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IT Networking News

Low-Latency Network To Connect London And HK

 by Sophie Curtis

gridnetwork

A high-speed fibre network between London and Hong Kong could help decrease financial trading times

Financial traders and law firms are set to benefit from a new low-latency network between London and Hong Kong, which can conduct data on a round trip from Europe to Asia in around 176 milliseconds.

The cable network, run by UK-based trading technology company BSO Network Solutions, has been in place for some time, but previously had to route around large parts of Russia, due to difficulties laying fibre in that country.

However, a new lower latency and higher availability ‘Transit Mongolia’ connection has helped to reduce the time of a round trip by more than 20 milliseconds during the last 12 months. Improvements have also been made at BSO’s Ancotel point-of-presence (POP) in Frankfurt and Mega-I POP in Hong Kong.

“These modifications and improvements to the BSO Network Solutions’ Backbone enable us to offer the fastest network from London to Hong Kong,” said Scott Ritchie, Managing Director of BSO Network Solutions, in a statement.

New ‘Transit Mongolia’ connection

Ritchie told eWEEK Europe that large sections of the network run through Russia and China, both of which have assets and infrastructure that is either only used for internal projects or is “protected” (ie. hidden) for historic or security reasons. Recently, however, Western companies have been gaining a better understanding of how existing assets can be used for commercial benefit.

“In this instance, the improvements were made through better utilisation of the existing infrastructure through the Western Sector of the cable system through Europe and more significantly we have been able to replace the Trans-Siberian Section by activating capacity on the Transit Mongolia Path,” said Ritchie (pictured).

“This not only improves our latency but also adds further resilience to our Backbone as our former path has not been decommissioned but is being used as further protection to the new Ultra-Low Latency long haul route,” he said.

The new super-fast connection could allow high-frequency traders and professional service specialists such as law firms to gain a competitive advantage by rapidly sending and receiving large volumes of data from Europe to Asia. BSO’s deployment over Ethernet and Virtual Private LAN Services (VPLS) also makes networks more stable and secure, the company claims.

According to Ritchie, the media industry could also benefit from low-latency networks, due to the increasing demand for content and digital distribution throughout the production phase.

“Latency is a tool for any network engineer in any industry. It is about the return that a company wants to generate,” said Ritchie. “As is so often the case, the Traders are the early adopters and they are really starting to reap the benefits, getting access to new markets, new customers and new revenue.

“In today’s economy I believe that getting access to these three things should be every company’s goal,” he added.

New transatlantic submarine cable

Last week it was announced that a new transatlantic submarine communications cable would be installed on the Atlantic seabed at a reported cost of $300 million (£189m). The high-speed fibre optic cable, known as the Hibernian Express, will eventually stretch to 3,741 miles (6,021km), as seabed survey work begins on the east coast of America.

The cable will offer sub 60ms latency, and it will connect financial traders in New York and London. The company behind the project, Hibernia Atlantic, said the cable would initially be lit with 40Gb technology, which could be upgraded to 100Gb technology in the future.

“Demand for low latency routes has grown exponentially over the past several years,” said Bjarni Thorvardarson, CEO of Hibernia Atlantic at the time. “Project Express will offer the lowest latency from New York to London and provide demanding customers the speed and accuracy they require.”

The technology is available to the market now and CommScope said the Amsterdam Internet Exchange is already using it to achieve greater performance.

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Healthcare IT Infrastructure News

CeBIT: Quarter Of Germans Happy To Have Chip Implants

The head of Germany’s main IT trade body told the audience at the opening ceremony of the CeBIT technology exhibition that one in four of his countrymen are happy to have a microchip inserted for ID purposes.

Professor August Wilhelm Scheer made the comments at an event this week to announce the start of the show which runs until Saturday in the German city of Hanover. With around 4000 companies from over 70 countries expected at the event, CeBIT continues to be the largest tech show in Europe according to its organisers.

As well as foretelling the imminent demise of the CD and DVD, Professor Scheer said that implanting chips into humans was going to become commonplace. “The speed of the development is not going to be reduced this decade,” he told an audience of tech execs and politicians including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Some developments can already be seen. CDs and DVDs are going to disappear as material sources of information. Wallpaper will be replaced by flat screens and many of us will have chips implanted beneath our skin by the end of next decade.

