By continuing to use the site or forum, you agree to the use of cookies, find out more by reading our GDPR policy

Earlier this summer, marine specialists reeled up a shipping-container-size datacenter coated in algae, barnacles, and sea anemones from the seafloor off Scotland’s Orkney Islands. The retrieval launched the final phase of a years-long effort that proved the concept of underwater datacenters is feasible, as well as logistically, environmentally, and economically practical. Microsoft’s Project Natick team deployed the Northern Isles datacenter 117 feet deep to the seafloor in spring 2018. For the next two years, team members tested and monitored the performance and reliability of the datacenter’s servers. The team hypothesized that a sealed container on the ocean floor could provide ways to improve the overall reliability of data centers. On land, corrosion from oxygen and humidity, temperature fluctuations, and bumps and jostles from people who replace broken components are all variables that can contribute to equipment failure. The Northern Isles deployment confirmed their hypothesis, which could have implications for data centers on land. Lessons learned from Project Natick also are informing Microsoft’s datacenter sustainability strategy around energy, waste, and water, said Ben Cutler, a project manager in Microsoft’s Special Projects research group who leads Project Natick. What’s more, he added, the proven reliability of underwater datacenters has prompted discussions with a Microsoft team in Azure that’s looking to serve customers who need to deploy and operate tactical and critical datacenters anywhere in the world. “We are populating the globe with edge devices, large and small,” said William Chappell, vice president of mission systems for Azure. “To learn how to make data centers reliable enough not to need human touch is a dream of ours.” The underwater datacenter concept splashed onto the scene at Microsoft in 2014 during ThinkWeek, an event that gathers employees to share out-of-the-box ideas. The concept was considered a potential way to provide lightning-quick cloud services to coastal populations and save energy. More than half the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast. By putting datacenters underwater near coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel, leading to fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming, and game playing. The consistently cool subsurface seas also allow for energy-efficient datacenter designs. For example, they can leverage heat-exchange plumbing such as that found on submarines. Microsoft’s Project Natick team proved the underwater datacenter concept was feasible during a 105-day deployment in the Pacific Ocean in 2015. Phase II of the project included contracting with marine specialists in logistics, shipbuilding, and renewable energy to show that the concept is also practical. “We are now at the point of trying to harness what we have done as opposed to feeling the need to go and prove out some more,” Cutler said. “We have done what we need to do. Natick is a key building block for the company to use if it is appropriate.” We have pictures, videos, and more posted on OUR Forum.

Apple revised its App Store guidelines on Friday ahead of the release of iOS 14, the latest version of the iPhone operating system, which is expected later this month. Apple’s employees use these guidelines to approve or deny apps and updates on the App Store. Those rules have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks from app makers who argue iPhone maker has too much control over what software runs on iPhones and how Apple takes a cut of payments from those apps. In particular, Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, is in a bitter legal battle with Apple over several of its guidelines, including its requirement to use in-app purchases for digital products. Apple removed Fortnite from its app store last month. One major update on Friday relates to game streaming services. Microsoft and Facebook have publicly said in recent months that Apple’s rules have restricted what their gaming apps can do on iPhones and iPads. Microsoft’s xCloud service isn’t available on iOS, and Facebook’s gaming app lacks games on iPhones. Apple now says that game streaming services, such as Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud, are explicitly permitted. But there are conditions: Games offered in the service need to be downloaded directly from the App Store, not from an all-in-one app. App makers are permitted to release a so-called “catalog app” that links to other games in the service, but each game will need to be an individual app. Apple’s rules mean that if a streaming game service has 100 games, then each of those games will need an individual App Store listing as well as a developer relationship with Apple. The individual games also have to have some basic functionality when they’re downloaded. All the games and the stores need to offer in-app purchases using Apple’s payment processing system, under which Apple usually takes 30% of revenue. “This remains a bad experience for customers. Gamers want to jump directly into a game from their curated catalog within one app just like they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud,” a Microsoft representative said in a statement. A Google representative declined to comment. The rules underscore the tension between Apple’s control of its platform, which it says is for safety and security reasons, and emerging gaming services considered by many to be the future of the gaming industry. Gaming streaming services want to act as a platform for game makers, such as approving individual games and deciding which games to offer, but Apple wants the streaming services to act more like a bundle of games and says it will need to review each individual game. Apple does not have a cloud gaming service, but it does sell a subscription bundle of iOS games called Apple Arcade. Another change relates to in-person classes purchased inside an iPhone app. This spring, amid the pandemic, several companies that previously enabled users to book in-person products, like Classpass, started offering virtual classes. Apple’s rules previously said that virtual classes were required to use Apple’s in-app payment process. Apple’s new guidelines say that one-on-one in-person virtual classes, like fitness training, can bypass Apple for payment, but classes, where one instructor is teaching more a class with multiple people, will still require apps to use Apple’s in-app purchases. For more turn to OUR FORUM.

