Categories
Computing

Best 2-in-1 laptop deals: Get a tablet hybrid from $349

If you haven’t been shopping for a new laptop in awhile and want to make the switch to a 2-in-1, there’s never been a better time. These versatile laptop/tablet convertibles have become hugely popular in recent years, and you have a ton of great options to choose from (many of which are very affordable, as well). The market for 2-in-1s has grown a lot lately, and today it contains pretty much everything from dirt cheap Chromebooks to cutting-edge ultrabooks packing powerful hardware and features like 4K displays. The good news is that if you’re in the market for one, there are always great 2-in-1 laptop deals to be had, and we’re here to help you find them. Below, we’ve got all the best 2-in-1 laptop deals available this month.

Today’s best 2-in-1 laptop deals

  • $349, was $480
  • $420, was $680
  • $500, was $800
  • $600, was $930
  • $800, was $1,200

Asus VivoBook Flip 14 — $349, was $480

Asus

Why Buy

  • 14-inch Full HD touchscreen
  • Good battery life
  • Can charge via USB-C
  • Quiet design

The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 aims to elevate the 2-in-1 laptop experience without moving beyond an affordable price range. It’s powered by an 11th-gen Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM, with the output displayed on the device’s 14-inch Full HD touchscreen. As you switch between laptop mode and tablet mode, this 2-in-1 will be able to adapt to what you need — laptop mode if you need to type up a document, tablet mode for browsing the internet, and tent mode so that you can watch streaming content at a comfortable angle.

The 2-in-1 laptop comes with a 128GB SSD with Windows 10 in S Mode pre-installed, and it promises a battery life that can last the whole day on a single charge. If the battery gets depleted, you can charge it via AC outlet or the USB-C port, so you don’t need to hunt around for a power outlet just to finish a task that was interrupted by a low battery.

Another advantage of going with this 2-in-1 is that it runs quietly, mitigating annoying noise that many laptops can make when trying to keep up with a demanding workload. The 2-in-1 laptop also features a webcam and integrated mic, allowing you to make video calls, sit in on video conferences, take online classes, and so on.

HP Chromebook x2 11 — $420, was $680

HP Chromebook x2 11 sitting on table top (front view).
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why Buy

  • Chrome OS offers snappy performance
  • Tons of available apps
  • Stylus pen included
  • Detachable keyboard allows for true tablet experience

Shoppers on a tight budget are recommended to pivot to the best Chromebooks, many of which can also come in a 2-in-1 laptop form factor like the HP Chromebook x2. This Chromebook is powered by Google’s Chrome OS, which relies heavily on the cloud so it’s light on resources and easy on storage. You’ll enjoy quick startups and snappy performance even with basic hardware if you go for a Chromebook, as its dependence on web-based apps instead of installed software translates to low overhead. That goes for this Chrome OS 2-in-1, which might not look powerful on paper but is a perfectly reliable device for everyday tasks.

This convertible Chromebook is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 8GB of RAM, which makes it more than capable of handling everyday functions such as browsing the internet, typing documents, and streaming content. It comes with 128GB of eMMC flash storage, which you won’t use much since you can easily rely on the cloud, and the front-facing 5MP camera can be used for things like selfies, video calls, conferences, and online classes. There’s a rear-facing camera for snapping regular photos, too.

Like the best 2-in-1 laptops, this Chromebook can be used in laptop mode for easy typing or in tablet mode with the keyboard fully detached. At the center of these different forms is the device’s 11-inch edge-to-edge touchscreen, which is supported by stereo speakers that are custom-tuned by experts from Bang & Olufsen for a complete multimedia experience.

Lenovo Yoga 6 13 — $500, was $800

Lenovo Yoga 6 laptop view.
Lenovo Yoga 6

Why Buy

  • 13.3-inch 1200p touchscreen
  • 16:10 aspect ratio
  • Multiple ports
  • Solid specs for productivity

The Lenovo Yoga 6 13 2-in-1 laptop combines flexibility with durability, with a hinge that’s smooth enough to easily switch among laptop, tent, media, and tablet modes, but stiff enough to keep the screen steady in the form that you choose. The 2-in-1 laptop features a 13.3-inch 1200p 16:10 touchscreen that combines with dual speakers and audio tuned with Dolby Atmos to make it a complete entertainment device, perfect for catching up on your favorite streaming shows or movies.

With up to 17 hours of juice, you don’t have to worry to much about the battery of this laptop running out when you’re in the middle of a task or a download. For compatibility with most of the computing accessories that you’ve accumulated, the 2-in-1 laptop comes with multiple connection ports including USB Type-A, USB Type-C, and HDMI.

Inside the laptop are an AMD Ryzen 5 processor and 8GB of RAM, which is the sweet spot for most users according to our laptop buying guide. The device also comes with a 256GB SSD for storage, which should be more than enough space to install your essential software and safeguard your important documents. It comes with Windows 11 pre-installed, as well as a 720p HD camera with integrated digital microphone so that you can properly participate in virtual meetings.

Micoroft Surface Pro 7+ — $600, was $930

Student using Microsoft Surface Pro 7 on a table with a Type Cover.

