Friday, March 29, 2013

India is building the world's largest biometric database


In an audacious technological mission, India is building a near foolproof database of personal biometric identities for nearly a billion people, something that has never been attempted anywhere in the world.

Poorer Indians who have no proof to offer of their existence will leapfrog into a national online system, another global first, where their identities can be validated anytime anywhere in a few seconds.

"India will outdo the world's biggest biometric databases including those of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US-VISIT visa programme," says Nandan Nilekani, the technology tycoon who heads the programme popularly called by its acronym UIDAI.

The United States' visa programme is a biometric database of 120 million.

In comparison, the UIDAI has already registered 200 million members, less than two years after the first enrolment.

By 2014 half of India's population will have an identity tagged to a random, unique 12-digit number.

Radical ideas

As more and more Indians have their fingerprints taken, irises scanned and photographs clicked, UIDAI's chief technology architect Pramod Varma describes the database structure as a "Google-meets-Facebook" scale out.


With its internet-class open source backbone, the database will accommodate more than 12 billion fingerprints, 2.4 billion iris scans and 1.2 billion photographs.

Even more groundbreaking, once established and stored, a person's identity can easily be verified and authenticated using a cell phone, smart phone, tablet or any other device hooked to the internet.

The information is stored in a fortress-like data centre in Bangalore with a triple layer of security, and travels in highly encrypted packets.

Many of the radical ideas for UIDAI's technology have come from the talent the project has drawn from the Indian diaspora - tech entrepreneurs like Bala Parthasarathy of HP-acquired photo service, Snapfish and Silicon Valley returnees like Srikanth Nadhamuni, formerly with Intel.

Mr Nilekani himself co-founded and built the multi-billion dollar outsourcing company Infosys before being drafted by the government to head the project.

The programme has studied global best practices in biometric identity databases.

Unlike the United States' social security number, which is guessable and China's, which adds the date of birth, India's 12-digit identity number is randomly generated.

The United States' visa database does not factor in iris scans while India has included them to provide a greater degree of accuracy.

India's telecom revolution leapfrogged over several stages of technology in the past decade-and-a-half to great success. Similarly, the massive UIDAI will vault over older technologies.

"By starting on a clean slate and reconfiguring the structure, we have opened up a whole new set of possibilities," says Mr Nilekani.

The project will stay abreast of the latest in biometrics, cloud computing and connectivity.


Costs though have been kept low, first, by adopting an open policy in selecting devices and software and encouraging multiple private vendors.

Second, the project is technology-neutral, not locking in to any particular hardware or software.

If the technology architecture is unique, so is its accuracy in validating identities.

"The combination of 10-finger biometrics, two-iris scans and photograph establishes the identity of a person with over 99.5% accuracy," says Krishnakumar Natarajan, CEO of Bangalore-based tech outsourcing firm MindTree, which is one of the firms building applications for the project.

The best of the biometric databases in the world have a single de-duplication check, to ensure that every person is identified and tagged only once.


ID-ing the benefits

This month India's unique identity (UID) scheme will enroll its 200 millionth member, having
had almost none only a year ago (see article (http://www.economist.com/node/21542814)
By the end of this year, says Nandan Nilekani, a former software mogul who runs the project,
the tally could stand at 400m, a third of all Indians. The scheme is voluntary, but the poor are
visibly enthusiastic about it. Long lines wait patiently in the heat to have their fingerprints
and irises scanned and entered into what has swiftly become the world's largest biometric
database.

For the poor, having a secure online identity alters their relationship with the modern world.
No more queueing for hours in a distant town and bribing officials with money you don't have
to obtain paperwork that won't be recognised if you move to another state looking for work. A
pilot project just begun in Jharkhand, an eastern state, will link the new identities to
individuals' bank accounts. Those to whom the government owes money will soon be able to
receive it electronically, either at a bank or at a village shop. Ghost labourers staffing public works
schemes, and any among India's 20m government employees, should turn into thin air.
The middlemen who steal billions should more easily be bypassed or caught.

That is just the start. Armed with the system, India will be able to rethink the nature of its
welfare state, cutting back on benefits in kind and market-distorting subsidies, and turning to
cash transfers paid directly into the bank accounts of the neediest. Hundreds of millions of the
poor must open bank accounts, which is all to the good, because it will bind them into the
modern economy. Care must be taken so mothers rather than feckless fathers control funds
for their children. But most poor people, including anyone who wants to move around, will be
better off with cash welfare paid in full. Vouchers for medical or education spending could
follow.

Companies—and their customers—stand to gain from the system too. Mr Nilekani talks of
India stealing a march on other countries if firms have an easy, secure way of identifying their
customers. Banks will be more likely to lend money to people they can trace. Mobile-phone
firms will extend credit. Insurers will offer lower rates, because they will know more about the
person they are covering. Medical records will become portable, as will school records.
Ordinary Indians will find it easier to buy and sell things online, as ordinary Chinese already
do. Just as Americas Global Positioning System, designed for aiming missiles, is now used by
everyone for civilian navigation and online maps, so might UID become the infrastructure for
India's commercial services.

They've got your number

India's scheme holds three lessons for other countries. One is that designing such a scheme as
a platform for government services, not security, keeps the costs down and boosts the

benefits. Another is to use the private sector. From the start, Mr Nilekani harnessed the
genius of Indians abroad, including a man who helped the New York Stock Exchange crunch its
numbers and one of the brains behind WebMD, an American health IT firm. Both public and
private actors (mostly tech firms that enroll participants and process data) are paid strictly by
results. The cost of enrolling each person is a little over 100 rupees ($2). Many other poor
countries could afford that.

And the third is that, alas, even a brilliant idea has enemies. India's stubborn home minister,
P. Chidambaram, is now blocking a cabinet decision to extend the UID's mandate, which is
needed for the roll-out to continue. Parliamentarians and activists have raised worries over
India's lack of strong privacy and data-protection laws; they also complain about the weak
legal basis for the scheme.

These complaints have some validity, but not enough to derail the scheme. For instance, India
plainly needs better data-protection laws, but even if the existing rules remained unchanged,
the threat to liberty would be dwarfed by the gains to welfare: to people who live ten to a
room, concerns about privacy sound outlandish. Some of the resistance is principled, but much
comes from the people who do well out of today's filthy system. Indian politics hinge on
patronage—the doling out of opportunities to rob one's countrymen. UID would make this
harder. That is why it faces such fierce opposition, and why it could transform India.




Wednesday, March 27, 2013

China on course to become world's largest economy by 2016: OECD


China is on course to become the world's largest economy "around 2016", according to a survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

"From a long-range perspective, China has now overtaken the euro area and is on course to become the world's largest economy around 2016, after allowing for price differences," the Paris-based group said.

Living standards will continue to improve fast, provided reforms are implemented, most of which feature in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15).

With USD 8.3 trillion, China is the second-largest economy. It stands next only to United States which has a USD 15.7 trillion strong economy.

The OECD has predicted that China will grow at 8.5 per cent this year from last year's 7.5 per cent, and that the economy is set to regain momentum.

"The gradual pick-up in activity provides a strong background for the ambitious reforms China needs to put in place to continue on the road to prosperity," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said.

China is well placed to enjoy a fourth decade of rapid catch-up and improving living standards, notwithstanding various risks, the OECD said.

The new economic survey of China examines three closely interlinked sets of issues -- urbanisation,  relation between the central and local governments, and the environment.

To sustain vigorous and socially inclusive growth over the longer run, "renewed reform momentum is required with respect to financial sector liberalisation, open competition in markets for goods and services,education, research and innovation, all are as highlighted in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15)", the OECD said.


China has already overtaken the EU as the second largest economy in the world, and can be expected to surpass the U.S. economy as the world’s biggest economy around 2016, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This is just one of the conclusions the OECD puts forth in the latest edition of its Economy Survey of China report, which was released on Friday.

The update to the OECD’s 2010 Economic Survey of China paints a highly optimistic picture about the prospects for the Chinese economy in the years ahead.

In the near term the Paris-based organization expects China’s economy to grow by 8.5 percent in 2013—up from 7.8 percent in 2012— and even more (8.9 percent) next year. Growth will average about 8 percent over the next decade, the report forecasts.

While noting that the Chinese economy slowed down significantly in 2011 and 2012, the OECD concludes that China’s “rebalancing has made headway and a gradual reacceleration is in train.”

Specifically, the OECD commends the rebalance of China’s economy for pushing the current account surplus down from 10 percent of GDP in 2007 to less than 3 percent today. Inflation has also been brought under control after peaking at 6.6 percent in the middle of 2011 after the enormous financial stimulus package increased the money supply within China by a stunning 30 percent in 2009 alone.

Notably the report concludes that growth in the economy is increasingly coming from domestic consumption compared with investment. To encourage this trend further, the OECD says the country will need to continue to encourage greater urbanization.

More than half the Chinese population already lives in cities, and within China’s cities the per capita income is now as high as some countries within the OECD itself, in no small part due to productivity gains over the past decade.  Furthermore, Premier Li Keqiang has already indicated that accelerating the pace of urbanization will be a top priority of the new administration.

