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IBM's Watson Health wing left looking poorly after 'massive' layoffs

Up to 70% of staff shown the door this week, insiders claim


IBM has laid off approximately 50 and 70 per cent of staff this week in its Watson Health division, according to inside sources.

The axe, we're told, is largely falling on IBMers within companies the IT goliath has taken over in the past few years to augment Watson's credentials in the health industry. These include medical data biz Truven, which was acquired in 2016 for $2.6bn, medical imaging firm Merge, bought in 2015 for $1bn, and healthcare management business Phytel, also snapped up in 2015.

Yesterday and today, staff were let go at IBM's offices in Dallas, Texas, as well as in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio, and Denver, Colorado, in the US, and elsewhere, it is claimed. A spokesperson for Big Blue was not available for comment.

"Wanted to share anonymously a massive layoff in Watson Health, potentially limited to provider acquisitions – Phytel, Explorys, Truven," a source claimed in a message passed to The Register by Lee Conrad, a former employee and union coordinator who today runs the Watching IBM Facebook page.

"They are laying off 50 to 70 per cent of staff. Not sure about total affected since there's no transparency, but our Dallas office has 230 people."

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Another worker said: "IBM Watson Health has initiated a significant RA [resource action aka layoffs] across multiple offices. The provider division in Dallas has seen at least 80 per cent affected, and 30 per cent in the Truven customer experience group. Awaiting confirmation of details on severance packages, but can confirm this was broad and not targeted at a specific demographic."

Indeed, it appears new and longterm staff are affected by the cuts. "Over 50 years old. IBMer over 30 years," said one. "The message was that there are about 7,000 people in Watson Health today and this was a cost-cutting exercise. 90 days' notice with 30 days' severance."

"I just got notified that I am affected by a resource action. I am in the Platform for Health, LSC Infrastructure DevOps group, and have been working at IBM for two years and 11 months now," said a recent hire. "It looks like a lot of other people in Watson Health were affected. This could be huge.”

IBM last laid off a large number of workers in March. Its Watson division was supposed to bring artificial intelligence to markets such as healthcare, although it ended up attracting the wrong sort of headlines when some projects faltered, and financial analysts described it as a money pit. ®

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Us? Pwn SolarWinds? With our reputation? Russian spy chief makes laughable denial of supply chain attack

Hint: He doesn't care if you personally think it's rubbish, and here's why

A Russian spymaster has denied that his agency carried out the infamous SolarWinds supply chain attack in a public relations move worthy of the Internet Research Agency.

Sergei Naryshkin, head of the SVR spy agency, made his denial in a BBC interview broadcast on Tuesday.

"I'd be flattered to hear such an assessment of the work of the Foreign Intelligence service which I run. Such a high evaluation," said the spymaster in remarks translated by the BBC. The SolarWinds supply chain attack saw US and UK government institutions probed by Russian spies, as well as FireEye – itself a major US cybersecurity contractor.

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Business-intelligence-company-turned-Bitcoin-addict MicroStrategy grabs another $10m crypto-coin fix

Who's recommending investment? The man who already has a $1bn stake

Wikipedia says MicroStrategy is a company that provides business intelligence (BI), mobile software, and cloud-based services, but that wouldn't be the first outdated information on the crowdsourced knowledge repository.

In a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the software company founded in 1989 said it would purchase $10m in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency at an average price of $43,663.

MicroStrategy used to be well known as an enterprise software company specialising in data mining and BI, and still counts Hyatt Hotels, the American Red Cross, and Whole Foods Market among its customers. But who needs to go through the brain-ache of actually building things for money when you can invest free cash in a fool-proof electronic currency like Bitcoin?

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Ex-Apple marketing bigwig tells Epic judge: Our revenue-sharing model is designed to stop money laundering

Oh, and remember when Tim Sweeney himself demonstrated Metal API? Awks

Three weeks have passed since the high-stakes California bench trial between Epic Games and Apple commenced. On Monday, it was the turn of Phil Schiller, Apple Fellow and former senior VP of Worldwide Marketing, to take the stand.

Schiller, who joined Apple in 1997 upon the return of Steve Jobs, re-emphasised Apple's argument that the App Store's costs are necessary to protect the health of the platform, citing the $99 entry-fee to the developer programme, which he claimed would prevent the App Store becoming swamped with spam or low-quality apps.

He also added that the company feared that if Apple reduced its commission significantly, the App Store may become a conduit for money laundering.

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The UK loves cybersecurity so much, it's going to regulate managed service providers' infosec practices in law

And you're invited to speak your brains on Computer Misuse Act changes

+Comment The British government has vowed to create a legally binding cybersecurity framework for managed service providers (MSPs) – and if you want to tell gov.UK what you think, you've only got a few weeks to act.

The supply chain review comes in the wake of high-profile events like the SolarWinds compromise and a 2018 APT campaign linked by the FBI to China that may have breached HPE, IBM, and some of their clients.

