Archive | December 2013

the Wireless Network – “your best Christmas present”

How times have changed. As we embraced the festive season the presents under the tree have also changed. The Christmas tree present pile has evolved from an abundance of socks and badly fitting jumpers, through basic electronic toys and items (that ate batteries as if they were free), through to mobile communications devices that started as phones and soon became lifestyle accessories to now where just about everything requires network connectivity to something else. And that’s “something else” more often than not is the Internet or a mobile communications network.

From ages 6 to 66 (people do exist outside of that range but the alliteration reads well) we tore open our Christmas presents, plugged in a charging cable (as the era of disposable batteries seems long gone) and in a matter of minutes felt the real joy of Christmas when the electronic widget took its first digital breath. If raises the question, “what was the most important household element this Christmas”?  Was it food, TV repeats, a well earned rest – potentially. But more likely for many households (especially with children) it was NONE of the above – can I suggest it could have been “the wireless network”.

As you ponder whether I remain in a post Christmas state of madness I am basing my view in part on the following:

No “wireless network (and that includes WIFI and mobile communications networks)” equals

  • No Facebook
  • No Twitter
  • No Instagram
  • No wireless console games (xbox, playstation)
  • No mobile phone communications.
  • No wireless music streaming
  • No wireless TV streaming
  • No digital tablets connected to online resources
  • No cordless landlines
  • No Internet access.

I could go on.

But even with the loose validity of the examples highlighted many of you will state, a cabled network connection will also connect many of the devices to the internet and with it all would be well. My, challenge – “where will that cable plug into” on a smartphone, tablet, handheld games console, cordless landline phone and so on.

I hope this blog spawns your own “eureka” moment as you start to consider the impact and fundamental importance wireless networks now have on our everyday lives – where in reality “no wireless network” is no longer an option.

With that, my closing words point back to you for a final thought – “imagine your Christmas day, Boxing Day but with the wireless network failed (no WIFI and mobile phone networks)”. Its only technology but would it really feel like Christmas?  Interesting thought.

Hope you had a great Christmas and let’s all have a wonderful 2014.

Until next year

Twitter: Colinwccuk

Workplace IT predictions for 2014

computer-shopper-crystal-ball

Well it’s that time of the year and no well-meaning blog would be complete without some predictions for the coming year. I canvassed some of my team for their views so that we can look back next year and see if they have potential parallel careers as fortune tellers!

First up is Paul who thinks we will see lots of continued uncertainty in the Mobile OS market, with a surprising upswing in Windows Phone and fight back by Blackberry to maintain adoption in Enterprise – that won’t be matched in the consumer world.  Somewhat polar to market commentary and headlines – so something to keep an eye on!

Next up is Pete who believes SSD (Solid State Disk) will become standard, across all traditional PC client devices. The cost difference for spindle and solid state has reached such a small difference that the performance benefits and reduced failure rates will outweigh this small price difference. Hmmm, could be good news for Samsung and Kingston!

Pete also thinks we’ll see the death of the docking station (again 🙂 ) – as we move towards more choice and more mobile devices, the desire and ability for a consistent docking experience will be surpassed by wireless peripherals and connected screens.

Next one up from the team is not necessarily good news for the industry and somewhat inevitable in the climate but there is the expectation that at least one major ‘pure play’ reseller (read no services division) will either go under or get swallowed up in 2014.

David in Services also suggests that we might see a short-fall in available UK resources to tackle the backlog of Enterprise Windows XP users that still haven’t migrated – caused by the product formally going ‘end of life’ in April 2014. Not sure if this is a prediction or wishful thinking!!

Finally, we move to Tina and Software. First prediction is that we will see Big Data move into the mainstream as people stop talking about it and start to use information to underpin their business models. Whilst 2014 will also be the year that we see the number of software vendors used within Enterprise estates increase as a result of the users opting for smaller ‘app like’ line-of- business tools and not the over specified and under-utilised tools they have today.