Despite this overall highly favorable assessment of China’s economic prospects, the OECD does highlight a number of potential challenges that could potentially slow growth, including the violate state of foreign markets and the growing environmental costs of Beijing’s economic growth policies.

However, it devotes particularly attention to the risks China’s booming shadow banking industry are creating, and estimates that “taking into account various off-budget forms of debt,” total public debt was 57% of GDP by the end of 2010.

5th BRICS Summit -World diving into two groups?


1.We, the leaders of the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, the Republic of India, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa, met in Durban, South Africa, on 27 March 2013 at the Fifth BRICS Summit. Our discussions took place under the overarching theme, "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation”. The Fifth BRICS Summit concluded the first cycle of BRICS Summits and we reaffirmed our commitment to the promotion of international law, multilateralism and the central role of the United Nations (UN). Our discussions reflected our growing intra-BRICS solidarity as well as our shared goal to contribute positively to global peace, stability, development and cooperation. We also considered our role in the international system as based on an inclusive approach of shared solidarity and cooperation towards all nations and peoples.

2.We met at a time which requires that we consider issues of mutual interest and systemic importance in order to share concerns and to develop lasting solutions. We aim at progressively developing BRICS into a full-fledged mechanism of current and long-term coordination on a wide range of key issues of the world economy and politics. The prevailing global governance architecture is regulated by institutions which were conceived in circumstances when the international landscape in all its aspects was characterised by very different challenges and opportunities.As the global economy is being reshaped, weare committed to exploring new models and approaches towards more equitable development and inclusive global growth by emphasising complementarities and building on our respective economic strengths.

3.We are open to increasing our engagement and cooperation with non-BRICS countries, in particular Emerging Market and Developing Countries (EMDCs), and relevant international and regional organisations, as envisioned in the Sanya Declaration. We will hold a Retreat together with African leaders after this Summit, under the theme,"Unlocking Africa’s potential: BRICS and Africa Cooperation on Infrastructure”.The Retreat is an opportunity for BRICS and African leaders to discuss how to strengthen cooperation between the BRICS countries and the African Continent.
4.Recognising the importance of regional integration for Africa’s sustainable growth, development and poverty eradication, we reaffirm our support for the Continent’s integration processes.

5.Within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), we support African countries in their industrialisation process through stimulating foreign direct investment, knowledge exchange, capacity-building and diversification of imports from Africa. We acknowledge that infrastructure development in Africa is important and recognise the strides made by the African Union to identify and address the continent’s infrastructure challenges through the development of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the AU NEPAD Africa Action Plan (2010-2015), the NEPAD Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative (PICI), as well as the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plans that have identified priority infrastructure development projects that are critical to promoting regional integration and industrialisation. We will seek to stimulate infrastructure investment on the basis of mutual benefit to support industrial development, job-creation, skills development, food and nutrition security and poverty eradication and sustainable development in Africa. We therefore, reaffirm our support for sustainable infrastructure development in Africa.

6.We note policy actions in Europe, the US and Japan aimed at reducing tail-risks in the world economy. Some of these actions produce negative spillover effects on other economies of the world. Significant risks remain and the performance of the global economy still falls behind our expectations. As a result, uncertainty about strength and durability of the recovery and the direction of policy in some major economies remains high. In some key countries unemployment stays unusually elevated, while high levels of private and public indebtedness inhibit growth. In such circumstances, we reaffirm our strong commitment to support growth and foster financial stability. We also underscore the need for appropriate action to be taken by advanced economies in order to rebuild confidence, foster growth and secure a strong recovery.

7.Central Banks in advanced economies have responded with unconventional monetary policy actions which have increased global liquidity. While this may be consistent with domestic monetary policy mandates, major Central Banks should avoid the unintended consequences of these actions in the form of increased volatility of capital flows, currencies and commodity prices, which may have negative growth effects on other economies, in particular developing countries.
8.We welcome the core objectives of the Russian Presidency in the G20 in 2013, in particular the efforts to increased financing for investment and ensure public debt sustainability aimed at ensuring strong, sustainable, inclusive and balanced growth and job creation around the world. We will also continue to prioritise the G20 development agenda as a vital element of global economic stability and long-term sustainable growth and job creation.

9.Developing countries face challenges of infrastructure development due to insufficient long-term financing and foreign direct investment, especially investment in capital stock. This constrains global aggregate demand. BRICS cooperation towards more productive use of global financial resources can make a positive contribution to addressing this problem. In March 2012 we directed our Finance Ministers to examine the feasibility and viability of setting up a New Development Bank for mobilising resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, to supplement the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. Following the report from our Finance Ministers, we are satisfied that the establishment of a New Development Bank is feasible and viable. We have agreed to establish the New Development Bank. The initial contribution to the Bank should be substantial and sufficient for the Bank to be effective in financing infrastructure.

10.In June 2012, in our meeting in Los Cabos, we tasked our Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to explore the construction of a financial safety net through the creation of a Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) amongst BRICS countries. They have concluded that the establishment of a self-managed contingent reserve arrangement would have a positive precautionary effect, help BRICS countries forestall short-term liquidity pressures, provide mutual support and further strengthen financial stability. It would also contribute to strengthening the global financial safety net and complement existing international arrangements as an additional line of defence. We are of the view that the establishment of the CRA with an initial size of US$ 100 billion is feasible and desirable subject to internal legal frameworks and appropriate safeguards. We direct our Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to continue working towards its establishment.

11.We are grateful to our Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors for the work undertaken on the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement and direct them to negotiate and conclude the agreements which will establish them. We will review progress made in these two initiatives at our next meeting in September 2013.
12.We welcome the conclusion between our Export-Import Banks (EXIM) and Development Banks, of both the "Multilateral Agreement on Cooperation and Co-financing for Sustainable Development” and, given the steep growth trajectory of the African continent and the significant infrastructure funding requirements directly emanating from this growth path, the "Multilateral Agreement on Infrastructure Co-Financing for Africa”.

13.We call for the reform of International Financial Institutions to make them more representative and to reflect the growing weight of BRICS and other developing countries. We remain concerned with the slow pace of the reform of the IMF. We see an urgent need to implement, as agreed, the 2010 International Monetary Fund (IMF) Governance and Quota Reform. We urge all members to take all necessary steps to achieve an agreement on the quota formula and complete the next general quota review by January 2014. The reform of the IMF should strengthen the voice and representation of the poorest members of the IMF, including Sub-Saharan Africa. All options should be explored, with an open mind, to achieve this. We support the reform and improvement of the international monetary system, with a broad-based international reserve currency system providing stability and certainty. We welcome the discussion about the role of the SDR in the existing international monetary system including the composition of SDR’s basket of currencies. We support the IMF to make its surveillance framework more integrated and even-handed. The leadership selection of IFIs should be through an open, transparent and merit-based process and truly open to candidates from the emerging market economies and developing countries.

14.We emphasise the importance of ensuring steady, adequate and predictable access to long term finance for developing countries from a variety of sources. We would like to see concerted global effort towards infrastructure financing and investment through the instrumentality of adequately resourced Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and Regional Development Banks (RDBs). We urge all parties to work towards an ambitious International Development Association(IDA)17 replenishment.
15.We reaffirm our support for an open, transparent and rules-based multilateral trading system. We will continue in our efforts for the successful conclusion of the Doha Round, based on the progress made and in keeping with its mandate, while upholding the principles of transparency, inclusiveness and multilateralism. We are committed to ensure that new proposals and approaches to the Doha Round negotiations will reinforce the core principles and the developmental mandate of the Doha Round. We look forward to significant and meaningful deliverables that are balanced and address key development concerns of the poorest and most vulnerable WTO members, at the ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali.

16.We note that the process is underway for the selection of a new WTO Director-General in 2013. We concur that the WTO requires a new leader who demonstrates a commitment to multilateralism and to enhancing the effectiveness of the WTO including through a commitment to support efforts that will lead to an expeditious conclusion of the DDA. We consider that the next Director-General of the WTO should be a representative of a developing country.
17.We reaffirm the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) mandate as the focal point in the UN system dedicated to consider the interrelated issues of trade, investment, finance and technology from a development perspective. UNCTAD’s mandate and work are unique and necessary to deal with the challenges of development and growth in the increasingly interdependent global economy. We also reaffirm the importance of strengthening UNCTAD’s capacity to deliver on its programmes of consensus building, policy dialogue, research, technical cooperation and capacity building, so that it is better equipped to deliver on its development mandate.

18.We acknowledge the important role that State Owned Companies (SOCs) play in the economy and encourage our SOCs to explore ways of cooperation, exchange of information and best practices.
19.We recognise the fundamental role played by Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the economies of our countries. SMEs are major creators of jobs and wealth. In this regard, we will explore opportunities for cooperating in the field of SMEs and recognise the need for promoting dialogue among the respective Ministries and Agencies in charge of the theme, particularly with a view to promoting their international exchange and cooperation and fostering innovation, research and development.
20.We reiterate our strong commitment to the United Nations (UN) as the foremost multilateral forum entrusted with bringing about hope, peace, order and sustainable development to the world. The UN enjoys universal membership and is at the centre of global governance and multilateralism.In this regard, we reaffirm the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council, with a view to making it more representative, effective and efficient, so that it can be more responsive to global challenges. In this regard, China and Russia reiterate the importance they attach to the status of Brazil, India and South Africa in international affairs and support their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN.