Why Buy

  • Tablet design with 2-in-1 form factor
  • All-day battery life
  • Detachable keyboard
  • 12.3-inch 3:2 touchscreen is great

If you’re looking for a tablet that can easily pull double duty as a laptop, look no further than the Surface Pro 7+. It’s able to handle even the most demanding tasks at work with its 1th-gen Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and integrated Intel Graphics. (You can upgrade to a Core i5 CPU for $100 more.) If you’re always moving, you won’t have a problem with this 2-in-1 laptop, as it promises a full workday’s worth of battery life on a single charge plus rapid charge technology that can restore most of the juice after just half an hour of being plugged in.

There’s no downtime with this 2-in-1, either, as its always-on responsiveness can get the device to wake up and start browsing the internet in mere seconds. It’s perfect for the creative types, too, as you can purchase a stylus pen, which you can stick right to the side of the tablet housing via a powerful magnet when you’re not using it.

The Surface Pro 7+ features a 12.3-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio that makes the display feel much larger than it is, and its 2,736 x 1,824 resolution delivers a great experience when you’re watching streaming content or even doing a little light gaming during your down time. This 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrid also comes with a built-in webcam and microphone for taking online calls.

Asus Zenbook Flip 15 — $800, was $1,200

The ASUS ZenBook Flip 15 Q528EH.

Why Buy

  • Stable 360-degree hinge
  • Fast Core i7 processor
  • Dedicated graphics card
  • Built-in Amazon Alexa

With the Zenbook Flip 15, transforming between its laptop mode and tablet mode is easy with a 360-degree hinge that offers stability, while the 2-in-1 laptop feels great in your hands thanks to its sleek edges. For those who love to multitask between several programs at a time, this device won’t disappoint, as it’s powered by a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics. You shouldn’t experience crashes and slowdowns even while you switch between the apps that you’re running, and this thing can even handle some gaming.

The laptop features a 15.6-inch 1080p touchscreen with minimal bezels which is easy on the eyes while you work or study. The hardware combines with built-in Amazon Alexa AI assistant so that the laptop can function as a smart device, which is perfect for performing searches, asking questions, setting reminders, shopping online, and more with just your voice.

Other features of this 2-in-1 laptop Wi-Fi 6 for the latest in wireless internet performance, Bluetooth connectivity, a backlit keyboard for when you’re whiling away the evening hours, and up to 10 hours of battery life for a full day’s work. It also comes loaded with the latest Windows 11 operating system.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Computing

AMD Zen 4D Could Use Hybrid Design to Rival Intel Alder Lake

YouTuber and leaker Moore’s Law is Dead revealed new information regarding AMD’s future architecture plans. According to leaks, AMD is working on a “dense” version of Zen 4 called Zen 4D. Zen 4D is basically a fork of Zen 4 that strips out features and reduces clock speeds.

It will also feature a newly designed cache system. All of this is to slightly reduce single-core performance in exchange for greatly increased multi-core performance. This would also allow AMD to increase the chip density, hence the “D” in the name.

If the leaks are true, it seems the company may be creating its own hybrid architecture to compete with the success of Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake chips. This follows in the footsteps of both Intel and Apple, who have utilized similar architectures in their respective CPU designs.

These Zen 4D processors would have about half the L3 cache of regular Zen 4 and feature 16 cores per chiplet. Moore’s Law is Dead stated that Zen 4D is expected to have simultaneous multithreading (SMT), but they couldn’t be 100% certain. He was also uncertain if Zen 4D would support AVX-512 but did confirm that Bergamo, AMD’s 128-core server-grade EPYC CPU slated for second quarter 2023, would feature the new architecture.

The new architecture for Zen 5 was also leaked, and this is by far the most interesting news. The leaks suggest that Zen 5 will be AMD’s first hybrid processor architecture. It would use eight Zen 5 “big” cores and up to 16 Zen 4D “little” cores. Zen 5 is also rumored to be codenamed Granite Ridge and based on the Ryzen 8000 series processors built on TSMC’s ridiculously tiny 3nm process.

As we’ve seen with Intel’s Alder Lake chips and Apple’s M1 Pro/Max CPUs, the hybrid approach can offer huge performance increases. It makes sense that AMD would architecture their chips in a similar manner, as Zen 5 could offer a 20-25% IPC increase over Zen 4. The problem is that Zen 5 is still a few years out, and Alder Lake currently outperforms AMD’s best consumer chips.

Editors’ Choice




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AI

Cisco launches new AI-powered and hybrid event features for Webex

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Cisco today unveiled updates across its Webex portfolio of communications products, including an integrated asynchronous camera feature, AI-powered sound, video enhancements, and a management service for hybrid in-person and virtual events. The company’s upgrades are designed to power events and meetings “at scale” while maintaining interoperability with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and other third-party meeting platforms.

Headwinds from the pandemic have driven the value of the global videoconferencing market in 2021 to an estimated $6.03 billion. Sixty percent of respondents to an Owl Labs survey reported participating in video meetings more often in 2020 than in 2019, a bigger rise than other workplace staples like email saw year-over-year. Dovetailing with this, hybrid events are expected to continue to have a presence in work life, with 79% of companies expecting to host events that include a virtual attendance option, according to Martech.

“Technology has many powers, and the greatest of all is its ability to connect people and level the playing field for so many across the globe,” Cisco security and collaboration executive VP and general manager Jeetu Patel said in a statement. “Our new Webex innovations mark a significant step forward in helping our customers unlock the potential of their hybrid workforce — enabling them to collaborate in new ways and drive [an] inclusive experience.”