Personally, I think that we will continue to be ‘S.M.A.C.ked’ (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) as a major theme and as the “nexus of forces” continues to empower users through technology and information it will make 2014 disruptive and stimulating for everybody involved in Workplace IT.

So there you have it, down in black and white for judgement next year. I’d be really interested to hear your own predictions for the coming year (related to Workplace IT of course!)?

I hope you have a great Christmas break, and see you all in 2014!

Time for change – Will DevOps fast forward SDN?

The SDN (Software Defined Networking) juggernaut continues to rumble on with industry views about adoption shifting quickly from “if” to “when”. Software defined datacenters (SDDC) are emerging, underpinned by solutions including Vsphere, mainframe virtualisation, Xen and Windows Server to name a few platforms, but the full realisation of the power and agility promised remains an aspiration rather than a reality for many organisations. However a key element of the secret sauce to unlock that promise may be appearing and it’s not a technology based gadget or feature – its people doing what people have done in the IT arena since its birth, IT operations, development and programming – all hail the “DevOps” team.

The DevOps team will be key to the accelerated adoption of “tangible” SDN across the enterprise. SDN leverages software based network elements to deliver key networking outcomes (control functions, routing, security, etc). However the magic of software is the ability to programme, automate and personalise an activity with further development & programming. The emerging advanced SDN programming requirement is not just for the network but equally the broader IT systems activity that delivers a virtualised workload as an element of software defined datacenter (or hybrid datacenter). The tight coupling between infrastructure, virtualisation and accelerated operations now highlights the need for a team of IT operations skilled individuals with a sound understanding of application provisioning and implementation logic. And the result – the stratospheric rise of the DevOps team from a back room pool of siloed operations and development personnel to a new role delivering business aligned IT systems automation and orchestration footprints.

The DevOps team are normally established IT infrastructure aware operations staff that have evolved from systems based CLI and scripting to advanced automation coding using development tools including Puppet and Chef. DevOps is now seen by many as the missing link for evolving organisations as they strive to embrace the promise of network automation and flexibility woven into the virtualised compute environment. Ask yourself who currently performs such a role with your organisation – and can they currently bind your network configuration and activities via sophisticated automation to the virtualised compute stack to accelerate workload deployment.

If you currently manage a maturing DevOps team, it’s time for them to take centre stage as SDN and SDDC evolve to deliver maximum value to the organisation. And if you have no DevOps team now may be the time to understand who in your organisation can weave together the automated, virtualised, workload centric, multi technology elements required by to ensure IT systems remain at the heart of business agility. Look no further than the DevOps team.

Until next time

@Colinwccuk

The Future of Work

Defining the Future of Work

The premise of the recent Ovum Future of Work Summit, sponsored by Computacenter and Microsoft, was that the ways in which businesses work today is being fundamentally changed by mobile and social technology.

Over the course of the day presenters from a variety of organisations discussed how technology is redefining roles in organisations and enterprise social networks. If adopted effectively it can enable organisations to be agile, outcome-focused and more efficient, while at the same time increasing employee satisfaction, backed by new opportunities for performance analytics

There were 3 key themes that ran through the discussion topics

  • The Multi-Screen Workplace
  • Mobility
  • Social Enterprise

 The Multi-Screen Workplace

Users are no longer using a single (fixed) device on which they conduct their work, and, in common with a range of other research in the area, people are increasingly time/work-slicing across a range of different device types from laptops, tablets and smartphones and in various locations.  This is a blending of the workstyles with “work-life balance” requiring the provision of the right device for each user scenario.

The proliferation of tablets and other mobile devices are no doubt influencing this trend, as is the consumarisation of IT and the changing expectation of the new workforce entering the market (Gen Y). 

The general sentiment was the rate of change in the market is increasing  and that the consumerisation influence has led to penetration of Microsoft’s traditional enterprise dominance, with Apple and to a lesser extent Android obtaining Enterprise endorsement.

 Mobility

A portion of the event content  focussed on the technical solutions and tools that enable new mobile technologies to enter the enterprise environment, and the needs and solutions for appropriate control of these devices in the enterprise.

