Daily Archives: May 15, 2020

National Security at the United Nations This Week (May 8-15) – Just Security

Posted: May 15, 2020 at 8:52 pm

(Editors Note: This is the latest in Just Securitys weekly series keeping readers up to date on developments at the United Nations at the intersection of national security, human rights, and the rule of law.)

WHO Doctor Warns Coronavirus may Never Go Away, as Agency Outlines Reopening Criteria and Highlights Pandemics Mental Health Effects

The novel coronavirus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and may never go away, World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Director of Health Emergencies Dr. Mike Ryan said in a May 13 media briefing. He cited HIV as an example of a relatively recent virus that has become treatable but has not been eradicated or limited by an effective vaccine. The comments drew major news coverage (see here, here and here). Ryan went on to state:

Im not comparing the two diseases, but I think it is important that we be realistic and I dont think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear. We do have one great hope: if we do find a highly effective vaccine that we can distribute to everyone who needs it in the world, we may have a shot at eliminating this virus, but that vaccine will have to be highly effective, it will have to be made available to everyone, and we will have to use it.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in an earlier media briefing on May 11, discussed the need to balance the potential health harms of lifting stay-at-home orders and business closures against the social, economic, and health harms associated with extending the orders indefinitely. Stating that to protect lives and livelihoods, a slow, steady lifting of lockdowns is key to both stimulating economies, while also keeping a vigilant eye on the virus so that control measures can be quickly implemented if an upswing in cases is identified, Tedros outlined three key questions for policymakers to consider when deciding when and how to ease lockdown measures:

First, is the epidemic under control? Second, is the healthcare system able to cope with a resurgence of cases that may arise after relaxing certain measures? Third, is the public health-surveillance system able to detect and manage the cases and their contacts, and identify a resurgence of cases?

Tedros emphasized that these are merely criteria to be considered, and no perfect formula exists to balance harms, cautioning that recent resurgences of the coronavirus in locations such as South Korea, Germany, and Wuhan, China, following the easing of restrictions are signs of the challenges that may lie ahead.

WHO on May 10 issued a policy brief on surveillance strategies for containing the spread of the virus and procedures for reopening schools. The agency also warned May 13 that the pandemic could undo recent progress in improving global health, and, in a May 14 news release, highlighted the increased prevalence of mental-health issues globally due to the pandemic.

Migrant Lives at Risk in Mediterranean, with Pushback Practices, says OHCHR

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated it is deeply concerned about recent reports of failure to assist and coordinated pushbacks of migrant boats in the central Mediterranean, which continues to be one of the deadliest migration routes in the world. The May 8 statement came after reports that Maltese authorities were engaging in pushbacks, whereby boats containing migrants are towed back out to sea. OHCHR Spokesperson Rupert Colville expressed concern that nations appear to be using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for closing their borders to vulnerable migrants, especially those fleeing war-torn Libya. He called for the use of administrative regulations and measures being used to impede the work of humanitarian NGOs to be lifted immediately, noting that [s]uch measures are clearly putting lives at risk.

Meanwhile, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also expressed concern that the combined effects of conflict and the coronavirus pandemic are driving more and more civilians to depart Libya on a dangerous sea route.

Renewed Efforts at Security Council for Ceasefire Resolution Amid US Recalcitrance

The United States blocked an attempt by members of the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution imposing a global ceasefire in order to address the pandemic, according to a May 8 report in The Guardian. The U.S. made the move after some representatives thought they had reached a compromise whereby reference to WHO would be replaced by a reference to specialist health agencies in the resolution, due to U.S. demands.

Germany and Estonia submitted another proposed global ceasefire resolution on May 12. No date has been set for a vote on the new resolution. Some have speculated that if all reference is dropped to the WHO, even indirectly, in the text of the new proposed resolution, China may exercise its veto instead of the United States.

UNAIDS and World Leaders Call for Free Peoples Vaccine

More than 140 world leaders and high-ranking experts, including the heads of state of Ghana, Pakistan, South Africa, and Senegal, signed onto an open letter drafted by U.N. AIDS (UNAIDS) calling for any effective coronavirus vaccine that is developed to be made available for free to everyone globally. The letter states that [g]overnments and international partners must unite around a global guarantee which ensures that, when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it is produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people, in all countries, free of charge. The same applies for all treatments, diagnostics, and other technologies for COVID-19.

Coronavirus Fallout May Cause 6,000 Daily Deaths of Children Under Five, UNICEF Warns

In a May 12 appeal for additional funding of $1.6 billion to help it fulfill the needs of vulnerable children amid the ongoing pandemic, the U.N. Childrens Fund (UNICEF) warned that the devastating socioeconomic consequences of the disease and families rising needs. The following day, citing a recent publication by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers in the Lancet Global Health journal,UNICEF said, An additional 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to weaken health systems and disrupt routine services. UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore stated, The pandemic is a health crisis which is quickly becoming a child rights crisis.

UN Leaders Urge Additional Coronavirus Protections for Prisoners

The heads of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), WHO, OHCHR and UNAIDS issued a joint statement on May 13 seeking to to urgently draw the attention of political leaders to the heightened vulnerability of prisoners and other people deprived of liberty to the COVID-19 pandemic, and urge them to take all appropriate public health measures in respect of this vulnerable population that is part of our communities. The statement called attention to the special vulnerabilities of people deprived of their liberty, such as their inability to practice physical distancing, the prevalence of preexisting conditions that render them more vulnerable to COVID-19, and lack of access to proper medical care and hygiene facilities, among other factors.

First COVID-19 Cases Confirmed in Bangladesh Refugee Camp Housing Rohingya

A refugee in Bangladeshs crowded Coxs Bazar refugee camp tested tested positive for the coronavirus, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic confirmed on May 15. The news raises concerns of a potentially massive outbreak of the virus, as 860,000 Rohingya refugees are living in the areas refugee camps in very close quarters.

UN Officials Issue Joint Statement on Libya

Seven prominent U.N. officials released a joint statement on the situation in Libya and the special risks civilians in the country face due to the combination of conflict and COVID-19. In the statement, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, Executive Director of UNICEF Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the U.N. Population Fund Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the World Food Programme David Beasley, Director-General of WHO Tedros and Director General of the U.N.s International Organization for Migration Antnio Vitorino reiterate the urgency of a ceasefire to allow the pandemic to be addressed. They single out attacks on water supplies as especially troubling, calling for all parties to the conflict to protect such resources and infrastructure.

Envoy Reports Significant Promise in Yemeni Ceasefire Negotiations

U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths informed the Security Council of significant progress in ceasefire negotiations in Yemen, although he qualified his assessment: I am coming to this Council yet again to express hope, instead of to report success. More from the U.N. News Service here.

Additional Items

U.N. peacekeeping forces in Sudan reported the first confirmed positive coronavirus test in a Protection of Civilian (PoC) site, as confirmed by a May 13 briefing by the Office of the Secretary-Generals Spokesperson. The same day, the U.N. News Service reported that the South Sudanese government confirmed that two confirmed cases of the virus were identified within a PoC in Juba. There is major concern that an outbreak within PoC sites could be devastating. In South Sudan, more than 190,000 civilians are sheltering at such sites, including 30,000 in the Juba location. Given that such sites tend to be crowded, an outbreak would be exceedingly difficult to contain.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet referred on May 8 to the potential for a dual threat of a surge in violence and in coronavirus infections in Syria as a ticking time bomb. Various parties to the conflict in Syria, including ISIL, appear to view the global focus on the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to regroup and inflict violence on the population, she said.

UNAIDS issued a warning on May 11 that disruptions to the delivery of antiviral medicines critical to treating HIV/AIDS attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic could cause hundreds of thousands of additional deaths and increase transmission rates significantly. UNAIDS chief Winnie Byanyima said, The right to health means that no one disease should be fought at the expense of the other.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) released its third special report (Spanish only) on May 12 on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, entitled The Social Challenge in Times of COVID-19. The commission proposes that governments ensure immediate temporary cash transfers to meet basic needs and sustain household consumption, which will be crucial for achieving a solid and relatively quick reactivation, according to an English-language ECLAC press release. In addition, in the long term, the organization reiterates that these transfers should be made permanent. This support for a universal basic income echoes a recent statement in support of a universal basic income by U.N. Development Programme Asia-Pacific Bureau Chief Kanni Wignaraja.

Three senior U.N. officials called for the immediate release of all Palestinian children detained by Israeli authorities. In a May 11 joint statement, they noted that Israeli government data shows 194 Palestinian children were detained by the Israeli authorities in prisons and detention centres as of the end of March. The statement was issued by U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Jamie McGoldrick, UNICEF Special Representative in the State of Palestine Genevieve Boutin, and Head of the U.N. Human Rights Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory James Heenan. The best way to uphold the rights of detained children amidst a dangerous pandemic, in any country, is to release them from detention and to put a moratorium on new admissions into detention facilities, they said.