AI and hybrid work

Cisco is rolling out “AI-powered audio intelligence” in Webex, leveraging an AI algorithm to optimize all participants’ voices during meetings. The setting equalizes voices regardless of how close they’re to their devices, automatically differentiating intended speech from background noise.

Another AI-powered feature, People Focus, will be available in December. It will provide “better clarity” and “optimized visuals” of in-room attendees’ facial gestures and body language, Cisco says. Additional camera-related enhancements coming in early 2022 will further improve the interface in meeting rooms, including showing conference room participants in individual boxes on-screen — regardless of which meeting platform they use.

In related news, Webex Assistant, Cisco’s virtual meeting tool, now supports French, German, Spanish, and Japanese in addition to English. In August, it gained the ability to translate closed captions from English into more than 100 languages with a paid add-on. And starting this week, developers can work with partners to design custom commands for Webex Assistant running on Cisco’s Webex devices such as desktop cameras, headsets, and conference room phones.

Vidcast, an asynchronous communication service, also joins the list of new Webex features. Currently in beta at Vidcast.io ahead of integration with the Webex App in Spring 2022, it provides the ability to record, watch, comment, and react to meeting clips on-demand.

Meanwhile, Webex’s new Whiteboarding tool enables users to create, find, edit, and share whiteboards with anybody, not excluding people outside their organization. Users can annotate using any device — mobile, tablet, laptop — in addition to Webex devices.

Webex also now features Collaboration Insights, offering personalized details like the top ten people a user collaborates with weekly, new colleague titles, and more. Two complementary capabilities — Well-being and Cohesion — in the previously announced People Insights tab give teams a view into anonymous work time patterns, sentiment ratings, and focus time goals. Exclusively for Webex Suite customers, there’s Thrive Reset, a collection of wellness topics, and a gallery where users can upload photos. It’s based on research showing that it takes 60 to 90 seconds to course-correct from stress, Cisco says, and designed to help users “focus on breathing, reflect on what they’re grateful for, reframe problems, or simply stand up and stretch.”

“[W]hen we provide insights … to an individual, the individual owns the data, not the organization because we don’t believe that without your explicit permission, you’d want to have your boss see that,” Patel told VentureBeat in a previous interview regarding Webex’s new monitoring features. “Engagement should not be measured based on having a judgment on someone saying, ‘I’m judging that you look sad, and therefore I’m going to do certain things’ … at that point in time, in my mind, you could cross a boundary where there’s more bad that can come out of that than good … There’s a fine line between ‘This is super productive’ and ‘We can’t do this because it violates my privacy, or it’s just outright creepy.’”

Events, integrations, and devices

Following Cisco’s acquisitions of Socio Labs and Slido earlier this year, the company unveiled an expanded Webex Events product targeting enterprises hosting hybrid events. Management capabilities spanning badging and printing for ticketing, monetization, and networking are available, and customers can now host events via Webex Webinars with Slido’s polling, quizzing, and Q&A technology up to 10,000 attendees (in webinar mode) or 100,000 (in webcast mode) in size.

Today, Cisco also announced its 60-plus new partner integrations to Webex including Smartsheet, Hacker Rank, Thrive Reset, Miro, and Mural.

Against this backdrop, new Webex devices are coming to market — among them the Webex Desk Mini. The Webex Desk Mini, which comes in a range of colors, features a 15.6-inch, 1080p interactive display; a 64-degree HD camera; a full-range speaker; and a background noise removal mic array. Meanwhile, the new Webex Board Pro sports dual 4K cameras, directional audio, two active styluses, and a choice of a 55- or 75-inch display.

Webex Desk Mini will be available to order in early 2022 for $1,695. Existing Webex enterprise customers will receive the “cloud promo” price of $999. The Webex Board Pro will launch in available in November, priced at $11,995 (55 inches) and $19,995 (75 inches).

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AI

IBM acquires Bluetab to expand hybrid cloud service offerings

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A week after snatching up startup BoxBoat, IBM today announced another acquisition to expand its portfolio of data, cloud, and analytics services. With Bluetab, IBM aims to further advance its hybrid cloud and AI strategy across Europe, Latin America, and North America.

Organizations have turned to the cloud for flexibility as they look to support digital transformation. IDG reports that the average cloud budget is up from $1.62 million in 2016 to a whopping $2.2 million today. Moreover, despite the pandemic, the market for data services continues to grow both in revenue and size. Gartner forecasted the worldwide data and analytics services market at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 14.6%, reaching $232 billion by 2024.

An enterprise software and services company with offices in the U.K., Mexico, and Spain, Bluetab, which was founded in 2005, offers products designed to help enterprises adopt hybrid multicloud data platforms. The startup’s Truedat open source data governance tool ostensibly lets enterprises become more data-driven, while its Fastcapture service uses AI to automatically classify documents and extract relevant information from them.

Bluetab

“The key to solving data challenges for our clients has been the exceptionally talented and experienced team we have been able to build as well as the value-added accelerators we have developed,” Bluetab cofounder José Luis López said in a press release. “We could not be more excited by the opportunity that IBM offers us to continue to grow our team, to build on our accelerators, and to help more clients achieve leadership positions by leveraging their data.”