21.We underscore our commitment to work together in the UN to continue our cooperation and strengthen multilateral approaches in international relations based on the rule of law and anchored in the Charter of the United Nations.
22.We are committed to building a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity and reaffirm that the 21st century should be marked by peace, security, development, and cooperation. It is the overarching objective and strong shared desire for peace, security, development and cooperation that brought together BRICS countries.
23.We welcome the twentieth Anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights and of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and agree to explore cooperation in the field of human rights.
24.We commend the efforts of the international community and acknowledge the central role of the African Union (AU) and its Peace and Security Council in conflict resolution in Africa. We call upon the UNSC to enhance cooperation with the African Union, and its Peace and Security Council, pursuant to UNSC resolutions in this regard. We express our deep concern with instability stretching from North Africa, in particular the Sahel, and the Gulf of Guinea. We also remain concerned about reports of deterioration in humanitarian conditions in some countries.

25.We welcome the appointment of the new Chairperson of the AU Commission as an affirmation of the leadership of women.
26.We express our deep concern with the deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in Syria and condemn the increasing violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law as a result of continued violence. We believe that the Joint Communiqué of the Geneva Action Group provides a basis for resolution of the Syrian crisis and reaffirm our opposition to any further militarization of the conflict. A Syrian-led political process leading to a transition can be achieved only through broad national dialogue that meets the legitimate aspirations of all sections of Syrian society and respect for Syrian independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty as expressed by the Geneva Joint Communiqué and appropriate UNSC resolutions. We support the efforts of the UN-League of Arab States Joint Special Representative. In view of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, we call upon all parties to allow and facilitate immediate, safe, full and unimpeded access to humanitarian organisations to all in need of assistance. We urge all parties to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers.

27.We welcome the admission of Palestine as an Observer State to the United Nations.We are concerned at the lack of progress in the Middle East Peace Process and call on the international community to assist both Israel and Palestine to work towards a two-state solution with a contiguous and economicallyviable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel, within internationally recognized borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.We are deeply concerned about the construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which is a violation of international law and harmful to the peace process.In recalling the primary responsibility of the UNSC in maintaining international peace and security, we note the importance that the Quartet reports regularly to the Council about its efforts, which should contribute to concrete progress.

28.We believe there is no alternative to a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. We recognise Iran´s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations, and support resolution of the issues involved through political and diplomatic means and dialogue, including between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran and in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and consistent with Iran’s obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). We are concerned about threats of military action as well as unilateral sanctions. We note the recent talks held in Almaty and hope that all outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme will be resolved through discussions and diplomatic means.

29.Afghanistan needs time, development assistance and cooperation, preferential access to world markets, foreign investment and a clear end-state strategy to attain lasting peace and stability. We support the global community’s commitment to Afghanistan, enunciated at the Bonn International Conference in December 2011, to remain engaged over the transformation decade from 2015-2024. We affirm our commitment to support Afghanistan’s emergence as a peaceful, stable and democratic state, free of terrorism and extremism, and underscore the need for more effective regional and international cooperation for the stabilisation of Afghanistan, including by combating terrorism. We extend support to the efforts aimed at combating illicit traffic in opiates originating in Afghanistan within the framework of the Paris Pact.

30.We commend the efforts of the AU, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Mali aimed at restoring sovereignty and territorial integrity of Mali. We support the civilian efforts of the Malian Government and its international community partners in realising the transitional programme leading up to the presidential and legislative elections. We emphasise the importance of political inclusiveness and economic and social development in order for Mali to achieve sustainable peace and stability. We express concern about the reports of the deterioration in humanitarian conditions in Mali and call upon the international community to continue to cooperate with Mali and its neighbouring countries in order to ensure humanitarian assistance to civilian population affected by the armed conflict.

31.We are gravely concerned with the deterioration in the current situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) and deplore the loss of life. We strongly condemn the abuses and acts of violence against the civilian population and urge all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and return to negotiations. We call upon all parties to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access. We are ready to work with the international community to assist in this endeavour and facilitate progress to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Brazil, Russia and China express their sympathy to the South African and Indian governments for the casualties that their citizens suffered in the CAR.

32.We are gravely concerned by the ongoing instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We welcome the signing in Addis Ababa on 24 February 2013 of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region. We support its independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty. We support the efforts of the UN, AU and sub-regional organisations to bring about peace, security and stability in the country.
33.We reiterate our strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stress that there can be no justification, whatsoever, for any acts of terrorism. We believe that the UN has a central role in coordinating international action against terrorism within the framework of the UN Charter and in accordance with principles and norms of international law. In this context, we support the implementation of the UN General Assembly Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and are determined to strengthen cooperation in countering this global threat. We also reiterate our call for concluding negotiations as soon as possible in the UN General Assembly on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and its adoption by all Member States and agreed to work together towards this objective.

34.We recognize the critical positive role the Internet plays globally in promoting economic, social and cultural development. We believe it’s important to contribute to and participate in a peaceful, secure, and open cyberspace and we emphasise that security in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) through universally accepted norms, standards and practices is of paramount importance.
35.We congratulate Brazil on hosting the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012 and welcome the outcome as reflected in "The Future we Want”, in particular, the reaffirmation of the Rio Principles and political commitment made towards sustainable development and poverty eradication while creating opportunities for BRICS partners to engage and cooperate in the development of the future Sustainable Development Goals.

36.We congratulate India on the outcome of the 11th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Conference on Biological Diversity (CBD COP11) and the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
37.While acknowledging that climate change is one of the greatest challenges and threats towards achieving sustainable development, we call on all partiesto build on the decisions adopted in COP18/CMP8 in Doha, with a view to reaching a successful conclusion by 2015, of negotiations on the development of a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, guided by its principles and provisions.

38.We believe that the internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) address the needs of developing countries, many of which continue to face developmental challenges, including widespread poverty and inequality. Low Income Countries (LICs) continue to face challenges that threaten the impressive growth performance of recent years. Volatility in food and other commodity prices have made food security an issue as well as constraining their sources of revenue. Progress in rebuilding macro-economic buffers has been relatively slow, partly due to measures adopted to mitigate the social impact of exogenous shocks. Many LICs are currently in a weaker position to deal with exogenous shocks given the more limited fiscal buffers and the constrained aid envelopes, which will affect their ability to sustain progress towards achieving the MDGs. We reiterate that individual countries, especially in Africa and other developing countries of the South, cannot achieve the MDGs on their own and therefore the centrality of Goal 8 on Global Partnerships for Development to achieve the MDGs should remain at the core of the global development discourse for the UN System. Furthermore, this requires the honouring of all commitments made in the outcome documents of previous major international conferences.

39.We reiterate our commitment to work together for accelerated progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015, and we call upon other members of the international community to work towards the same objective. In this regard, we stress that the development agenda beyond 2015 should build on the MDG framework, keeping the focus on poverty eradication and human development, while addressing emerging challenges of development taking into consideration individual national circumstances of developing countries. In this regard the critical issue of the mobilization of means of implementation in assisting developing countries needs to be an overarching goal. It is important to ensure that any discussion on the UN development agenda, including the "Post 2015 Development Agenda” is an inclusive and transparent inter-Governmental process under a UN-wide process which is universal and broad based.

40.We welcome the establishment of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in line with the Rio+20 Outcome Document which reaffirmed the Rio Principles of Sustainable Development as the basis for addressing new and emerging challenges. We are fully committed to a coordinated inter-governmental process for the elaboration of the UN development agenda.
41.We note the following meetings held in the implementation of the Delhi Action Plan:
·Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs on the margins of UNGA.
·Meeting of National Security Advisors in New Delhi.
·Meetings of Finance Ministers, and Central Bank Governors in Washington DC and Tokyo.
·Meeting of Trade Ministers in Puerto Vallarta.
·Meetings of Health Ministers in New Delhi and Geneva.
42.We welcome the establishment of the BRICS Think Tanks Council and the BRICS Business Council and take note ofthe following meetings which were held in preparation for this Summit:
·Fifth Academic Forum
·Fourth Business Forum
·Third Financial Forum

43.We welcome the outcomes of the meeting of the BRICS Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors and endorse the Joint Communique of the Third Meeting of the BRICS Trade Ministers held in preparation for the Summit.
44.We are committed to forging a stronger partnership for common development. To this end, we adopt the eThekwini Action Plan.
45.We agree that the next summit cycles will, in principle, follow the sequence of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
46.Brazil, Russia, India and China extend their warm appreciation to the Government and people of South Africa for hosting the Fifth BRICS Summit in Durban.
47.Russia, India, China and South Africa convey their appreciation to Brazil for its offer to host the first Summit of the second cycle of BRICS Summits, i.e. the Sixth BRICS Summit in 2014 and convey their full support thereto.

eThekwini Action Plan:
1.Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs on the margins of UNGA.
2.Meeting of BRICS National Security Advisors.
3.Mid-term meeting of Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas.
4.Meetings of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in the margins of G20 meetings, WB/IMF meetings, as well as stand-alone meetings, as required.
5.Meetings of BRICS Trade Ministers on the margins of multilateral events, or stand-alone meetings, as required.
6.Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Agriculture and Agrarian Development, preceded by a preparatory meeting of experts on agro-products and food security issues and the Meeting of Agriculture Expert Working Group.
7.Meeting of BRICS Health Ministers and preparatory meetings.
8.Meeting of BRICS Officials responsible for population on the margins of relevant multilateral events.
9.Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Science and Technology and meeting of BRICS Senior Officials on Science and Technology.
10.Meeting of BRICS Cooperatives.
11.Meetings of financial and fiscal authorities in the margins of WB/IMF meetings as well as stand-alone meetings, as required.
12.Meetings of the BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI).
13.Meeting of the BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Governments Cooperation Forum.
14.Meeting of the BRICS Urbanisation Forum.
15.Meeting of BRICS Competition Authorities in 2013 in New Delhi.
16.5th Meeting of BRICS Heads of National Statistical Institutions.
17.Consultations amongst BRICS Permanent Missions and/or Embassies, as appropriate, in New York, Vienna, Rome, Paris, Washington, Nairobi and Geneva, where appropriate.
18.Consultative meeting of BRICS Senior Officials in the margins of relevant sustainable development, environment and climate related international fora, where appropriate.