Various U.N. agencies and officials condemned two attacks in Afghanistan on May 12 that killed at least 14 people. Among those who issued condemnations were U.N. Secretary-General Antnio Guterres, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer, and the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), held an informal video briefing on May 11 on Joining Forces: Effective Policy Solutions for Covid-19 Response. ECOSOC President Mona Juul released a statement on May 12 summarizing key takeaways from the briefing. Echoing the rallying call of the U.N. to build back better from the pandemic, Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed referred to the sustainable development goals as a clear compass that can guide the world in rebuilding.

Expressing its concern that least developed countries such as Haiti will be disproportionately affected given the weak health infrastructure and underlying social and economic inequalities characterizing these countries, ECOSOCs Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti issued a statement on May 8 cautioning that the COVID-19 health emergency, and its socio-economic impact, could become a humanitarian catastrophe in Haiti if immediate action is not taken to address the countrys health and humanitarian needs. More from the U.N. News Service here.

U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Qu Dongyu reported May 11 that while significant gains had been made in the fight against the desert locust upsurge in East Africa and Yemen more needs to be done to prevent a food security crisis, as the ongoing rainy season not only provides livelihoods for farmers and pastoralists but also favourable conditions for locusts to breed. The locust outbreak is the worst in decades in East Africa.

Three U.N. peacekeepers from Chad were killed in northern Mali on May 10 when their convoy hit a roadside bomb. Four others were injured in the attack, which Secretary-General Guterres noted in a statement may constitute war crimes under international law. He called on the Malian authorities to spare no effort in identifying the perpetrators of these attacks so that they can be brought to justice swiftly.

Three U.N. experts issued a joint statement on May 13 urging Hong Kong not to charge peaceful protestors with crimes. Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor expressed concern that the recent arrest of 15 prominent pro-democracy activists will have a chilling effect on peaceful protests, calling for the charges against the arrested activists to be dropped.

In remarks to a video-conference on the role of religious leaders in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary-General Guterres said that leaders from all religions have a shared responsibility to promote solidarity as the foundation of our response a solidarity based on the human rights and human dignity of all. Additional reporting on the remarks from the U.N. News Service available here.

The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on May 13 released a report on ocean conditions in the region. According to ESCAP, the report, entitled Changing Sails: Accelerating Regional Actions for Sustainable Oceans in Asia and the Pacific, explores the key areas around which regional platforms can rally interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral solutions for the ocean. Notably, the study finds that the ongoing global pandemic has created breathing space for the ocean habitat to begin to rehabilitate itself as the pressure of ocean traffic, overfishing and pollution are eased due to reduced activity. See the U.N. News report on the release of the report here.

In a statement on last weeks deadly gas leak that killed 12 people and sickened 1,000 more at a chemical plant in India, Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak reiterated calls for the industry to implement human rights due diligence. Tuncak, whose brief covers the implications of the handling of hazardous substances and wastes on human rights, welcomed the opening of an investigation into the incident, including the possibility of charging perpetrators with homicide offences. The statement was endorsed by the Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment David Boyd, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, Danius Pras.

The world economy will shrink by 3.2 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) forecasts in its mid-2020 report, producing $8.5 trillion in reduced economic output over the next two years. DESA also estimates that the pandemic will push over 34 million people into extreme poverty this year due to its economic impacts.

Secretary-General Guterres called it unlikely that leaders will gather in New York in September, as had been planned to mark the 75th anniversary of the formation of the General Assembly, the Brussels Times reported on May 14. The reported quote is from a French-language interview in the magazine Paris Match.

The United States accused Iran of violating a U.N. resolution by launching a satellite last month according to a May 14 news report from the Associated Press. On May 12, Russias ambassador to the U.N. reportedly referred to the U.S. assertion that it continues to have rights as a participant in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, including the right to reinstate sanctions on Iran for alleged violations of the deal, as ridiculous, given that President Donald Trump announced in 2018 that the United States would be leaving the agreement. China also reportedly rejects the United States position that it can unilaterally reinstate sanctions against Iran, also citing Trumps withdrawal from the deal.

WHO representatives are seeking answers after Burundi unexpectedly expelled its staff. Burundian officials requested that WHO officials leave the country May 13. The WHOs ouster comes as the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Burundi has expressed concern that the ongoing election campaign in the country has been marked by an increase in political intolerance and numerous acts of violence and human rights violations. In its May 14 statement, the commission expressed its concern regarding the decision by the Burundian authorities not to apply [WHO] recommendations on social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during the electoral campaign, while thousands of people interact on a daily basis during political rallies. The commission also expressed regret at the ouster of a WHO official from the country.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) warned that the current gaps in social protection could compromise recovery plans, expose millions to poverty, and affect global readiness to cope with similar crises in future. The cautionary note came in two policy briefs, the first entitled Social protection responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries and the second entitled Sickness benefits during sick leave and quarantine: Country responses and policy considerations in the context of COVID-19.

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National Security at the United Nations This Week (May 8-15) - Just Security

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With new rules and a new normal, NASCAR set to return this weekend – ESPN

Posted: at 8:51 pm

It was a month ago when Kerry Tharp's phone rang. The area code was a familiar one: 386, as in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The man known throughout the racing world as "The Commander" is in his fifth year as president of Darlington Raceway, NASCAR's old-school equivalent to Fenway Park or Lambeau Field and a facility that, as of last fall, is owned by the sanctioning body itself. Before that, Tharp spent more than a decade in NASCAR's communications department. So, when the phone rings from 386 and NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach, Tharp has always known it is never an unimportant call.

But this one was the biggest he has ever answered.

"They said, 'Could Darlington be ready to host a Cup Series race on May 17?'" Tharp recalls. "I said, 'Well, I don't seem to have anything on my calendar for that day -- or anything on my calendar for any other day, either. So yeah, let's do it.'"

The Commander laughs as he tells the story, then quickly cuts those chuckles short.

"For a month I had been just like everyone else in the United States," he said. "I was at home, on my couch, doing whatever I could around the house and wondering when we were going to get sports back. But as soon as I got that phone call, I called the Darlington Raceway staff and said, 'See you back in the office tomorrow morning. We've got a few weeks to do a few months' worth of work.'"

2 Related

On Sunday at Darlington, NASCAR will return to the racetrack for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced it to pack up and abandon Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 13, as teams were preparing their cars for the weekend's first practice session ahead of what was supposed to be the season's fifth race.

Now that fifth race will be run two months later and at an entirely different racetrack. It will be held with no fans in the grandstand and no laps having been turned in practice or qualifying. Teams will do their work in unusually small groups, restricted to 16 crew members, including the driver. Big organizations routinely have three times that many people on their credential rosters, from mechanics and engine tuners to team owners and family members.

Those crew members will be the subject of a health screening prior to entering the racetrack, a check of temperature and vital signs, to be compared with health notes already supplied to on-site medical teams. As one Darlington Raceway official described it, "It'll look like the TSA airport screening line, but with thermometers." Anyone showing signs of fever or other symptoms, or exhibiting in-person deviations from the paperwork provided, will be sent for "heavy screening" by physicians in the newly erected medical center.

When they go to work inside the track, they will be subject to random light screenings throughout the day and thermal cameras will monitor their temperatures as they work. There will not be COVID-19 testing as of yet, in part because the tests take days to process and because NASCAR has said it does not want to take tests away from the general public.

Anyone who does not comply with these new unprecedented safety measures and rules -- say, a refusal to wear a mask -- will be ejected from the garage and hit with massive fines. In the garage, there will also be no tolerance for handshakes or hugging it out with friends. There will be no contact with anyone outside of one's group, every team confined to designated work areas and walking to those areas via precisely marked footpaths.

The path that NASCAR has traveled during the 65 days between Atlanta and Darlington has been anything but precise, a constantly redrawn road map that, even here on the eve of stock car racing's return, remains written in pencil, ready to react to anything that goes right or wrong at Darlington.

"The conversations and decisions that have been made during this time are no different than the decisions that have to be made by everyone right now, in every corner of society," said Eric Nyquist, NASCAR senior vice president and chief communications officer. "The news and what we know about the virus and the pandemic, it all seems to change on an hourly basis, especially during those critical first days after Atlanta. So, we have always had to be willing to react to that. And that flexibility won't stop when racing starts at Darlington. Far from it."

