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Archive for July 2012

Budgets continue to shrink, so IT departments have to do everything they can to save money. Many are looking at the all-too-obvious cuts and neglecting a helpful chunk of less obvious ways to pinch those pennies. I want to offer some, which I think can go a long way toward saving your department precious budget dollars (and quite possibly, your job). You can protect your budget and help safeguard your job by implementing these cost-cutting measures.

1. Drop Microsoft Office for Google Apps or LibreOffice
I know most businesses hold onto Microsoft Office as if their work-lives depended upon it. The truth is it doesn’t. Google Apps and LibreOffice have both evolved into business-class productivity suites that can easily replace the de facto standard, Microsoft Office. This move will especially help small businesses that don’t benefit from bulk-purchase prices from Microsoft. And since most users tap into only about 10 to 15 percent of the features and power of their office suite, why not save nearly one hundred percent of the cost of the proprietary solution? Besides, a tool like Google Apps makes collaboration between teams even easier.

2. Migrate your terminal server to a Linux box
The Microsoft Terminal Server is a powerful tool — and it comes with a powerful price tag. The more users you need, the more costly that option will be. Replace that box with a Linux machine and you can have the same kind of power at a small fraction of the cost. And adding more users won’t wind up costing you the entire budget. So long as your hardware can handle it, you can add as many users as you like — at no cost.

3. In-house your CRM/ERP/HRM solutions
If you go to SourceForge and search for CRM, ERP, or HRM, you’ll be astounded at the hits you get. Not only are these solutions plentiful, they are powerful. With the likes of Drupal, Joomla!, OrangeHRM, and countless other tools, you will have your business-to-customer-to-vendor-relationship in perfect harmony. And since these are mostly Web-based tools, you’ll be able to work that magic from anywhere that can reach the server housing the tool.

4. Migrate to networked or cloud-based storage
The benefits of this might not be immediately apparent. But migrating your users’ storage from their machines to a centralized location can help save your budget by reducing strain on the client machine (less writing to drives and more over the network). This will also help save costs because you can more easily back up all end-user data from a single location.

5. Move some desktops to Linux
This one will have the most people shaking their heads, but hear me out. There are always certain desktops in a company that have a limited usage. And because much of business has migrated to Web-based tools, a Linux box makes perfect sense. With those machines, you won’t have to worry about virus infections, corrupt registry entries, or users installing malware-infested applications. Some machines will need Windows (such as those that use proprietary software or software with no Linux port, like QuickBooks). And there will be users who refuse change. For those instances, simply stick with what works best. But for the machines and/or users that can make use of Linux, make the switch and you’ll save.

6. Keep good backups of everything
It’s inevitable: Hardware is going to break. That means every machine in your company, at some point, is going to give up the ghost. When that happens, so much time can be lost recovering data — be it user-level or company-level data. One of the most critical tasks you can have as an IT pro is making sure backups run and run consistently. With a solid backup plan, you will save quite a lot of money in the end, even if only in time.

7. Implement strict antivirus and anti-malware policies
A big issue with end user machines is the “accidental installation” of malware or the infection of viruses. One of the best ways to help yourself out is to use an antivirus solution (such as Symantec Endpoint Protection) that can be managed from a centralized location. Regardless of what you use, it is crucial to make sure that all antivirus and anti-malware software is up to date (both the application and the definitions). It might also behoove you to make sure that end users aren’t installing extra “features” for their browsers — such as coupon finders.

8. Encourage creative thinking (solutions for unique problems)
This is more for your IT staff. Encourage the use of creative thinking to solve issues with client computers and servers. Most every computer issue has multiple paths that can arrive at a solution. Sometimes the creative solution is the one that can help save money in the end. Not all administrators can think along these routes, so don’t press them if they aren’t capable. But encourage those who can think creatively and on their toes.

9. Document, document, document
You want to save time? Document your hardware, your network topology, and your software. Document your users, your users’ PCs, your backups — anything you can possibly think of that will help you save time and make transitions from one software/hardware/administrator to another as smooth as possible. This documentation will also go a long way toward helping you see how everything on your network is used and what can be used more efficiently.