New areas of cooperation to be explored
-BRICS Public Diplomacy Forum.
-BRICS Anti-Corruption Cooperation.
-BRICS State Owned Companies / State Owned Enterprises.
-National Agencies Responsible for Drug Control.
-BRICS virtual secretariat.
-BRICS Youth Policy Dialogue.
-Tourism.
-Energy.
-Sports and Mega Sporting Events.

BRICS to form development bank, create $100 billion contingency reserve

 In a major achievement for India in its campaign for reforming the international financial architecture, BRICS nations decided on Wednesday to establish a new development bank to finance infrastructure and to create a $100 billion contingency reserve arrangement to tackle any financial crisis in the emerging economies.

The decision was taken at the BRICS Summit in Durban which also launched a Business Council to encourage investment and trade in member countries and to expand business cooperation.

Leaders of the inter-continental grouping including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, met here this morning for an extended session and accepted the report of their finance ministers saying "we are satisfied that the establishment of a new development bank is feasible and viable."

"We considered that developing countries face challenges of infrastructure development due to insufficient long-term financing and foreign direct investment, especially investment in capital stock," he said.

"This constrains global aggregate demand. BRICS cooperation towards more productive use of global financial resources can make a positive contribution to addressing this problem," the leaders said in a statement after the two-hour summit.

However, the leaders did not decide on the capital for the proposed bank leaving it to the finance ministers to negotiate this and other issues before September.

The development bank, mooted by India at the last year's summit in Delhi, was originally proposed to be started with a capital of $50 billion with $10 billion from each of the members.

Incidentally, differences appear unresolved with reservations from South Africa and Brazil over the contribution.

Hailing the development bank initiative along with the other leaders, Mr Singh said it gave him great satisifaction to note that one of the ideas that they discussed first in New Delhi - that of instituting a mechanism to recycle surplus savings into infrastructure investments in developing countries - has been given a concrete shape during the Durban Summit.

"Our finance ministers will now work to develop the details of the project," he told a joint press conference with the other leaders.

Besides host president Jacob Zuma, new Chinese president Xi Jinping, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Brazilian president Dila Rouseff participated in the summit.

In his address, Mr Zuma said the summit decided to enter formal negotiations to establish a BRICS-led new development bank based on their own considerable infrastructure needs, amounting to $4.5 trillion over the next five years and to cooperate with the other emerging markets and developing countries in future.

Briefing reporters after the summit, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said India gave two big ideas -- BRICS Development Bank and a Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA) at the Delhi summit last year and "they have now become a reality".

"Both the ideas have been approved by the leaders. Whatever the individual  views of the finance ministers, the leaders have wholeheartedly welcomed the establishment of the Bank and the CRA," he said noting the Brazilian President's remarks that the capital of the Bank must be commensurate with the challenges and goals of the Bank.

He said Mr Putin fully supported establishment of the Bank while China had always been enthusiastic in supporting the bank.

Mr Chidambaram said India wants a nearly complete document before leaders meet for the summit in Brazil in March next year.

He said the initial authorised capital of the Bank was $50 billion but it was decided not to take a call at the first stage. It was agreed that the countries would work it out later. It depends on the members' capacity to contribute. A lot of work has to be done in the next 12 months on capital, membership, governance and domicile issues. There is an internal programme which divides the task and he hoped officials would be able to complete these.

On the contingency reserve arrangement, the minister said India is comfortable with a fund of anything between $50 billion and $100 billion.

There was agreement that China, which has a huge foreign exchange reserve, will contribute 41 billion while it will be 18 per cent for others except South Africa which will contribute $5 billion.

He said the likelihood of any of the five countries to resort to the CRA for overcoming liquidity is not there.  It was only a precautionary measure that can lend stability to the system.

Mr Chidambaram said India was happy with the setting up of the BRICS business council and the BRICS think tank.

He noted Putin's remarks that the five BRICS countries account for 27 per cent of the GDP and total of $5 trillion which make it the important and significant group which can influence discussions in the G 20, IMF and other multilateral institutions.

"If these five countries work together more closely in the days to come, they will become a power in the international matters," he said.

India, like the other BRICS nations, has been campaigning for reforms of international financial and political institutions to reflect the current day realities. It wants reforms of the Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank and the IMF and the UN Security Council.

In the development bank, the finance ministers would still have to decide first on its capital, membership and the location besides governance issues.

Opinion is divided on whether to confine membership to just the BRICS nations or to allow others like developed economies. Also India feels there is need for caution about excessive contribution by any one nation to the capital which could lead to that country having a dominant and influential role.

In this context, the Chinese readiness to pick up stakes on behalf of those not in a position to contribute is viewed with reservations by India.

South Africa, as the chair, is said to be keen on locating the development bank.

In his speech at the summit, Prime Minister Singh said the BRICS platform has evolved tremendously since the first summit at Yekaterinburg in 2009.

"Our agenda now encompasses diverse areas, including global economic developments, peace and security, reforms of the political and economic institutions of global governance, international trade, sustainable development and food and energy security. We have just concluded very fruitful discussions on many of these issues," he said.

The Prime Minister also proposed a five-point roadmap for the BRICS for consolidating and deepening the existing cooperation.    

"First, our foremost challenge is to respond to the persisting weaknesses in the global economy, the financial crisis overhang and the inevitable long term structural changes in the post-2008 world," he said.

"Recognising that BRICS countries will remain key drivers of global economic growth, we should further sustain our growth by harnessing the vast opportunities for expanding trade and investment ties between ourselves.....We should also seek increased cooperation in manufacturing and services sectors. The measures agreed upon today will help us to meet these objectives," Mr Singh added.

Second, the Prime Minister said, the external focus of BRICS research and development cooperation tended to be on the developed world. It would be useful though to encourage collaboration between institutions in BRICS countries because the experiences and solutions will have relevance for each, particularly in areas like energy, food security, education, health care, sustainable development and IT-enabled public services.

The BRICS should also make economic development more broad-based and inclusive not only as a moral imperative but a pragmatic approach to make the global economy more sustainable. That would enhance political and social stability in vulnerable parts of the world.

Fourth, the BRICS countries should work more cohesively in international forums to advance the agenda of sustained global economic recovery and promote a balanced outcome on issues such as trade, sustainable development and climate change in a manner that protects shared interests of the entire developed world.

"Finally, we should work for a reform of global institutions of political and economic governance that reflects contemporary realities and equips them more effectively to deal with emerging challenges. In particular, reform of the UN Security Council and the IMF are urgently needed," the Prime Minister said.

Referring to the multiple economic and security challenges, the Prime Minister said terrorism, piracy and the emerging threats from cyber-space were important security concerns for the BRICS.

"It is incumbent upon us to use our collective voice and capacity and make an effective and meaningful contribution to addressing these challenges and fostering global stability and security," he said.

In his speech, Chinese president Xi Jinping voiced his support to reform of the global governance system and it make more inclusive while promoting peace and development. He said China has set itself two grand goals -- one of doubling the GDP by 2049 to mark 100 years of Communist Party rule and another of raising the per capita income by 2020 to make the country a moderately prosperous society.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

BRICS nations agree to set up development bank


The finance ministers of the BRICS group of nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - today gave a go ahead to set up a development bank, which would challenge the domination of US backed institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

An announcement about the bank -- which is likely to focus on infrastructure financing -- is likely to be part of the BRICS declaration tomorrow when the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa meet.

However, sources say it will take at least a year or more for the bank to begin running as key areas of concerns regarding capital, membership and governance still have to be worked out.

The contentious issues include how much money each country should put in. Since China has more funds at its disposal, it may propose a reserve of over $100 million -- a figure the others cannot afford. The fear is the bank may be dominated by China if it pledges the most money, something that India is trying hard to avoid.

