IT Industry News – May 2015

In this Issue:

> General Interest
> Company News
> Merger & Acquisition Activity
> Primary Sources


> GENERAL INTEREST

The latest figures from security vendor Trend Micro show that Canada was among the top countries that posted the highest number of point of sale RAM scraper infections. It placed seventh in the top 10 affected countries, with 4% of the total number of infections. Relative to other countries, four per cent isn’t big. But it does suggest attackers are figuring out that there are potentially lucrative targets north of the U.S. Other figures show that Canada was in the top 10 countries affected by ransomware, sitting in ninth place with two per cent of all infections. That’s part of a global increase in ransomware that started in the last quarter of 2014 and is continuing, the report notes. Also, crypto-ransomware — which encrypts files in network shares — jumped to account for nearly half of all ransomware infections and marked a four-fold increase in infections compared to the first quarter of 2014. Perhaps most alarmingly, the numbers show Canada ranks ninth among the countries that posted the highest number of users who clicked malicious URLs in the first quarter of 2015.

Market research firm Juniper has released a study on data breaches, which estimates that the resulting cost will reach $2.1 trillion globally in 2019, almost four times that of 2015. The majority of these breaches, according to the report titled "The Future of Cybercrime & Security: Financial and Corporate Threats & Mitigation," will come from existing infrastructure, while infected mobile and IoT devices, although on the rise, are "minimal" compared to "traditional computing devices." A separate report done by IT trade association CompTIA may shed light on the reason. It revealed that nearly half of organizations believe human error is a growing factor in security breaches, namely when IT staff fails to follow procedures and policies. Juniper discussed cybercrime as a professional industry, with cybercrime products now appearing, such as in the form of malware creation software. The trend has seen a decrease in casual activist hacks, but a higher success rate, Juniper said, with the average cost of a data breach in 2020 to exceed $150 million. "Currently, we aren’t seeing much dangerous mobile or IoT malware because it’s not profitable", said James Moar, who authored the report. ‘The kind of threats we will see on these devices will be either ransomware, with consumers’ devices locked down until they pay the hackers to use their devices, or as part of botnets, where processing power is harnessed as part of a more lucrative hack. With the absence of a direct payout from IoT hacks, there is little motive for criminals to develop the required tools.’

Nine out of 10 Canadian executives have identified some degree of IT skills gap in their organization, with nearly half saying it is extensive, a new study has revealed. Non-profit trade association CompTIA (Computing Tech Industry Association), has published its 2015 International Technology Adoption & Workforce Trends Study, which surveyed 1,507 IT and business executives around the world including 126 in Canada.

The economy – Canada

Employment in Canada fell by 19,700 in April from March, as gains in full-time work were more than offset by losses in part-time employment, according to Statistics Canada. Total employment in Canada was approximately 17.9 million in April, and the Canadian unemployment rate remained at 6.8% for the third consecutive month.

Canadian real GDP contracted 0.6% at an annualized rate in the first quarter, Statistics Canada announced. It was the worst showing since the second quarter of 2009 and a deceleration from 2.2% pace in the fourth quarter, according to a report by Randall Bartlett, senior economist at TD Bank. All told, there were few bright spots in the quarter, as the sharp decline in oil prices fed into lower corporate profits and real investment in non-residential structures." Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, said in an article in the Financial Post that "Canada’s economy looked weak in Q1 in volume terms, and add in sharply plunging prices for oil and the value of what the country produced started the year in a tailspin."

Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax will record the fastest economic growth rates this year among the 13 census metropolitan areas covered in The Conference Board of Canada’s Metropolitan Outlook: Spring 2015. Meanwhile, the report calls for long-standing economic leaders Calgary and Edmonton to fall into recession in 2015. Hit hard by the slump in oil prices, the economies of Calgary and Edmonton are expected to shrink by 1.2% and 0.8% respectively. But with oil prices expected to recover somewhat next year, modest economic growth is anticipated for both cities next year; Calgary’s real GDP is forecast to rise by 1.5% and Edmonton’s real GDP is expected to rise 1.3% in 2016. Most other cities will see their economic fortunes improve this year, thanks largely to a weaker Canadian dollar and a stronger US economy".

The economy – US

This summer, 36% of employers are hiring seasonal workers, up 21% from 2008-2011, according to survey data released by CareerBuilder. In addition, 53% of employers plan to offer summer jobs that pay $15 or more per hour on average. And 72% of employers will pay their summer hires $10 or more per hour on average. "The growing number of employers adding seasonal help in good-paying jobs this summer is a strong indicator of labor market momentum," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and author of The Talent Equation.

The Conference Board’s leading economic index for the US increased 0.7% in April to a level of 122.3 (2010 = 100) following a 0.4% increase in March and a 0.2% decline in February.