10. Implement a help desk solution
Many smaller businesses don’t employ a help desk solution because they assume you can keep track of all the issues on your own. That is a big mistake. The ability to track progress on issues and to review previous issues (and how they were fixed) can really save you time and money. And enabling end users to submit tickets will help ensure that issues are better managed and resolved more quickly. Plenty of open source solutions are available for this. (My favorite is OS Ticket.)

Have you found some other strategies that have helped you reduce spending? Please, share your suggestions bellow.

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Cloud computing is not a buzzword, it has become reality for many companies from SMEs to large organizations: as analyst Quocirca reports in their Cloud findings this year: a substantial minority out of 900 business respondents see cloud computing either as a “passing fad” (8%) or as something that had “no place in the future of my organization’s plans” (11%).

The benefits of cloud computing have been discussed back and forth:
-With cloud services you gain mobility and real-time visibility of your metrics. Without the need for servers, hardware and software installation, data can be accessed from any location that has a Web browser and an Internet connection.
-Cloud-based business applications can be thoroughly and easily integrated with existing programs, such as Microsoft Outlook or Excel or Lotus Notes, and mobile devices like BlackBerrys, iPhones or other smartphones.
– For middle-size and large companies with a tree of various depts and units cloud services mean streamlined functionality across all departments and facilitation of interdepartmental communication.
– Small firms and start-ups couldn’t afford some services and software so far. With cloud services they can now get use and advantage of them as this costs less, the cost is fixed and predictable. Most cloud computing applications are pay as you go, and it can be purchased only necessary part of the cloud services package for a certain even short period of time.
– Cloud computing resources can be scaled up or down as required along with the organization’s size fluctuation or coping with the company’s occasional peaks in demand.
– By using of computing resources delivered over the internet, the business is able to save money, replacing hefty capex with predictable opex.
– Burden of day-to-day IT administering responsibilities is taken off the shoulders of the business in case of using public cloud services.

The good thing about cloud is that almost each company or organization can find the right one for themselves. To figure out what form of cloud suits the business you should start with an analysis of the existing state-of-play and an assessment of your future needs. Also what works for a particular organization will depend on the characteristics of that organization: how large it is, which vertical sector it’s in, what investment it’s already made in infrastructure and how complex its IT needs are. This initial piece of analytic job will be valuable by itself since it paves the way for a strategic approach to cloud resulting in long-term cost savings and greater agility.
For larger organizations who would like to develop a cloud strategy, the picture is more complicated. As statistics of 2011 shows 45% were already using cloud for sourcing some IT services, principally for cloud’s “speed of provisioning, flexible capacity and demand management benefits.” So they have already invested heavily in infrastructure, and the scale benefits will not be as easy to realize as for a smaller organization.

Basically there are several attractive options of moving to the cloud:
1/ a move to the public cloud, which provides economies of scale and a move from a capex to an opex payment model;
2/ development of a private cloud, which enables to save money by rationalizing infrastructure and providing services on a hosted basis;
3/ a hybrid model, in which the private cloud is used as the basic method of delivering applications and services, but mixed with functions and services from the public cloud, where it makes sense to do so (for example, if that function would be expensive or complicated to provision internally.)
4/for public sector organizations, it may be also collaboration with other organizations to adopt shared services. In UK the example of this model can be the emerging G-cloud.

Naturally all the models can co-exist within the same company or organization.

Public cloud is a standard cloud model in which a business hires its computing resources from a large provider such as Amazon.
As an alternative, private cloud may be adopted, run either in-house or by a third party. Although private clouds lack the scale benefits of a public cloud, they do provide organizations with greater control over their data. Private clouds also provide an opportunity for organizations to take a good look at their current software use and to take steps to manage it more effectively. “In some cases there’s a degree of transformation that needs to take place, and quite often investment in private cloud is the instigator for that transformation that needs to take place,” Ovum analyst says. “Very many organizations need to rationalize their applications footprint before since they are simply supporting too many applications, too many versions, too many releases, across the organization.”
In reality it need not be an either/or choice between public and private cloud. Some experts believe that a hybrid cloud model combining private and public clouds will be an increasingly popular and workable model in future.
There exist even more diverse choice for public sector organizations. One is shared services, in which different public sector organizations pool their IT resources to deliver back office functionality. Several shared services initiatives are already underway. There are currently about 200 shared services projects in operation in local UK government, for instance. One of them is NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), a joint venture between the Department of Health and Steria, that offers back office services such as finance & accounting and payroll & HR to NHS trusts.
Again in UK, the really big initiative in the public sector is the government’s £4.9m G-cloud program, which it expects to save £120m between 2014 and 2015. The G-cloud is a private, government-controlled cloud that will offer four categories of IT service (infrastructure, software, platform and specialist service) to central government departments, local authorities and other public sector organizations. Currently each government department has its own set of IT systems performing similar functions, so there is needless duplication of functionality and therefore it makes sense to develop or purchase a single application that can be scaled across multiple councils than for each council to buy its own application.