BRICS countries have been under pressure to reach a deal to send a strong message to the US and Europe to prove they are still a relevant grouping. Together the BRICS account for 25 per cent of global GDP and 40 per cent of the world's population.

China, Brazil sign deal to trade in own currencies


BRICS members China and Brazil agreed on Tuesday a swap line allowing them to trade the equivalent of up to $30 billion per year in their own currencies, moving to take almost half of their trade exchanges out of the U.S. dollar zone.

The agreement, due to last three years and signed hours before the start of a BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa, marked a step by the two largest economies of the emerging powers group to make real changes to global trade flows long dominated by the United States and Europe.

"Our interest is not to establish new relations with China, but to expand relations to be used in the case of turbulence in financial markets," Brazilian Central Bank Governor Alexandre Tombini told reporters after the signing.

Brazilian Economy Minister Guido Mantega described the deal, called a bilateral currency swap accord, as "a sort of umbrella agreement" but he did not spell out what specific areas or categories of bilateral trade would be affected.

Trade between the two countries totaled around $75 billion in 2012. Brazilian officials have said they hope to have the trade and currency deal operating in the second half of 2013.

Nearly half of Brazil's exports to China consist of iron ore and related products, while soy and soy products make up about a fifth of these exports. China's biggest exports to Brazil are electronics and machinery.

Mantega said the trade and currency agreement would act as a buffer against turbulence in international financial markets dominated by the U.S. dollar.

"If there were shocks to the global financial market, with credit running short, we'd have credit from our biggest international partner, so there would be no interruption of trade," he added.

Tombini said the currency swap agreement would not affect Brazil's international reserves, as neither the Brazilian real nor the Chinese yuan were used for such reserves.

"This contract has a three-year life and can be renewed," he added.

Chinese officials present at the signing did not make comments to reporters but the People's Bank of China announced on its website the bilateral currency swap agreement worth 190 billion yuan ($30.6 billion). It called it the latest move to facilitate trade and investment between the two countries.

At the BRICS summit in Durban, the fifth held by the group since 2009, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are widely expected to endorse plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool and an infrastructure bank. They are also due to discuss trade and investment relations with Africa.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Will Durban talks lead to a development bank for BRICS?


The finance ministers of the BRICS group of nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - will meet in Durban, South Africa, on Tuesday to try and iron out differences on the big ticket issue: the setting up of a BRICS development bank, which will be an alternative source of funding to US-dominated institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Government sources told NDTV that the finance ministers, who were tasked last year with looking at the viability of such a bank, will say it is feasible in a report that's being presented today. But the bank itself may not get off the mark for at least another year.

Key areas of concern are capital, membership and, most of all, governance. The contentious issues include how much money each country should put in. Since China has more funds at its disposal, it may propose a reserve of over $100 million -- a figure the others cannot afford. The fear is the bank may be dominated by China if it pledges the most money.

How BRICS deals with this issue is also an important indicator of how the group wants to position itself as a powerful economic and political bloc.

The idea of the development bank was mooted by India last year during its presidency and has the support of the other members.

Before leaving for South Africa, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the countries will "discuss ways to revive global growth and ensure macroeconomic stability as well as mechanisms and measures to promote investment in infrastructure and sustainable development". But he made no mention of the bank.

"It is important that BRICS continue to consult closely on developments affecting global peace and security," Dr Singh said, in an obvious reference to a higher quota for developing countries in Bretton Woods institutions like World Bank and IMF and the reform of the UN Security Council.

Tiger Woods reclaims world number one spot


Tiger Woods is back to No. 1 in the world with a game that look as good as ever.

Woods tied a PGA Tour record on Monday by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the eighth time, and this one had some extra significance. It returned him to the top of the world ranking for the first time since the final week of October 2010, the longest spell of his career.

Woods never let anyone closer than two shots in the final round at Bay Hill that was delayed one day by storms. With a conservative bogey he could afford on the last hole, he closed with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot win over Justin Rose.

Next up is the Masters, where Woods will try to end his five-year drought in the majors.

Woods fell as low as No. 58 in the world as he coped with a crisis in his personal life and injuries to his left leg. One week after he announced he was dating Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn, Woods celebrated his third win of the season, and his sixth going back to Bay Hill a year ago.

"It's a byproduct of hard work, patience and getting back to winning golf tournaments," Woods said.

Vonn tweeted moments after his win, "Number 1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Like so many other wins, this one was never really close.

Rickie Fowler pulled to within two shots with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole, but after he and Woods made bogey on the 15th, Fowler went at the flag on the par-5 16th and came up a few yards short and into the water. Fowler put another ball into the water and made triple bogey.

Woods played it safe on the 18th, and nearly holed a 75-foot par putt that even drew a big smile from the tournament host. He walked off the green waving his putter over his head to acknowledge the fans who had seen this act before.

Woods tied the tour record of eight wins in a single tournament. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times from 1938 to 1965 at two golf courses. Woods tied his record for most wins at a single golf course, having also won eight times at Torrey Pines, including a U.S. Open.

"I don't really see anybody touching it for a long time," Palmer said as Woods was making his way up the 18th fairway. "I had the opportunity to win a tournament five times, and I knew how difficult that was."

Rose, who played the first two rounds with Woods, closed with a 70 to finish alone in second.

Fowler had to settle for a 73 and a tie for third with Mark Wilson (71), Keegan Bradley (71) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (72).

Already with three wins this year, Woods is closing in on another Snead record — 82 career wins. Woods won for the 77th time on tour.

Rory McIlroy had been No. 1 since he won the PGA Championship last August. He is playing this week at the Houston Open.

The end of Indian infotech staffing as we know it


India's IT outsourcers are promoting "mini CEOs" capable of running businesses on their own, while trimming down on the hordes of entry-level computer coders they normally hire as they try to squeeze more profits out of their staff.

The shift by Infosys and others is symptomatic of a maturing industry that wants more revenue from its own intellectual property instead of providing only labour-intensive, lower-margin information technology and back-office services.

For young graduates who see the $108 billion IT industry as a sure pathway to modern India's growing middle class, the transformation is unsettling.

Dozens of industry aspirants who were recruited on campus by No. 4 player HCL Technologies recently protested outside its offices in several cities. They were offered jobs in 2011 before graduating last year but have not yet been given joining dates - or paychecks.

"Dear H.R. You were also a fresher... once," read a sign carried by two protesters in a photo in a newspaper.

HCL's December quarter profits and revenues rose while staff numbers shrank - a rare trick in an industry that has long aspired to break the linear relationship between headcount and revenue growth.

Just 20 per cent of the 5,000-6,000 campus recruits offered HCL jobs in 2011 have been taken on board since graduation last summer, and HCL said it made no offers in 2012 to students who would graduate in June 2013.

Slower growth, fewer people leaving, greater demand by customers for experienced staff, and increased productivity through automation and software have put pressure on all recruits, according to HCL, which said it expects to accelerate bringing entry-level staff on board from August.

"It's not that the demand doesn't exist. It exists for different skills," said Ajay Davessar, HCL's head of external communications.

"Typical roles which a student thinks, 'I'll just go there and start coding, and have a good life,' are being tested to reality... Any applicant, be it fresher or senior, will have to have flexibility in applying the skills elsewhere."

FEWER 'CODING COOLIES'
Tech Mahindra, the No.5 player, is naming 100 of what it calls mini-CEOs who will be given broad latitude to run their parts of the business.

"We're moving towards a situation like the developed economies, where we're asking the people to be more deep," said Sujitha Karnad, who heads human resources at Tech Mahindra.

"We want more solution architects to be here. We don't want the coding coolies anymore, that's clear," Karnad said, employing a term commonly used in India in association with menial labourers.

While plenty of Indian back office work such as technical support, processing insurance claims or staffing call centres will remain labour-intensive, software services firms are looking to move up the value chain, which means relying less on the time and toil of staff.

Growth in revenue per employee across the industry could expand to 5 percent a year in the next two years from about 3 percent over the past five, said Forrester Research principal analyst Frederic Giron.

The growth rate is likely to accelerate from around 2015 as intellectual property-based work accounts for a growing share of the total, he said.

India's IT services industry grew in large part because of the availability of cheap skilled labour, an advantage that is eroding as wages and other costs in India rise.

In years past, it was cost-effective for IT companies to hire new graduates by the thousands and keep a portion on the "bench" awaiting deployment on a client project.

But budget-constrained clients now demand shorter lead times. IT vendors that might have hired people six months in advance of an expected contract are now working with a one- or two-month window, said Surabhi Mathur Gandhi, senior vice president at TeamLease, a staffing consultancy.

Traditionally, about 30 percent of Indian IT services industry staff are on the bench at any given time, often in training, as they await deployment to client work.

In the December quarter, about 70 percent of Infosys staff and less than 65 percent at No. 3 provider Wipro were deployed on billable projects. At Tata Consultancy Services, the largest Indian IT services company, the figure was 72 percent, within what Ajoyendra Mukherjee, its human resources head, calls the comfort range of 70 to 74 percent utilisation.

"I think we can push it up to 75, 76," he said.

Another IT services company, iGate Corp, envisions a future where just 10 percent of staff sit on the bench, said Srinivas Kandula, its human resources head, who predicts that the size of its bench will shrink by 2 or 3 percentage points a year over the next five years.