Small business owners continue to reflect the optimism seen in January, but plan to add employees and boost compensation levels, according to a business confidence survey released by professional employer organization Insperity Inc. The survey found 40% of responding business owners plan to add employees, down from 50% in January but an increase from 31% in October’s survey; 52% are maintaining current staffing levels, up from 47% last quarter; and 8% plan layoffs, up from 3% in January.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index for the US rose in May to a reading of 95.4 (1985=100), from an April reading of 94.3. "Consumer confidence improved modestly in May, after declining sharply in April," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. "After a three-month slide, the present situation Index increased, propelled by a more positive assessment of the labor market. Expectations, however, were relatively flat following a steep decline in April. While current conditions in the second quarter appear to be improving, consumers still remain cautious about the short-term outlook."

The American Staffing Association’s index measuring employment in the US staffing industry edged up 0.24% for the week of May 11 to May 17 compared with the same week last year. The index value rose to 97.03, the 19th consecutive record high week of the year.

A new estimate says US real GDP decreased in the first quarter at an annual rate of 0.7%, revising an earlier estimate that cited growth of 0.2%, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. However, the reading was better than the expected decline of 0.9%, according to a report by Michael Dolega, senior economist at TD Bank. "Bottom line is that the economy contracted, but not as much as expected, with the details of the report proving to be somewhat encouraging."

TEKsystems’ annual IT Stress and Pride survey polled 1,000 IT workers at all levels. The results indicate you’re much happier than you were a year ago about your decision to work in IT. For the most part, the things causing you stress are changing for the better. The best news might be the reason for the change: One of the things TEKsystems is seeing is that employers are starting to let workers unplug when they are on vacation or otherwise off duty.

The outlook for US GDP over the next three years is weaker than it was three months ago, according to the new second-quarter Survey of Professional Forecasters released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The 44 forecasters surveyed also revised downward their estimates of job growth in in 2015 and 2016, but see a slightly improved outlook for the unemployment rate. Growth in the US real GDP this quarter will be at an annual rate of 2.5%, down from the previous estimate of 3.0%.

The number of IT jobs in the US rose 0.3% in April from March, according to the TechServe Alliance. Year over year, the number of IT jobs rose by 5% since April 2014, adding 234,900 workers for a total of more than 4.9 million jobs. Engineering jobs edged up by 0.04% in April from the previous month 0.9% year over year, adding 22,400 engineering workers since April 2014 for a total of more than 2.5 million US engineering jobs

The Conference Board’s US employment trends index ticked up in April to a reading of 128.22 from March’s downwardly revised reading of 127.15. The April reading is up 5.8% from the same month a year ago. "April’s bounce back in the employment trends index is somewhat reassuring, but expectations remain that job growth will be slower this year compared with last year.

US private sector employment rose by approximately 169,000 jobs in April when compared to March, according to the ADP national employment report. April job gains came in under 200,000 for the second straight month, with the slowest growth reported by companies with 500 or more employees. "Fallout from the collapse of oil prices and the surging value of the dollar are weighing on job creation".

Small businesses added 15,000 new jobs in April, according to the small business and revenue indexes by Intuit Inc. This is a 0.1% increase from March and makes more than 905,000 jobs added since March 2010.

Fewer small business owners plan to hire new staff in the next 12 months compared to one year ago, according to the recently released spring 2015 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report. The report found 46% plan to hire, down from 52% who planned to hire in the same survey one year ago.

The Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers index for US manufacturing remained at a reading of 51.5 in April. It’s the same reading as in March and the lowest rate since May 2013, Bloomberg reported. The reading indicates continued expansion, and at the same pace as March. Readings above 50 indicate growth. Bloomberg reports the reading is less than the median projection of 52 in its survey of 85 economists.

The economy – Outside Canada and the US

Despite a small improvement in the leading economic index and steady growth in the coincident economic index, it is too early to conclude the rate of Mexico’s economic expansion will accelerate in the coming months, according to The Conference Board. The leading economic index for Mexico increased in March after declining over the past three consecutive months. Gains in net inefficient inventories and the construction component of industrial production slightly more than offset large negative contributions from oil prices and the real exchange rate. The Conference Board reported its leading economic index for Mexico edged up 0.1% in March and now stands at 101.3 (2010=100). The leading index fell 0.1% in February and 1.4% in January, based on revised data. During the six-month span through March, the index fell 4.5%, according to The Conference Board. Meanwhile, the coincident economic index for Mexico, a measure of current economic activity, continues on a modest upward trend. The CEI edged up 0.3% in March and now stands at 115.3 (2010=100). All of the three components that comprise The Conference Board’s coincident economic index for Mexico — the number of people employed, retail sales and industrial production — rose in March.


