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Microsoft rolls out new tech to connect its cloud to rivals

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Microsoft Corp on Tuesday announced a new round of technologies aimed at making its cloud computing services work in data centers it does not own – including the cloud data centers of its rivals.

The strategy, Microsoft executives and analysts say, has been key to the company’s rise in the cloud computing infrastructure market, which research firm Gartner estimates hit $64.3 billion and where Microsoft is second only to market leader Amazon.com’s Amazon Web Services. Microsoft last week said revenue from Azure, its flagship cloud offering, grew 48%, results that helped it overtake Apple Inc as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.

Microsoft’s strategy has involved constructing its most lucrative cloud software services, such as database tools, so that they can run inside its own data centers, those owned by customers or even those of rivals like Amazon.

Microsoft’s cloud and artificial intelligence chief Scott Guthrie told Reuters that the move has persuaded some customers to use its services when they cannot always use Microsoft’s data centers. Royal Bank of Canada, Guthrie said, faces legal requirements to keep some of its computing work in its own data centers and uses a technology called Azure Arc to connect those facilities to Microsoft’s cloud.

“The challenge with higher-level services historically has been the concern of ‘lock in’ – what happens if I can only use them in your data center?” Guthrie said. “That freedom of movement causes customers to feel much more comfortable using those services.”

Ed Anderson, a vice president distinguished analyst with Gartner, said the approach does open doors for Microsoft with customers, but it also forces the company to compete on the quality of its software services rather than by packaging them with cheap computing power.

“To be honest, that’s a better way to compete,” Anderson said. “Customers are suspicious of rhetoric. They look for evidence of capabilities and are cautious of things where in principle technology is multi-cloud but maybe the software licensing doesn’t support it.”

 

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco)

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Ontario passes new rules aimed at work-life balance for employees – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Ontario government has passed new laws it says will help employees disconnect from the office and create a better work-life balance.

On Tuesday, the government said it passed the “Working for Workers Act,” which requires Ontario businesses with 25 people or more to have a written policy about employees’ rights when it comes to disconnecting from their job at the end of the day.

These workplace policies could include, for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working, the government says.

According to the act, between January 1 and March 1 of each year an employer must ensure it has a written policy in place for all employees with respect to disconnecting from work.

“We are determined to rebalance the scales and put workers in the driver’s seat of Ontario’s economic growth while attracting the best workers to our great province,” Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, said in a statement Tuesday.

The act also bans the use of non-compete clauses, which prevent people from exploring other work opportunities and higher salaries at other jobs.

According to the government, Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada, and one of the first in North America, to ban non-compete agreements in employment.

McNaughton says the new laws not only protects workers’ rights, but also will help to attract top talent and investments to the province.

The act also removes “unfair” work experience requirements for foreign-trained immigrants trying to work in their professions. 

It also introduces a mandatory licencing framework for temporary help agencies and recruiters to help prevent labour trafficking.

“This legislation is another step towards building back a better province and cementing Ontario’s position as a global leader, for others to follow, as the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family,” McNaughton said.

A government spokesperson told CTV News Toronto that while the act has not yet received royal assent, it is expected to later this week.

Timelines for when each law under the Working For Workers Act will come into effect have not been announced yet and the government said it there will be a initial grace period for businesses.

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Asian factories shake off supply headaches but Omicron presents new risks

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Asian factory activity grew in November as crippling supply bottlenecks eased, but rising input costs and renewed weakness in China dampened the region’s prospects for an early, sustained recovery from pandemic paralysis.

The newly detected Omicron coronavirus variant has also emerged as a fresh worry for the region’s policymakers, who are already grappling with the challenge of steering their economies out of the doldrums while trying to tame inflation amid rising commodity costs and parts shortages.

China’s factory activity fell back into contraction in November, the private Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed on Wednesday, as soft demand and elevated prices hurt manufacturers.

The findings from the private-sector survey, which focuses more on small firms in coastal regions, stood in contrast with those in China’s official PMI on Tuesday that showed manufacturing activity unexpectedly rose in November, albeit at a very modest pace.

“Relaxing constraints on the supply side, especially the easing of the power crunch, quickened the pace of production recovery,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group, in a statement accompanying the data release.

“But demand was relatively weak, suppressed by the COVID-19 epidemic and rising product prices.”

Beyond China, however, factory activity seemed to be on the mend with PMIs showing expansion in countries ranging from Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Japan’s PMI rose to 54.5 in November, up from 53.2 in October, the fastest pace of expansion in nearly four years.

South Korea’s PMI edged up to 50.9 from 50.2 in October, holding above the 50-mark threshold that indicates expansion in activity for a 14th straight month.

But output shrank in South Korea for a second straight month as Asia’s fourth-largest economy struggles to fully regain momentum in the face of persistent supply chain disruptions.

“Overall, with new export orders flooding back to countries previously hamstrung by Delta outbreaks and the disruption further down the supply chain still working through, there is plenty of scope for a continued rebound in regional industry,” said Alex Holmes, emerging Asia economist at Capital Economics.

India’s manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace in 10 months in November, buoyed by a strong pick-up in demand.

Vietnam’s PMI rose to 52.2 in November from 52.1 in October, while that of the Philippines increased to 51.7 from 51.0.

Taiwan’s manufacturing activity continued to expand in November but at a slower pace, with the index hitting 54.9 compared with 55.2 in October. The picture was similar for Indonesia, which saw PMI ease to 53.9 from 57.2 in October.

The November surveys likely did not reflect the spread of the Omicron variant that could add further pressure on pandemic-disrupted supply chains, with many countries imposing fresh border controls to seal themselves off.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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ANZ faces class action for “unfair” interest charged from credit card customers

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Australia and New Zealand Banking Group has been sued by a law firm for charging interest on some purchases by credit card holders which were repaid on time for nearly a decade, the parties said on Wednesday.

The law firm, Phi Finney McDonald, filed a class-action suit in the federal court against Australia’s No. 4 lender for charging interest between July 2010 and January 2019 on purchases that should have been interest-free.

“The terms of ANZ’s contract made it impossible for a typical consumer to understand that they would be charged retrospective interest, even on purchases which they repaid on time,” the law firm said in a statement.

Australia outlawed charging retrospective interest in January 2019.

The lawsuit alleged “unfair contract terms and unconscionable conduct” by the bank, but did not specify the damages it was seeking against ANZ in the federal court.

ANZ said in a statement it would review the claim that its contract contravened the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal actions faced by Australia‘s top banks, ranging from breach of consumer protection credit laws to charging financial advice fees to dead customers.

Scrutiny of Australian lenders and financial institutions has ramped up significantly since a Royal Commission inquiry in 2018 found widespread shortcomings in the sector, forcing companies and regulators to take swift action.

 

(Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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