Clearly there are a range of form factors available but more importantly are the procurement models (BYoD vs CYoD vs COPE) and Platform types (Android, Apple etc) that are driving the need for a number of solutions. These could include MDM, MAM, MCM, Containerisation and Virtualisation – essentially these solutions can be attributed to the particular ownership model that is in play, or the range of controls that available. 

Beyond the technical controls (toolset) aspect, it was generally noted that there is a market maturity occurring, with organisations having typically deployed a tactical solution to resolve a C-Level BYO problem, but the vendors are quickly evolving up the stack into Application and Content Management solutions.  The major problem highlighted was how to resolve the “Corporate Dropbox” issue and that the successful vendors in this market will be those that view ECM as a central pillar of their strategy moving forwards.

Social Enterprise

There is a consensus that enterprise social/collaboration is a rapidly evolving area, borne out of a significant changing of the relationships between employees and IT departments – again manifested through the consumerisation trend.  There was a sense of the social/collaboration tools providing a real alternative to the email obsession, as well as more “human centred needs” of collaboration.

However, it is recognised that “social” solutions are challenging to implement and get right, for a number of reasons – they can be counter intuitive to some organisation cultures, supporting the views about the necessary sponsorship and focus to get it delivered, but when done and done correctly can deliver significant efficiency, value and engagement back into the business.

In a nutshell

  • Emerging trend of workslicing mean people are using multiple devices to work in new ways and at times that are new to enterprise
  • Drivers for major transition around mobility and introduction of consumer technology are Generation Y employees
  • There is a general sense amongst employees that they are “working with yesterday’s tools”
  • Enterprise IT is “normalising” with new solutions eroding Microsoft’s original dominance
  • 56.8% of FTE’s use their personal device to access corporate data (Ovum BYOD Study 2013)
  • The multiscreen workplace encompasses a range of behaviours/models including BYoD, CYoD, COPE – there yet to be consensus on which option is best/right
  • “Mobile First” is the ethos that companies must live by and adopt moving forwards. 
  • “Mobile First” will have same level of impact in Enterprise as the introduction of the internet
  • Development of a  new genre of collaboration software and tools, but there is a challenge in  recognising value and use cases for social tools in enterprise

 The rate of change in workplace technologies will not abate, with consumerisation and the demands of Gen Y employees entering the workforce, the pressures to evolve will continue. But as organisation and the nature of the work we do evolves the contemporary workplace needs to be on that can support today’s needs, whilst being agile enough to accommodate future strategies, working practices and technologies.

 

 

So Much Data, So Little Information

Data is all around us. But does it inform us, entertain us, connect us, influence us and divide us? Or is it danger of consuming us?

We all know data is growing rapidly, and all kinds of statistics exist about creating more data in the last two years than in all of creation before that time. If all words spoken by every human who ever lived were committed as text it would consume just over 2.2 Exabytes of capacity, in 2014 we will create more than 20x this figure.

On its own much of this may be a problem or it may be nice to have.

Let’s consider some raw data… 12. On its own it means nothing to us, other than it’s a number, some raw data.

What if we tie it in with another piece of data OC, then we know if we join two separate pieces together we have a temperature, still really not much use to us.

But consider if we add another two elements of potentially unrelated data; London & Tuesday, then suddenly we have

12OC London Tuesday

Now we are able to use the data to make an information decision; we know what to wear, how to travel and what to carry. Several pieces of data used together now have relevance, they have become information.

Let’s take another piece of raw data, what do you think of if I give you the word ‘Bridge’ – a river?

What if I add Playing cards, suddenly you think of a card game

What if I change cards to dentist? Something else again?

The second part of information is context, without context data is no use to us.

For data to of use we need both relevance and context, when we have both we can use the information to make informed decisions. We can use it in four ways;

  • Descriptive –to understand what’s happened
  • Diagnostic –to understand why it’s happened
  • Predictive- to forecast what might happen
  • Prescriptive – to know what to do when it does happen

Sources of Data without context & relevance are of no use, data with context and relevance can be used together in ways we’ve not yet dreamed of.