> COMPANY NEWS

Despite two consecutive profitable quarters followed by an acquisition in the security sector, BlackBerry has announced it is once again laying off unspecified numbers of its staff. The Canadian Press reports that the Waterloo, ON-based company is cutting jobs in hardware, software and app-development areas of its phones. This most recently includes the BlackBerry Leap, an affordable mid-range device aimed at younger professionals which has garnered mixed reviews overall.

Vancouver company Bit Stew Systems has just raised $17 million in series B funding to help it explore the internet of things market in the oil space. The company marries the Internet of Things, big data and industrial control systems to help large energy companies refine their operations. Its series B round sees Cisco and GE investing money from the US, along with Vancouver-based Yaletown Venture Partners and BDC Canada. Cisco and Yaletown were original investors in the company’s $5.3 million A round.


> MERGER & ACQUISITION ACTIVITY

Apple has purchased Coherent Navigation, a Bay Area global positioning company, further bolstering Apple’s location technology and services. Founded in 2008, Coherent Navigation was a small firm that focused on creating commercial navigation services based on partnerships with companies like Boeing and Iridium, the satellite network operator. Coherent Navigation worked on high-precision navigation systems, technology that is far stronger than many consumer-grade global positioning systems, which are typically accurate to within three to five meters. It is unclear exactly how Apple will use the company’s services or technology, or if the company will incorporate its prior work into Apple’s current products.

Apple has bought Metaio, a company that makes augmented-reality software, which adds information or images to real-world scenes when viewed through a special headset or even a smartphone camera. It’s the latest sign that major tech companies see big potential for products that let users view the world with extra features added by technology. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are all working on augmented- or virtual-reality products. Augmented reality can add hand-drawn sketches, navigational directions, historic video or computer-generated, three-dimensional images to a real-world scene. Virtual reality can make viewers feel as if they are immersed in an artificial world.

French telecommunications group Altice is buying Suddenlink Communications in a deal valuing the company at $9.1 billion in order to enter the fast-growing U.S. cable sector. Altice is buying 70% of Suddenlink from existing shareholders BC Partners, CPP Investment Board and Suddenlink management. BC Partners and CPP Investment Board will retain a 30% stake. Suddenlink generated $2.3 billion in revenue and over $900 million in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) last year. "Our investment in Suddenlink, our first in the cable sector in the U.S., opens an attractive industrial and strategic avenue for Altice in the US, one of the largest and fastest growing communications markets in the world," Altice Chief Executive Dexter Goei said.

Hewlett-Packard is selling a 51% stake in its China sever, storage and technology storage unit for about $2.3 billion as it restructures its business in that country. HP says it will sell the controlling stake to Tsinghua Holdings, part of state-owned Tsinghua University, and create an entity called H3C. HP will maintain ownership of its other businesses in China, including business services, software, HP Helion Cloud and other operations. H3C will have about 8,000 staffers and $3.1 billion in annual revenue. HP says the change will allow it to better serve customers in China.

Charter Communications will purchase Time Warner Cable for $55 billion in a deal that would merge the second and third biggest U.S. cable companies and create a larger rival to Comcast Corp. Charter also announced it would acquire Bright House Networks, the sixth-largest U.S. cable company, for $10.4 billion. The combined companies could have as many as 23 million total customers, just behind Comcast’s 27.2 million customers. (Comcast owns NBCUniversal, CNBC’s parent company.) Bright House and Charter had extended their merger talks after Comcast’s deal with Time Warner Cable fell through. Charter’s previous agreement with Bright House was contingent on Comcast’s completion of the buyout of Time Warner Cable. The announcement comes a month after Comcast dropped plans to purchase Time Warner Cable for about $45 billion. That deal faced challenges from the Federal Communications Commission, which was concerned the combined companies would exercise too much control over broadband Internet networks. The price Charter will pay represents a 23% premium over the Comcast deal. A merger of Charter and Time Warner Cable, with other related deals, would eliminate one of the country’s top Internet providers and control more than 20% of the broadband market, according to data from MoffettNathanson. The Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal rejected by regulators would have created a provider with roughly 40% of the U.S. high-speed Internet market. Charter hopes its deal for Time Warner Cable will be viewed more favorably by regulators.

Avaya a Basking Ridge, N.J.-based networking and collaboration vendor acquired Esna. One of the keys to this deal is Ensa’s Ilink for Scopia technology that enables users to communicate and collaborate inside a cloud-based application dramatically improving user workflow. Esna is a channel partner of Avaya and the two companies have worked together on Aura and IP Office solutions. "We see the market increasingly move towards cloud-based apps. Avaya saw Esna as a leader in the embedded solutions space in business apps. Avaya is strong in the traditional big client apps and Esna would complement that with browser-based or headless client offering," Avaya said.