IBM SVP Mark Foster says that Bluetab’s over 700 data experts will eventually join IBM’s Global Business Services (GBS) unit, where they’ll leverage relationships in the banking, telecom, energy, and utilities industries. It’s a part of IBM’s wider effort to capitalize on a hybrid cloud market opportunity that some analysts say represents $1 trillion in value.

“The outside-in digital transformation of the past is giving way to the inside-out potential of using company-owned data with AI and automation to generate business value and create intelligent workflows,” Foster said in a statement. “Our acquisition of Bluetab will fuel migration to the cloud and help our clients to realize even more value from their mission-critical data.”

Continued growth

Since Arvind Krishna took over as IBM chairman last year, he’s spearheaded a remaking of the company, focusing on revenue growth and investing in cloud and AI technologies. Over the past five quarters, IBM spent more than $1.7 billion on 12 acquisitions — a strategy that’s paid dividends. For every dollar of platform spend, clients spend $3 to $5 in software and $6 to $8 in services, according to IBM.

IBM’s GBS is a profitable enterprise in its own right, with approximately $6 billion revenue in the cloud consulting services market in 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, GBS doubled the number of Red Hat client engagements from the prior year to over 150. And to date, IBM says it’s signed $2 billion of business from its Red Hat practice.

IBM declined to disclose financials details of the Bluetab acquisition. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, but the companies expect it to close in Q3 2021.

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Tech News

GE and Safran’s hybrid engine plans could ground the guilt over air travel

A new aircraft engine design that could potentially cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20-percent is being developed, with GE Aviation and Safran suggesting the CFM RISE program could result in more frugal transportation by the mid-2030s. The new “Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines” program is also aiming to develop powertrain options for aircraft that support alternative fuels, as well as hybrid-electric operation.

The two companies are no strangers. The CFM collaboration began back in 1974, a 50/50 joint venture between GE Aviation and Safran. It’s now been extended to 2050, and credited with already cutting emissions by 15-percent in the existing LEAP engine compared to previous-generation aircraft engines.

RISE, though, will take things even further. It’ll form the basis of a new CFM engine design which the two companies hope to have ready for commercial deployment by the mid-2030s. As well as cutting fuel consumption and trimming CO2 emissions, it’ll have to be completely compatible with hydrogen and Sustainable Aviation Fuels.

“Central to the program is state-of-the-art propulsive efficiency for the engine, including developing an open fan architecture,” GE said today of the agreement. “This is a key enabler to achieving significantly improved fuel efficiency while delivering the same speed and cabin experience as current single-aisle aircraft. The program will also use hybrid electric capability to optimize engine efficiency while enabling electrification of many aircraft systems.”

There won’t be any one, individual component responsible for that sort of overall improvement and flexibility, of course. Instead, the joint GE/Safran engineering team is looking to everything from composite fan blades, heat resistant metal alloys, ceramic matrix composites (CMCs), hybrid electric capability, and additive manufacturing. In total, there’ll be more than 300 different component, module, and full engine builds.

It won’t be until the middle of the decade, or thereabouts, before a demonstrator engine is ready for testing. Flight testing, though, should come soon after that.

The aviation industry is targeting a 50-percent reduction in net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, relative to the levels in 2005. It’s not just about the engines’ inherent fuel consumption, mind, with GE also focusing on things like easier ways to clean engines and thus make them more efficient, as well as 3D printing key components. The GE9X engine in the Boeing 777X, for example, already includes more than 300 3D printed components using additive manufacturing.

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Tech News

Molecule Hybrid Mattress Review – Sleeping Your Way to Wellness

It’s probably safe to say that the past year or so has been particularly stressful for almost everyone around the world. People have different ways of coping with stress but, more often than not, most of those strategies involve more activity, healthy or unhealthy foods, binging on entertainment, and a general lack of sleep. Sleep often gets sacrificed in today’s activity-obsessed world but, as athletes would tell you, it is also the key to actually being more active. Quality sleep isn’t actually easy to achieve and that is what Molecule’s newest Hybrid Mattress promises to deliver by combining the best of two worlds.

Craftsmanship

If the first impression you get from seeing the Molecule Hybrid Mattress is that it’s huge, you wouldn’t be alone. Then again, if you’re used to top-tier quality mattresses, especially from Molecule’s selection, this wouldn’t come as a surprise anymore. Of course, it’s not all foam or coils inside but somewhat of both, making up part of the Hybrid Mattress’ seven advanced layers that we’ll go into more detail later.

The quality and durability of the mattress are definitely top-notch. In its FAQ, Molecule even boasts it doesn’t have any weight restrictions or limits, making the mattress fit for anyone. That does come with a rather large amount of heft that will make it harder to turn the mattress around to even out the wear. Good thing you’re not supposed to flip it over since the Hybrid Mattress’s layers don’t work in reverse.

The top of the mattress is actually whether the magic starts, where Molecule’s quilted top wicks away heat from your body for a more comfortable sleep. At the same time, it serves as a comfortable and luxurious surface to sleep directly on with no need for any covers or pads in between. In fact, Molecule cautions using other materials to cover that surface as it may actually impede proper airflow and nullify the mattress’s effects.