Targeted at managed service providers and firms outsourcing their digital infrastructure services alike, the review is described by the government as helping build evidence for "additional government intervention" to force businesses into formally assessing cyber risks to their supply chains. It also looks like MSPs will be subject to a legally binding security framework as a result of the review.

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PlanetScale grabs YouTube-developed open-source tech, promises Vitess DBaaS with on-the-fly schema changes

Demand growing for scale-y transactional monster, say analysts

YouTube-developed distributed relational database Vitess is getting a DBaaS makeover, putting it in the hands of developers without having to worry about engaging with a DBA.

Based on MySQL, Vitess is used by the likes of Slack, Airbnb and GitHub for its horizontal, globally scalable OLTP architecture. But it has not always been the easiest thing for developers to get to grips with.

Sam Lambert, chief product officer at PlanetScale, the company behind Vitess, told The Register: "They built for Vitess MySQL. It's got a sharding and orchestration layer that means you can go to an enormous scale: we're talking about running on 10,000s of servers.

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1Password unsheathes Rusty key, hopes to unlock Linux Desktop world

Tries to tempt penguins with Ring Crypto

1Password has unveiled a full-featured desktop app for Linux, written in Rust and using the ring crypto library for end-to-end encryption.

The release features encrypted browser and desktop integration and, according to the business, "uses the Linux kernel keyring to establish a fully encrypted connection between 1Password in your browser and 1Password for Linux."

The upshot is that if one is unlocked, so will be the other.

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AWS adds 'basic first version' of automated troubleshooter to Systems Manager, but it's not a stand-in for engineers

'For sophisticated problems, only a human expert will figure it out'

A new component of AWS Systems Manager aims to assist with handling incidents.

AWS Systems Manager (formerly called SSM – Simple Systems Manager) was introduced in 2017, though it really goes back to EC2 Systems Manager, launched late 2016.

"It started as a way to manage your EC2 instances," AWS evangelist Julien Simon told The Register, "for example, checking the patching status of your EC2 fleet. If you have a couple, you can do it manually, but if you have 100 instances, Linux and Windows, it's pretty difficult."

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Make mine an old-fashioned. Perpetual licence sales save Micro Focus results for first half of its fiscal 2021

Talking up AWS deal as market says: Yes, OK

Good old fashioned perpetual licence sales helped Micro Focus turn an unexceptional six months worth of trading figures into something more acceptable by moderating declines in group revenue.

In preliminary results for the six months ended 30 April 2021, the company reported revenues of $1.4bn, down 5 per cent year-on-year in constant currency, this was "ahead of market expectations".

Earning before income tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) margin was 36 per cent, in line with forecasts, due to the licence growth and "cost savings". Micro Focus didn't reveal pre-tax or net profit.

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UK pharma supplier put into special measures after new IT system causes almost 10,000 missed medicine deliveries

'Some patients' conditions deteriorated and they had to be admitted to hospital'

UK pharmaceuticals supplier Healthcare at Home (HAH) missed 10,000 medicine deliveries from October to December 2020 following a change of IT systems, a mistake that left some patients needing hospital treatment.

Or says regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in a report published at the end of last week stating that HAH, which supports around 150,000 patients each year, had introduced new information systems in October 2020.

"These had not been thoroughly risk assessed and tested and resulted in avoidable harm to some patients," the report said. "This meant that delivery dates for medicines were missed and patients didn't get their essential medication required to treat their health condition or maintain their health, on time. Some patients' conditions deteriorated and they had to be admitted to hospital, whilst others experienced psychological trauma because of the uncertainty of not knowing when they would receive their essential medicines."

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Linux laptop biz System76 makes its first foray into the mechanical keyboard world with dinky, hackable Launch

Unlocked firmware and some intriguing design choices – but the price is high

With an air of inevitability, System76 - the maker of laptops for Linux users - has produced its first mechanical keyboard. It looks great but cheap it is not.

Dubbed the Launch Configurable Keyboard (LCK), the company's foray into this space is true to form, touting firmware that's completely unlocked and hackable. Predictably, there's some degree of integration with the company's homespun distro POP_OS!, with updates deployable through the firmware settings tool.

System76 wasn't the first company to support user-hackable firmware on a mechanical keyboard. Ergodox has long published its QMK-based code on GitHub, allowing anyone with a level of C competency to make changes.

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Unit4 handed police ERP deal after 'significant deficiency' found in Oracle Fusion system

Big Red product only went live in 2019, but commissioner is ready to ditch it

Cheshire Police has awarded mid-scale ERP vendor Unit4 a £3m two-year contract to replace a troubled Oracle implementation, which only went live on the latest Fusion software in 2019.

A simple procurement notice shows the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire issued a call-off contract via the Crown Commercial Services G-Cloud 12 Framework Agreement to award the vendor - which runs cloud-based applications on Azure - a deal including finance, purchase-to-pay, HR, and payroll services.

The brevity of the statement belies the circuitous route by which the police authority arrived at the decision.

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