Rather than being based on pure speculation, Scheer said that his organistion BITKOM had actually conducted research which had shown that a quarter of Germans would be happy to have a chip implanted if it meant they could access services more easily.

“We just carried out a survey and one out of four people are happy to have a chip planted under their skin for very trivial uses for example to pass gates more quickly at a discotheque for example and to be able to pay for things more quickly in the supermarket,” said Scheer. “The wilingness of the population to accept our technology is certainly given.”

Tech implants are already gaining ground in the field of healthcare. Last August saw the first US implant of the Accent RF pacemaker. Combined with remote sensoring capabilities, the Accent allows doctors to more efficiently monitor patients, while patients enjoy the convenience of care from home.

As well as his predictions for more outlandish technologies, Scheer also made reference to the rise of cloud computing and the disruptive effect it was having on the software industry. “Cloud computing is something that is going to revolutionise the software industry and mix everything up,” he said. “That is forseeable already but there are going to be many surprises on top of that.”

Scheer also commented on Europe’s role as an innovator and user of technology but admitted that countries such as China and India were threatening to catch-up and even overtake. “We are the number four in Germany when it comes to be using of technology,” he said. “Europe by the way is the largest user and we are even ahead of Asia. But the Asian countries are of course going to catch-up.”

Green IT was one of the major focuses for the CeBIT event last year with around 2000 square meters given over to a dedicated Green IT World.

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News Security

ISOC: WikiLeaks Attacks Threaten Free Expression

 by Sophie Curtis

The Internet Society wants a legal solution to the WikiLeaks debacle, not DoS attacks and DNS alterations

The Internet Society has waded into the WikiLeaks debate, stating that the Internet needs free expression. Legal challenges, not DoS attacks, are the best way to deal with the whistleblowing site, said ISOC.

The news comes as Julian Assange (left), founder of WikiLeaks, is imprisoned in London facing rape charges, and has been refused bail on the grounds there was a risk he would escape.

WikiLeaks sparked a diplomatic crisis at the end of November by releasing more than 250,000 confidential cables from its embassies round the world. Along with Arab leaders urging strikes on Iran’s nuclear plants, and embarrassing assessments of foreign leaders, the massive leak shed new light on the incident in January, when Google was subject to hacking from within China.

The site was subsequently hit with a giant denial-of-service (DoS) attack and cut off the Internet by domain name service provider EveryDNS. The site’s administrators sought refuge in various locations around Europe – including the Swiss Pirate Party – and users can reach the wikileaks.org and cablegate.org sites if they bypass the DNS lookup, and type in their respective IP addresses.

Undermining integrity of the Internet

Despite the political outcry over the exposure of highly sensitive communications, the Internet Society says that attacks against WikiLeaks threaten free expression and non-discrimination, which are the founding principles of the Internet.

“Recognising the content of the wikileaks.org website is the subject of concern to a variety of individuals and nations, we nevertheless believe it must be subject to the same laws and policies of availability as all Internet sites,” said the Internet Society in a statement. “Free expression should not be restricted by governmental or private controls over computer hardware or software, telecommunications infrastructure, or other essential components of the Internet.”

ISOC said the continued availability of WikiLeaks shows the resilience of the Internet, and demonstrated that EveryDNS’ removal of a domain listing is an ineffective tool to suppress communication, merely serving to “undermine the integrity of the global Internet and its operation”.

“Unless and until appropriate laws are brought to bear to take the wikileaks.org domain down legally, technical solutions should be sought to re-establish its proper presence, and appropriate actions taken to pursue and prosecute entities (if any) that acted maliciously to take it off the air,” it said.

Operation Payback

Amid all the controversy, it was reported yesterday that the ‘Anonymous’ group of hackers are targeting companies perceived to be anti-WikiLeaks – such as PayPal and the Swiss bank PostFinance, which froze assets belonging to Julian Assange.