And what about your company – is cloud computing already your choice of the day? Then which cloud model do you get use of?

Interested to hear your thoughts :)

Thanks in advance,
Helen Boyarchuk
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

OutSystems recently released Agile Platform 7.0. The really big news in the announcement was a total overhaul of the multi-tenancy system. Another item that flew under the radar is the new Lifetime feature, which is a method of deploying applications and managing the lifecycle (without any relationship to the TV channel).

In Lifetime, you define a number of environments and which direction things get deployed out. The pre-defined environments are Development, Testing, and Production. Lifetime allows you to “tag” a particular set of revisions with a version number, and then push them to the next environment in the chain. It detects if changes have been made in an environment’s version by marking the version number with a plus (for example, 1.8+), which gives you a cue that you may need to backport changes or deploy from downstream servers with caution. This is great for the age-old issue of people patching directly on upstream servers.

Hand-in-hand with the Lifetime feature is improvements to the way you define Applications and the system for maintaining them. There are a lot of minor changes to Applications that add up to an overall improvement. For example, there is a little reason to use an Application over a Solution, but with Lifetime, the Applications get all of the versioning and single-click deployment of a package and dependencies that Solutions have, with additional awareness of things like which eSpace in the application manages users and roles.

Ideally, you make your changes in Development, and when you are ready to test, you tag them with a new version and push to Testing. Once your testing is complete, you deploy to Production. But, what if you have to hot patch in Production? Well, there are no worries. If you take the patched version from Production and deploy it to Testing or Development, it will show the versions as being in sync again. The worst-case scenario is that you have patched Production and have changes in Development to push out. Going to the Development version and doing a merge from Service Studio with the Production version to backport the patch and then deploying the merged version back to Development will mark everything as up-to-date and happy.

Kind Regards,
Lina Deveikyte
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Competition exists everywhere whether it is in it politics or business. And Cloud industry is no an exception. Cloud computing has revolutionized the technology industry and since it generates good revenue all cloud service providers are in a race to take the lead. Cloud is a set of technologies and market structures that invite competition, as a result the market is hyper competitive in ways that are new and innovative.

Below you may find main competitors and key players in the Cloud industry:

#1 Amazon

Amazon has emerged as the champion in the cloud computing world. This company is undoubtedly no.1 provider of cloud infrastructure with its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) which tops the list of cloud platforms for application development and deployment. The reason why the company has made it big is because of the fact that they provide attractive services to the business groups and also because of their customer friendly approach.
Amazon is also the most preferred company for cloud management because of its S3 Simple Storage Service offering. The main attractive feature of this company is that the customers do not need to purchase any hardware for their business, instead they can use Amazon’s cloud infrastructure for a small rent and their data storage.

#2 Microsoft

Microsoft is gearing up in the cloud business with its Windows Azure Platform. Microsoft cloud platform has good position already in the cloud market giving the top players a run for their money. The Windows Azure cloud service gives developers the option to host, develop and run web applications. Azure provides complete set of services including computing environments, scalable storage, database functionality and a content delivery network.

#3 Google

Google is one of the major player in the Internet technology and with its Google App Engine platform as a service company’ve had a chance to be in cloud service providers. Google is one among a few companies that has the potential to invest in core computing firepower to give a tough competition to Amazon web Services. Google’s cloud service is aimed at developing and hosting web applications using Google’s infrastructure and data centers and additional advantage is that the engine supports several languages including Java, Ruby and Python. The main selling point of the company is their scalable service that allows developers to pay for what they use without startup costs or recurring fees.