Those critical first days Nyquist speaks of were spent by the highest-ranking members of NASCAR's management team hunkered down in an expansive meeting space in the sanctioning body's HQ facility, located across the street from Daytona International Speedway. They have been in that room nearly nonstop over the past two months, but in the beginning, it was a strange juxtaposition, to say the least.

Only one month earlier, the racetrack across the street had hosted thousands of people as they watched Denny Hamlin win the Daytona 500 and Ryan Newman survive one of the most frightening crashes in the 62-year history of the Great American Race. Now the track, and the highways around it, were silent, as NASCAR's brass, led by president Steve Phelps, took their seats in the meeting space -- so spread apart via social distancing some had to raise their voices to deliver their talking points from one side of the room to the other.

NASCAR also was on every pandemic-related conference call that involved America's major sports leagues, including those conducted by the White House.

Over the past three weeks, ESPN.com talked with people from every corner of NASCAR, from the sanctioning body and competitors to racetrack executives and crew members, to see how they have prepared for the sport's return.

Auto racing was widely considered a leading candidate to become the first sport to return, thanks to the lack of physical contact between competitors and an already existing emphasis on safety. It is the only sport in which competitors -- drivers and pit crews -- have long plied their trades on Sunday afternoons wearing gloves, face coverings and helmets.

Because of the dangerous nature of auto racing, NASCAR's file of medical experts was already extensive. Those contacts drove NASCAR toward Dr. Celine Gounder, clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Gounder has been on the coronavirus front lines at New York City's Bellevue Hospital Center and on the executive committee of the NYC COVID-19 Rapid Response Coalition.

"This physician had been on the ground with Ebola. What was beneficial was to have access to info that put us a few weeks ahead in terms of how we needed to respond," said John Bobo, NASCAR vice president of racing operations. "We also talked with local health care providers of where we're going, and we get buy-in from those folks. As we talked to emergency room physicians in different cities, we got a better understanding of how the virus was reacting. We were trying to find a lot of different data points.

Ryan McGee explains why this could be another turning-point moment for NASCAR, and gives host Mina Kimes and other casual racing fans one good reason to love the sport. Listen to ESPN Daily

"We wanted to go into a community that was not in crisis. We must have an advanced life support helicopter on hand, and we always have to work closely with health care providers. We treasure our local relationships with health care providers, and we always tour trauma centers before and after races. So, we relied upon relationships we already had."

Every bit of that data gathering was done with the express goal of returning as soon as possible, wherever and whenever it made the most sense. When NASCAR's list of postponed events grew from three (Atlanta, Homestead-Miami and Texas Motor Speedway in March) to eight (adding Bristol, Richmond, Talladega in April and Dover and Martinsville in early May), the target date for the sport's return became May 24, with the traditional Memorial Day weekend "crown jewel" event, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"The attraction to Charlotte was pretty obvious once we realized that the schedule changes were going to slide into April and looking toward May," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "It's home. Most teams can drive there in minutes, so there's no air travel and no hotel rooms. It's also the same type of racetrack [a 1.5-mile intermediate oval vs. two-plus-mile superspeedways, winding road courses or half-mile short tracks] as the races we had to postpone at Atlanta, Homestead and Texas, so race teams should have the inventory of cars and engines for that type of racetrack ready to go."

1:02

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson explains what it will be like showing up to race at Darlington without practicing and shares how simulations on iRacing have helped him get a feel for the track.

Even as the idea of a Charlotte return started to make the rounds, it did not deter government officials, particularly state governors, from lobbying NASCAR to pick a facility in their state to be the sure-to-be-ballyhooed comeback track. The leader of that charge was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was in contact with Phelps nearly the instant that the Atlanta event had been shuttered, assuring NASCAR it could continue to do its work in Daytona and also looking for some assurance that his state's racetracks -- Homestead-Miami and Daytona -- would still host their scheduled events, whether it be sooner or later than originally scheduled.

At one point or another, NASCAR talked to the leaders from each of the 23 states that host one of NASCAR's national series events, all with varying calendars and policies when it comes to both "return to work" and "stay at home." When asked to describe the experience, Bobo speaks of three-dimensional chess.

"This is like 18 boards," he said. "We're dealing with a tremendous number of governor's offices in a variety of states. We're looking at trends, and we know things are dynamic in communities. We have to work with our TV partners and other vendors, how are they doing and what can they do?"

For example, Toyota's race teams -- including Joe Gibbs Racing, current powerhouse of the sport -- receive their engines from Toyota Racing Development. Unlike Ford and Chevy, who build their engines in North Carolina, TRD ships them to race teams from a factory in Costa Mesa, California, where work restrictions and stay-at-home measures are still much tighter. Were they going to be able to get engines to their teams? Thankfully, enough had been delivered before the shutdown, and as of Tuesday, the TRD office in California was opening back up.

Making the restart even more difficult is the fluidity that comes with the global pandemic.

"Can Goodyear provide tires? Can we get fuel? It's incredibly complicated," Bodo said. "We're on version 65, maybe version 70, of the plan. We do have pivot plans. Frankly, there's been days of the week where things have changed by the hour."

Not surprisingly, the governor's office that NASCAR talked with most was that of Roy Cooper of North Carolina. The majority of NASCAR teams, drivers and suppliers are located in the Charlotte area, as are a pair of NASCAR's secondary headquarters, its Research and Development Center in Concord and the NASCAR Tower in Uptown Charlotte, home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

On April 23, Cooper designated NASCAR race shops as essential businesses, meaning that race teams could go back to work in small numbers and employing social distancing rules. But Cooper also has been among the most methodical of Southern governors when it comes to reopening plans, moving a little slower than others in the region, particularly his border neighbors in South Carolina.

That's how Darlington came into play, some 3 months ahead of its traditional Labor Day weekend race date. With sponsors, broadcast partner Fox and team owners all pushing NASCAR to get back to the track sooner than later, the weekend prior to the Charlotte return began to look more and more attractive.

Working with Dr. Gounder, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Charlotte Motor Speedway executives and local health officials already partnered with the racetrack, NASCAR submitted a lengthy "How we're going to do this" plan to Cooper in late April. He sent it back with additional suggestions and changes from North Carolina state health officials. That same plan, but with a Darlington twist, was sent to South Carolina's governor, Henry McMaster, a longtime NASCAR fan and perhaps second only to DeSantis in his constant contact with NASCAR officials to try to bring the sport back in his state. It too was approved.

On April 30, NASCAR officially announced its plans to return on May 17, kicking off seven events in 11 days at Darlington and then Charlotte Motor Speedway, four of those being Cup Series races.

"Here's how fluid this whole thing was," Tharp said. "It wasn't until a few days after we'd agreed to the first race back that we found out we would also have a second Cup race four days later. And I found about the Xfinity Series race that we're going to run in between those Cup races on a conference call right before the schedule announcement went out. I'm not complaining at all. We will host as much racing as they want. But that's how much all of this changes that fast."

It has only moved faster in the weeks since.

NASCAR teams received the list of rules and regulations for Darlington shortly before they were announced to the public.

No fans.

Team rosters will be 16 people, including the driver.

Cloth face masks are required. Anyone who does not wear one will be removed from the facility immediately and face up to $50,000 in fines.

Teams' work areas in the garage will be spread out to comply with social distancing guidelines, as will be the spotters, who normally are shoulder to shoulder atop the press box/tower.

Competitors' motor homes will be allowed in the racetrack infield, but instead of occupying one enclosed area, they will be spread out throughout the infield.

Over-the-wall pit crew members will use face screens or neck socks in addition to their normal gear of firesuits, helmets and gloves.

Teams must closely monitor the health of their employees before, during and after each event, including filling out medical forms that will be reviewed by medical personnel prior to track admission during a prerace screening that will include temperature checks.

There will be random temperature checks of everyone working in the garage area. Anyone determined to be symptomatic will be checked via an outside care center. If they are determined to be a potential virus threat, they will be replaced with another crew member.

Everyone is required to maintain a contact tracing log, manually and then via digital logging. If a worker shows symptoms, that person and those he was in contact with will need to self-isolate.

Teams already had the Darlington-Charlotte schedule in hand before it was made public, as well as a tentative schedule through the middle of summer. Now, with the health regulations in place, they could get back to work.

"I have literally not left my house since this whole thing started," said Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus, who currently oversees the cars of William Byron but won 83 races and seven Cup Series titles calling the shots for Jimmie Johnson.

Knaus is a notorious workaholic, known to sleep in his office at the height of his success with Johnson. But for two months, he has had to balance that work from home, alongside his 20-month-old son and his wife, who is expecting another child this summer.

