Archive | May 2015

The “digitisation of the enterprise” is now – don’t wait.

There may be no better place to work right now than in the IT industry. It is an industry blessed by tremendous innovation and transformation but continues to suffer from one of the most inspirational but equally undermining qualities around – “HYPE”.

HYPE is often the vehicle for breaking new trends in IT that are ultimately presented to customers and prospects as “ideas with promise” – but sadly many fail to deliver on that promise. HYPE can drive an imperfect storm with the result well intended but potentially inadequate products released to market too early to underpin solutions that fail to deliver benefits (with the result “customer dissatisfaction”). But as hype wraps its arms around the current IT/Business “next big thing”, it is imperative that this time it is different from many prior false dawns and the fire of hype drives us to realise the most important of outcomes. And what is this “next big thing” (mentioned so far in veiled tones)-  the “digitisation of the modern enterprise”.

Why is this “big thing” so important you may ask, aren’t all good ideas, “good ideas”? Quite simply “the digitisation of the modern enterprise” is an aggregation and evolution of everything we have learned and earned in information technology over the past 20 years mushrooming up into the most fundamental change we are likely to experience. And experience it we certainly will as “the digital enterprise” is fast becoming the secondary heartbeat to our lives.

And the gain – consumers, enterprises, in fact anyone who interacts with a technology based device will create and consume this digital fuel and use it to drive tomorrow’s world today. The promise offered by a world driven by a digital DNA is like nothing we have ever imagined and is only limited by our imagination.

As IT users, connectivity everywhere, always on, “user centric computing” are already personal and professional norms.  In fact some may say users are currently so spoiled for choice with rich experiences that they are beginning to adopt an almost relentless “must have now & what’s next?” mentality.

Therefore the new world of “digital” will be a fantastic world for all – or will it, is this digital furore all glitter or endless sheen? Sadly digitalisation may not be all good news with the numerous benefits often opening equivalent (or greater) doors of concern that are very challenging to close. Data & information “everywhere” increases the fear of digital security, personal information loss, cyber threat, concerns over market stability (a truly effective digital bomb could stall the world as we know it) and as much uncertainty as it delivers greatness.

But fear not, a few steps can be taken to realise “gain” with minimal “pain”.

  • Change the “mental lens” you access to view your users. In fact don’t just change it, discard the old one and replace it with a new one. Times have changed and a legacy viewpoint will anchor both user and enterprise activities to the past
  • Listen to and observe the behaviour of your users. Via personal and social interaction with this new digital DNA they are signposting the direction of travel for the enterprise.
  • Don’t ignore the direction of travel indicated (and the fact it may look like one for the “too hard” pile). It may seem somewhat confusing or disruptive, but embraced correctly it will surely “enable” your users
  • Make the network the prince of the castle (the with the application king and the user queen). As the always on can’t fail transport system of the new digital world, the network holds one of the major keys to user effectiveness and therefore enterprise success.  Optimise it, ensure it’s secure, keep it reliable with “always on always” mandatory.
  • And lastly ‎keep your data secure. What data could be the obvious response as “all of it” is far too simplistic a concept and nigh on impossible as reality. I shall borrow a very useful phrase, “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. Understand what’s important via review and classification then protect what matters relentlessly

The preceding steps may help to offset some of challenges to digital success mentioned earlier as the wholesale benefits of a digital DNA available to all are too compelling to defer. Currently the IT industry is a fantastic place to be where the enablement, security and connectivity of systems & users both today and tomorrow will result in them realising previously unimaginable dreams, potential and business outcomes.

For once HYPE cannot define the outcome as the “digitisation of enterprise”, enabled by the user will also be driven by the desire for positive and memorable change along its potentially endless journey. And the most exciting aspect for all – “digital” as the fuel of dreams will make the journey one that may never truly reach its destination.

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

 

Technology Services Framework RM1058

Computacenter have been awarded places of all 11 Lots of the technology Services Framework – scoring a maximum of 100% across all Lots. This is a replacement to the single Lot structure of the IT Managed Services framework which has been in place for the past 4 years or so and has been extended until August this year.

