Archive | November 2014

Black Friday, DDoS and another IT headache!

Linear Scalability would have made some retailers a lot more money on Black Friday and left them better prepared for the peak in internet traffic. Why might you ask is this possible? Anybody watching the news, surfing the web or actually leaving the comfort of their armchairs to visit a shop in person this weekend can’t have missed the phenomenon called “Black Friday” arriving in the UK.

Now I’m not one to dismiss new trends and indeed I would consider myself an “early adopter” on the axis of the maturity curve; however Black Friday bought two big issues out in to the open for retailers. The first and not my interest today, was the requirement for many of the UK Police forces to deploy teams of police in riot gear to manage the hysteria as waves of people flocked to the stores to pick up a bargain. The second was the legitimate Volumetric Denial of Service (DoS) attack that retailers invited to their sites on the back of the torrent of advertising emails that were sent out in the run up to the event.Black Friday

For those of you who don’t understand what Volumetric a Denial of Service attack is, Arbor Networks classifies it as an “attempt to consume the bandwidth either within the target network/service , or between the target network/service and the rest of the Internet. These attacks are simply about causing congestion.” And that’s exactly what happened on many commercial websites with the number of visits and site requests swamping them and causing so much congestion that people couldn’t get on them to find a bargain let alone buy one!

Now we’ve all seen this kind of issue with ticket sites – you want to buy tickets for the latest band and spend hours waiting to get in to a queue to buy them. But retailers were caught out and several implemented queuing systems through the course of the day which I’m sure infuriated many people as they had to wait up to an hour to get access to the site. Some might say that this isn’t an issue as it’s a British tradition to queue patiently for things – however the internet isn’t British and in this “always on, always connected world” we are moving towards, a queuing system quite frankly doesn’t cut it with today’s “always on, always connected” internet consumers.

The dilemma facing retailers is that to implement infrastructure that supports that amount of availability when it isn’t used for much of the year isn’t cost effective. Which is why many have resorted to a queuing system that throttles traffic to the back end systems and ensures that the website stays up and running and delivering acceptable performance and reaction times to those accessing it. In doing so however a large proportion of the potential spending population will go elsewhere and therefore whilst no doubt profitable, many retailers failed to maximise the potential of Black Friday.

So what are the alternatives? Linear Scalability is one solution to this problem – the ability to deliver continuous throughput through the provision of on the fly additional infrastructure. This where cloud services can provide the answer and Computacenter can assist. Cloud adoption has been slow in the main as a result of security concerns – why would you trust your crown jewels and intellection property (IP) to a cloud provider when it’s a challenge to protect it within your own datacenters? And this is where we are missing a trick… Most organisations if they looked at the bottlenecks in their systems on Friday would have quickly realised that the issue lay in the web delivery capability which wasn’t able to meet the number of requests being made and not the application or database servers sitting at the back end. By moving or complementing the delivery engine in the cloud, many retailers would be able to maintain performance and the IP would have stayed in the corporate datacenter but the content delivery would have expanded exponentially to cope with demand.

In a “Pay Per CPU Per Hour” cloud model Computacenter can help you implement the necessary architecture to provision and decommission infrastructure on the fly thus allowing you to maximise the money making potential of events such as Black Friday and other peaks in sales throughout the year. Taking the analogy further, if you were able to provision such infrastructure on the fly then why have a DR datacenter sitting idle for much of the year and why not do this to mitigate nefarious Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks? Equally why tie yourself to one cloud provider when you can go where the most cost effective solution is on a month to month basis?

Computacenter is one of the few organisations that can help you with the end to end delivery of such solutions and won F5’s 2014 “Rising Star” award this year in recognition of our innovation and integration of the F5 portfolio in to our solutions. To implement linear scalability you need a raft of vendors – from load balancing and provisioning to networking and datacenter; we have one of the most comprehensive capabilities in Europe and can build and demonstrate this to you in our Customer Solutions Centre in Hatfield.

In an always on, always connected world where website usability and reaction times are proportional to the profitability, why wouldn’t you come and talk to us?

An update from our 2014 Associates

Last month, Andy talked a bit about our Helping Clients Succeed project. While I hate to go over old ground, this has been a rather central task for all of us Associates over the past couple of months (along with the small matter of an upcoming presentation to Mike Norris-Group CEO). This month we also had the privilege of interviewing candidates for next year’s intake of Associates ahead of the various assessment days that followed.

Firstly, I’ll pick up the Helping Clients Succeed baton to go through the last two days of the course which consisted of negotiation training. This was the final chapter before we present our solutions in early December.

“Negotiation training was one of the most interesting, useful and indeed pertinent training courses that we have undertaken so far.”

Negotiation training was one of the most interesting, useful and indeed pertinent training courses that we have undertaken so far. After going through the theory of handling negotiations, we were then let loose upon each other in various group scenarios with the aim of creating a win-win for both parties.

The practice of collaborating between teams, leaving the ego at the door and achieving a compromise so that both parties can walk away satisfied is a concept that took a little while to sink in. However, by our final negotiation of the day, an amicable win-win was definitely (finally) reached.