Communications giant Verizon announced it is snapping up Internet and media company AOL for $4.4 billion as part of its plan to further build digital and video platforms. The deal is yet another strange twist of fate for AOL, which once dominated the Internet through its dial-up service. A company once powerful enough to buy Time Warner, AOL fell on hard times after the deal, while the Web changed in dramatic ways thanks to broadband and the emergence of Silicon Valley giants such as Google. Still, AOL had enough assets and IP to attract a buyer, especially one hungry enough for more customers who want to keep expanding their mobile experience, especially through ubiquitous video, and those advertisers who are desperate to reach them. Among AOL’s assets are its subscription business and portfolio of content brands like The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Engadget. In addition to Verizon’s mobile video and Over-The-Top (OTT) plans, the merger will also support and connect to the company’s Internet of Things (IoT) platforms. The concept of OTT refers to the consumer preference for watching video content on mobile devices instead of (over the top of) their home television sets. AOL’s OTT assets — largely aimed at mobile-content hungry Millennials — are one of the key points of the acquisition. A February study by IT research firm Gartner suggests the trend toward mobile video is only accelerating — the company expects mobile video traffic to grow 59% this year, and predicted video streaming would account for over 60% of mobile data traffic in 2018 as consumers increase the number of videos they watch and upload. "They want to integrate advertising and content programming with their wireless network," Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics told Bloomberg in response to the deal. "It’s an ambitious plan, the mobile advertising market is dramatically dominated by Google." The deal also brings AOL’s story full circle — albeit a circle with a much smaller diameter than when the company was able to pluck up media giant Time Warner for $164 billion in 2000.

EMC, best known for its data storage solutions, has purchased cloud service provider Virtustream in order to accelerate its move towards cloud-based offerings. As more companies ramp up their cloud-based and cloud-reliant offerings, the $1.2 billion deal will help EMC adapt its line of security and storage products into cloud-delivered services. The resulting action will see Virtustream serve as the nucleus of EMC’s portfolio of managed cloud services. "If you look at everything we’re doing, in many cases the things we do need (are) cloud services," EMC CEO Joe Tucci said in a statement. The acquisition of Virtustream will be instrumental in the building of EMC’s "Federation of Companies," Tucci said of the agreement. EMC’s decision was heavily influenced by two key factors. Primary among the two was Virtustream’s background in advanced cloud software and managed services. Virtustream’s portfolio also includes prior experience operating specialized hosting of SAP applications. The other crucial aspect of the deal was the overlap between Virtustream and EMC’s VMWare division, especially in the realm of IaaS management automation and self-provisioning for virtualized devices.

Cisco will acquire Tropo, a company that provides a cloud application programming interface platform. The acquisition of privately-held Tropo gives Cisco a key component to offer what the networking giant calls a collaboration platform-as-a-service. This collaboration platform in theory would allow Cisco customers to create communications services without a lot of development. Tropo has more than 200,000 developers. Cisco’s goal is to extend its developer network and ecosystem to be more of a cloud collaboration player as well as an application provider. Tropo’s platform can provide voice calls as well as texts. With the move, Cisco will compete directly with Twilio. Traditionally, Cisco’s software has been used to run its hardware and systems. Cisco has been breaking apart that effort so it can license its software without the hardware. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Cisco said it is committed to build Tropo’s ecosystem as well as add new features and support. Tropo’s business model revolves around free services, charges for production use and enterprise pricing.

WBM Office Systems announced its acquisition of Agilisys, an F5 solutions and infrastructure management services provider in Western Canada. The Agilisys team will "continue to operate as usual, delivering on the many projects and ongoing engagements currently underway," WBM said in a statement. According to WBM, the acquisition is a response to the growing need for security in IT and managed services. Under the terms of the agreement, all Agilisys staff will join WBM as part of the WBM Managed IT Services team, working out of the company’s Calgary Operations Center. WBM has operation centres in cities including Saskatoon, Calgary, and Regina, and will grow to 220 staff members with the acquisition.

Winnipeg-based solution provider Powerland took a major step to achieving its goal of expanding its service coverage across the Prairie Provinces with the acquisition of FACT Computers in Saskatchewan. Powerland is a full service IT solution provider since 1985 and has specialized in SMB and K-12 education markets. Powerland is HP Canada’s largest channel partner in Manitoba and one of Cisco Canada’s fastest growing partners in the region. FACT Computers has been providing IT infrastructure and managed services to Saskatchewan-based businesses since 1989.


> PRIMARY SOURCES:

IT World Canadahttp://www.itworldcanada.com
Ottawa Business Journalhttp://www.ottawabusinessjournal.com
ZDNethttp://www.zdnet.com
Canada IThttp://www.canadait.com