A word has to be said about where and how Molecule makes the Hybrid Mattress. The foam it uses is made in the US, which is important not just because of the origin of the material but because of how it reduces the carbon footprint involved in shipping materials internationally. The company also boasts of its Variable Pressure Foaming method that not only reduces emissions by 97& but also removes the need to “air-out” the mattress before using them.

Technology

It’s easy enough to take sleep for granted and think that it’s just a matter of lying down horizontally on any surface and falling unconscious. There is, however, a large body of research and science dedicated just to studying sleep in order to gain the most benefits from this phase of regeneration for our bodies. That’s the very same science that Molecule applies in order to offer the best sleep that money can buy.

As we covered in our previous review of Molecule’s earlier mattress model, one of the secrets to sleeping comfortably and effectively lies in your own body temperature. Regardless of what climate you’re used to, you will find it hard to sleep if your body temperature is higher than normal. The trick, then, is to cool down your body by making airflow better beneath your body.

That’s what most of the Molecule Hybrid Mattress’ seven layers do, which definitely justifies its thickness. While the top cover wicks away heat from the body, the layers underneath let the air flow more easily compared to traditional foam. This is thanks in particular to the company’s AirTec foam that uses a matrix of open cells to let air through more easily.

Comfort

This isn’t Molecule’s first advanced mattress, of course, and it even just its second. While the Molecule 1 that we reviewed three years ago delivered on its promise, we also found it to be too soft for our tastes. Apparently, a lot did as well, making Molecule come up with this new product.

What’s completely new to the Hybrid Mattress is the MoleculeEdge coil system. This 6-inch layer is composed of individually wrapped coils to provide ample support to the body. It also has enhanced edge support so that you don’t just fall off when sitting or lying at the edge of the mattress.

In practice, all of these work together to deliver the elements for your best sleep. Comfortable materials, well-ventilated layers, and proper body support help condition the body for a good night’s sleep. Of course, it isn’t just about feeling good, which is actually the by-product of a well-rested body. It is more about putting the body in the proper condition to recuperate and recover from all the physical and mental stresses of the day.

Wrap-up

The Molecule Hybrid Mattress, without a doubt, delivers on its promise. It improves on earlier mattresses by adding a thick layer of support to help relieve pressure and keep you from falling off the edges.

It doesn’t come without its price, though, both figurative and literal. The queen-sized mattress we reviewed, for example, easily costs $1,899. Molecule does have a rather generous “100 Nights” return policy if you don’t get the sleep you’ve been promised. When it comes to your health, though, you don’t skimp on the essentials and nothing can be more essential to health than a good sleep.

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AI

AI, cyber terrain analytics improve hybrid multicloud security

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Typical hybrid cloud IT integration strategies have fundamental design flaws that CIOs and CISOs need to address if they’re going to avert another attack on the scale of SolarWinds. The design flaws are evident in existing approaches to integrating public and private clouds with legacy systems. Inconsistent endpoint security and privileged access management has turned out to be highly penetrable and painfully lacking.

The first two articles in this series explain how getting hybrid cloud security right is hard and how the SolarWinds hack exposed hybrid clouds’ greatest weaknesses. This post lays out an approach to solve hybrid cloud security challenges today.

Finding security gaps with network maps

The best first step to improving hybrid cloud security is to gain an accurate, real-time view of every public, private, and community cloud and its integrations into legacy systems. The goal is to gain greater visibility and control across the entire network by continually capturing data on network activity down to the endpoint. Applying machine learning algorithms and cyber terrain analysis to the data uncovers security gaps hidden in data logs or points to openings where data is not captured at all.

Network mapping strategy must focus on quantifying how data moves within and between hybrid platforms. Hidden in the terabytes of data that hybrid clouds generate are indicators of potential vulnerabilities, and — in worst cases — anomalous activity indicating a breach attempt.

Comprehensive network maps that range down to the IP address level, combined with a network’s activity data, can identify potential security gaps. A data-centric approach based on real-time monitoring of a hybrid cloud network identifies the most vulnerable systems, network connections, and endpoints.

Real-time network monitoring also proves more effective than unifying the completely different monitoring approaches every public cloud platform has. Please don’t believe the hype from cloud platform providers that claim to support visibility across third-party cloud platforms and secure a hybrid cloud configuration. It’s best to take an impartial, independent strategy when it comes to network mapping a hybrid cloud configuration, ideally choosing a monitoring platform that delivers real-time data monitoring too.

Look for these core areas of expertise when evaluating hybrid cloud mapping and security analysis platforms.

First, understand that, at a minimum, any cyber risk modeling platform needs to identify and isolate device endpoint vulnerabilities at the physical level of the work. It’s essential that a mapping platform supports this, because the telemetry data this generates is the foundation for creating an accurate network map.

Second, networking mapping platforms need to identify if each endpoint is up to date when it comes to patch management, where the endpoint is in the configuration structure of the hybrid cloud network, and what the potential vulnerabilities are, down to the level of the operating system and endpoint security patches.

Third, an effective network mapping platform can track each device down to the IP address, providing contextual intelligence and locational data.

Fourth, any network mapping platform needs to excel at visualization and provide insightful analysis at a graphical level to identify potential security anomalies and actual breach activity.