During November, the assessment centres for next year’s group of Sales, Service Management and Line of Business Associates began. I think I can speak for all of the associates in saying it’s been an honour to be involved in this process by way of the pre assessment centre interviews. At this early stage, current associates are paired with senior members of the Computacenter management team in order to gauge candidates before they are put forward for the assessment centre.

“I think I can speak for all of the associates in saying it’s been an honour to be involved in this process by way of the pre assessment centre interviews.”

For this process I was aligned to fellow blogger Colin Williams (Networking Line of Business Practice Leader) to undertake the interviews. This was an interesting full circle for me as it was Colin and former associate Matt Lovell who interviewed me a year ago!

The assessment centres present a dichotomy to candidates that can be difficult to manage. How can you excel individually while working as part of a team?  I felt that the answer to this was exemplified during our negotiation training. Computacenter is a £3 billion turnover company in an IT market worth in excess of $3 trillion globally. In order to achieve and stand out in such a vast landscape, a focus must be maintained on achieving team wins. Whether this is a team of candidates in an assessment centre, a line of business or sector sales team, or the wider Computacenter team, if you are able to push towards your individual wins whilst helping those around you succeed and win, your success and impact will always be better for it. As we move into late Q4, and for us Associates past the half way point of our programme, this win-win mentality is needed now more than ever.

Things you should ask before embarking on a BYOD programme

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has been a key topic of conversation within IT in recent years; whether to embrace it or restrict the opportunities and challenges it imposes. The BYO trend appears to be driven out of the American and Far Eastern markets, rather than the UK and Europe, but it is still a prevalent topic of conversation.

Before you decide if, or when, consider the following questions:

 Why?

  • Why are you looking to adopt BYOD?
  • Do you expect to make cost savings by avoiding the costs of providing and supporting a fleet of devices, be they laptops, tablets or smartphones?
  • Are you trying to enhance user satisfaction by allowing users to choose the device?
  • Are you trying to support and enable your users to manage their personal and work lives and content from a single platform and consolidate the IT devices they need to carry

 What?

  • Which devices are you going to enable for BYOD?

From a European perspective the majority of BYOD usage has been in the tablet and smartphone area, where employees have sought to use personal devices that are perhaps more feature rich and intuitive, or simply just have more brand appeal. However this has mostly been additive to existing corporate devices, so provides a convenience factor for users, but actually places further burden on the IT department in terms of another service to operate and support.

 Who?

  • Who is responsible in a BYOD scenario?
  • By adopting BYOD are you expecting (or demanding?) your employees to bear the cost of purchasing a device that is suitable for work?
  • How are you going to decide what is or isn’t suitable?
  • Are you going to contribute to the cost borne by the employees by providing some sort of allowance or discounted device catalogue to purchase from?
  • Do you expect this policy to apply to all users or will it only apply to certain areas of the business?

This area, particularly around funding of the devices has always been a key topic in this conversation, particularly in Europe due to both tax and cultural factors, quite markedly different to our understanding of (particularly) the US market

 When

  • When the device fails who is responsible? The user or the company?
  • How have you defined the scope of your expectations around ultimately who is responsible for the support and maintenance of the devices that are in use?

Typically with a COPE provisioning approach, the organisation will offer a robust support model, and while the user may incur some down time in the event of a device failure, loss or theft, established processes will ensure that spare equipment is available or that the warranty and support mechanisms suit the business requirements.

In a BYOD world, how does this work? Is the user also expected to ensure they have a warranty arrangement in place, or at least a contingency plan for the eventuality?

This is where BYOD starts to get complicated as every unproductive worker hurts the organisation. Where we’ve seen BYOD used, often the organisation will provide the back-stop of support by having spare or loan devices available for exactly this eventuality.

 How?

  • How are you going to facilitate the BYOD initiative?

This ultimately depends on the device platforms that are in scope for your BYOD programme. Most users will not want their device subject to the management and monitoring systems that would be used for COPE devices.

  • In order for BYOD to be effective, the key question is how you are going to deliver Applications and Data to the endpoint?

This is a key reason why we’ve not seen massive uptake in BYOD for true productivity devices, due to the complexities of delivering key productivity and LoB applications to unmanaged devices, and all the intricacies of licensing that ensue.

 

Typical approaches for laptop devices have until now been solutions such as Application or Desktop Virtualisation, overlaying the corporate services to the private device, but keeping a demarcation point for support and security. From a mobile device perspective, this is where we’ve seen the evolution to EMM platforms and containerisation to provide a corporate “bubble” on a device which is separate from the private content

This question is key, as simply plugging your private device into the corporate network isn’t going to work, but facilitating BYOD through the kinds of solutions above can introduce additional platform costs and complexity.

Cutting through all of the news and talk about BYOD, just rolling back to five simple questions will reveal that this certainly is no panacea. For everyone’s benefit, it’s wise to really consider what you’re trying to achieve from a BYOD initiative at the outset.

To discover more read: COPE-ing with BYOD