce should face trial after its software was allegedly used by Backpage.com to track sex traffickers, pimps, and their johns online, a judge has ruled.

The SaaS CRM giant was accused of a whole host of wrongdoing in a civil lawsuit [PDF] filed last year in southern Texas. Insisting the allegations were unfounded, Salesforce filed to have the entire case against it dismissed.

While allowing some facets of the case to go ahead, federal district Judge Andrew Hanen this week agreed to dismiss the lawsuit’s claims of negligence, gross negligence, and civil conspiracy.

That leaves allegations that Salesforce broke state and federal laws on sex trafficking having supplied its tools and services to Backpage.com even after law enforcement publicly called out the dot-com for its seedy operations. The judge said Salesforce was, in this case, not necessarily shielded by Section 230 of America’s Communications Decency Act.

Backpage.com was shut down in 2018 after it was seized by the US Department of Justice. Its CEO, Carl Ferrer, admitted charges including conspiracy to facilitate prostitution and money laundering. His classified ads website was, simply put, a nexus of child sex trafficking in America.

Screengrab of the Backpage takedown notice

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Judge Hanen’s 11-page order [PDF] on Monday gave an overview of the civil lawsuit, brought in April by anonymous plaintiffs, who said they were trafficked via Backpage.com using Salesforce’s technology. They claimed Salesforce’s software was used to “actively obtain and monitor data and additional information related to pimps and sex traffickers that were using Backpage.”

Since it began supplying software to Backpage.com in 2013, Salesforce knowingly assisted and supported sex trafficking, the plaintiffs continued.

Specifically, the cloud-based software was used by Backpage.com to gather and manage information from traffickers and pimps’ social media activity, including their “likes and dislikes and what they were saying and sharing about Backpage and its competitors,” it was claimed. This intelligence would have been used by the classified ads site to tune and improve its business.

It was further claimed Salesforce’s software was used to develop “an infrastructure for a trafficker and pimp database as well as tracking and collecting trafficker and john data across multiple platforms including phone, email, websites and social media.” Salesforce also provided payment processing and data analyses which resulted in targeted email campaigns for Backpage.com “to advertise and promote illegal prostitution,” according to the plaintiffs.

In their court paperwork, the young women argued that “any reasonable prudent examination of Backpage’s business operations or a simple google search [sic] would have indicated Backpage was not a general online marketplace but was actually the predominant force in online sex trafficking.”

From 2015, Salesforce’s relationship with Backpage survived intense law enforcement scrutiny, lawsuits, investigations, and even the arrest of Ferrer for “conspiracy to commit pimping” by Kamala Harris, then California Attorney General and now vice president of the United States of America.

Salesforce denied any wrongdoing, the judge noted, “especially that it had any knowledge that Backpage was planning to incorporate the use of its operational support into a sex-trafficking venture.”

A spokesperson for the cloud giant was not available for comment. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/03/26/salesforce_trafficking_charges/

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Microsoft 365 tries again at filtering swearing, bad behavior: Classifiers for seven languages offered

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Microsoft has gone back to the drawing board and once again emitted tools to detect and filter out swearing and abuse on its Microsoft 365 cloud.

News of the profanity protector popped up on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, a feed of information from Redmond about new features coming to the tech giant’s sprawling subscription software and services suite.

On Thursday, a new item appeared titled: “Microsoft 365 Compliance Center: Microsoft Information Protection & Governance now supports 7 languages for the Threat, Targeted Harassment and Profanities classifiers.”

Those languages are English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese. The tech is said to be in development.

Microsoft describes its classifiers as tools that can automate the detection and handling of text – in this case to catch and remove bad language.

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Microsoft previously offered a classifier for offensive language though deprecated it “because it has been producing a high number of false positives,” and replaced it with the Threat, Targeted Harassment and Profanities classifiers

The Register fancies the addition of seven languages to the new classifiers reflects some catch-up.

The version of Microsoft 365 offered to the US federal government is getting a similar tool that’s promised to “minimize communication risks by helping you detect, capture, and act on inappropriate messages in your organization.” Also for the Feds: a special Out Of Office notifier for Teams.

The roadmap also has something for the rest of us in the form of automated suggestions for email completion in Outlook on Windows. A similar feature is already available online.

Another imminent update for admins to consider is titled alert exclusion in Microsoft 365 security center. The new feature aims to filter the number of security alerts issued by Microsoft Defender for Identity, so that users are only bothered by the ones that matter. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/03/26/microsoft_365_harassment_profanities_classifiers/

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Samsung aims first 512GB DDR5 DRAM chip built on High-K/Metal Gate tech at HPC, AI markets

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Samsung has unveiled its first DDR5 DRAM based on a High-K/Metal Gate (HKMG) process, debuting with a 512GB module aimed at the high-performance computing and AI markets.

The DDR5 spec, which was finalised in mid-2020, allows for significantly higher capacity DIMMs and larger bandwidth than its predecessor. Samsung claimed its latest module provides peak transfer rates of 7,200Mbps, or more than double the 3,200Mbps typically offered by the fastest DDR4 DRAM.

Samsung wasn’t the first vendor to cross the 512GB mark. Intel launched a 512GB DDR4 Optane module in 2019. Sammy is, however, the first to do so within the DDR5 field, and the first to use HKMG tech in the process, which Samsung claimed allowed it to achieve a 13 per cent power reduction against comparable modules.

Semiconductors of all stripes – from memory chips to computer processors – use something called a gate dielectric to insulate against electrical leakage. Previous gate dielectrics were based on a thin layer of silicon dioxide, which progressively shrunk in space with the miniaturisation of transistors. As this layer gets thinner, it becomes less effective, resulting in reliability and power consumption issues. This is undesirable considering that one of the major reasons to move to a smaller node is to reduce power draw.

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HKMG dielectrics are, put simply, more effective than silicon oxide ones, with hafnium-based materials frequently used. The “k” in High-K merely stands for Kappa, which is used as shorthand to refer to the dielectric constant.

Samsung first used HKMG tech in 2018 with its GDDR5 memory, although its origins span back further than that. While it got its start in the memory industry, with Micron doing much of the initial R&D legwork, Intel was among the first mass-adopters, jumping on the bandwagon as it switched to the 45nm process. Use of HKMG has now become widespread in the logic semiconductor industry, with IBM and TSMC notable adopters.

The 512GB module also uses TSV (through-silicon via) technology to achieve its high memory density. This approach sees chips stacked on top of each other to reduce amount of PCB real-estate consumed, while achieving faster overall performance due to the shorter distance electrons are required to travel between components.

In this case, Samsung has grouped eight 16GB DDR5 modules into a single 128GB logical unit, which can be arranged into a maximum 512GB configuration.

Commenting, Young-Soo Sohn, veep of Samsung’s DRAM memory planning and enabling group, expressed hope the modules would find a home in medical research, financial services, autonomous driving, and smart cities.

“As the amount of data to be moved, stored and processed increases exponentially, the transition to DDR5 comes at a critical inflection point for cloud data centers, networks and edge deployments,” added Carolyn Duran, memory and IO technology veep at Intel, in a statement.

Samsung has begun sampling its 512GB module for verification and certification. It did not say when customers can expect availability. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/03/25/samsung_hkmg_ddr5/

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