BACK-UP PLAN
Shorter benches mean a smaller share of hiring is direct from campuses, as seasoned professionals moving from a competitor would be less willing to wait to be deployed and firms are reluctant to pay them to do so.

Companies are also binding hires, especially experienced ones, with three-month notice periods and no-buy-out clauses, compared with one-month notice periods previously.

Among top-tier companies that are most actively trying to push non-linear growth where revenues are not constrained by the size of the work force, about 70 percent of employees are experienced staff, up from 60 percent in 2008, said Rajiv Srinivas, an associate director at Tech Mahindra, who expects that to rise to about 90 percent in the next two or three years.

At Infosys, while the net quarterly addition of employees fell from 4,906 people in the March quarter last year to 977 in the December quarter (excluding an acquisition), lateral recruitment held steady at an average of about 4,300 staff per quarter through December, meaning the percentage of campus hires was much lower.

"Earlier, the focus was more on career ... You get into a job, you start learning, and slowly acquire knowledge over a period of time," said Sunil Gupta, who joined Infosys as vice president of quality about six months ago from the Indian unit of CGI Group's Logica Plc.

"Today the value of a professional is judged by how quickly you're learning, how quickly you're adapting yourself and changing along with the environment," he said.

For young Indians who saw IT as a ticket into the middle class, the change means that career path is becoming less clear. Those who do break in and build valuable skills will remain in demand, but the days of young IT staffers brandishing five or more competing offers are over.

Yet that hasn't necessarily translated into slower wage growth. Mercer LLC expects industry salaries to grow 12 percent this year, the same as in 2012. As India's economy diversifies, graduates have more attractive career options, including at multinationals with a growing India presence, such as Google, which means IT vendors must fight to stay attractive.

"We see IT companies as a back-up," said S. S. Jayaram, a final-year engineering student in Bangalore who says he chose a job in India with Mu Sigma Inc, a fast-growing U.S.-based data analytics company, over offers from IBM and TCS.

iPhone 5S, cheaper iPhone launch in June or July


Apple is all set to launch the iPhone 5S and the much-rumoured cheaper iPhone in June or July, analyst Amit Daryanani of RBC Capital Markets has claimed.

Daryanani further goes on to state that the cheaper iPhone will lack Apple's trademark 'Retina' display, in a bid to keep the costs down, Mac Rumours reports.

Our supply-chain checks indicate that AAPL is working to launch multiple new phones in the June/July time-frame this year. Specifically, AAPL will launch the iPhone5s and a more affordable but lower-end iPhone at the same time, in either late CYQ2 or early Q3. The low-end iPhone will have the same 4" form factor as the iPhone5 but will have plastic casing and no retina display. With a lower price-point, AAPL will be able to target a growing and important part of the Smartphone market (sub-$400 price-band).

Earlier reports had indicated that the cheaper iPhone will have a polycarbonate body and carry a price tag of $330 (unsubsidised), which is nearly half the price that an unsubsidised iPhone 5 carries, so this report is in line with that. Another report had said that Apple may use Qualcomm's Snapdragon SoC for low-cost iPhone, instead of its own processors, due to price and supply constraints.

As for the successor to iPhone 5, some rumours had indicated that the iPhone 5S will come with NFC and fingerprint scanner. However, Apple Insider has dug out some purported pics of iPhone 5S parts, including the home button, which do not bear any clear indication of a fingerprint scanner.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

India's billionaire club slow to share riches


They may build skyscraper mansions, travel by private jet and throw sumptuous wedding parties, but it seems India's super-rich are much slower at opening their wallets for charity.

India now has 55 dollar billionaires, the fifth-biggest number in the world, according to a Forbes ranking this month.

But like other emerging economies such as China, its charitable giving still lags markedly behind that in the West where the tradition of wealthy businessmen donating chunks of their fortunes is much more deeply ingrained.

High net worth Indians gave up an average 3.1 percent of their income to charitable causes in 2011 -- up from 2010 but far behind the 9.1 percent average in the United States, according to global consultancy Bain & Company.

But analysts say the upturn in giving as more Indians get seriously rich is going at a snail's pace.

"The pace for corporate India and especially the new rich giving up its wealth is excruciatingly slow," said Manjeet Kripalani, executive director at Gateway House, a Mumbai-based think tank.

"Corporate philanthropy needs to look at a thoughtful way of scaling up giving," she told AFP.

While impressive growth in the past decade has created a swathe of Indian tycoons, the more recent economic slowdown has compounded the slow take-up of philanthropy, despite a pressing need to tackle widespread poverty.

"Giving is impacted by sentiment, which remains weak at the moment. It is likely to be flat or extremely moderate in terms of growth," said Arpan Sheth, author of Bain's annual Indian study.

The latest report released this month did not give fresh statistics, but said donors were "putting a higher bar on understanding the impact of their giving, before they commit to causes" in the tough business environment.

India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, chief of Reliance Industries and owner of a billion-dollar, 27-storey family home, has criticised Western corporate charity as a "disempowering tool" that "increases dependency".

India does not lack a culture of giving.

Reliance has followed the lead of large industrial groups such as Tata and Aditya Birla, which donate heavily to charity through their own trusts, with projects ranging from healthcare and education to rural infrastructure.

Azim Premji, chief of software giant Wipro, last month gave $2.3 billion from his own pocket to the education charity he controls, and he is now considered "Asia's most generous man" by Forbes.

He was the first Indian to join the "Giving Pledge" club, set up by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffet to encourage the world's wealthiest to donate at least half their fortunes to charity.

But the scale of Premji's donation has renewed the debate on why the richest are not giving away more of their wealth.

"Many others haven't demonstrated the same kind of generosity," said business journalist Anand Mahadevan in an Economic Times column.

One explanation from businessmen, Mahadevan said, is that wealth creation is still a recent phenomenon in India compared with countries such as the United States, and philanthropy usually comes further down the road.

Also, Indian charity often takes a more informal form: people might donate to local schools or hospitals in kind, or "give money, hair, gold, to our temples as charity", said Kripalani.

India currently ranks a lowly 133rd out of 146 countries in the latest World Giving Index -- down from 91st position in 2011 -- based on surveys of charitable behaviour around the globe.

Its far poorer neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh came in respectively at 85 and 109 in the same survey.

Analysts say a major barrier to giving is not knowing whether donations will produce sustainable results, given the lack of accountability, transparency and impact assessments.

"When we met philanthropists, the message we got was: show us the impact, we will give more," said Anant Bhagwati, co-author of the Bain report, at a conference in Mumbai this month to encourage a greater philanthropic culture.

The trends may be encouraging: last year's Bain survey found more than 70 percent of donors had less than three years of philanthropic experience and more than a third were 30 or younger.

Manas Ratha, director of the non-profit Dasra group which helps to pair donors with charities, said willing philanthropists were there but needed more guidance.

"A lot of work needs to be done. There is good reason to be optimistic, but we are losing time and opportunity," he said.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 and others



Samsung Galaxy S IV, or Galaxy S4 as Samsung has been calling it so far, was officially unveiled Thursday at an event accompanied by a live orchestra while an audience of thousands watched the theatrics unfold on a four-level stage.

The Galaxy S4, which crams a 5-inch screen into body slightly smaller than the S III's, will go sale starting April. Samsung didn't say what the phone will cost, but it can be expected to start at $200 with a two-year contract in the U.S. That's comparable to the iPhone 5.

JK Shin, the executive in charge of Samsung's mobile communications division, promised the money would be well spent for a "life companion" that will "improve the way most people live every day."

That bold promise set the tone for the kind of flashy presentation associated with the showmanship of Apple, the company that Samsung has been trying to upstage. Apple contends Samsung has been trying to do it by stealing its ideas - an allegation has triggered bitter courtroom battles around the world.

One way Samsung and other makers of Android phone have been one-upping Apple is by increasing the screen size. Every successive generation of the Galaxy line has been bigger than the one before. The S III sported a screen that measures 4.8 inches on the diagonal, already substantially larger than the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen. The S4's screen is 56 percent larger than the iPhone's.

Apart from the larger screen and upgraded processor, the S4 has a battery that's 20 percent larger than that of the S III. Samsung didn't say if that translates into a longer battery life - the added capacity might be gobbled up by the bigger screen or other internal changes.

The S4 comes with a built-in infra-red diode, so it can control an entertainment center as a universal remote. This is a feature that has showed up in Android tablets before.

The S4 comes with several new technologies intended to help users interact with the phone. For instance, the screen now senses fingers hovering just above the screen, and some applications react. The Mail application shows the first few lines of an email when a finger hovers above it in the list, and the Gallery application shows an expanded thumbnail.

Users can control some other applications by making gestures in the air above the phone. In the browser, you can command the screen to scroll up by swiping from top to bottom a few inches from the phone.

The Camera application can now use both the front and rear cameras simultaneously, inserting a small picture of the user even as he's capturing the scene in front of him.

When several S4s are in close proximity, they can link up to play the same music, simultaneously - perfect for headphone dance parties.