Epic Games Inc.’s decision to sue Apple Inc. over its mobile store practices has sparked new scrutiny in the massive Japanese gaming market, prompting complaints and questions about how to counter the tech giant’s dominance. While Epic, publisher of the hit title Fortnite, focuses on the 30% revenue cut app stores typically take, Japanese game studios have broader concerns. They have long been unhappy with what they see as Apple’s inconsistent enforcement of its own App Store guidelines, unpredictable content decisions, and lapses in communication, according to more than a dozen people involved in the matter. Japan’s antitrust regulator said it will step up attention to the iPhone maker’s practices in the wake of the high-stakes legal clash. And in rare cases, prominent executives are beginning to speak out after staying silent out of fear of reprisal. “I want from the bottom of my heart Epic to win,” Hironao Kunimitsu, founder, and chairman of Tokyo-based mobile game maker Gumi Inc. wrote on his Facebook page. Apple and Google hold a duopoly over the mobile app market outside China. Any publisher that wants a game to be played on iPhones or Android devices is effectively forced to distribute it via their app stores, sharing revenue from an initial purchase and future, related items. Epic, whose Fortnite generates more than $1 billion annually from in-game purchases of virtual cosmetics and extras, sued both companies for what it considers excessive fees and for the right to sell game extras directly to players. Apple and Google have disputed those charges in court. The iPhone maker argues its cut is justified by its provision of security, development support, and an audience of a billion users. The iPhone is a huge revenue driver for game creators in Japan, including established names like Square Enix Holdings Co., which gets 40% of its group revenue from smartphone games, and Bandai Namco Holdings Inc. Sony Corp. has a multibillion-dollar mobile hit called Fate/Grand Order. With 702,000 registered developers, Japan is home to one of the most creative developer communities. A recent study commissioned by Apple estimated the App Store ecosystem in Japan generated $37 billion in billings and sales in 2019 -- $11 billion in digital goods and services, $24 billion via physical goods and services, and $2 billion from in-app advertising. Read more on OUR FORUM.

Recently, it was discovered that Microsoft is no longer allowing consumers to disable Windows Defender antivirus tool via the Windows Registry. Microsoft originally remained tight-lighted on the changes made to Windows 10’s antivirus tool, but the company has now shared more details on the whole controversy. Microsoft again confirmed that it has retired ‘DisableAntiSpyware’ to prevent users from disabling Windows Defender via Windows Registry. However, Microsoft says it has retired the legacy option to disable the antivirus because it no longer makes any sense in the latest version of Defender. Windows Defender is designed to turn off automatically whenever users try to install another antivirus product, so it doesn’t really make sense to disable Windows 10’s built-in protection tool manually, according to Microsoft. ‘DisableAntiSpyware’ is designed only for IT pros and admins to disable the antivirus engine whenever they need to install their own security product. “The impact of the DisableAntiSpyware removal is limited to Windows 10 versions prior to 1903 using Microsoft Defender Antivirus. This change does not impact third party antivirus connections to the Windows Security app. Those will still work as expected,” Microsoft noted. By retiring this feature, Microsoft will also prevent attackers from turning off Windows Defender. A report suggests that Windows 10’s built-in antivirus software ‘Windows Defender’ has been updated with a new feature that could be abused by attackers to download malware from the internet. According to security researcher Askar, Windows Defender has been updated with a new command-line feature called “MpCmdRun.exe”, otherwise known as Microsoft Antimalware Service Command Line Utility. Security researcher Askar claims that these changes to the Windows Defender-powered command-line tool could be abused by attackers as a living-off-the-land binary (LOLBin). In other words, hackers can abuse these binaries and download any file from the internet, including malware. It also means that users will be able to use Windows Defender itself to download any file from the internet. This is unlikely to be a major security flaw as files are still checked by Windows Defender after you finish the download using the command-line tool. In theory, Windows Defender tool can’t be used to download any malware that could infect your system, but this is an odd change, and security researchers believe that it could be abused. Details are posted on OUR FORUM.

