Data Sheet—Thursday, September 18, 2014

September 18, 2014, 12:35 PM UTC

Good morning, Data Sheet readers, and welcome to Thursday! Why does Apple’s Tim Cook describe IBM’s Ginni Rometty as “wicked smart”? IBM’s ninth CEO—and Fortune’s most powerful woman for the third consecutive year—shares three rules for transformation in an exclusive interview. Plus, her new BFF puts a public stamp on Apple’s privacy policy, and Salesforce opens another $1 million hackathon (this one’s for mobile apps).


Why IBM's CEO believes in perpetual transformation. Decisive. Realistic. Disruptive. Those are just three words to describe Virginia (aka Ginni) Rometty, who assumed Big Blue's top job in 2012 and is driving the company quickly into the cloud computing era. This is far from IBM's first big turnaround, of course. "What's different from the past—because we've lived through every one of these transitions—is the speed at which this is happening. We have to keep moving at that speed," she tells Fortune in a profile for the latest "Most Powerful Women" issue. Three rules: Don't protect the past. Never be defined by your product. Always transform yourself.

Tim Cook clarifies Apple's privacy stance. As with many controversial topics, the company is pretty private about privacy. But the CEO's new open letter echoes what he declared in an interview earlier this week: "We don't build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don't 'monetize' the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don't read your email or your messages to get information to market to you.' " With Apple drawing attention to this, will more real people start paying attention?

Toshiba morphs, slims down personal computer division. Reflecting a sharper focus on business systems, the Japanese vendor is cutting about 20% of the workforce for this group (about 900 people). It no longer has an appetite for the cutthroat consumer market (although it hasn't said which products it will ditch yet).


Changes afoot for storage services firms. A few weeks ago, Hightail's CEO bailed. Now, it's firing half of its workforce (100 people). Meanwhile, Cloudian—which lets businesses create their own storage clouds in private or public infrastructure—is expanding into another tough market, flash storage.


Delta's customer service differentiator: speech recognition. If you've called before, its system will recognize your voice and route you to an agent faster, so you can get flights rebooked or travel rerouted faster than passengers wading through voice-prompt hell. Of course, it only works if you've called before.

Register now for the Salesforce hackathon! Or, at least learn from the ideas it surfaces. This year, the $1 million competition is looking for mobile apps that extend its various cloud applications. By the way, Intel and Dell are also getting into the act: they're collaborating with Major League Hacking (which supports 40 student hackathons every semester).

Competitors join forces for better security. I'm always somewhat skeptical about industry alliances, but McAfee and Symantec just joined the Cyber Threat Alliance, an organization created by Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks to share threat intelligence and coordinate more impactful responses to them. Together, these companies represent a massive installed base of network security devices, which will contribute relevant information via sensors.


Do I know you? Ping Identity has a foothold in more than 1,200 enterprises with its identity management technology portfolio, making it the largest independent company in this segment. It just raised $35 million led by KKR, bringing its total backing to $110 million. The new money will support both development and an international expansion.

Mutate malware to predict the hacking future. CyActive doesn't just thwart hackers, it predicts future attacks based on existing malware strains. Siemens just plunked down an undisclosed sum from its $100 million internal venture capital fund to support the Israeli startup. 

Mobile virtualization pioneer now part of Citrix. Virtual's cloud-hosted platform works with Apple iOS and Android devices. It helps with apps security on otherwise unmanaged smartphones or tablets.


For every pitch I receive about security schemes, I see at least two about big data or analytics applications.

This week, not only did IBM try to preempt Salesforce's anticipated analytics cloud announcement for a few weeks from now, I'm reading reports that Microsoft's cloud team is preparing the Azure Data Factory (which would basically create a pipeline for business intelligence apps). And startup CrowdFlower just got another $12.5 million for its data science platform (adding to the $28 million it already raised.) 

It's easy to justify the frenzy. New Gartner numbers suggest 73% of big companies have invested or plan to fund big data projects over the next two years. Pretty much every high-level executive around (94% according to research I'm about to reference) is poised to make strategic decisions that could make or break the future of his or her company. Two-thirds relied on their gut instincts the last time they did this but wanted to move toward a more data-driven decision-making process, according to a PwC study published this week. 

Notes PwC practice leader Dan DiFilippo: "Experience and intuition and the use of data and analytics are not mutually exclusive. The challenge for business is how best to marry the two. Executives know the right questions to ask. Now they need to know how to get the right answers from external and internal data they’ve used over the last two years.”

As this comes to pass, here's another topic I predict you'll hear more about: data ethics standards, especially in the aftermath of Facebook's mood manipulation experiment (you know, the one in which it played with changing your news feed based on your perceived emotional state).

Almost half of the data scientists in another recent survey consider that experiment unethical, while 40% of them didn't know what to think—which is a pretty big number, if you ask me. Yes, privacy makes headlines every single day and there are clear rules around things like health records. Beyond that, the question about what information it's appropriate to glean with big data analytics might come down largely to gut instincts about what's right and wrong.

Does your company have a formal data ethics policy? Share your experiences at


Faster merchandise returns via Sears mobile app. Most retailers struggle to unite online and offline shopping systems. Sears just wants people to buy anywhere, so customer service is a big focus with the "Shop Your Way" app. One process it supports: curbside returns within five minutes. Apparently this is not a pilot, it's available at every store just in time for the 2014 holiday shopping frenzy.


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)

Enterprise Security Summit: Challenges, trends and solutions. (Sept. 30, 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: Ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)