This week’s technology news – 17th April 2014

Microsoft’s enterprise cloud gets EU seal of approval
Data protection news stories have been pretty gloomy over the past few months, so it makes a refreshing change for the subject to have a good news day. This follows confirmation by the EU’s data protection authorities that Microsoft’s enterprise cloud contracts meet their rigorous high standards of privacy law, no matter where the data is located. Enshrined in Microsoft’s contractual commitments to its customers, they can be assured of moving data freely through their cloud from Europe to the rest of the world. It marks a positive first step and Microsoft will be building on this as they expand legal protections wider, to benefit all enterprise customers. The thorny subject of geolocation of data rapidly becomes less of a headache for MS customers, especially given the EU’s threat of suspending the Safe Harbour Agreement with the US which will have impact for Microsoft’s competition, whilst their security net will prevent any curtailment or interruption globally.

Scotland takes the lead in going green
At a time when the national grid is anticipating a squeeze on energy and supplies are becoming more limited, the UK is getting its first fully green datacentre to be built in Summer 2014 in Fife, Scotland. The £40m green datacentre backed by AOC Group will span 75,000ft2 and be powered by renewable energy, drawing power from the UK’s largest biomass plant at Markinch, Fife. It will be built to a BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) standard (which aims to minimise buildings’ environmental impact by ensuring sustainability best practices and reduce operator costs through energy-efficiency). The green datacentre will have a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of less than 1.15 (against a typical datacentre average PUE of 2.5). This means that for every 2.5 watts in at the utility meter, only one watt is delivered out to the IT load. Uptime Institute estimates that most facilities could achieve 1.6 PUE using the most efficient equipment and best practices. The new carrier-neutral datacentre will accommodate up to 1,500 high-performance computer racks and will offer high levels of resilience and data security, according to AOC Group. With pressure on carbon emissions, datacentre managers are having to devise new approaches to datacentre cooling as future demands will only increase and consumers will have little tolerance for downtime.

Microsoft puts the squeeze on Windows 8.1
As Microsoft continues to tackle the modern computing and tablet markets, one of their biggest obstacles has been providing only high storage devices. The bestselling iPad, is the lowest 16GB model and for Android, price wins too, with even lower storage such as 8GB being the best sellers. Currently 32GB is the lowest sized Windows tablet you can buy, and this is one of the reasons why Windows tablets are at the top end of the market. If you compare like-for-like, Microsoft’s tablets like the Surface 2 do well but when compared directly to competition best sellers with lower storage capacities (like iPad, Google Nexus and Amazon Kindle Fire), Microsoft ends up looking pricey. To combat this Microsoft has been working hard to get Windows 8.1 running on 16GB devices. The solution has been not to cut features, but utilise a technology first mentioned during Vista development called WIM. The WIM sits on its own partition in a compressed state and moves data across as it is needed. With these smaller device sizes and the lack of Windows fees for physically smaller devices, small Windows Tablets should get more affordable soon.

Wearables but without the plug
A lot of industry analysts agree that wearables will be the next big thing in the technology space. Sony, Samsung and Google have all now heavily invested and Apple is rumoured to be producing their iWatch. The biggest problem faced is something little that is needed: small batteries. Because the miniature size of the devices limit the size of the battery to power them and the complex task they are being asked to do, wearable technology typically lasts between just 0.5 days – to several days. Being advertised as something you wear which you have to remove to re-charge then re-attach so frequently, will be a showstopper for many. Researchers from the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology amongst others, are currently developing a system to generate electricity using your own body heat, with a new light and flexible generator made from thermo-electric substances printed on glass fabric. This technology could be the breakthrough wearables need to become mainstream – letting you wear a gadget like you would an item of jewellery and never having to plug in to re-charge suddenly becomes appealing.

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