The group has an ongoing “Operation Payback” campaign against “anti-piracy groups” and have targeted Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America in the past, as well as the UK’s Intellectual Property Office.

According to security firm Imperva, supporters of the WikiLeaks campaign are knowingly infecting their machines to enable themselves to become part of the DDoS botnet.

“Operation Payback’s goal is not hacking for profit. In the classical external hacker case we see hackers grab information from wherever they can and monetise on it. In this case though, the hackers’ goal is to cripple a service, disrupt services, protest their cause and cause humiliation,” said Noa Bar Yosef, Senior Security Startegist at Imperva.

“The Operation Payback is recruiting people from within their own network. They are actually asking supporters to download the piece of code, the DDoSing malware itself that upon wake-up call the computer engages in the DoS. There is no victimised machine as the participants knowingly engage in what they call an act of defiance.”

Anonymous itself is now also suffering a DDoS attack for supporting the whistleblowing site.

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News

Amazon EC2 Underlies Kindle Tablet ‘Silk’ Browser

by Clint Boulton

A new browser called ‘Silk’ in Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet will use cloud power to speed content delivery

Amazon.com is using its cloud-based business computing platform to bolster its consumer electronics devices, equipping its new Kindle Fire tablet with a new mobile web browser called Silk.

Web browsing is a challenging task for today’s mobile browsers, as there is a lot of network latency for various page assets that require multiple requests.

Prioritisation

Amazon said a typical web page requires 80 files from 13 different domains. Couple that with the time the data traverses the network pipes and that confluence of processing activity bogs down web page rendering and adds seconds to page load times.

Silk uses a split browser paradigm that leverages Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2) web services cloud computing software. Silk lives on both the Kindle Fire and EC2 to boost the web page processing, using a complex prioritisation model to help resolve web content faster for users.

Anytime users browse the web on the Kindle Fire, they are tapping into Amazon’s cloud of thousands of servers and fat, network data pipes. Every time users click on a web page from the Fire, EC2 handles the rendering and provides it to the Fire on demand. Silk is a sort of limitless cache that doesn’t require data to reside on the Fire.

“Amazon Web Services has peering relationships with major Internet service providers, and many top sites are hosted on EC2,” Amazon explained. “This means that many web requests will never leave the extended infrastructure of AWS, reducing transit times to only a few milliseconds.”

While this seems easy enough in theory, there is a lot going on in the background, as the process takes into account network conditions, page complexity and cached content location. Amazon’s Silk team explained the process in more detail in this video.

Content services

The idea is to accelerate consumer access to Amazon’s array of content services, including Amazon Instant Video streaming movies and TV shows, Amazon Cloud Player streaming music service, Amazon’s Kindle bookstore and applications served from Amazon’s Android Appstore. The faster Amazon can speed users to their content of choice, the more content they can consume.

Moreover, Silk can improve with usage on the Kindle Fire. The browser tracks page characteristics by aggregating the results of millions of web pages that has loaded, and stores that information in the cloud on EC2 to accelerate content delivery. The browser also uses collaborate filtering to enable product recommendations.

Noting that split browser architecture is not new – Opera uses the same approach for its Mini mobile browser – IDC analyst Al Hilwa called Amazon’s strategy an “interesting spin on the me-too Android software we have seen so far, and possibly a game-changer.

“In one fell swoop Amazon harnesses its commanding lead in cloud services, the content richness of a leading online retailer and its successful Kindle business strategy to deliver what might become one of most effective antidotes to the mobile bandwidth crunch,” Hilwa told eWEEK.

Silk is currently exclusive to the Kindle Fire, which Amazon will begin selling on 15 November for $199.99 (£127). However, it is rumoured that Amazon has a 10-inch model in the pipeline to pump out to users if the 7-inch model sells well. Silk will clearly be part of that launch.

Categories
News

Researchers Invent Everlasting Battery Material

 by Tom Jowitt

Could the days of the humble lithium-ion battery be numbered thanks to the everlasting battery?

Researchers at Stanford University have revealed a new nanoparticle material which could be used to create everlasting batteries suitable for electrical grids.

