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Red Hat open-sources TrustyAI, an auditing tool for AI decision systems

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TrustyAI

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The ability to automate decisions is becoming essential for enterprises that deal in industries where mission-critical processes involve many variables. For example, in the financial sector, assessing the risk of even a single transaction can become infinitely complex. But while the utility of AI-powered, automated decision-making systems is undeniable, it often plays second fiddle to transparency. Automated decision-making systems can be hard to interpret in practice, particularly when they integrate with other AI systems.

In search of a solution, researchers at Red Hat developed the TrustyAI Explainability Toolkit, a library leveraging techniques for explaining automated decision-making systems. A part of Kogito, Red Hat’s cloud-native business automation framework, TrustyAI enriches AI model execution information through algorithms while extracting, collecting, and publishing metadata for auditing and compliance.

TrustyAI arrived in Kogito last summer but was released as a standalone open source package this week.

Transparency with TrustyAI

As the development team behind TrustyAI explains in a whitepaper, the toolkit can introspect black-box AI decision-making models to describe predictions and outcomes by looking at a “feature importance” chart. The chart orders a model’s inputs by the most important ones for the decision-making process, which can help to determine whether a model is biased, the team says.

TrustyAI offers a dashboard, called Audit UI, that targets business users or auditors, where each automated decision-making workload is recorded and can be analyzed at a later date. For individual workloads, the toolkit makes it possible to access the inputs, the outcomes the model produced, and a detailed explanation of every one of them.  Monitoring dashboards are generated based on model information so that users can keep track of business aspects and have an aggregated view of decision behaviors.

TrustyAI’s runtime monitoring also allows for business and operational metrics to be displayed in a Grafana dashboard. Moreover, the toolkit can monitor operational aspects to keep track of the health of the automated decision-making system.

Above: The TrustyAI monitoring dashboard.

Image Credit: TrustyAI

“Within TrustyAI, [we combine] machine learning models and decision logic to enrich automated decisions by including predictive analytics. By monitoring the outcome of decision making, we can audit systems to ensure they … meet regulations,” Rebecca Whitworth, a part of the TrustyAI initiative at Red Hat, wrote in a blog post. “We can also trace these results through the system to help with a global overview of the decisions and predictions made. TrustyAI [relies] on the combination of these two standards to ensure trusted automated decision making.”

So-called responsible AI, of which transparency is a part, can bring value to an enterprise. A study by Capgemini found that customers and employees will reward organizations that practice ethical AI with greater loyalty, more business, and even a willingness to advocate for them — and punish those that don’t. The study suggests companies that don’t approach the issue thoughtfully can incur both reputational risk and a direct hit to their bottom line.

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Colonial Pipeline resumes operations after ransomware prompted closure

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A paper sign reading no gas in both English and Spanish has been taped to a gasoline pump.

Colonial Pipeline said it restarted operations on Wednesday afternoon after a five-day outage brought on by a ransomware attack caused gasoline shortages and panic buying in East Coast states.

colonial pipeline

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the operator of the 5,500-mile pipeline said on its website. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.”

Colonial temporarily halted operations on Saturday, after determining that it was the victim of a ransomware attack. The pipeline runs through 11 states, from New Jersey to Texas.

The closure of a major fuel artery sent businesses and consumers scrambling. American Airlines added temporary refueling stops to two long-haul flights out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Southwest Airlines flew planes with extra fuel into airports including Nashville International Airport.

Filling stations in some states, meanwhile, were selling up to three times their normal amount of gasoline, leading to price hikes of 8 to 10 cents a gallon. Some stations have run out of fuel, and others have limited purchases to 10 gallons or less.

While all indications are that the attack hit the IT portion of the company’s network and didn’t extend to the operational technology portion that controls pipeline operations, Colonial said on Saturday that it initiated the shutdown as a precautionary measure.

Colonial Pipeline has said it’s working with third-party cybersecurity experts, law enforcement, and other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy and FBI. Company representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

An outside audit of Colonial Pipeline in 2018 found “atrocious” information management practices and “a patchwork of poorly connected and secured systems,” The Associated Press reported, citing an author of the report. Meanwhile, Reuters, citing unnamed sources, said that Colonial Pipeline had no plans to pay the ransom.

Post updated to add, then remove, YouTube clip.

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Former Blizzard and Epic veterans raise $5M for Lightforge Games

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Former Blizzard and Epic veterans raise $5M for Lightforge Games

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When game companies become successful, they tend to breed offspring. That’s the case with veterans of Blizzard Entertainment and Epic Games, who have raised $5 million to open a new studio called Lightforge Games.

The new studio is based near Epic Games in Raleigh, North Carolina, and its quest is to change how role-playing games are made. The team is developing a new cross-platform, social video game where players have the power to create worlds and tell stories with freedom.

CEO Matt Schembari said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company is hiring people for remote jobs.

“Our blended DNA from both Blizzard and Epic extends to the entire studio at this point,” Schembari said. “About a year ago, a bunch of us got together and have been operating quietly, building up the company and our early game prototypes. We’re testing and validating crazy game ideas that we have been coming up with.”

While he isn’t talking about the game yet, Schembari said the game will be highly social and creative and it will run across multiple platforms.

“We love experiences where players can come together and build worlds together, create stories together, tell stories together, where they’re able to have this kind of emergent gameplay. Telling stories together is really the part that we’re most focused on,” he said. “We really believe that there’s no barrier between creation and play. It’s not user-generated content in the classic sense of you create something and then you publish it and people can download it. It’s a different kind of model than just UGC.”