The Galaxy S4 also will include a tool that enables users to create a dividing line so part of the phone is devoted exclusively to work while the other part is filled with personal information and photos. The feature is similar to a function on the latest BlackBerry - an indication that Samsung is going after other smartphone makers besides Apple with its latest model.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Top 10 new features


Samsung Galaxy S IV was launched amidst much fanfare at New York's Times Square. While the phone doesn't look much different from its predecessor, the Galaxy S III, in terms of design, it sports several new smart features. We've seen some in other phones, while a large set of them are totally new. Here's a look at ten such features:

1.Smart Pause/Smart Scroll: Samsung takes the Galaxy S III's Smart Stay feature a step further, and senses when you look at the screen of the phone or away from it, automatically scrolling up and down websites and e-mails, and pausing and resuming videos.

2.Air View/Air Gesture: With Air gestures you can simply move your hand to accept or reject calls, change music tracks, browse the web and your photo galleries without actually touching the phone. Air gesture, on the other hand lets you preview emails, photos and other content by hovering your finger over the screen.

3.Group Play: You can transfer and instantly view or play documents, music files, photos, and other content to other Galaxy S4 handsets.It even supports multi-player games.

4.S-Voice Drive: Samsung adds a new interface to its S-Voice voice assistant to offer functionality when you're driving.

5.S-Health: You can track your workouts, daily intake and weight, and monitor your blood pressure, and blood glucose levels with the app.

6.Temperature and Humidity sensors: The Galaxy S4 also features temperature and humidity sensors to know the current status of your surroundings.

7.Dual camera features: The phone allows you to simultaneously shoot with its 13-megapixel rear and 2-megapixel front cameras. So you can place yourself in a group photo while shooting it or give a peek of your surroundings while being on a video call.

8.Sound & Shot feature: You can capture  up to 9 seconds of audio while capturing a picture to make it more interesting.

9.Drama shot: You can combine all stages of action that takes place in burst mode into one photo with this feature. So if you're taking a photo of someone running, you can combine many pictures to depict the act of running in one picture.

10.S-Translate: The phone translates voice and text on the fly through this tool. It is integrated with the e-mail and messaging app, in addition to being present through a standalone app.

Friday, March 15, 2013

India's billionaire wealth much above country's fiscal deficit


The total net worth of India's 55 billionaires has fallen marginally to $189 billion (over Rs. 10 lakh crore) in the past one year, but even half of this amount exeeds the country's total fiscal deficit.

As per the annual list of world's billionaires, published by business magazine Forbes, India has 55 billionaires with a total net worth of $189.1 billion.    

In comparison, India had 48 billionaires with collective networth of $194.6 billion a year ago.

An analysis of Forbes rankings of Indian billionaires shows that just 10 richest from the country together command a total wealth of over $100 billion - a figure higher than the estimated fiscal deficit of about $95 billion for the financial year ending this month.

India's fiscal deficit for the year 2012-13 is estimated at little over Rs. 5 lakh crore or 5.2 per cent of the
country's total GDP.

Forbes has ranked Mukesh Ambani, with a networth of $21.5 billion, as richest from India for sixth year in a row.    

While there are only three Indians in the global top-100, the overall list has 55 billionaires this year from the country. This number has grown from 48 in 2012. It was 55 in 2011 as well.

Lakshmi Mittal, the second richest Indian has a networth of $16.5 billion, followed by Azim Premji ($11.2 billion), Dilip Shanghvi ($9.4 billion), Shashi & Ravi Ruia ($8.5 billion) and Kumar Mangalam Birla ($7.9 billion).

Other Indians in the top ten are Savitri Jindal ($7.6 billion), Sunil Mittal ($6.8 billion), Shiv Nadar ($6.5
billion) and K P Singh ($6.3 billion).    

Uday Kotak, Micky Jagtiani, Cyrus Poonawalla, Adi Godrej, Anil Agarwal, Subhash Chandra, B L Munjal, Rahul Bajaj, Rajan N R Narayana Murthy, K Anji Reddy, MA Yusuff Ali, Vikas Oberoi, S Gopalakrishnan, Venugopal Dhoot, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and Yusuf Hamied are also on the list.

India to have 225 billionaires by 2022: Report


India, which is at the fifth spot in global ranking with 122 dollar-billionaires in 2012, is likely to see a whopping 84 per cent growth in this number with 225 billionaires by 2022, real estate consultancy Knight Frank has said in a report.

Asia's third-largest economy, with 122 dollar-billionaires last year, is expected to see an 84 per cent rise

in this number to 225 by 2022, according to the firm's 'Wealth Report 2013' released here today.

"The number of high net-worth individuals (HNIs) in the country is expected to more than double over the next 10 years to 17,032 from the present 8,481, a growth of 101 per cent. While Mumbai will witness a growth of 137 per cent, Delhi will clip at around 120 per cent," it said.

Mumbai, currently the seventh largest city in terms of HNIs with 2,105 individuals among the top 30 global cities, is likely to have 4,988 of them by 2022. Delhi, which is now ranked 11th with a total of 1,945 HNIs, is likely to have 4,278 super rich by 2022, the report added.

This would give India along with China and Japan the highest number of HNIs in Asia by 2022, it said.

"With the historic shift in economic power towards Asia, its cities are undoubtedly going to become more influential in the coming years," Knight Frank Asia-Pacific Director for Research Nicholas Holt told reporters here.

According to the report, the number of HNIs (with assets of $30 million or more) are likely to increase 50 per cent to 2,86,000 by 2022 globally.

Referring to wealth trend on global city level, the report said London, followed by New York, have the highest number of wealthy individuals. It, however, noted that some Asian cities are fast catching up in this respect.

Don't have a visa to work in Silicon Valley? We have some office space to rent you in the ocean.

While the immigration debate is focused primarily on low-skilled workers, the tech world is focused on the scientists, engineers, and professionals from other countries who want to start businesses here.
There's no visa for that. To that end, two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have an unusual idea. Why not set up shop just offshore? Actually offshore. Think, a floating office park in the Pacific Ocean.
Max Marty is the CEO and cofounder of Blueseed, one of the entrepreneurs in question. Like a lot of tech startups, it's an incubator, trading equity in a company for office space and access to investors. Only on a big decommissioned cruise ship, 12 nautical miles from the coast of California. Those are international waters just a ferry ride away from Silicon Valley.
"We are enabling people from all around the world to connect into Silicon Valley," Marty says. "People live and work out there on their startup for about six to nine months. When they are in the right position and those companies gain a little bit of traction, look at moving into Silicon Valley itself."
What does Blueseed get out of playing cruise director? Namely, a 6 percent stake in the companies aboard, and the ability to influence how many foreign entrepreneurs gain access to the American market.
"The real value for us, and really, the real value for the world is in the value that those companies are going to produce as they grow, as they produce new technologies, and they create jobs," says Marty.
Despite the almost tauntingly close proximity to U.S. waters, Blueseed has had a friendly reception from government so far. The actual launch is still a ways off, but investors have pledged over $9 million so far, with one more round of financing to go. If all that money comes through, its ship will set sail in the second fiscal quarter of 2014.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Apple and Facebook Flash Forward to Computer Memory of the Future


If you hire a plane, you can fly over the massive data center Apple operates in the woodlands of North Carolina, snapping some distant photos of the 500,000-square-foot facility that drives the company’s iCloud web services. And if you’re on foot, you can get a little closer. You might even sneak a peek at the solar farm or the biogas plant that helps power this internet engine room. But Apple won’t let you inside the building — and it won’t tell you what you might find there.

It would be nice to know. Like Google and Amazon, Apple delivers web services to hundreds of millions of people across the globe — at last count, iCloud served over 250 million souls — and that requires a whole new breed of hardware and software, stuff that’s far more efficient than the gear inside most data centers. You can think of this as the technology of the tomorrow. As the web continues to grow, the tech used by the Apples and the Googles will trickle down to the rest of the world. In many cases, it already has.

“The internet giants are the harbinger,” says David Floyer, a longtime analyst in the data center world who now runs a tech research house called Wikibon.

What we do know is that Apple is spending mountains of money on a new breed of hardware device from a company called Fusion-io. As a public company, Fusion-io is required to disclose information about customers that account for an usually large portion of its revenue, and with its latest annual report, the Salt Lake City outfit reveals that in 2012, at least 25 percent of its revenue — $89.8 million — came from Apple. That’s just one figure, from just one company. But it serves as a sign post, showing you where the modern data center is headed.


Inside a data center like the one Apple operates in Maiden, North Carolina, you’ll find thousands of computer servers. Fusion-io makes a slim card that slots inside these machines, and it’s packed with hundreds of gigabytes of flash memory, the stuff that holds all the software and the data on your smartphone. You can think of this card as a much-needed replacement for the good old-fashioned hard disk that typically sits inside a server. Much like a hard disk, it stores information. But it doesn’t have any moving parts, which means it’s generally more reliable. It consumes less power. And it lets you read and write data far more quickly.

But that’s only one way to think about it. The same card can also act like a beefed-up version of a server’s main memory subsystem — the place where the central processor temporarily caches data it needs quick access to. You see, today’s super-fast processors have outstripped not only the hard disk, but main memory — the hard disk is too slow, the memory too small — and with its flash cards, Fusion-io aims to remove both bottlenecks.