According to the researchers, the material could be used for batteries that would be good for 30 years of useful life. The short lifetime of large batteries has been a major drawback limiting their use, but the new material could produce batteries that could undergo 100 times as many charging cycles as today’s batteries.

Breakthrough Performance

The researchers said they used nanoparticles of a copper compound to develop a high-power battery electrode that is inexpensive to make, rechargeable, very efficient and extremely durable.

The potential for this technology is exciting because it could solve one of the major problems associated with wind turbines and solar panels  – that power is only delivered with the sun shines or the wind blows. The super-battery would store power until it is needed.

The researchers have not yet built the revolutionary battery itself, but the crystalline copper-based nanoparticles would be a key component for its electrodes.

Apparently, in laboratory tests, the electrode survived a staggering 40,000 cycles of charging and discharging, after which it could still be charged to more than 80 percent of its original charge capacity. The average lithium ion battery in comparison can only handle about 400 charge/discharge cycles before it deteriorates too much to be of practical use.

“At a rate of several cycles per day, this electrode would have a good 30 years of useful life on the electrical grid,” said Colin Wessells, a graduate student in materials science and engineering who is the lead author of a paper describing the research, published in Nature Communications.

“That is a breakthrough performance – a battery that will keep running for tens of thousands of cycles and never fail,” said Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, who is Wessell’s adviser and a co-author of the paper.

How It Works

It seems that the electrode’s durability is down to the atomic structure of the crystalline copper hexacyanoferrate used to make it. These crystals apparently have an open framework that allows ions – those electrically charged particles whose movements en masse either charge or discharge a battery – to easily go in and out without damaging the electrode. Most batteries apparently fail or deteriorate because of accumulated damage to the crystal structure.

“Because the ions can move so freely, the electrode’s cycle of charging and discharging is extremely fast, which is important because the power you get out of a battery is proportional to how fast you can discharge the electrode,” the researchers said.

The researchers said that they had to use the right size ions to make use of the open framework, because too small they would stick to one side of an atom, and too big they could damage the crystal structure when they moved in and out of the electrode.

Apparently the right-sized ion turned out to be hydrated potassium, a much better fit compared with other hydrated ions such as sodium and lithium.

“It fits perfectly – really, really nicely,” said Cui. “Potassium will just zoom in and zoom out, so you can have an extremely high-power battery.”

Battery Developments

Meanwhile the race by researchers to improve the performance of batteries continues.

Back in March, a team of electrical engineers at Illinois University revealed they were developing a new type of battery that could extend the running time of mobile phones a hundredfold.

That battery uses carbon nanotubes, which are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, rather than traditional metal wires. According to the engineers, the energy consumption of a battery is proportional to the size of the components used to store and retrieve information, so smaller wires result in lower energy usage.

Other researchers from the University of Maryland have also been working to improve the capacity of lithium-ion batteries. Last year it was reported that a biological virus known as the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) could increase the surface area of electrodes in a battery, resulting in a ten-fold increase in energy capacity.

Meanwhile in September scientists at the University of Leeds invented a jelly lithium battery. The flexible polymer gel batteries can be shaped and bent to fit virtually any device and can be made just nanometres thick at a rate of ten metres per minute.

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Comment

The CRC: Not Yet A Premier League

 by Peter Judge

judgesquare
This year’s Energy Efficiency league table is just a friendly match, says Peter Judge. Next year it could be a fixture worth watching.

So Manchester United are top of the energy efficiency league. At the time of writing, the well-known football team also appears to be second in the Premier League.

The football tables may or may not be of interest to you, but the efficiency result is to me. The Environment Agency has published a list which ranks 2000 UK businesses according to their environmental performance in the first league table produced for the CRC energy Efficiency Scheme.

Tech firms did poorly in the league, with some hitting the bottom score of 402.  Meanwhile at the top (on 2092.5 points) came a couple of Government departments and British American Tobacco… and Manchester United.

That’s not the greatest endorsement of the quality of the list, I am afraid.

Selling and advertising products which burden the Health Service and kill people, lying about their effects for as long as you can, and then lobbying governments to continue doing so don’t strike me as very efficient activities.