Useful in understanding this is the following example of how RedSeal’s cyber risk modeling software for hybrid cloud environments works. Cisco has standardized on this approach to identify security gaps in their hybrid cloud strategies and optimize hybrid cloud network performance.

Real-time monitoring with visualization from RedSeal

Above: Combining real-time monitoring with visualization is key to finding security gaps in hybrid cloud networks.

Image Credit: RedSeal

Machine learning identifies network vulnerabilities

Machine learning models are proving effective at identifying security gaps in hybrid cloud networks. That’s being accomplished by combining supervised and unsupervised algorithms to identify anomalies and create new predictive models based on results. The value of having real-time monitoring data obtained from network mapping starts to pay off when risk and threat correlation engines provide terrain mapping data and visualizations of a hybrid cloud network. Flaws, gaps, overlooked security configurations, and potential breach attempts are faster to find and remediate using machine learning analysis and visualization techniques.

Machine learning’s impact on hybrid cloud network mapping and vulnerability assessment has led some to create threat reference libraries. These compare configurations using threat correlation engines. By capitalizing on the insights gained from supervised machine learning models continually learning based on real-time data monitoring, threat correlation engines prove to be accurate in identifying breach attempts and anomalous activity. For organizations pursuing a hybrid cloud infrastructure strategy to support new businesses and services, that’s welcome news.

Paralleling the development of correlation engines are risk engines that capitalize on the data captured from real-time network monitoring. Risk engines use advanced predictive analytics to calculate the relative risk levels posed by unique combinations of hosts. By employing algorithms to cycle through multiple scenarios involving randomized hosts, these risk engines identify the most critical vulnerabilities. From there, risk scores define a prioritized list of vulnerabilities that need security teams’ immediate attention.

Cyber terrain analytics combines risk and threat correlation engines’ results, continually refining them using real-time network monitoring data. Over time, machine learning algorithms supporting the two engines fine-tune terrain analytics to quantify how resilient a hybrid cloud network is while also identifying vulnerabilities. The approach is proving effective in identifying threats in real time and taking action to thwart breach attempts in hybrid cloud configurations that would otherwise go undetected. Terrain analytics effectively model or simulate threat scenarios, providing invaluable data to organizations focused on hardening their hybrid cloud configurations.

RedSeal's cloud dashboard

Above: Cyber terrain analytics provide a real-time assessment of hybrid cloud resilience levels by combining insights gained from machine learning-based risk and threat correlation engines.

Image Credit: RedSeal

Answers lurk in the real-time data streams

Hybrid clouds’ greatest security weaknesses haven’t been discovered yet. That’s because they’re being managed for the most part with security techniques and tools that are decades old and were made for a time when business models were much simpler.

Today we need a more data-centric approach to security for hybrid cloud infrastructure, one that combines the best of what data governance can provide with the latest machine learning technologies for identifying and acting on vulnerabilities.

The answers to how to improve hybrid cloud security are hidden in the real-time data streams these platforms produce as they operate and interact with both valid internal users and bad actors attempting to breach the system. Creating a contextual intelligence, along with a real-time view of all hybrid cloud activity, is where it needs to start.

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Tech News

Lenovo Go accessory brand launched for hybrid work arrangements

Last year saw many office workers find themselves working mostly from home. Even as restrictions get lifted, however, some businesses have embraced arrangements that have employees working remotely most or some of the time. This kind of hybrid workspaces and arrangements also require more flexible tools to keep up with ever-changing situations. That’s why Lenovo is now launching a new brand of accessories designed exactly for that but, of course, these Lenovo Go products are pretty much just new faces in an already saturated PC accessory market.

That said, each of the new Lenovo Go devices does have some special feature. The Lenovo Go USB-C Laptop Power Bank, for example, not only boasts of a 20,000 mAh battery, it can also output power at 65W. That’s enough not just for USB-C laptops but also for three devices charging at the same time.

The Lenovo Go Wireless Multi-Device Mouse, on the other hand, does more than just connect to three devices, not simultaneously, of course. It can be charged from a USB-C cable or, perhaps more conveniently, from any Qi wireless charger.

Lenovo also teased audio solutions that are still coming later this year. One of those, at least based on the new Lenovo Go landing page, is a pair of over-ear cups headphones. This accessory promises to make online meetings less stressful with some form of noise cancellation.

The Lenovo Go Wireless Multi-Device Mouse will be available starting June for the price of $59.99. Likewise, the Lenovo Go USB-C Laptop Power Bank is launching next month, carrying a $89.99 price tag. Those might just be the tip of the iceberg, however, as Lenovo Go’s website seems to also tease speakers and earphones that may be coming soon as well.

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Categories
Tech News

Comcast’s latest hybrid broadband test teases an end to slow uploads

If there’s one thing working from home has taught us over the past year, it’s that we probably snack too much; if there’s a second thing, it’s that your home internet connection can never be too fast. With fiber slowly spreading, Comcast is showing off the next-generation of its hybrid-fiber coaxial (HFC) network technology, and in the process promising a fix to one of the more frustrating aspects of home broadband: comparatively slow upload speeds.

Typically, ISPs love to shout about their download rates. Less common, though, are boasts about upload speeds, since they’re usually a fraction of the pace. That’s traditionally not been such an issue, as people tend to download things – such as streaming video – more than they upload.