"We have two distinctly separate groups working on our race cars," Knaus said. "There have been people at the race shop for a couple of weeks, preparing the cars for Darlington, Charlotte and beyond, but I will not see them unless it's on video. I am with the group who does not go to the shop but will go to the racetrack."

The shop team will load two race cars -- a primary and a backup -- into the team's 18-wheel mobile HQ. The team's truck driver will arrive, entering through a door where he sees no one else, and make the 105-mile drive to Darlington on Saturday. Normally, the 40 team trucks are packed into a small space, fitted together tighter than Tetris blocks. At Darlington they will be spread out. After scrubbing down every flat surface in the hauler's work areas, the hauler driver will take on his Sunday pit crew duties with the road crew having had no contact with the shop crew.

Because of the close proximity of the track, no one will be spending the night, especially not the race car drivers -- but they will have their motor coaches on site, where they live with their families during non-pandemic weekends. On Sunday, the drivers will be alone in those RVs, purposely isolated and waiting to be called to their cars for the green flag. Those motor coaches will be wheeled into the racetrack on Saturday and spread throughout the spectator-free infield. The rigs then with get a deep clean before the racers move in the following day.

"I will be totally on my own," said Johnson, reminding that, like any other athletes, racers have a support system of people, from PR reps to agents to cooks. "I am in charge of my gear, hydration system and nutrition. That includes my primary stuff and backups. Fire suits, shoes, gloves, ear molds, helmets, head and neck restraints, and so on. When the race is over, I'm responsible for cleaning and sanitizing everything for the next race.

"When they tell me it's time to get to the race car, I will head out. And I will absolutely be following whatever direction they tell me to walk."

On Tuesday night, Tharp was in the Darlington Raceway infield helping to ensure that Johnson and everyone else is clear on where to walk. NASCAR and track operation officials have been laying down what feels like miles of red tape, marking off workspace borders for teams in the garage, walkways that connect those workspaces to the teams' big rig and even who can use which bathroom. Spotter spacing and parking spaces also are being marked.

Outside the racetrack, a medical screening area is being constructed where there normally would be hospitality tents and tailgaters. Everyone who arrives will be asked for their ID so the medical questionnaires they have previously filled out can be called up on a tablet computer by a medical professional. There, outside their vehicles, each person entering the track must appear on a roster turned in by their team, and then they will receive an on-the-spot medical screening.

And while there will not be COVID-19 testing as of yet, the possibility of future testing is on the table should the need arise. There is concern about someone who comes up symptomatic having passed it on to others. It happened in the F1 paddock during that same March weekend the Atlanta race was canceled. It happened last weekend in UFC. That's why the NASCAR contact logs will be kept. And it's yet another reason why the overall plan continues to be written in pencil. If there's an outbreak that starts to push toward a lack of control, the plug on the season can and will be pulled again.

"I relate it to my military days," said Tom Bryant, NASCAR's senior racing communications director, who has worked closely with Bobo on at-track logistics. Bryant served 20 years in the Army, including special operations and multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan. "You've done your mission brief, you've checked your weapons and you're waiting on the pickup -- and the 'what-ifs' start to race through your mind. You need to trust your team of people who have worked together to build this comprehensive plan that has been reviewed by a number of experts and trust that the talented people you work with will be able to perform.

"I'm not sleeping well, but I have a lot of faith in our team, and we have a very solid group of professionals who are ready to face things and make decisions."

Also located outside the track is a new "outfield medical center" set up in addition to the regular infield medical center, which will remain reserved for race-related medical situations (post-crash examinations, etc.). The outfield center is where anyone who shows any signs of illness will be sent for further examination.

Patrolling those areas -- as well as every parking lot and gate of Darlington Raceway -- will be dozens of law enforcement officers, from the Darlington County Sheriff's Office, South Carolina Highway Patrol and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the state's investigative law enforcement agency. They will be on the lookout for anyone who tries to find their way into the racetrack or tries to turn Sunday's race into a protest opportunity or worse.

Darlington Raceway officials already have learned of large gatherings planned in the immediate area of the track, which they have politely worked to discourage. On Wednesday, a local man was arrested for calling the racetrack and leaving threatening messages, explained in the Darlington County Sheriff's arrest warrant as: "describing a possible explosive device and the results it may create to further his cause."

While the police presence might appear larger than normal, every other group will be much smaller. During a full race weekend that involves all three NASCAR national series -- Cup, Xfinity and Trucks -- there can be as many as 3,700 credentialed personnel in the racetrack infield, including competitors, NASCAR employees, track workers, support industry personnel and media members. On Sunday, that number will be less than 900.

The press box will have only four occupants, working as pool reporters for the media not in attendance. Motor Racing Network also will use a small team of radio personnel, made up only of those who live in the Carolinas and can make the drive. Fox will be working with a crew half the normal size to broadcast the race, utilizing only one reporter on pit road and moving production work such as replays and graphics to its studios in Charlotte. That's also where the broadcast booth will be, with Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon watching on monitors from separate studios, as they have throughout the network's broadcasting of iRacing over the past two months.

It would be naive to believe that the surprising success of eNASCAR broadcasts (roughly 1 million viewers per week) hasn't fed into NASCAR's desire to get back to the live track as soon as possible. Phelps has never disputed that. Much of the motivation behind all of the phone conversations, the politics, the education on pandemics and the laying out of the rules that will be so heavily enforced at Darlington and Charlotte has been to be the only live sport on television on Sunday afternoons for the foreseeable future.

If one were to receive a commission for every time the name of the 1979 Daytona 500 has been invoked over the past few weeks, he or she would not have to go back to work. That's when CBS aired its first live, flag-to-flag coverage of NASCAR's biggest race, on a Sunday when nothing else was on and much of the East Coast was socked in by a snowstorm. Those people stuck in their homes were gifted with perhaps the greatest finish in the history of motorsports, when Richard Petty held off Darrell Waltrip and A.J. Foyt, as Cale Yarborough had a fistfight with the Alabama Gang after crashing out of the lead on the final lap. NASCAR's three decades of growth started that day.

These days, it has been stuck in neutral. But now, so is the American sports-viewing public. Check that ... so is the entirety of sports, period. They will all be watching on Sunday to see if the road back to normal does indeed run through Darlington, South Carolina.

"I have no idea how it's going to feel when the green flag finally waves because this has been so different getting there," Knaus said. "I really hope that when we get some laps in, we have settled in, and it'll be like, 'OK, this feels normal.' If it does, it'll be the first time something has felt normal in a really long time. And that's really all anyone wants right now, isn't it?"

Tharp agreed.

"I've heard from a lot of people who work in a lot of different sports," said Tharp, who before joining NASCAR spent 20 years as the media relations director for the South Carolina Gamecocks, working with the likes of Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier. "They all want to see if all of this we are doing to make this race happen works. They are all hoping that it does.

"We make this work, and we will, then sports are back. And other sports can hopefully take what we learn from this and they can get back soon too."

ESPN feature producer Tracy Wholf contributed to this report.

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Cloud Computing ETFs to Gain on the New Normal Trends – Yahoo Finance

Posted: at 8:50 pm

The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, having infected more than 4.3 million people globally, including at least 297,000 deaths. The outbreak has compelled people to stay indoors and work remotely. Also, the pandemic has resulted in some changes in lifestyle preferences. Even as the global economy starts to reopen in phases and social distancing restrictions are being eased, people will try to minimize the human-to-human contact. TwitterTWTR has said that its employees can keep working from home permanently if they wanted to. The companys offices shall remain shut until at least September, except for some necessities. Meanwhile, the opening shall also be done with precautions. Other major tech firms, including Facebook FB and Alphabet GOOGL, have also extended their work from home policies throughthe end of the year.

In such a scenario, cloud computings popularity is growing and altering the way people are managing data, communication and business.Cloud computing and storage have empowered video conferencing, gaming, e-commerce shopping, remote project collaboration, online classes, editing, etc. It has also found applications in social networking, messaging apps and streaming services. Cloud computing is supporting organizations in remotely processing a lot of information, developing and running key applications and services, and helping employees across the world to work together.

In fact, going by a global CIO survey, around 79% of the polled groups aim to start using cloud technology in 2020. Moreover, per LearnBonds data, the global cloud IT infrastructure spending is projected at $69.2 billion for the ongoing year, up 3.6% year over year.

Latest Developments in Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is seeing increasing usage globally as it allows data interoperability in a scalable, cost-efficient way through data collection, processing, analyzing and sharing across platforms. Before the lockdown, companies were already discarding their own data centers to rent computing from Amazon AMZN, Microsoft MSFT and Google. However, this shift is expected to speed up now, as millions of employees are working remotely.