On a lesser scale, Man Utd’s activity is essentially entertainment. To someone who is not interested it looks wasteful on every level, from players’ pay and the energy wasted in broadcasting matches, down to the price of replica kit.

It’s all about metering

More seriously though, what is the CRC league measuring?

The league is the last vestige of an originally very complicated scheme proposed by the Labour government, which would have given companies back money if they did well on efficiency. The payback is gone, leaving CRC as a “green tax” but the league remains as a “name-and-shame” device.

At this point, it is all about how well you are measuring your electricity use and whether you have been good and signed up to a scheme like the Carbon Trust standard.

The top 22 companies are metering all their electricity with half-hourly meters and have signed up to a Carbon measurement programme. Anyone who doesn’t do these things goes further down the list.

This is dressed up in quite a complex way. The amount of your power that is metered and whether you have signed up to a scheme get combined into an “early action metric”, which is then used as the basis for a “weighted score”.

In future this score will take into account how much your energy use has changed year on year, so companies have an incentive to be efficient. It will also include a “growth metric” which talks about carbon emissions per unit of turnover – so companies are not penalised for growing.

These future complications don’t apply in the first year. This year it is all about metering, and signing up to a scheme.

It’s disappointing to find tech firms aren’t very clued up on these issues, although we can hope they will do better in years to come – but we should be well aware that, this year, the results really don’t mean very much.

Anyone can meter their electricity and sign on with the Carbon Trust and go on killing the planet. And the companies that haven’t bothered yet, may turn out to be running very efficiently, thank you.

Give CRC a sporting chance

We can expect a storm of protest about the CRC of course. It will force companies to do the two things they hate most. Pay money, and secondly publish information about their workings.

Companies will have to pay more for their energy in effect, when they must buy credits. And they will have to keep publishing information in the CRC table in future years.

Already sworn enemies are lining up to criticise it. Network giant Cisco took the top spot last year in Greenpeace’s “Cool IT” leaderboard for green IT companies, but came in at number 537 on the CRC list. It says the league table doesn’t give people credit for reducing their carbon emissions by buying new (presumably Cisco) kit.

Friends of ours at second-hand network company Comtek got in touch to criticse the scheme for exactly the opposite reason. By not taking into account the embodied energy of new kit, it actually encourages wasteful purchases, says chief executive Askar Sheibani.

I’ll look into that argument in a future column.

For now though I’ll toast the future success of the CRC scheme, if it can survive the brutal kicking it will get from industry lobbyists, and the shaky support it will have from Conservative politicians.

Yes, companies will pay more for electricity. That is how we will be persuaded to use less.

And yes, companies will have to be more open about what they are doing. Even the environmental scientists found out the hard way that openness is good. Industrial players are used to playing their cards close to their chest and that will have to change.

So, this premier edition of the CRC league is really just a friendly match. In years to come, it will be a sporting fixture worth watching.

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News

Logitech Axes Google TV Efforts

 by Clint Boulton

Logitech has given up on its Google TV-based Revue device, after losing $100 million

Logitech chief executive Guerrino De Luca didn’t mince words in announcing that the peripherals maker was giving up on its Logitech Revue companion box, noting that the Google TV device cost the company more than $100 million (£62m) in operating profits.

Google TV is the search engine provider’s stab at combining elements of TV programming with web surfing, including the delivery of entertainment and gaming applications through set-top boxes such as the Revue. Logitech launched the Revue, powered by Google’s Android software and an Intel Atom chip, for $300 last October with high hopes of selling hundreds of thousands of the boxes for the Christmas season.

No traction

The Revue failed to gain traction as reviewers and early adopters found the system difficult to set up and the Google TV service itself too buggy. Logitech discounted the Revue to $99 this past July after the company confessed that returns of the box were greater than sales.

Partly due to this failure, Logitech lost $30 million in the first quarter and took a $34 million charge. Logitech’s board promptly fired then-chief executive Gerald Quindlen.