While we’ve been working from home, home-schooling, and getting onto more and more video calls, however – not to mention playing streaming games in our spare time – the need for more upload capacity has increasingly become obvious. That’s one big advance that Full Duplex DOCSIS will bring, Comcast says, though there’s still a little time to wait before your friendly Xfinity sales rep will be pestering you with calls to upgrade.

Right now, the first successes are in the lab still. Comcast has been working with Broadcom on the first Full Duplex DOCSIS system-on-chip (SOC), compatible with the DOCSIS 4.0 Full Duplex standard. Though there are a few benefits to that, one is the ability to “dramatically increase upstream speeds,” Comcast claims, without sacrificing download speeds in the process.

We’re talking multi-gigabit rates in both directions, in fact, which is going to come as welcome news to anybody paying for the maximum cable internet rates right now but finding their upload tops out at around 10 Mbps.

The test involved Comcast labs in Philadelphia and Denver, the company says, with throughput rates exceeding 4 gigabits per second (Gbps). It’s a big jump over the symmetrical 1.25 Gbps rates Comcast announced it was achieving last October, and it’s expected to get faster still as the system is optimized. It’s part of what the internet provider industry is referring to as the “Path to 10G”: a recognition that, as with so many things, more speed is going to be required in the years ahead.

One big advantage is that the hybrid-fiber coaxial approach means Comcast will be able to use much of its existing wiring, rather than install brand new connections to each subscriber. For now, though, patience is still required. Expanded testing of the system is on the schedule for later in 2021, but there’s no public timescale for when it might see a commercial launch: Comcast is clear to point out that this is a multi-year initiative, so don’t hold your breath.

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AI

IBM’s Rob Thomas details key AI trends in shift to hybrid cloud

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The last year has seen a major spike in the adoption of AI models in production environments, in part driven by the need to drive digital business transformation initiatives. While it’s still early days as far as AI is concerned, it’s also clear AI in the enterprise is entering a new phase.

Rob Thomas, senior vice president for software, cloud, and data platform at IBM, explains to VentureBeat how this next era of AI will evolve as hybrid cloud computing becomes the new norm in the enterprise.

As part of that effort, Thomas reveals IBM has formed a software-defined networking group to extend AI all the way out to edge computing platforms.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

VentureBeat: Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was a concern AI adoption was occurring slowly. How much has that changed in the past year?

Rob Thomas: We’ve certainly got massive acceleration for things like Watson Assistant for customer service. That absolutely exploded. We had nearly 100 customers that started and then went live in the first 90 days after COVID hit. When you broaden it out, there are five big use cases that have come up over the last year. One is customer service. Second is around financial planning and budgeting. Thirdly are things such as data science. There’s such a shortage of data science skills, but that is slowly changing. Fourth is around compliance. Regulatory compliance is only increasing, not decreasing. And then fifth is AI Ops. We launched our first AI ops product last June and that’s exploded as well, which is related to COVID in that everybody was forced remote. How do we better manage our IT systems? It can’t be all through humans because we’re not on site. We’ve got to use software to do that. I think that was 18 months ago, I wouldn’t have given you those five. I would have said “There’s a bunch of experimentations.” Now we see pretty clearly there are five things people are doing that represent 80% of the activity.

VentureBeat: Should organizations be in the business of building AI or should they buy it in one form or another?

Thomas: I hate to be too dramatic, but we’re probably in a permanent and a secular change where people want to build. Trying to fight that is a tough discussion because people really want to build. When we first started with Watson, the idea was this is a big platform. It does everything you need. I think what we’ve discovered along the way is if you componentize to focus where we think we’re really good, people will pick up those pieces and use them. We focused on three areas for AI. One is natural language processing (NLP). I think if you look at things like external benchmarks, we had the best NLP from a business context. In terms of document understanding, semantic parsing of text, we do that really well. The second is automation. We’ve got really good models for how you automate business processes. Third is trust. I don’t really think anybody is going to invest to build a data lineage model, explainability model, or bias detection. Why would a company build that? That’s a component we can provide. If you want them to be regulatory compliant, you want them to have explainability, then we provide a good answer for that.

VentureBeat: Do you think people understand explainability and the importance of the provenance of AI models and the importance of that yet? Are they just kind of blowing by that issue in the wake of the pandemic?

Thomas: We launched the first version of what we built to address that around that two years ago. I would say that for the first year we got a lot of social credit. This changed dramatically in the second half of last year. We won some significant deals that were specifically for model management explainability and lifecycle management of AI because companies have grown to the point where they have thousands of AI models. It’s pretty clear, once you get to that scale, you have no choice but to do this, so I actually think this is about to explode. I think the tipping point is once you get north of a thousandish models in production. At that point, it’s kind of like nobody’s minding the store. Somebody has to be in charge when you have that much machine learning making decisions. I think the second half of last year will prove to be a tipping point.

Above: IBM senior VP of software, cloud, and data Rob Thomas

VentureBeat: Historically, AI models have been trained mainly in the cloud, and then inference engines are employed to push AI out to where it’d be consumed. As edge computing evolves, there will be a need to push the training of AI models out to the edge where data is being analyzed at the point of creation and consumption. Is that the next AI frontier?