Microsoft recently informed about spending under $1.5 billion and about $1 billion for creating its first datacenter in Italy along with one in Poland, respectively. In February, the tech giant announced plans of opening a datacenter in Spain. Microsoft already has 60 cloud regions around the world. The companys shift toward Internet-based computing, which includes products such as Office 365, Dynamic 365 and the flagship Azure computing platform, is paying off. Azure sales grew 59% in the fiscal third quarter, while sales of Office 365 Commercial and Dynamic 365 climbed 25% and 47%, respectively.

Another major player, Amazon recently opened a datacenter in Italy. Moreover, Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS), division of Amazon, recently announced several major improvements in Amazon Macie like new features, greater availability worldwide and substantially reduced pricing.Per a report by Protocol, Apple AAPL, which already owns a huge cloud-based platform that includes iCloud, the App Store, Apple TV+, Apple Music, and many more, has gone on a cloud computing hiring spree over the last few months.

In the race, Oracle ORCL is ready to start its second cloud region in Chuncheon, South Korea, before the end of May. In this regard, the company said that with the arrival of this second region, here in Korea, we look forward to helping more customers take advantage of this key resource locally. In April, Zoom (ZM) collaborated with Oracle to expand its cloud business.

Cloud Computing ETFs to Shine

Here we highlight some ETFs that can gain from the growing demand for cloud computing as the coronavirus situation aggravates:

First Trust Cloud Computing ETF SKYY

The fund seeks investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield, before fees and expenses, of the ISE Cloud Computing Index. It tracks the performance of companies actively involved in the cloud computing industry. The fund holds about 65 securities in its basket, with Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, and Google-parent Alphabet making to the top ten holdings. It has AUM of $3.56 billion and an expense ratio of 0.60%. The fund has gained around 5.5% in the year to date period (read:Twitter Promotes Permanent WFH: ETF Areas to Gain).

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Global X Cloud Computing ETF CLOU

The fund seeks to invest in companies positioned to benefit from the increased adoption of cloud computing technology, including companies whose principal business is in offering computing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), managed server storage space and data-center real estate investment trusts, and/or cloud and edge computing infrastructure and hardware. The fund holds about 37 securities in its basket, having pure-play cloud companies like Zscaler (ZS) and Shopify (SHOP) holding positions in the top ten holdings. It has AUM of $584.8 million and an expense ratio of 0.68%. It has gained around 14.5% in the year to date period (read: ETFs to Gain From Lifestyle Changes Amid Coronavirus Crisis).

WisdomTree Cloud Computing ETFWCLD

The fund seeks to track the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the BVP Nasdaq Emerging Cloud Index, an equally weighted Index designed to measure the performance of emerging public companies focused on delivering cloud-based software to customers. The fund holds about 53 securities in its basket, with Zoom, Cloudflare (NET) and Zscaler holding positions in the top ten holdings. It has AUM of $105.7 million and an expense ratio of 0.45%. It has gained around 21.5% in the year to date period (read: Top ETF Areas of Last Week).

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Zacks free Fund Newsletter will brief you on top news and analysis, as well as top-performing ETFs, each week.Get it free >>

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free reportMicrosoft Corporation (MSFT) : Free Stock Analysis ReportAmazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) : Free Stock Analysis ReportApple Inc. (AAPL) : Free Stock Analysis ReportOracle Corporation (ORCL) : Free Stock Analysis ReportFacebook, Inc. (FB) : Free Stock Analysis ReportAlphabet Inc. (GOOGL) : Free Stock Analysis ReportTwitter, Inc. (TWTR) : Free Stock Analysis ReportGlobal X Cloud Computing ETF (CLOU): ETF Research ReportsWisdomTree Cloud Computing ETF (WCLD): ETF Research ReportsTo read this article on Zacks.com click here.Zacks Investment ResearchWant the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report

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Cloud Computing ETFs to Gain on the New Normal Trends - Yahoo Finance

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Benefits of cloud computing made clear by COVID – Raconteur

Posted: at 8:50 pm

It would be easy to generalise that technology has helped businesses to carry on working during the coronavirus outbreak. But delving deeper into what exactly has been the key to enabling people to work from home and keep business-critical services going, there is one constant: cloud computing.

While the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams are gaining traction with consumers and businesses alike, the reason millions of people can use this tech simultaneously is because of the benefits of cloud computing.

These benefits are well documented: cloud infrastructure enables companies to scale up and down with flexibility so they can cope with volatile conditions like those currently being experienced, while software-as-a-service, or SaaS, apps mean companies do not have to worry about scaling up their hardware and bandwidth to cope with huge demands.

Depending on the type of business, the benefits of cloud computing may vary. For instance, for many organisations it will simply be the case of facilitating home working.

The cloud has been absolutely essential and I really dont know how wed have coped without it. If we were still reliant on physical datacentres, we wouldnt have been able to expand so quickly, says Patrick Babic, service owner for the end-user computing team at energy giant Centrica.

With staff forced to work from home, Citrix Cloud has enabled them to securely connect to the network through their home broadband and with their own device. This simply wouldnt have been the case without the cloud.

The company had Citrix Cloud in place prior to the pandemic, but had to expand the capacity of users and servers in the cloud because of so many employees working from home. This was the key benefit of cloud computing for Centrica from the outset, the ability to easily flex up and down when required in a short space of time.

The scaling-up aspect of cloud is particularly important with ecommerce. Adam Taylor, co-founder and chief executive of PetShop.co.uk, says that as the company had shifted to a cloud strategy before COVID-19, with NetSuites cloud enterprise resource planning product, it had been able to cope with unprecedented demand.

Weve been told by manufacturers, such as Mars and Nestl, that weve been able to scale up more swiftly than most of our competitors and this has been because of cloud infrastructure, says Taylor.

Weve gone from packing and shipping 1,000 orders a day to 4,000 orders a day. We were able to scale up to meet this demand within the space of two days.

According to Taylor, the benefits of cloud computing meant the company could order the stock in quickly, pack it and dispatch it more swiftly, and log all this in accounts. In addition, while other competitors websites had to be shut down because of the sheer volume of customers accessing online shopping during the COVID-19 lockdown, PetShop.co.uks website managed to stay robust.

Customer services departments have been vital throughout this period, as customers do not have the option of any face-to-face contact. As a result of social distancing measures, contact centres have had to switch to remote working, while also dealing with an increase in calls, and cloud computing has been at the heart of enabling these organisations to manage demand.

Northern Ireland Water has installed the Cirrus Cloud Contact Centre to enable agents to work from home, provide a webchat portal and ensure payment card industry-compliant payments can still be made.

Meanwhile, in early-April, the London Borough of Waltham Forest deployed Amazon Connect, a cloud-based call centre, so it could handle calls from more than 3,000 residents and customers each day, which was 30 per cent more than before to the pandemic.

The product has also helped the borough to increase the service to be available seven days a week and ensure staff could work remotely, which was not possible with the previous technology it had in place.

Architectural practice Maber had been trialling NBS Chorus, a cloud service it uses to specify building products and which allows multiple users to work on the same specification. As a result of the pandemic, the company had to roll out the project to the whole company so people working from home can have access to the system to write specifications.

Its absolutely business critical; the drawings and modelling we do for the buildings are supported by the specifications, which tell the contractor exactly what they should be using to build the buildings. This would have held up our work if it wasnt in the cloud, says Nick Greenwood, architectural designer with Maber.

Employees at Maber had to use a VPN connection to get access to the companys five servers, but many struggled to connect to the physical hardware. As a result, the company has moved all these local files over to the cloud-based platform Google Drive, resulting in greater efficiency. The company also uses a cloud-based business information modelling tool by Graphisoft.

According to Greenwood, the company would have struggled to keep working during the pandemic without cloud computing. As a result, even management have realised the benefits of cloud computing. What it has done is prove the business can operate at a high level of efficiency, even remotely. So we dont need to be sitting in offices next to one another; we can be spread all across the country and provide clients with the service they expect, he says.

The reality is the pandemic has highlighted the importance of cloud computing and, if business leaders had not been convinced of its benefits before, they are likely to be now.

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Why moving to the cloud requires a ‘change of business philosophy’: How to get it right – Cloud Tech

Posted: at 8:50 pm

Theres no escaping it: to get ahead today, you need to have a hybrid, multi-cloud environment. Companies have long since noted the benefits of public cloud and indeed, more than one public cloud for greater efficiency and optimisation. Yet it is not an easy process.

An entire industry, from consulting to monitoring, has grown around this complexity. Alongside this, some smaller IT providers see an opportunity. Comarch argues that when moving to the cloud, many organisations still could fall foul of hidden traps. CloudTech spoke with Ryszard Kluza (left), ICT business unit director at Comarch, to discuss the advantages of local service providers, issues with migration, and how Covid-19 is ramping up demand for cloud services.