#4 Salesforce

Salesforce.com has steadily been transitioning from the best breed sales force automation (SFA) software as a service (SaaS) provider to an application development platform as a service (PaaS) company. Salesforce is a software-as-a-service provider that specializes in distributing business applications allows developers to use the Salesforce infrastructure to develop add-on applications that integrate with the Salesforce solution. This company is well known to deliver new product features, and new capabilities, on a continuous basis.

#5 RackSpace

This company takes leading position in cloud based web hosting and encompasses managed services and pure hosting businesses. Comparing Amazon’s EC2 and Rackspace: If one intends to scale on EC2, they need to launch additional instances (which you can do with stored AMI’s). At RSC, you just have to point to a running instance and click a button to say “Make this server bigger” (or smaller if you need to scale down). A few minutes later, it’s all done. There is an option of adding additional instances, too!

These are the main players in Cloud industry, how could you predict who would become a leader in this Cloud technology race? Why do you think so? It would be great to hear from you!

Natalia Kononchuk

Natalia Kononchuk
Natalia.Kononchuk@altabel.com
Skype ID: natalia_kononchuk
Senior Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Cloud computing is one of the most powerful trends nowadays. It offers vast opportunities as for the business profitability so can provide improvements in green initiatives which make enterprises more attractive and eco-friendly. Nevertheless, for every goal of this argument exists opposite opinion. So, let’s verify, concerning major factors of green computing and benefits of cloud computing: could we going green with cloud computing or no?

Defining Green Computing

Green Computing or Green IT as Cloud Computing is one of the cutting edge IT topics today. The key role of green computing is to make the use of computers as energy efficient as possible with minimal or no impact on the environment. As for the businesses it means to find the methods of cutting the consumption of power recourses and IT waste recycling. But that’s where the trouble lies. Adopting eco computing trend, saving energy, you have to be sure you won’t lose in money because the IT is where you always need to consume large amount of energy power. In this case what shall we do?

The benefits of Green Clouds usage: lower costs with high profit

So, here cloud computing is the way to save money and energy for your business. Let’s get into how to save from cloud computing with the benefit for the business both for profit and for the environment. Speaking about cost savings, cloud computing users first of all emphasize Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Using IaaS, users can improve their manageability and facilitate the maintenance of the resources. It means that benefit of business enterprises consists by avoiding spending on software and infrastructure resources, allowing business clients to focus on earning money rather than being weighted down with infrastructure concerns.

As the result, operating this model allows to reduce the consummation of power energy without spending money on running the servers. Moreover, with the absence of hardware to upgrade, no servers to repair and no software to install labor costs are also reduced.

One more aspect of Cloud Computing in order is how to accomplish money savings with a green role of using SaaS (Software as a Service). As it goes a step beyond IaaS by offloading applications to hosted services. With SaaS software accesses usually through a browser based client, meaning that it can be run on virtually any authorized computer, making desktop and laptop resources easily replaceable. Thus, when you also save on the support, it doubles the impact and in fact increases green role in business. For one hand, using cloud computing, there is no need any more for It department structure as the employees can work remotely, travelling and moving from one place to another because they have fast access to the internet and the ability to use all the services at hand, on the other hand it reduces the consumption of fossil fuels and the harmful pollution that results from vehicle emissions as well.

Meanwhile cloud computing offers vast opportunities, as always, every debate has two sides, so there is opposite opinion of the researches considering that cloud computing is just a theory. They consider that using data centers, for example, increases the possibility to get access from any point of the world with more frequency than using infrastructure hosting providers.

Nevertheless, Cloud Computing can still do more and can be more “green”, focusing not only on energy savings but also helps in recycling e-waste, claim the others. Within Cloud Computing we can cut the e-waste production by reduction of hardware and software. In order to optimize the hardware usage, cloud computing dealing with server virtualization that consolidates all servers into a single location, in such a way replacing all hardware by online devices and resources. So, buying or renting access to datacenters we minimize the usage of hardware, at the same time reducing the e-waste. Therefore, this solution improves both environmental and operational benefits.