Logitech had been pretty hush-hush about the Revue since then until De Luca dropped the hammer on the ill-fated device during the company’s analyst day on 10 November. The company will no longer make the Revue boxes. While he conceded Google TV has great potential to “disrupt the living room”, Logitech made “a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature” with the Revue.

Specifically, he suggested the software wasn’t polished and that there wasn’t enough content to draw consumer interest. Google TV launched with Netflix and Amazon Instant Video applications, but most TV broadcast networks failed to provide content for the service. Google, for example, failed to get TV network-backed Hulu to support its TV project.

Google was also late rolling out its long-anticipated Google TV 2.0 Honeycomb upgrade, which features Android Market application support but didn’t arrive until late October.

“To make the long story short, we thought we had invented sliced bread, and we just made them,” De Luca said during the analyst day, according to transcription notes provided by Seeking Alpha. “We just built a lot because we expected everybody to line up for Christmas and buy these boxes for $300, and that was a big mistake.”

Prudent approach

He added that he was amenable to supporting Google TV in the future, but only once the service is established and with a smaller, more prudent approach.

What does this mean for Logitech Revue users? Google told eWEEK the Revue would still receive the Google TV 2.0 Honeycomb 3.1 upgrade that is currently rolling out to users of Sony Google TV systems.

“Logitech has been a good partner in the early days of Google TV, and the feedback from Revue users has been very important for the design of the new version of Google TV announced two weeks ago,” a Google spokesperson told eWEEK.

“We’re excited about new partnerships with new chipset vendors and new hardware manufacturers, which we will announce at a later date. These partnerships will help power the next generation of Google TV devices in 2012.”

One of those providers looks to be LG Electronics, which Bloomberg said would be launching a Google TV set at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in January.

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Legal News

UK Committee Suggests Libel Rules For Websites

 by Steve McCaskill

A parliamentary committee suggests websites should be required to remove anonymous libels

A joint Parliamentary committee has said that websites should have protection from defamation cases if they respond swiftly to allegedly libellous comments from anonymous posters.

It says that websites which identify authors and publish complaints alongside comments should get legal protection.

Hidden identity

The recommendation is part of a wider review into the UK’s defamation laws aimed at promoting free speech and reducing the “unacceptably” high costs of libel cases. Currently, websites are liable for defamatory statements made by their users and if they fail to remove a comment which prompts a complaint, they risk becoming the “primary publisher” of the statement.

The committee proposes a “notice and takedown procedure” whereby complaints are displayed alongside the offending comments and the complainant can then apply for a takedown order at a court, as long as the author is identified. If a website does not comply, then they should be treated as the publisher of the comment.

However anonymous comments should still be immediately removed from the website unless the author volunteers their identity. Conversely, websites can apply for a “leave-up” order if they believe an anonymous comment is on a matter of “significant” public interest.

Anonymity “discourages responsibility”

The committee has criticised anonymous comments saying that although they may “encourage free speech”, they “discourage responsibility” and hopes that such reforms would lead to a general recognition that such posts are unreliable.

However Mumsnet co-founder Justine Roberts told the BBC that many of its users rely on using user names as opposed to their real name as it provides them with the freedom to speak honestly about difficult subjects.

The site currently receives about ten complaints a month, a figure it fears would increase should the committee’s recommendations be enforced.

The Committee has also proposed the introduction of a “single publication rule” which would give potential claimants only one year from the allegedly defamatory material’s date of publication to launch libel action. Currently, this year-long window of opportunity restarts every time an article is downloaded or accessed from the internet.

The report is published amid a backdrop of an ongoing debate about libel laws in the UK. In May, the British High Court issued an injunction to Facebook and Twitter that prevented them from publishing damaging information online and in August, Atos Healthcare, the company responsible for doling out government incapacity benefit, began threatening legal action against websites and forums which aggregated patient’s experiences, accusing them of libel.

Categories
News

Rising Energy Costs Boost Power Management

 by Steve McCaskill

Savings made by businesses could increase five-fold by 2015

The market for server and computer power management software is likely to grow as the cost of energy increases, according to a report by Pike Research. The group believes that by employing such software solutions, companies will save $18.6 billion (£11.8bn) per year by 2015.