CloudTech: Tell us about your role and responsibilities at Comarch?

Ryszard Kluza: At Comarch I am the BU ICT director, responsible for businesses related to cloud services (IaaS, PaaS), power cloud, hosting services provided from 20 data centres worldwide, and IT outsourcing services.

CT: What are customers telling you about the problems they are seeing with regards to their cloud migrations and how can Comarch help them in this regard?

RK: Cloud solutions are the inevitable future of IT, but clients are very often afraid of becoming even more dependent on big IT corporations how it used to be with a lets say traditional IT vendors. They do not want to wake up in a few years in a world where there are only a few global players which are still dictating constantly rising prices.

Comarch could be seen as an alternative, providing, in addition to their own developed cloud services, a hybrid multi-cloud solution where there is no risk of vendor lock-in. As a smaller provider, we are able to be closer to the client and better understand their challenges and problems while still offering world-class solutions. We can tailor our offer to each clients specific requirements, which is rather difficult for big players.

CT: What challenges remain for businesses when they are looking to cloud migration, both from a technical and a business perspective?

RK: Transition to the cloud involves a huge change in mentality, as well in the business as in technological aspects.

Companies should carefully assess transition pros and cons, and answer simple questions about whether or not it is worth moving to the cloud. On the one hand, they could lower investments costs (CAPEX) and move their teams to develop and support the core business, because engineers would no longer have to deal with operational work related to the platform. On the other hand, business can become increasingly dependent on an external provider. Important questions to be asked should focus on whether quoted prices at the very beginning will still be valid in the long term, they might rise quickly (and if so, it is key to assess how quickly). Businesses considering a move to the cloud should also ensure that their teams can exercise restraint when faced with seemingly unlimited resources from their cloud provider.

From a technological perspective, companies have to analyse whether or not their existing solutions are compatible with cloud technology, and whether they have appropriate knowledge and the required competences to manage IT in the cloud. What about security? The cloud is a shared environment, so how to secure access to the systems on a remote platform? What guarantees are there that, in the event of any failure, the organisations administrators still have an access to IT systems placed in the cloud to support the core business?

Going into the cloud involves a change of IT teams philosophy in terms of supporting business. On one hand, the cloud offers easy, unlimited access to resources, but on the other there is still uncertainty about whether such easy access will be very costly in the near future if the wrong solution is chosen?.

However business answer these questions and address these challenges, they must remember that a shift to the cloud is inevitable.

CT: Do you agree that organisations go into migration plans without the requisite knowledge of cloud providers, business plans, and technical demands? What advice would you give to companies who are worried about making the wrong decision, vendor lock-in, etc?

RK: Recently, the cloud and associated services were among the most common topics of discussion the IT world. There is incredible pressure on management boards, CIOs and IT managers, especially those who do not yet have IT in the cloud, because maybe this means that they are not managing their enterprises IT optimally. This often leads to a rush to move IT systems to the cloud without proper preparation or detailed analysis. The worst thing is when an organisation lacks adequate technological competences and is unable to grasp a deep understanding of cloud vendors offers. A proposal may look good, but the first invoice might itemise many unknown items and prove rather expensive. I advise companies to make a considerable effort to understand the various offers on the market, choose multi-cloud strategies without vendor lock-in, and continuously assess cloud providers none of which should prove a big deal.

CT: What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had or will have on demand for cloud services? What effect is the widespread implementation of remote working having on both cloud software, but also cloud security?

RK: The situation with Covid-19 seems to have had a significant influence on the decision of boards of enterprises about putting IT systems into the cloud. Obligations on employers to allow their staff to work remotely have shown how important remote, secure access to IT systems really is. Not every company has reliable, secure and efficient network infrastructure ready to handle increased network traffic and secure remote work. Cloud providers are specialised companies which have reliable and secure systems as well as competent teams of engineers who can react rapidly to support clients with any problems they may encounter.

This is why, I believe, the situation with Covid-19 will accelerate movement towards the cloud and demand for cloud services.

CT: What cloud trends should companies be looking for during the rest of 2020 and into 2021 in your opinion?

RK: There are many cloud providers on the market, ranging from global players to local operators acting regionally. Going into the cloud is inevitable, but companies will want to avoid vendor lock-in and will choose multi-cloud solutions, to reduce the risk of becoming dependent on a single provider. This is why there is a place on the market for many smaller cloud service providers. Similar to traditional IT, clients are now buying hardware, software and services from many vendors and providers, to avoid such dependency and in order to optimise costs.

Editors note: This article was brought to you by Comarch. Download the whitepaper Things you dont hear about the cloud: A look at cloud computing in 2020 here.

Photo byHarald ArlanderonUnsplash

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Illinois advances pioneering proposal for utility rate recovery of cloud computing investments – Utility Dive

Posted: at 8:50 pm

Dive Brief:

A smarter grid requires more computing power to manage, and utilities say they want to focus on delivering electricity rather than building server rooms. The new rules would remove a disincentive for utilities to outsource their computing needs.

"Cloud based solutions, by definition, allow for greater flexibility in that they allow utilities to scale up and back data storage needs in a manner that on-premise solutions may not," ODowd told Utility Dive.

The new ICC rules would allow utilities to seek the most appropriate computing solutions without having to forego a rate of return when those investments are made in off-site systems. The ICC's rulemaking says it aims to level the playing field between on-premises and cloud-based computing solutions.

A previous version of the rules approved the accounting changes but required a cost breakdown from cloud providers and meant utilities would need to compare cloud computing functions to determine whether money spent was for an operating expense or a capital investment. Allowing utilities to claim 80% of cloud expenses as capital investments simplifies that process without placing onerous burdens on providers.

"The proposed revisions add clarity, will streamline administration of the proposed rule, and will further promote additional benefits to customers, harnessing the flexibility, efficiency, and scalability of cloud-based solutions," ODowd said.

The new proposed rules were published May 8 on the ICC web site.Following two rounds of comments, due May 19 and 26, the ICC can approve the new accounting treatment and send the rules to the Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules for consideration. If the rules are approved, the ICC will then need to issue an order by the end of October to implement it.

There is little opposition to the new accounting approach, say experts. And the rules will likely be adopted.

The Illinois Attorney General's (AG) office previously called the proposed rules "qualitatively different and unnecessary" and argued it "would create an undue burden on third-party vendors of cloud-based solutions that would, in turn, diminish the competitiveness of any utilitys bidding process for third-party cloud-based solutions contracts."

However,those objections were filed before the latest revision to the rules, and the Illinois AG has not commented since and did not respond to Utility Dive questions.

Other states, including Alabama and New York, have taken steps to allow cloud computing expenses to be capitalized, but experts say Illinois' effort is by far the most detailed. The commission opened the rulemaking in December 2017.

ComEd says it has no immediate plans based on the proposed new rules.

"ComEd will continue to evaluate both on-premise and cloud-based solutions to ensure that the product chosen is best suited for the needs of the utility and its customers for the specific situation," ODowd said.

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ETF of the Week: WisdomTree Cloud Computing ETF (WCLD) – ETF Trends

Posted: at 8:50 pm

ETF Trends CEO Tom Lydon discussed theWisdomTree Cloud Computing ETF (WCLD)on this weeks ETF of the Week podcast with Chuck Jaffe on the MoneyLife Show.

The WisdomTree Cloud Computing Fund seeks to track the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the BVP Nasdaq Emerging Cloud Index, an equally weighted index designed to measure the performance of emerging public companies focused on delivering cloud-based software to customers.

Cloud computing has capitalized on the shift to stay-at-home during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. As a result,WCLD is +11% in 1-week returns, +36% in 1-month returns, and +23% in year-to-date returns. In comparison, the S&P 500 is +9% in 1-month returns and -10.1% in year-to-date returns.

To recap, cloud computing is theability to deliver enterprise-level solutions on demand, through a simple internet connection.The cloud refers to the aggregation of information online that can be accessed from anywhere, on any device.Cloud companies provide on-demand services to a centralized pool of information technology (IT) resources via a network connection.

Related:ETF of the Week: Invesco QQQ ETF (QQQ)

The three major categories of the cloud industry are:

Cloud computing represents a significant source of disruption not only in the technology sector but in the investment world as well. Ithas become ingrained in nearly every aspect of our lives by fundamentally altering how we consume, process and share information in the digital age. Thetrend toward cloud-based solutions offers a compelling, long-term opportunity for investors to gain exposure to a quickly developing segment of the technology sector.