If you've kept on top of the latest Windows 10 developments, you may have spotted the Windows 10 VPN client's existence. It sounds super promising by its very name, suggesting you don't need a dedicated VPN solution, and you can simply flick it at any time you need the added protection and security. Dig a little deeper, however, and you may be disappointed by what the built-in VPN client means for you. While the built-in client is likely enough for some people, there will be others who are looking for more from it. Read on and we'll tell you everything you need to know about the Windows 10 VPN and whether it's worth using. You see the words 'VPN client,' and you think it'll solve all your VPN needs, right? Well, the Windows 10 VPN client isn't really a VPN service all of its own. Effectively, it's a desktop client that helps you connect to a third-party VPN network separately. Yup, it's a container basically. You'll still need to subscribe to a 'proper' VPN service to take advantage of the Windows 10 VPN client. This does mean that you won't need to download any additional software, which is something that will make some people happy. But, are the feature trade-offs worth it when you could just download the VPN's own client instead? Well, let's keep looking at what the Windows 10 client offers. Once you've hooked up your full VPN service with the Windows 10 VPN client, you might think it's plain sailing from now on. Unfortunately, there are some further restrictions. You have to set up a connection profile to use it, and each profile only has room for one server address and one connection protocol. If you like to switch between different servers regularly through your VPN, this immediately restricts your options unless you keep creating new profiles. We'll be blunt - the Windows 10 built-in VPN client isn't great for everyone. It needs a bit of technical knowledge as it asks you about protocol choices and other features that most VPN service clients don't bother asking anymore. They're far more intuitive and user-friendly than the Windows option. There's also the matter of needing to set up yet another client when you've already just signed up for a VPN service. It feels like an unnecessary step because it is. The Windows 10 VPN client is super rudimentary. It looks like one of the more technical sides of Windows when numerous VPN apps look more attractive. At their simplest, VPN service clients tend to include maps that help you pick what location server you want to connect to, but they also offer extra features that can be very useful. We've said many negative things about the Windows 10 built-in VPN client and for a good reason. For most users, it's simply pointless. If you've just signed up for a VPN service, it makes far more sense to use the VPN's dedicated app to connect and switch between servers. It's simpler to use, and you'll have the full wealth of features that the VPN offers made available to you. There is an exception to this rule, though. If you're technically minded and keen to avoid the potential bloat of having unnecessary apps installed, the Windows 10 VPN client does offer benefits. You don't need to install any extra apps to connect to your chosen VPN which is useful if you have limited space, or if your system is very low spec and needs all the help it can get to keep running smoothly. Complete details are posted on OUR FORUM.

Today we are excited to release a new build of the Windows Server vNext Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release that contains both the Desktop Experience and Server Core installation options for Datacenter and Standard editions. There are some features to look for such as UDP performance improvements — UDP is becoming a very popular protocol carrying more and more networking traffic. With the QUIC protocol built on top of UDP and the increasing popularity of RTP and custom (UDP) streaming and gaming protocols, it is time to bring the performance of UDP to a level on par with TCP. In Server vNext we include the game-changing UDP Segmentation Offload (USO). USO moves most of the work required to send UDP packets from the CPU to the NIC’s specialized hardware. Complimenting USO in Server vNext we include UDP Receive Side Coalescing (UDP RSC) which coalesces packets and reduces CPU usage for UDP processing. To go along with these two new enhancements, we have made hundreds of improvements to the UDP data path both transmit and receive. TCP performance improvements — Server vNext uses TCP HyStart++ to reduce packet loss during connection startup (especially in high-speed networks) and SendTracker + RACK to reduce Retransmit TimeOuts (RTO). These features are enabled in the transport stack by default and provide a smoother network data flow with better performance at high speeds. PktMon support in TCPIP — The cross-component network diagnostics tool for Windows now has TCPIP support providing visibility into the networking stack. PktMon can be used for packet capture, packet drop detection, packet filtering, and counting for virtualization scenarios, like container networking and SDN. You're also likely to see Improved RSC in the vSwitch. RSC in the vSwitch has been improved for better performance. First released in Windows Server 2019, Receive Segment Coalescing (RSC) in the vSwitch enables packets to be coalesced and processed as one larger segment upon entry in the virtual switch. This greatly reduces the CPU cycles consumed processing each byte (Cycles/byte). However, in its original form, once traffic exited the virtual switch, it would be re-segmented for travel across the VMBus. In Windows Server vNext, segments will remain coalesced across the entire data path until processed by the intended application. Now you can keep things together or apart. When moving a role, the affinity object ensures that it can be moved. The object also looks for other objects and verifies those as well, including disks, so you can have storage affinity with virtual machines (or Roles) and Cluster Shared Volumes (storage affinity) if desired. You can add roles to multiples such as Domain controllers, for example. You can set an AntiAffinity rule so that the DCS remains in a different fault domain. You can then set an affinity rule for each of the DCS to their specific CSV drive so they can stay together. If you have SQL Server VMs that need to be on each side with a specific DC, you can set an Affinity Rule of the same fault domain between each SQL and their respective DC. Because it is now a cluster object, if you were to try and move a SQL VM from one site to another, it checks all cluster objects associated with it. It seems there is a pairing with the DC in the same site. It then sees that DC has a rule and verifies it. It seems that DC cannot be in the same fault domain as the other DC, so the move is disallowed. BitLocker has been available for Failover Clustering for quite some time. The requirement was the cluster nodes must be all in the same domain as the BitLocker key is tied to the Cluster Name Object (CNO). However, for those clusters at the edge, workgroup clusters, and multidomain clusters, Active Directory may not be present. With no Active Directory, there is no CNO. These cluster scenarios had no data-at-rest security. Starting with this Windows Server Insiders, we introduced our own BitLocker key stored locally (encrypted) for the cluster to use. This additional key will only be created when the clustered drives are BitLocker protected after cluster creation. Complete details are posted on OUR FORUM.