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Data Sheet—Monday, August 25, 2014

This morning, Data Sheet remembers former IBM CEO John Akers, the “last of the Great Big Blue Mohicans,” who has passed away in Boston at the age of 79. The buttoned-down former Navy pilot and one-time executive assistant led from 1985 to 1993, presiding over the launch of the RS/6000. IBM’s most recent former CEO, Sam Palmisano, remembers him this way: “People liked John Akers because they know he cared about them, as employees, as people and as IBMers.” Akers would have been pleased about IBM’s latest relationships in China, India and New Zealand, which lead today’s Data Sheet news.

TRENDING

Thawing U.S.-China relations. IBM’s sale of its low-end server tech to Lenovo was delayed for months because of government concerns over potential spying. Now there’s another cross-border relationship: IBM’s database and WebSphere software will be on Inspur mainframes made and sold in China, an interesting turn considering Inspur has been poaching IBM customers. (Plus, IBM just signed a big Chinese bank for its mainframe disaster recovery technology.)

Homeland Security weighs in on “Backoff” security breaches. So far, a string of point-of-sale system hacks that last week stretched to include UPS has touched more than 1,000 businesses—and the feds think others don’t (yet) realize they were victims. The attackers are using common remote access tools to break in.

Network virtualization exec leaves Hewlett-Packard for CEO post. Bethany Mayer left her post head as head of the specialized division after just six months to take the top spot at Ixia, which makes monitoring, validation and performance technologies.

Cross-country move for former White House tech chief. While we’re on the topic of job switching, apparently White House CTO Todd Park is heading to Silicon Valley. He’s the guy who convinced a posse of private-sector experts, including former Google engineer Mikey Dickerson, to fix Healthcare.gov. Apparently, his new job will be to recruit more federal tech gurus.

SAP simplifies pricing. After consulting with more than 300 customers, the developer came up with more than 30 prepackaged bundles. Its apps now are categorized by the business processes they address or the user roles they serve. Already have a contract? You can choose whether to move to the new model.

Oregon to Oracle: See you in court. The state filed a scathing lawsuit over the developer’s “abysmal” work on its failed website project for the federal healthcare program, citing fraud and “a pattern of racketeering.” Oracle actually beat Oregon to the punch with a breach-of-contract suit two weeks ago.

CLOUD CHATTER

What’s the status? You might want to bookmark this dashboard, which Google is testing as a way of summarizing outages for App Engine, Compute Engine, Cloud Storage, BigQuery and Cloud SQL in one location.

Financial services firms buy into IBM services. An Indian microfinance firm, and two banks serving New Zealand and Australia are signing multi-year contracts for cloud-hosted capacity on demand, disaster recovery and analytics.

STATS & SPECS

Imagine, a laptop free of wired connections. By next year, Intel’s ongoing research into “wire-free computing” will express itself in a smart docking station that links notebooks to displays or other peripherals without a cord. Because even though tech types may not have trouble discerning between HDMI or DisplayPort, others of us are plug-challenged.

STARTUPS & DISRUPTORS

Could Google Glass speed medical diagnosis? Startup Remedy, founded by two sisters with medical training, is testing applications for collecting and sharing patient visuals at three Boston hospitals. Sounds useful, but how is its bedside manner?

FAQ

In June, I examined the disillusionment surrounding gamification technology typified by Badgeville and Bunchball. After heaps of hype since 2011, Gartner estimates enterprise adoption at just 5% to 10%. Even scarier, it predicts the rate of failure much higher: up to 80% of early gamification efforts could be doomed. Doomed!

No one denies that we need to take a more serious look at the role of games in shaping business behavior. So, what distinguishes the success stories? Bunchball founder Rajat Paharia (another author of Loyalty 3.0) says five primary use cases define ongoing projects at his company’s 300-plus customers—which include the likes of Adobe, Chiquita, Coca-Cola Co., Ford and SAP. That list includes boosting sales, improving service levels, engaging employees, encouraging collaboration, and inspiring customer loyalty.

The common thread underlying these programs: specific, rather than abstract goals. No brainer, right? For one 130-restaurant Applebee’s franchise in the Midwest, for example, the motive was to create incentives for boosting per-employee sales, which helps with tips and reduces notoriously high wait-staff turnover levels. VMware and Cisco, meanwhile, use Bunchball apps to reward business partners who prioritize their products over the competition or that skill-up on their technologies.

Paharia notes: “Every successful program has a measurable goal, the ‘What’s in it for me?’ There has to be a good answer to that question, and there has to be a meaningful value for participating.” That goes for both the organization writing the rules and the “gamers” playing by them.

The prize for an effective gamification initiative doesn’t always have to be monetary, it could simply be something less tangible, such as exclusive or early access to a coveted new product or service. “The intrinsic motivation can be as simple as the sheer joy of doing it,” he says.

ONE MORE THING …

Grown girls got game. Google, Microsoft, eBay, Facebook, Intel and other high-tech companies worry a lot about how to lure more young women into careers in development and engineering. New demographics about who plays console, PC and online videogames should cheer them up: There are now twice as many women age 18 or older in the “game-playing population” (36%) as teenage boys (17%).

EVENTS

Boxworks14: Talk enterprise cloud strategy. (Sept. 2 – 4, San Francisco)

Atlassian Summit: Build software, collaboratively. (Sept. 9 – 11, San Jose, Calif.)

Open Data Center Alliance Forecast 2014: Cloud trends. (Sept. 22 – 24, San Francisco)

Oracle OpenWorld: Get a roadmap reality check. (Sept. 27 – Oct. 2, San Francisco)

Interop: Actionable solutions for IT headaches. (Sept. 29 – Oct. 3, New York)

Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2014: Compare notes. (Oct. 5 – 9, Orlando, Fla.)

Splunk .conf2014. Glean intelligence from machine data. (Oct. 6 – 9, Las Vegas)

Dreamforce: 1,400 sessions about the largest cloud ecosystem. (Oct. 13-16, San Francisco)

Strata/Hadoop World: Big data tools and techniques. (Oct. 15 – 17, New York)

TBM Conference 2014: Manage the business of IT. (Oct. 28- 30, Miami Beach)

AWS re:Invent: The latest about Amazon Web Services. (Nov. 11 – 14, Las Vegas)

Gartner Data Center Conference: New ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)