The funding came from Galaxy Interactive, NetEase Games, Dreamhaven, Maveron, 1UP Ventures, and angel investors from the gaming and tech industries.

One of the surprises is that Dreamhaven is another game startup itself, started by former Blizzard president Mike Morhaime and Amy Morhaime. In a statement, Mike Morhaime said that Lightforge is creating a game in a space with a lot of potential and he is excited about the team’s vision.

Above: Lightforge’s team

Image Credit: Lightforge

Schembari has 20 years of experience and he shipped games played by millions as former lead engineer at Blizzard and director of user interface at Epic Games, where he led the Fortnite platform team.

Other founders include Dan Hertzka, Nathan Fairbanks, Glenn Rane, and Marc Hutcheson. Hertzka is engineering director and he led a team at Fortnite that added the client social layer to the battle royale game. Fairbanks has been games for 13 years and has worked on titles such as Fortnite, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Elder Scrolls Online. He is serving as studio director. Rane is art director and he has worked on World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and Diablo Immortal. Hutcheson is product director and he has 18 years of experience in marketing and publishing games such as World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Overwatch, Diablo III, Fortnite, and Hearthstone.

Lightforge has a total of 11 people and is on the verge of hiring three more. The team brings decades of experience from Epic, Blizzard, Riot, Bioware, and Zenimax Online and have shipped top games such as Fortnite, World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hearthstone, the StarCraft 2 trilogy, Overwatch, Elder Scrolls Online, and more.

Lightforge is an all-remote studio where employees can work and live nearly anywhere. Schembari said that his startup received multiple offers and went with Galaxy Interactive as the lead investor because of their understanding about games and online communities.

“We are all remote and have been since the very beginning and this is something that was really important to us,” Schembari said. “One of our values is to really think about embracing empathy with everything we do. And, in particular, in the case of being all remote. We’ve all lived the experience that one of the most disruptive things you can do to someone’s life is to ask them to relocate for a job. And that was something that we really just strongly didn’t want to do. We are now at a point both technologically and culturally where you can totally work remotely.”

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Amazon’s SaaS Boost tool addresses dev challenges

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AWS SaaS Boost

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Amazon today open-sourced Amazon Web Services (AWS) SaaS Boost, an open source tool that helps software developers migrate their existing solutions to software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery models. Amazon says that SaaS Boost — which launched in preview at AWS Re:Invent 2020 — has the potential to offload development efforts by supporting app transformations to SaaS, freeing up developers to focus on other aspects.

SaaS apps are constantly evolving. Many of them use industry-standard protocols and interface with other products, but they all need certain foundational capabilities to onboard users, provision infrastructure, and surface key metrics. These functions are critical for enabling SaaS providers to scale. However, if every company invested in building these capabilities, it’d take resources — slowing down the time to market.

To address this challenge, AWS SaaS Boost provides functionality including tenant isolation, data partitioning, monitoring, metering, and billing. According to Amazon, the focus is on creating an environment that brings together all the elements of a ready-to-use SaaS architecture, removing much of the heavy lifting commonly associated with migrating a solution to a SaaS model.

Unifying data across disparate sources is one key feature in AWS SaaS Boost. Between 60% and 73% of all data within corporations is never analyzed for insights or larger trends, a Forrester survey found. The opportunity cost of this unused data is substantial, with a Veritas report pegging it at $3.3 trillion by 2020. That’s perhaps why organizations have taken an interest in technologies like AWS SaaS Boost that help to ingest, understand, organize, share, and act on data from multiple environments.

Data challenges

According to Gartner, creating a‌n architecture‌ ‌that helps‌ ‌operationalize data‌ ‌pipelines‌ ‌is one‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌major‌ ‌trends‌ ‌for‌ ‌2021. Organizations want to make better use of their data, but most lack a mature strategy. Indeed, surveys show that data’s business impact is limited by challenges in lifecycle management.

Recognizing this, Amazon designed AWS SaaS Boost to be adaptable to the needs of individual projects and organizations. The management and core services of SaaS Boost were built using a serverless application model, with a dashboard where users can configure the ports, domains, compute settings, databases, file systems, and billing options unique to their apps.

New tenants are introduced to the AWS SaaS Boost environment through an onboarding process that collects a tenant’s configuration options and launches an automation. From there, AWS SaaS Boost provisions tenants with separate subdomains that are used to route them to their architectures. The specific resources that apps will need are set up automatically, so that when new versions of the apps are uploaded, SaaS Boost can deploy the updates to all tenants.

Above: A portion of the SaaS Boost onboarding process.

Image Credit: Amazon

On the analytics side, SaaS Boost includes a collection of tenant-focused graphs that can be used to analyze trends. Beyond this, the tool enables integration with preprovisioned infrastructure that can aggregate and surface custom metrics views.

In a blog post, AWS worldwide partner solution architecture Adrian De Luca said that the goal is to “build a vibrant community of developers using AWS SaaS Boost” for production workloads. “We’d like to [encourage] contributors [to donate] code to enhance and optimize … features. As the project matures, we plan to invite other maintainers to take active roles in determining the project’s direction,” he wrote. “Throughout the preview period with developers all over the world, we received interest from large industry-leading software companies who want to offer their traditional products in an easier way, startups who want to build new products with it, and systems integrators modernizing enterprise software on behalf of customers.”

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