It is also the right tool for remote working.Companies that often help the workforce to operate virtually in the cloud are top of mind. Forexample, Zoom video conferencing has become a standout. Additionally, cloud-based businesses help us communicate (Slack),sign legal documents at scale and remotely (DocuSign),transfer and save files (Dropbox), andmake payments online (PayPal).

This trend toward operating in the cloud is leading to fast relative growth rates and outperformance for the cloud technology industry. Cost-saving efficiencies like the adoption of cloud-based software will continue to accelerate, providing further growth opportunities

Theres high recurring revenue, whichemploys a subscription-based revenue model with smaller and more frequent transactions. So a more predictable, annuity-like revenue stream for cloud software providers.

Also of note is high client retention with longer revenue periods, wherecloud software becomes embedded in client workflow, resulting in higher switching costs and client retention. Many clients prefer the pay-as-you-go transaction model, which can lead to longer periods of recurring revenue as upselling product enhancements do not require an additional sales cycle.

Lower expenses are also notable, ascloud SaaS companies can have lower R&D cost because they dont need to support multiple types of networking infrastructure at each client location.

Getting back to WCLD, as mentioned, it tracks BVP Nasdaq Emerging Cloud Index, an equally weighted index designed to measure the performance of emerging public companies focused on delivering cloud-based software to customers. Stock selection requires that companies derive most of their revenue through the cloud-software subscription model.

Thats why WCLD does not hold companies like Amazon or Google, which generate sales from many business segments.The fund designed to provide exposure to emerging companies with rapid growth characteristics, or better growth opportunities.

For more podcast episodes featuring Tom Lydon, visit ourpodcasts category.

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Cloud Computing: The Recession Proof Stocks Hiding in Plain Sight – InvestorPlace

Posted: at 8:50 pm

With most folks staying at home, people are getting creative in order to stay connected with the outside world. So, its no surprise that business conference apps growth is surging. And the companies that are making this possible behind the scenes are a must-have for growth investors.

Source: Blackboard / Shutterstock

According to App Annie, between March 14 and March 21, iOS and Google Play saw a record 62 million downloads worldwide a 90% year-over-year increase from 2019. Most of that growth came from Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ:ZM) video apps, like Hangouts, Teams and Zoom Cloud Meetings.

Aside from millions of people using video apps to talk face-to-face, millions are also making and sharing videos. Take TikTok, for example, which makes short mobile videos. As of April, TikTok has around 800 million users and has been downloaded more than two billion times internationally.

Social media, in general, is seeing an uptick in users, too. According to DataReportal, there are now 3.81 billion social media users.

Source: The Next Web

Of course, its not all about videos and video conferencing. Folks are sharing plenty of photos, too. Instagram found that one billion people use its app every month, with 500 million people using its Instagram Stories feature every day.

Clearly, theres a lot of content floating around!

Many investors are focusing on the companies that provide the platforms for people to connect, but theres another investment opportunity here thats being overlooked: cloud computing.

Simply put, cloud computing is when you put data on the internet theres no floppy disk required (though, Ill admit, I still use them sometimes). You can access it anywhere. So, say you take a picture or video on your Samsung smartphone; you can view that same picture or video on your computer through your Google Drive.

The reality is that there is a lot of data that needs to be housed and backed up somewhere. And cloud computing fills that need.

Cloud computing has been on the uptrend for a while now. According to Gartner, for 2019, the public cloud computing market should hit $214.3 billion a 17.5% year-over-year increase from $182.4 billion in 2018. By 2022, that number should jump another 55% to $331.2 billion.

So, its no surprise that the tech giants Microsoft, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Google are trying to take over the market. During the first quarter, the companies brought in $26.3 billion combined in cloud computing revenue. Microsofts Azure made $12.28 billion; Amazons AWS saw $10.22 billion; Googles Cloud totaled $2.78 billion.

As more and more data is created, the demand for data storage will only increase. This is why cloud computing companies are on my list of recession-proof stocks. They should do well regardless of where the market turns next. On myGrowth Investor Buy List, not only do we have Microsoft, but several other cloud computing companies that are well-positioned to benefit from this demand.

Case in point:ServiceNow, Inc. (NYSE:NOW).

This company has cloud computing applications to manage a variety of internal departments from IT to Security to Human Resources to Customer Service. These apps can be tailored to each companys specific needs and organizational structure. They are designed to reduce the amount of time that employees need to hunt around for answers, saving them time and money.

NOW has bucked the broader market trend, up 36% year-to-date. In fact, it hit brand-new 52-week highs on Thursday, then again Friday. The latest bout of strength is thanks in part to its first-quarter earnings report. The company actually thrived during the coronavirus outbreak during the first quarter, as the company helped other businesses better streamline their workflows to improve employee and customer experiences. In fact, ServiceNow has 933 total customers with more than $1 million in ACV, which represents a 30% year-over-year increase.

During the first quarter, total revenue jumped 33% year-over-year to $1.05 billion. Subscription revenue accounted for $995 million. First-quarter earnings per share soared 56.7% year-over-year to $1.05. Analysts were expecting earnings of $0.95 per share and total revenue of $1.02 billion, so NOW topped earnings estimates by 10.5% and posted a slight revenue surprise.

Looking forward to the second quarter, ServiceNow expects subscription revenues to grow 29% to 30% year-over-year. And for fiscal year 2020, subscription revenues are forecast to increase 28% to 29%.

I recommended NOW back in July 2018, and now its sitting pretty with a 100% return on theGrowth Investor Buy List. But as I said, its not the only direct play on cloud computing I recommended inGrowth Investor. Another one inGrowth Investor, which is in the life sciences industry, is currently up 139% since my recommendation in December 2018.(To get all the details on my Buy List, you can sign up here.)

With all that said, there are other recession-proof stocks Im interested in. Specifically, I like the artificial intelligence (A.I.) space. The reality is that technology will continue to evolve, and A.I. will also be a big part of that evolution.

Of course, Im not interested in just any artificial intelligence company. The A.I. stock Im most excited about actually provides the technology for other major tech companies, like Microsoft and Google.

I call it the A.I. Master Key.

Not only does the companymake the brain that all A.I. software needs to function, but it dominates its corner of the market in doing so.

So, it doesnt really matter which competitor wins the A.I. race, because this companys technology is used by all of them; therefore, its investors will profit off of all the A.I. success. For myGrowth Investorsubscribers, its already up 83% on the Buy List.

This company is set to report its quarterly earnings report in late May. I expect it to release strong results, which should drop kick and drive its shares higher. If you want to get in before the stock takes off, now is the perfect time to do so.

Ill tell you everything you need to know, as well as my buy recommendation, in my special report forGrowth Investor, The A.I. Master Key. It is still under my buy limit price so youll want to sign up now; that way, you can get in while you can still do so cheaply. (And earn a dividend to boot!)

Click here for a free briefing on this A.I. innovation.

Louis Navellier had an unconventional start, as a grad student who accidentally built a market-beating stock system with returns rivaling even Warren Buffett. In his latest feat, Louis discovered the Master Key to profiting from the biggest tech revolution of this (or any) generation. Louis Navellier may hold some of the aforementioned securities in one or more of his newsletters.

See the rest here:

Cloud Computing: The Recession Proof Stocks Hiding in Plain Sight - InvestorPlace

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Cloud ETFs are all the rage as more people work from home – CNN

