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Apple's decision to store data in China is at odds with the IT community

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August 18, 2014

Apple's recent decision to store user data in China is at odds with the IT community, most notably Google, that likes to keep data *out* of China due to censorship and privacy concerns.

Apple was quick to point out that its decision only affects its Chinese users, but is still being viewed as bizarre by some observers. Apple has started to store some Chinese users' personal data on servers in China owned by China Telecom, Reuters reported on Friday.

Apple said in a statement that China Telecom, the country's third-largest wireless carrier, has been added to the company's list of data center providers.

Apple said the move was made to improve its iCloud service, which lets users store and access photos, music, and other personal data from multiple devices.

With data stored physically closer to its iCloud users, it can be delivered more quickly and reliably, Apple added.

For its part, in 2010, Google had a falling out of sorts with China over censoring search results that eventually led to the internet giant moving its servers to Hong Kong.

On almost any given day, China continues to be an epicenter of controversy over user data. The country has been charged with hacking foreign governments and corporate servers to steal information.

And China is also very notorious for wanting user data stored in its borders. The Chinese government claims it's part of its rules and regulations, but critics have said it gives China easy access to people's personal information, among other things.

Apple has thrown cold water on any indication that storing data on China Telecom's servers will invade the privacy of its users. Apple said the data is heavily encrypted and not accessible by China Telecom or any other party, according to Reuters.

An unidentified source told Reuters that Apple has stored the encryption keys for that data offshore.

It's also worth noting the physical location where data is stored doesn't necessarily protect it from prying governments. For example, a U.S. federal judge in July of this year ordered Microsoft to hand over a customer's email account data being stored in Dublin, Ireland.

While Apple has started storing data in China, it doesn't necessarily mean that user data is more accessible. We contacted Apple for comment on the report. We will update this story when we have more information.

In other IT news

With Intel preparing to ship its latest Xeon processors, Dell is now making a new range of Precision workstations that will take advantage of the forthcoming chips.

The product update will add a new rack workstation and a trio of new towers to the Precision family.

All will make use of the Haswell-EP Xeon E5 v3 processors, notable in part for requiring DDR4 memory, which promises improved performance and power efficiency over DDR3 RAM.

The new workstations will be able to accommodate up to 1 TB of DDR4 RAM. The new Precision towers will be known as the T-5810, T-7810 and the T-7910, with the new rack workstation dubbed the R-7910 and providing the same capabilities as the T-7910.

In addition to the latest processor options, they will also offer the most up-to-date professional graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia and will feature Thunderbolt 2.0 support for speedy data transfers.

Dell has also updated the design of the Precision towers, giving tool-free external access to power supplies, offering quick-release hard drives, and making the front bezel lockable.

While making sure the hardware is up to par for the various demands of engineers and media companies, Dell has also been working on version 2.0 of its Dell Precision Optimizer software.

The tool is due sometime in September and will be pre-installed on the new Precision workstations starting in October.

It will offer on-the-fly automatic performance tuning depending on the application running. About eleven or twelve various performance profiles will be integrated into the utility with the addition of ones for Autodesk 3D Max and Inventor.

The new workstations will also support Intel Cache Acceleration Software for Workstations, which Dell claims provides solid state device (SSD) like performance at a fraction of the cost.

They'll also ship with Dell's Reliable Memory Technology to prevent catastrophic memory failures.

Support for remote computing using the workstations comes in the form of Teradici PCoIP Workstation Access Software, while the R-7910 is qualified to handle Citrix XenServer and VMware ESX workstation virtualization.

Dell says that the new Precision workstations will be available starting on September 9, though no pricing information is available yet.

In other IT news

U.S. regulators have given the green light to IBM's sale of its x86-based server division to chinese server maker Lenovo. The approval was largely expected by the IT community.

"The authorization of the $2.3 billion deal to Lenovo enables Big Blue to better focus on system and overall software innovations that bring new avenues of value to IBM customers in areas such as cognitive computing, Big Data and cloud, and provides clarity and confidence to current x86 customers that they will have a strong partner going forward," IBM said in a statement.

The divestiture had been under review by the U.S. Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which examines whether the sale of U.S. businesses to foreign parties could have national security implications.

Two months ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that the CFIUS review was dragging out because U.S. security officials were concerned that Lenovo could give Chinese spies access to IBM servers, perhaps by installing backdoors of some sorts during routine maintenance or other tasks.

U.S. officials were reportedly also worried about China getting its hands on IBM clustering technology, which they believed could give the Middle Kingdom a boost in high-performance computing.

The latter concerns were probably unfounded, since China already claims the title of the world's most powerful supercomputer.

U.S. regulators have raised similar security issues in the past when Lenovo acquired IBM's PC business in 2005.

CFIUS ultimately approved the PC division sale, but even that wasn't enough to satisfy the U.S. State Department, which banned the use of Lenovo-built PCs on secure government networks anyway, over China's objections.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Britain reportedly did the same. There's been no word yet from government sources as to whether these bans will now also extend to System x servers, but in June, Hewlett Packard claimed that it had already won hundreds of customers away from IBM since the Lenovo deal was announced in January.

The System x sale was approved by China's Ministry of Commerce in July, which left the CFIUS review as the final government hurdle it needed to clear before going forward with the deal. "The parties now look forward to closing the acquisition," IBM said.

In other IT news

Oracle is saying that recent findings by the judge hearing its case against third party software support firm Rimini Street prove that its IP has been violated.

Judge Larry Hicks' orders aren't online yet, but Oracle has let the world know about what it considers the best victory.

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That includes a quote to the effect that Rimini Street has engaged in massive theft of Oracle's intellectual property in which the Judge apparently said it is undisputed that Rimini engaged in theft of Oracle's intellectual property.

Oracle says that today's findings also demonstrate that Rimini Street ran 200 unlicensed copies of its database software.

Oracle's attorney Geoff Howard's statement indicates that Oracle expects Rimini Street to start talking about specific damages payments (read: and out-of-court settlement) or suffer a full-fledged jury trial.

The case directly hinges on how third-party support providers like Rimini Street go about their business.

Oracle has in the past accused Rimini Street of signing up for Oracle support, downloading as much of the stuff on the support database as it can, then using that material to provide its support service to Oracle users at rather less than Oracle charges.

Oracle asserts that behavior directly violates the terms of its contracts and represents theft of its intellectual property.

Which may well be true. A more complex issue is that software vendors make decent profits from support and don't like the idea that anyone can undercut them, especially when it's their own software.

A certain hostility towards third-party providers is therefore almost inevitable, as is some pondering of various competition laws.

Rimini Street has not issued a response to the new decision at the time of writing. The case continues, and we will keep you posted.

Source: Reuters.

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