Remember the Most valuable currency in the world is not money; it’s not data, its information.

Multiples of bytes

Decimal
Value Metric
1000 kB kilobyte
10002 MB megabyte
10003 GB gigabyte
10004 TB terabyte
10005 PB petabyte
10006 EB exabyte
10007 ZB zettabyte
10008 YB yottabyte
Binary
Value JEDEC IEC
1024 KB kilobyte KiB kibibyte
10242 MB megabyte MiB mebibyte
10243 GB gigabyte GiB gibibyte
10244 TiB tebibyte
10245 PiB pebibyte
10246 EiB exbibyte
10247 ZiB zebibyte
10248 YiB yobibyte
Orders of magnitude of data

Enterprise Mobility – Haven’t we always been ‘Mobile’?

Industry surveys, analyst commentary, our client and partner conversations all suggest that “Mobility” is the hottest concept in enterprise IT, possibly surpassing “cloud” which has dominated the IT agenda in recent years.  But haven’t we always been mobile?

We may be in danger of speaking about ‘Mobility’ as if its a new concept even though we’ve had mobile work styles and solutions for at least the past 20 years!  What is changing, and what we need to focus on is how technology, user demands and innovation are driving solutions that in turn drive a whole new value proposition around mobility and its application potential across a much broader area.  In doing so, we need to reset our definition of “Enterprise Mobility”

Our Mobile Journey

A mobile worker was once a “road warrior”, based from the company car, armed with only a work diary they would conduct the majority of their working week away from the office – meeting clients, taking orders and writing up notes that they would then have to process on their return  to the office and “got connected”.  This was how you achieved customer intimacy, but with glaring inefficiencies and challenges that seem so alien to us now.

True, IT mobility started in the laptop era. As hardware became more cost effective businesses could unshackle key users from a fixed office location.  Dial up RAS was the first mobile solution, as long as you were near a telephone line!  It was better, but still not efficient or flexible.  With the emergence of broadband technology and WiFi, mobile working joined the mainstream and with the prevalence of mobile phones users could be connected and contactable.  Suddenly users became mobile, productive and contactable!  The really important people were also given a Blackberry, the epitome of mobility.  

It would be difficult to say that we weren’t mobile, albeit in the early days it could be an inefficient and frustrating experience

Consumerisation: Redefining Mobility

The mobile workforce was contented, technology was enhancing and connectivity was improving as we moved into the 3G area.  Then came an explosion of consumer led technology – devices and cloud services. This moved “mobility” to the next level, and before we knew it, this technology found its way into the corporate world.

Device platforms and form factors changed, but more importantly the technology was  much simpler to operate and fashionable, and with strong connectivity it all started to come together:

We can work anywhere, on any device, and at any time

 The only lingering problem was that this was starting to occur under the radar; users were driving this trend rather than the IT department.  The term “shadow IT” was coined to define the trend, and is now explains the significant challenges facing the IT department.

Challenges and the Future

 The future mobile world is a complex mix of all of the things we’ve discussed – devices, connectivity, services, applications and data.  We want to be able to work from multiple device types, at any time, in any location and for it to be consistent and at/for our convenience.  The nature of work has also changed significantly, competition in the market, globalisation and the demands it places on employees and the strive for home/life balance and key examples where we as users have had to look towards new technology to help us “keep up” and achieve the right balance

 The demands are unprecedented, and require we architect and think about mobility in a whole new way:

  • Abstract the user and their services from the devices that they use
  • To support a much broader range of device platforms and form factors
  • Mobilise applications and data content
  • Govern, manage and secure the services to protect the company
  • Put the user needs and experience at the forefront of the design

 Those are the guiding principles by which we’re developing our Mobility and Workplace services; Mobility isn’t new, but the challenges and opportunities it now offers businesses are bigger than ever before.