PCs and servers account for a large portion of information technology emissions, yet much of their power consumption is wasted. The majority of corporate computers are left on at weekends and as many as 80 per cent are left on overnight so IT departments can apply patches during that time.

Managing PC power – too much trouble?

Servers use 60 per cent of their maximum power while doing nothing at all and typically only run at around 15 percent utilisation. However PC power management tools are rarely employed because IT departments are not responsible for power costs.

“Using power management settings on a single PC could save 746 kWh of electricity in just a year, which translates into savings of almost $77. Yet, in 2010 only a little over one-fifth of users employed management settings effectively,” said Pike Research senior analyst Eric Woods in a statement.

However as energy prices continue to rise and demand for computing power increases, this is likely to change as savings are central to power management software’s appeal. In 2009 AT&T saved $13m (£8.2m) a year in energy use from power management.

But as a 2009 survey revealed, the majority of businesses were unaware of the benefits of power management technology and that user attitudes were driving the adoption of such schemes, not companies.

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News

Rats Causes Virgin Broadband Outage In Scotland

 by Tom Jowitt

Some Virgin Media customers in Scotland were briefly left without broadband when rats chewed cables

Virgin Media confirmed that some customers in Scotland experienced a broadband service outage earlier this week, after rats were found to have chewed through fibre optic cables.

Speaking to eWEEK Europe, a Virgin Media spokesperson confirmed that its services went offline for a couple of hours on Monday and then again on Tuesday. “Full service was resorted on Tuesday evening and customers are no longer affected,” said the spokesperson.

Dietary Fibre?

“We’re aware that a number of customers in the Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and Leven areas may have experienced intermittent loss of their Virgin Media services from Monday morning until Tuesday evening,” said Virgin Media in a statement.

“The loss of service was due to rodent damage to some underground cabling,” it said. “On Monday morning our engineers were on site as soon as possible and worked at the highest priority to repair the damage, with service restored early evening on Monday.”

However it seems that the pesky rodents were not finished with just one snack upon the ‘tasty’ fibre optic cables, but also opted for dessert the next day.

“Further damage was incurred on Tuesday afternoon and our engineers returned to repair the damage,” said Virgin Media. “We’ve now put additional measures in place to prevent further damage to our cables to avoid further disruption for our customers. We’re extremely sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

It is thought that at least 100 customers were affected by the cable damage caused by the rat attack, which must be an inherent risk when your cabling infrastructure is based in underground ducts.

However it is worth remembering that this Virgin Media outage is nowhere near the scale of the recent outage experienced by thousands of BT customers. A major power failure at a BT exchange in Birmingham was blamed for causing connectivity problems for broadband  customers across the UK.

Business Growth

Meanwhile Virgin Media Business has published research that shows that investment in internet technologies does help businesses drive growth – presumably so long as rats arekep ta bay.

The research revealed that over two thirds of British companies believe that advances in technology are vital to the success of their business.

The Virgin Media Business study was compiled after a survey of 5,000 UK businesses. It found that cloud computing and e-Commerce technologies are the most valued, with 32 percent citing cloud computing investments as significantly benefitting their company. This was closely followed by e-Commerce solutions, at 27 percent.

The study also found that more and more staff are demanding to use their own devices (smartphones etc) in the workplace. Virgin Media said that this worker demand for consumer gadgets in the workplace has now reached a tipping point, going from nice-to-have to must-have.

The study found that 70 percent of smartphone owners would rather give up alcohol than be without their phone.

And it seems as though businesses are taking this demand in hand, with 23 percent letting staff members choose whatever kind of device will suit them best for work.

“With more organisations embracing new technologies, the business world is clearly showing it’s open to change,” said Virgin Media Business’ director, corporate sector, Andy Marshall. “New technologies such as cloud computing are helping smaller players to compete on the same stage as massive corporates because of economies of scale.”

Marshall said that computing cloud also helps businesses become far more responsive, besides the usual cost benefits.

“This can help companies to make huge productivity gains, with workers being able to access corporate information on the go, or by working from home, which has been proven to improve morale by addressing employee’s work and life balance,” said Marshall.