“You can make it look like traditional storage if you want to, but it can also give you the appearance of more memory inside a system,” says Fusion-io CEO David Flynn, the engineer who founded the company in 2006, alongside a serial entrepreneur named Rick White. “We called it Fusion-io because it was a fusion of memory and storage. They weren’t two separate things.”

The end result is that an outfit like Apple can more efficiently handle all the requests streaming into its data center from across the internet. It can deliver data faster, and it can do so with fewer servers — something that’s vitally important when you’re running such an enormous operation. That’s why Apple is spending so much with Fusion-io — and it’s why many others are moving in the same direction. In 2012, Facebook spent even more with the flash outfit than Apple did: $107.79 million. All told, the two internet giants have spent nearly a half billion dollars with Fusion-io over the years, and smaller but growing operations like Salesforce.com are using these cards as well.

Fusion-io has been so successful inside these massive data centers, it has spawned an army of imitators. Just last week, tech giant EMC uncloaked a new set of flash cards along the same lines, as did Silicon Valley startup Violin Memory. Another startup, Virident Systems, is building similar cards, and Seagate will soon start hawking these Virident cards to big-name web operations and other businesses. Yes, Seagate, one of the world’s biggest hard drive makers.


Seagate already sells hard disks directly to the big name web players — including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — and it will continue to do so. But it sees where the data center is moving. “There’s now a blurring between the storage world and the memory world,” says Gary Gentry, who oversees the new flash hardware operation at Seagate. “People have been enlightened by Fusion-io.”

The trend is driven by more than just one company. Google also uses flash inside its servers — as we heard last summer from Urs Hölzle, the man who oversees Google’s worldwide network of data centers — and according to Silicon Valley scuttlebutt, the search giant builds its own flash cards along the same lines as Fusion-io. Microsoft tells us it’s using similar cards in its data centers, and it very much sees flash as the future of server memory.

Kushagra Vaid, Microsoft’s general manger of server engineering, points out that flash can further revamp the server memory subsystem because it’s non-volatile, meaning that when you power off or reboot the server, it doesn’t lose its data. Standard memory does. As researchers explore other options for overhauling server memory, Vaid says “the innovation happening on the non-volatile memory front” is the most interesting of possibilities.


If you know anything about Fusion-io, you know that its chief scientist is Steve Wozniak, the man who founded Apple alongside high-school friend Steve Jobs. Woz, as he’s affectionately known, serves as a kind of walking PR campaign for Fusion-io’s new breed of memory, but the idea wasn’t his. It sprang from Rick White and David Flynn.

Before they founded Fusion-io, White and Flynn worked together at a company called Realm Systems. Realm sold a computer that fit into your pocket. It was designed to take your online identity anywhere — you would plug it into another computer and identify yourself with a fingerprint scan or the like, and it would instantly log into all your software applications — but the thing never really took off, in part because the company’s funding dried up.


As they brain-stormed ideas for a new company, White suggested they repurpose the processors inside those tiny Realm machines. If they wired hundreds of them together, he told Flynn, they could create a new kind of low-power supercomputer capable of running massive applications inside the data center. Flynn, an engineer who had once built supercomputers for the likes of the Lawrence Livermore National Labs, told White that was really bad idea — “He reminded me that processors on those tiny mobile computer couldn’t do floating point,” White remembers, referring to the complex calculations typically handled by server chips — but it sparked another.

Those tiny Realm computers also included flash. They used flash in lieu of hard drives, and as a kind of supplement for the DRAM that made up their memory subsystems. It wouldn’t make sense to wire all those tiny processors together, Flynn realized, but you could remake big servers so that they looked more like the Realm machines. You could remake big servers with flash.

Many companies were already offering solid-state drives, or SSDs. These are flash devices designed to mimic hard drives. They look like hard drives, and they plug into the same connectors. But Flynn aimed for something different. He wanted to build a flash device that could also mimic a server’s memory subsystem. “Having worked with supercomputers,” Flynn says, “I knew that the biggest problem with these big systems was the lack of memory.”

Today’s server processors, you see, are designed to use only so much DRAM. Theoretically, this limit is 4 terabytes, aka 4,000 gigabytes, but most servers are equipped with far less. Flynn’s idea was to build what amounted to a second memory subsystem — one that could house many more terabytes of data — and the result was the Fusion-io flash card. It didn’t plug into a hard drive controller. It plugged straight into the PCI Express bus, or PCIe bus, that shuttles information across a server. In other words, this card sat closer to the processor. It bypassed all the extra hardware and protocols needed to operate a hard disk.

In hindsight, this seems like an obvious thing to do. But it was very much a departure from the norm. It’s not just that companies were accustomed to using just hard drives and DRAM inside the server. They stored most of their data outside the server, on vast arrays of hard disks — big-beefy systems called storage area networks, or SANs. Packing its card with such enormous amounts of flash, Fusion-io sought to replace these massive appliances as well. It called the card a “SAN in your hand.”

Facebook and the New Memory

Fusion-io uncloaked its cards in the fall 2007, and it’s first big customer was Facebook. David Flynn was friends Paul Saab, a Facebook software developer and a well-known contributor to the FreeBSD open source operating system, and the relationship between the two companies progressed from there. Nowadays, Fusion-io will even design new cards in tandem with Facebook engineers.

Apple came later. The natural assumption is that this relationship was driven by Steve Wozniak — who joined Fusion-io as chief scientist in late 2008 — but according to Fusion-io, this wasn’t the case. In typical fashion, Apple didn’t respond to a request to discuss its use of flash cards — and Fusion-io demurred — but Facebook is another matter. Unlike Apple, the social networking giant is willing to open the curtain on the hardware and software used inside its data centers, and its new-age systems give you a pretty good idea of how these flash cards can reshape the server.


Initially, Facebook used the cards in the machines that run its database software. This is where companies typically use flash SSDs as well. Basically, the cards replaced hard drives. Housing its database software on flash rather than hard disks, Facebook can significantly speed the delivery of status updates and comments and other social networking chatter.

“When a request gets to the database tier, we want to be able to serve it up really, really quickly,” Facebook’s Frank Frankovsky once told us. “It’s a significant improvement on that overall round-trip time to the user.” What’s more, these flash devices can reduce hassle. As Frankovsky says, a hard disk breaks down more than any other device in the data center. Today, Facebook even boots its database servers from these flash cards.

But Facebook is now moving this sort of flash card into other machines, and it’s replacing memory as well as hard drives. Traditionally, Facebook operated another tier of servers that ran something called Memcached. These machines would, well, cache data in memory. The idea was to provide even quicker access to the stuff that users looked at the most. With this data, you wouldn’t even have to visit the database tier. This worked well enough, but Facebook has now cranked the dial on these servers as well, creating a new software platform that caches data on flash cards rather than main memory.

With this new platform — known as McDipper — the company can cache much larger amounts of data. “Flash provides up to 20 times the capacity per server and still supports tens of thousands of operations per second,” the company said in a recent blog post. “It was the obvious answer to this problem.”

This sort of setup is still significantly slower than main memory, says Microsoft’s Kushagra Vaid. But it’s fast enough, and it consumes less power. When you reach the size of a Microsoft or a Facebook or an Apple, keeping power down is just as important as anything else.

The point is that flash gives you more options — and in the long run, Vaid says, these options will only expand. “It creates this new platform architecture a couple of years down the road,” he explains, “where the application can now be more judicious about how to balance the performance and the power — by choosing the appropriate balance between system memory and non-volatile memory.”

Uh, We’re a Software Company

But, yes, Facebook built McDipper from scratch. And that too shows you how much these flash cards are changing the data center. Today’s software isn’t designed to run on flash cards. You’re forced to write new software.


That’s why Fusion-io has engineers working inside the data centers run its largest customers, including Apple and Facebook. And it’s why the company employs several software developers known for their work on the Linux kernel, the software at the heart of the open source operating system that runs most machines inside the big internet data centers. This includes Chris Mason, who oversees a Linux file system called Btrfs (pronounced “butter fs”) and Jens Axboe, who built several tools related to data input and output and other tasks inside the Linux kernel.

“The storage devices that are coming out now are almost nothing like the storage devices that people have been using for the past few decades. They break a whole bunch of rules and work in very different ways and do a whole lot of things that just weren’t possible before,” says Mason. “But you have to change the core software to enable this.”

The aim, explains Mason and CEO David Flynn, is to tune Linux and other software to get the most out of these cards, but also to make it easier for companies to build their own software. They company now offers a software development kit, or SDK, for building tools atop the cards. In the end, says Flynn, Fusion-io is a much a software company as a hardware company.

This is borne out by the company’s recent contribution to the Open Compute Project, a Facebook-led effort to create new hardware designs for the data center — and share those designs with the rest of the world. This winter, Fusion-io open sourced the design of its flash card, including everything but the controller that drives the card. The aim is to feed the creation of still more flash devices that can run its new breed of software.

The hope, Flynn says, is that computer makers like Quanta and Wistron will build flash straight into the server motherboard, pushing it even closer to the processor. After all, that’s where the data center is headed.