Conclusion

Cloud green computing is the latest trend today. Balancing energy consummation and hibernating money form saving costs by leaving the purchase of servers, software, datacenter space or network equipment, make the businesses more efficient and attractive. A doubt regarding going green with cloud computing still remains open. So, I will be glad if you share your opinion or business experience of managing with cloud green computing. Thank you for the attention and please feel free to leave your comments.

Best regards,
Katerina Bulavskaya
Altabel Group – professional software development

It is doubtless that both SharePoint and Windows Azure can each work well on their own, but when put together, the doors open for developers to extend the features of SharePoint by leveraging the infrastructure that is the Cloud.

So let’s have a look at the advantages of using these two technologies together and new opportunities for expansion.

Storage
SharePoint document libraries can store files. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should store all of your files, or every type of file. For example, a document library is not an ideal home for big video files. Such files are better suited for a hard drive or a file system. Further, the premise of document libraries in SharePoint is to share and as a result, the more users there are using SharePoint, the more they are sharing, and subsequently, the more files accumulate.

The more files that accumulate the more room they take up. Whether it is because of an accumulation of files or because files are large, you encounter a need to be able to store data on an infrastructure that can keep up with your growing data needs and shrink when files are removed. This need is easily serviced by Windows Azure’s Storage Services, specifically Blob Storage. Rather than using SharePoint to store files, Blob Storage can do the job, expanding and shrinking as your demand requires. Blob Storage is also ensuring that your files are stored secured and are replicated to another datacentre in the unlikely event of a datacentre disaster.

Large Data Sets
You can store and work with data in SharePoint using lists. But the more complex the data becomes, the more inefficient lists become as storage mechanisms and the more difficult it becomes to work with the data. With Windows Azure in the mix, you can outsource your data needs to Azure, specifically SQL Azure.

From a storage mechanism perspective, using SQL Azure gives you the power of SQL Server with the elasticity needed to keep databases growing with data and prevent performance degradation of your SharePoint cluster. From an ease of use perspective, using SQL Azure also allows you to work with the data as you would with SQL Server, no longer needing complicated code and interactions with SharePoint’s APIs to get at and work with the complex data. Once the data is in SQL Azure, you can connect it to your SharePoint solution either through direct calls to the SQL Azure database, or through a web service hosted in a Windows Azure Web Role connected to SharePoint via BCS.

Code Execution
Chances are your SharePoint environment is locked down pretty well in order for your IT folks to keep the environment highly performant, scalable, and secure. But being locked down can also limit the type of solutions you can build for SharePoint. Let’s say you wanted to build a solution that uses SharePoint as a front end, but then takes the actions and data from the user and goes off to do something else, or perhaps feed the information into different systems. That code needs to run somewhere. A natural inclination would be to have SharePoint run the code within a solution. However, if you’re environment is locked down, and let’s say you’re only able to deploy Sandboxed solutions, you’ll be constrained as to what you will be able to do.

Working with Windows Azure as a backend system also allows you to work with the restrictions imposed by sandboxed environments. To do so, you outsource the “work”, your code that does stuff, to a web or worker role in Windows Azure, have those instances run the code for you, and then expose the result via web services that can then be read back into SharePoint or SharePoint Online. Keep in mind that this can be two-way. By using SharePoint or SharePoint Online’s web services or client-side object model, you can reach into SharePoint to return or save data.

Integrating with SharePoint Online
There’s also a great story of SharePoint Online and Windows Azure working together to enable working with internal systems and/or protecting sensitive data that you don’t feel comfortable storing in SharePoint Online (but do feel comfortable having it in your own data centers). A hybrid solution is in order here. Have SharePoint Online as your front end. It will then talk to a Windows Azure service that will then communicate with your internal and securely transfer the result/information back to SharePoint Online.

Reach
When you see the cloud as a place to deploy applications, your reach naturally widens. For example, deploying your services and applications in Windows Azure, they are available to many SharePoint clients. By leveraging the Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket or deploying your own custom WCF services or ASP.NET applications, you not only are able to better monetize on optimization, but the opportunity to take advantage of your Windows Azure applications and services can be extended to your customers as well. This is a tremendous opportunity for you because it means you can write once, sell many times, and let Windows Azure worry about scale.