Thomas: I think it’s inevitable AI is gonna happen where the data is because it’s not economical to do the opposite, which is to start everything with a Big Data movement. Now, we haven’t really launched this formally, but two months ago I started a unit in IBM software focused on software-defined networking (SDN) and the edge. I think it’s going to be a long-term trend where we need to be able to do analytics, AI, and machine learning (ML) at the edge. We’ve actually created a unit to go after that specifically.

VentureBeat: Didn’t IBM sell an SDN group to Cisco a long time ago now?

Thomas: Everything that we sold in the ’90s was hardware-based networking. My view is everything that’s done in hardware from a networking at the edge perspective is going to be done in software in the next five to seven years. That’s what’s different now.

VentureBeat: What differentiates IBM when it comes to AI most these days?

Thomas: There are three major trends that we see happening in the market. One is around decentralization of IT. We went from mainframes that are centralized to client/server and mobile. The initial chapter of public cloud was very much a return to a centralized architecture that brings everything to one place. We are now riding the trend that says that we will decentralize again in the world that will become much more about multicloud and hybrid cloud.

The second is around automation. How do you automate feature engineering and data science? We’ve done a lot in the realm of automation. The third is just around getting more value out of data. There was this IDC study last year that 90% of the data in businesses is still unutilized or underutilized. Let’s be honest. We haven’t really cracked that problem yet. I’d say those are the three megatrends that we’re investing against. How does that manifest in the IBM strategy? In three ways. One is we are building all of our software on open source. That was not the case two years ago. Now, in conjunction with the Red Hat acquisition, we think there’s room in the market for innovation in and around open source. You see the cloud providers trying to effectively pirate open source rather than contribute. Everything we’re doing from a software perspective is now either open source itself or it’s built on open source.

The second is around ecosystem. For many years we thought we could do it ourselves. One of the biggest changes we’ve made in conjunction with the move to open source is we’re going to do half of our business by making partners successful. That’s a big change. That why you see things like the announcement with Palantir. I think most people were surprised. That’s probably not something we would have done two years ago. It’s kind of an acknowledgment that all the best innovation doesn’t have to come from IBM. If we can work with partners that have a similar philosophy in terms of open source, that’s what we’re doing.

The third is a little bit more tactical. We announced earlier this year that we’ve completely changed our go-to-market strategy, which is to be much more technical. That’s what we’ve heard customers want. They don’t want a salesperson to come in and read them the website. They want somebody to roll up their sleeves and actually build something and co-create.

VentureBeat: How do you size up the competitive landscape?

Thomas: Watson components can run anywhere. The real question is why is nobody else enabling their AI to run anywhere? IBM is the only company doing that. My thesis is that most of the other big AI players have a strategy tax. If your whole strategy is to bring everything to our cloud, the last thing you want to do is enable your AI to run other places because then you’re acknowledging that other places exist. That’s a strategy advantage for us. We’re the only ones that can truly say you can bring the AI to where the data is. I think that’s going to give us a lot of momentum. We don’t have to be the biggest compute provider, but we do have to make it incredibly easy for companies to work across cloud environments. I think that’s a pretty good bet.

VentureBeat. Today there is a lot of talk about MLOps, and we already have DevOps and traditional IT operations. Will all that converge one day or will we continue to need a small army of specialists?

Thomas: That’s a little tough to predict. I think the reason we’ve gotten a lot of momentum with AI Ops is because we took the stuff that was really hard in terms of data virtualization, model management, model creation, and automated 60-70% of that. That’s hard. I think it’s going to be harder than ever to automate 100%. I do think people will get a lot more efficient as they get more models in production. You need to manage those in an automated fashion versus a manual fashion, but I think it’s a little tough to predict that at this stage.

VentureBeat: There’re a lot of different AI engines. IBM has partnered with Salesforce. Will we see more of that type of collaboration? Will the AI experience become more federated?

Thomas: I think that’s right. Let’s look at what we did with Palantir. Most people thought of Palantir as an AI company. Obviously, they associate Watson with AI. Palantir does something really good, which is a low-code, no-code environment so that the data science team doesn’t have to be an expert. What they don’t have is an environment for the data scientist that does want to go build models. They don’t have a data catalog. If you put those two together, suddenly you’ve got an AI system that’s really designed for a business. It’s got low code, no code, it’s got Python, it’s got data virtualization, a data catalog. Customers can use that joint stack from us and will be better off than had they chosen one or the other and then tried to fix the things themselves. I think you’ll probably see more partnerships over time. We’re really looking for partnerships that are complementary to what we’re doing.

VentureBeat: If organizations are each building AI models to optimize specific processes in their favor, will this devolve into competing AI models simply warring with one another?

Thomas: I don’t know if it’ll be that straightforward. Two companies are typically using very different datasets. Now maybe they’re both joining with an external dataset that’s common, but whatever they have is first-party data or third-party data that is probably unique to them. I think you get different flavors, as opposed to two things that are conflicting or head to head. I think there’s a little bit more nuance there.

VentureBeat: Do you think we’ll keep calling it AI? Or will we get to a point where we just kind of realize that it’s a combination of algorithms and statistics and math [but we] don’t have to necessarily call it AI?

Thomas: I think the term will continue for a while because there is a difference between a rules-based system and a true learning machine that gets better over time as you feed it more data. There is a real distinction.

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Repost: Original Source and Author Link