Posted: at 8:50 pm

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Now experts say governments are deliberately deepening the confusion.","descriptionText":"The narrative around the coronavirus can be complicated. Now experts say governments are deliberately deepening the confusion."},{"title":"What economic lessons will the world learn from Covid-19?","duration":"03:30","sourceName":"CNN Business","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/05/14/post-pandemic-economy-covid-coronavirus-org.cnn-business/index.xml","videoId":"business/2020/05/14/post-pandemic-economy-covid-coronavirus-org.cnn-business","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200420114950-amazon-warehouse-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2020/05/14/post-pandemic-economy-covid-coronavirus-org.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-coronavirus/","description":"The global economy was caught flat-footed by Covid-19. Leading economists tell CNN Business what the post-Covid economy will look like and what lessons should be learned.","descriptionText":"The global economy was caught flat-footed by Covid-19. Leading economists tell CNN Business what the post-Covid economy will look like and what lessons should be learned."},{"title":"Virus cuts off lifeline for many of the world's poorest","duration":"02:59","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"https://www.cnn.com/","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/05/15/coronavirus-worlds-poorest-watson-pkg-qmb-intl-hnk-vpx.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2020/05/15/coronavirus-worlds-poorest-watson-pkg-qmb-intl-hnk-vpx.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200515105821-migrant-workers-in-hk-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2020/05/15/coronavirus-worlds-poorest-watson-pkg-qmb-intl-hnk-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/business-coronavirus/","description":"As the Covid-19 pandemic cripples the economy, many migrant workers have lost their jobs. The lifeline for the world's poorest is being cut off as the unemployed migrant workers are no longer able to send money home. u003ca href="http://www.cnn.com/profiles/ivan-watson" target="_blank">CNN's Ivan Watsonu003c/a> reports.","descriptionText":"As the Covid-19 pandemic cripples the economy, many migrant workers have lost their jobs. The lifeline for the world's poorest is being cut off as the unemployed migrant workers are no longer able to send money home. u003ca href="http://www.cnn.com/profiles/ivan-watson" target="_blank">CNN's Ivan Watsonu003c/a> reports."},{"title":"Bentley CEO: We've gone down to 50 percent capacity","duration":"02:12","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"https://www.cnn.com","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/05/13/uk-europe-auto-industry-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-bentley-stewart-pkg-intl-ldn-vpx.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2020/05/13/uk-europe-auto-industry-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-bentley-stewart-pkg-intl-ldn-vpx.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200513112237-uk-europe-auto-industry-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-bentley-stewart-pkg-intl-ldn-vpx-00004103-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2020/05/13/uk-europe-auto-industry-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-bentley-stewart-pkg-intl-ldn-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/business-coronavirus/","description":"As lockdowns begin to lift in parts of Europe, the auto industry is off to a slow restart. CNN's Anna Stewart reports on the situation in the UK.","descriptionText":"As lockdowns begin to lift in parts of Europe, the auto industry is off to a slow restart. CNN's Anna Stewart reports on the situation in the UK."},{"title":"Watch this robot patrol a park to encourage social distancing","duration":"01:15","sourceName":"CNN Business","sourceLink":"https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/08/tech/singapore-coronavirus-social-distancing-robot-intl-hnk/index.html","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/05/11/spot-coronavirus-robot-singapore-orig.cnn-business/index.xml","videoId":"business/2020/05/11/spot-coronavirus-robot-singapore-orig.cnn-business","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200511131729-spot-robot-singapore-0508-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2020/05/11/spot-coronavirus-robot-singapore-orig.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-coronavirus/","description":"Spot, a four-legged "dog", is on patrol in a park in Singapore during a two week trial program. Designed by Boston Dynamics, Spot is equipped with cameras to estimate the number of park goers as well as broadcast messages to promote social distancing.","descriptionText":"Spot, a four-legged "dog", is on patrol in a park in Singapore during a two week trial program. Designed by Boston Dynamics, Spot is equipped with cameras to estimate the number of park goers as well as broadcast messages to promote social distancing."},{"title":"20 million US jobs just vanished. Here's what that means","duration":"01:14","sourceName":"CNN Business","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/05/08/jobs-report-unemployment-rate-great-depression-coronavirus-covid-orig.cnn-business/index.xml","videoId":"business/2020/05/08/jobs-report-unemployment-rate-great-depression-coronavirus-covid-orig.cnn-business","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200508105811-unemployment-arkansas-0423-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2020/05/08/jobs-report-unemployment-rate-great-depression-coronavirus-covid-orig.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-coronavirus/","description":"The April jobs report shows the US has the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. CNN Business' Christine Romans breaks down what the numbers mean historically.","descriptionText":"The April jobs report shows the US has the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. CNN Business' Christine Romans breaks down what the numbers mean historically."},{"title":"How Covid-19 misinformation is still spreading online","duration":"02:33","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"http://www.cnn.com/","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/05/08/coronavirus-misinformation-conspiracy-theories-online-spread-osullivan-pkg-newday-vpx.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2020/05/08/coronavirus-misinformation-conspiracy-theories-online-spread-osullivan-pkg-newday-vpx.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200507171538-01-youtube-app---stock-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2020/05/08/coronavirus-misinformation-conspiracy-theories-online-spread-osullivan-pkg-newday-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/business-coronavirus/","description":"Despite pledges from the big social media companies to remove dangerous coronavirus misinformation, from false causes to false cures, Silicon Valley and fact-checkers around the world are struggling to stem the flow of false claims about the pandemic. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan reports.","descriptionText":"Despite pledges from the big social media companies to remove dangerous coronavirus misinformation, from false causes to false cures, Silicon Valley and fact-checkers around the world are struggling to stem the flow of false claims about the pandemic. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan reports."},{"title":"Sheryl Sandberg: Women are treated unequally. 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Cloud ETFs are all the rage as more people work from home - CNN

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How to Secure the Intangible Cloud Native Security in the New Age – DevOps.com

Posted: at 8:50 pm

People dont want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.

Companies arent interested in managing IT; theyre more interested in results. They want to deliver software quickly and focus on their core product or service. This is where the concept of cloud native computing comes inand why securing it has become critical.

Traditionally, companies had many servers and resources. Today were moving toward a simpler reality. Developers are focusing on whats needed to deploy business logic, regardless of what its deployed on. Thats why its particularly appealing to move to software without the server and the added complex management of IT overhead.

If a company can push its offerings without hardware, patch management, storage and so forth, and it can do it more affordably and faster, its a great win.

2012 was the golden age of IT, where admins ruled the world and developers got in line. Moving from that era to 2016, we come to the age of the cloud, where developers were kings.

For many years, the IT department ledand perhaps stifledinnovation within organizations. Developers paths for innovation were limited to the area which they had control, i.e., the application layer. Anything beyond that was the IT departments call. This included hosting, load balancing, database management and whether to adopt virtualization or advanced networking technologies.

With the emergence of NFV and cloud computing, that changed. There has been a continuous erosion of the abstraction layers that developers were faced with in the past. In 2020, developers are the masters of their own destiny, pushing their organization toward innovation. All of this is possible not only due to virtualization and cloud computing, but also to the relative simplicity of a developer setting up a full application stack on their own laptop.

In many organizations, the CTO focus has moved from an infrastructure orientation to an application focus. Developers are the new golden children of these organizations. They hold the keys to increasing company profits.

There are many numbers being thrown around about the efficiency of cloud native. Whether its 300% reduction in deployment time or a mere 30%, the reality is that the time savings are huge. Many developers will never see a traditional data center again in their lives. In fact, new applications are developed as microservices or at the very least as containers, simply because theyre faster.

Theres no going back. This new approach enables developers to invest in scalable solutions without making companies preallocate unnecessarily large sums of money. Both applications and infrastructure can scale up or down quickly, using the right amount of resources to provide the best service.

Businesses that are seasonal or peak-oriented gain a lot from the movement to cloud native architecture. Users also stand to gain from the move, as they receive the best service possible, without downtime. Everyone comes out on top.

This movement to broader use of cloud native architectures is a trend that will continue to grow over time.

By 2025, VMs and bare metal will be as anachronistic as mainframe and token ring networks are today. In fact, most medium-to-large organizations already have some kind of a migration project from VMs to containers in progress. Many developers dont need to spin up VMs anymore, since they can have a whole application stack running on their laptop using containers. When they are done, they simply lift and shift it to staging and production environments.

In addition, on-premises and cloud environments are becoming a single entity rather than two separate infrastructures. People used to think that the entire data center was going to move to managed clouds for economical reasons. Today, however, most deployments are becoming hybrid. Organizations are opting to keep some of their on-prem systems (mostly legacy applications that cannot be easily moved to the cloud). IT administrators are starting to think about the deployment in the cloud as an extension of the on-prem data center rather than a separate network that needs to be managed.

This trend will most likely continue, making it all the more important to understand the changing expectations around how to secure the hybrid network environment. The rate of change for cloud native environments is monumentally faster than on-prem, initiating code in milliseconds.

Most legacy solutions werent built to cope with ephemeral networks and compute entities that go up and down within seconds, one million times a day. So, whats the best way to future-proof risk management in this ever-changing environment? There is no singular answer, but in general prevailing advice suggests you consider the long view, exploring the options best suited for your approach and then look at each through a one, three and five year lens.

When thinking about the future of security, the basics stay the same and the threat modeling concepts stay the same. However, there are a number of security issues to consider, including policies, permissions and authorizations. As networks are converging, the security tools are as well. Looking forward, only solutions that can provide a genuine single pane of glass to control your digital estate will have a real impact on security.

When looking at solutions to help apply security to cloud native architectures, ask the following questions:

When implemented correctly, modern micro-segmentation techniques can offer a simple way to secure a cloud native environment, including solving the unique challenges of containers and providing the ability to create dynamic application policies down to process level. Look for tools that provide a single view and foundational visibility, automatically discovering all network flows and dependencies. This allows your business to take advantage of the best of serverless computing without increasing risk or complexity for security.

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How to Secure the Intangible Cloud Native Security in the New Age - DevOps.com

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