Reusability
The cloud is about reusing your existing skills and your existing code; it’s not all about reinvention and multiple code bases. With .NET, you are able to reuse already-built .NET applications in the cloud, or reuse your existing skills to build new ones. Further, the cloud provides the opportunity for service layers that enable cross-device (e.g. phone, web and PC) connectivity and cross-platform integration.

As you can see there’s a natural fit between the two technologies to fill in gaps and make better solutions possible.

Read more here.

Kind regards,
Aliona Kavalevich
Altabel Group – professional software development

Most tablets in use today are iPad-size. That’s because most tablets in use are iPads. But in my opinion iPad’s just too big (and expensive) to represent the future of tablets.

Recently I’ve asked LI professionals about this. Bellow you may find the most interesting of them.

«I think it is going to come down to lower cost and lower weight. Even as I “type” this answer on my iPad3, I feel the device is heavy. I will almost always grab my Kindle over my iPad with the Kindle app because the Kindle is so much lighter to hold when reading, and I do not want to hover over a table when reading.»
Michael Stella
Experienced Program Manager and Business Analyst

«The short answer is convenience, weight, and price. The iPad debuted as a consumer-friendly replacement for a laptop, so a larger screen felt familiar. With newer, smaller iterations of tablets on the market consumers are becoming more comfortable with smaller screens (helped along by the improved resolution and fidelity of the newer LCDs.) More efficient and powerful processors within the devices make them more useful tools, as well as more portable.
Depending on how you define “tablet market,” you can look to the absolute domination of Smartphones as proof of the convenience/weight/cost model winning out over screen-size. Smartphone sales dwarf tablet sales.
Generally, I think the sweet-spot for tablets will be Smartphones with a slightly larger screen than we see now, but still considerably smaller than the mid-size tablets (the 7″ screens.) They do virtually everything a tablet does now, but has the added benefit of easily fitting in a pocket or purse.»
Bill Begg
Experienced Entrepreneur and Consultant

«For the personal/consumer market the smaller format tablet may have an edge, but for corporate/office use the larger format tablet is already making the laptop and, in some cases, the desktop computer obsolete.
Tablet manufacturers, especially Apple, have done an excellent job at getting product placement in movies and on TV in very suitable uses for a tablet. It is difficult to watch a recent TV program that doesn’t have a tablet in use somewhere during an episode.
The larger format tablets work much better for showing something to someone standing next to you than does a small format tablet.»
Charles Caro
Executive Director at Rebounders United

«Dominate? No. But they are a welcome addition – I really want something not much larger than a paperback that I can slip in my pocket and use for ebooks, but is better functioned that a kindle or similar – and the new smaller tablets seem ideal.
I do think there is one improvement still needed – the size of the screen needs to use all the available space, right up to the edge of the device instead or a large margin around it.»
Bernard Gore
ICT Programmer Manager at Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

«I think each new device type encourages entirely new and differing behaviors from us. With a desktop, monitor, mouse and keyboard we’re like these information seeking insects, clicking and typing and mining the web. On a mobile device, we’re out and about, very task-driven, very mesmerized in a habitual way, smoking information like the new great American smoke break or something, transactional, but only in short strokes and flows. We love our mobile devices too, its something Freudian and deeply sexual with the touch screen, the gentle strokes, all the handholding and extremely intimate, personal relations with our data-driven posthumanic sojourns, all our connectedness just a touch away. And then there’s the tablet version 1.0, right? Big touch, big strokes and a much more browserly, relaxed pace that actually feels more like a walk through a catalog or magazine on interactive crack. About the size of a large analog notebook of paper, or a thin book, but a little trendy-cool and somewhere in-between a research instrument and a fast tasking tool. Smaller tablets create yet another in-between, a soon-to-be discovered mental terrain that will most likely encourage a new set of emotions and behaviors. I’m fascinated to see how all of these devices will start to work better together and how the smaller tablets will not necessarily dominate the market so much as inspire new design, interaction, business and technological challenges. Should be really fun stuff!»
Lou Susi
Accomplished designer focused on user experience, design education, curation, performance and dynamic media

In conclusion, big tablets like the current iPad will be popular. But they’ll always be the high-end minority. The future belongs to small tablets like the Nexus 7 and the upcoming mini iPad.

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development


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