This further cements our place on the strategic frameworks and enables us to offer a route to market through the Crown Commercial Service for a number of managed and contracted services as well as point solutions and projects:

  • Lot 1 Help desk/Service desk as supplied to Channel 4 and Nationwide Building Society and 5 customers in excess of 100,000 seats
  • Lot 2 Desktop Support – managing one in every three high street banks and recently awarded the contract to manage TfL
  • Lot 3 Network Management services as delivered to Clarks and to Schroders from our Operational Command and Control in Hatfield 
  • Lot 4 Network and content security which delivers services such as penetration testing to Manchester City Council and M&G limited
  • Lot 5 Infrastructure, Maintenance & Support (IMS) where we deliver monitoring, servicing and proactive maintenance to Bentley motors and  Gatwick Airport
  • Lot 6 Audit services & Asset management as delivered to First Group and Channel 4
  • Lot 7 IT Infrastructure Transition Services & Delivery. We have successfully transitioned over 20 major customers in the last 4 years including Rolls Royce and the Post Office
  • Lot 8 Service Integration/Service Integrator to the likes of Marks and Spencer and Bentley Motors
  • Lot 9 Disaster Recovery/ Business Continuity services as delivered to the Environment Agency and Eversheds
  • Lot 10 Back up and Data Services delivered in the cloud or in our Datacentres for Crest Nicholson and British American Tobacco
  • Lot 11 Asset Disposal with our partners, RDC, to many of our customers including Greater Manchester Police and the House of Lords

These are exciting times, enabling us to deliver core contracted and managed services in the Datacentre, Network, Workplace and across all projects. Please get in touch with your account manager or call me for any detail on how we can help.

Round Up from Citrix Synergy 2015

I’ve spent most of this week in Orlando, Florida attending the 2015 Citrix Global Partner Conference and Synergy event with approximately 12,000 Citrix partners and customers.  I’ve never written a blog about a specific Partner event before, usually allowing the industry journalists to publish the message. However there were a few topics that really resonated with me and the Workplace and Mobile arena, that I thought I’d put my own commentary around:

Citrix Workspace Cloud

Front and centre in the Day 1 keynote, and throughout the event was Citrix Workspace Cloud (CWC).  This solution addresses the challenges caused by multiple platforms and silos of technology across the public and private cloud, each with its own tools for management and administration.  CWC addresses this by shifting the management control into the cloud, allowing your workloads and data to reside in whichever cloud is most appropriate, but yielding all of the benefits of centralised management, visibility and orchestration of all your resources.

CWC is in a “Test Drive” state at the moment, but expect lots more information about this over the coming months.

Octoblu and the Internet of Things

As a technologist, the most “interesting” thing I saw and heard about had to be the Octoblu project.  Citrix acquired this technology late in 2014, and very simply, it provides a Workflow approach for the management and integration of devices, systems and services across everything from traditional platforms to “things” (IOT).

The live demonstration in the Day 2 keynote showed the Citrix Workspace vision, a flexible working environment spanning a range of devices, each appropriate to a part of the users working needs.   Octoblu was used to support the user scenario, automating such tasks as dialling into voice conferences, saving and archiving meeting notes at the end of the call and then emailing out to all attendees as a record.  All pre-defined activities, with minimal to no user interaction

Now that makes an interesting demo for sure, but more excitingly, the potential opportunities here are massive, limited only by your imagination of which connected tools to use, and how to weave them together to deliver new solutions and streamline existing processes in the future digital world.

“Dynamic Containerisation”

In the same keynote as the Octoblu demo was a demonstration of a solution Citrix referred to as “Dynamic Containerisation”.    XenMobile, like many other mobility solutions uses a Mobile Application Management (MAM) framework to deliver and manage applications in a virtual “bubble” or container on a user’s devices.

The key challenge with the MAM market has been that you need to obtain the source files (IPA for iOS or APK for Android) so that you can “wrap” the App so that it operates securely within your enterprise container (the wrapping inserts code to provide enterprise security policies around the app).  The challenge has been getting access to these source files for many of the leading applications (Office for iPAD being a great and most notable example), which has meant the opportunities to exploit and integrate public mobile Apps in an enterprise context is severely limited.

The demo (clearly a proof of concept at this stage) showed a user downloading a public App from a published link in the Corporate App Store, which was then “dynamically wrapped” with the Citrix code (called MDX) to apply the containerisation policies.  Microsoft Lync was the App used for the demo, copy/paste between this “Public” App. and native applications (outside the corporate container) was prohibited, but was possible between other apps within the container (WorxNotes)

This is a very exciting development for the mobile area, so while the immediate focus of enquiry was “when will this be ready”, clearly it was just a proof of concept and there will no doubt be other not insignificant hurdles to overcome such as Licensing Agreements.  If these issues can be resolved, then this solution will become a very interesting proposition to many enterprises – the power and accessibility of c1m public apps, with the security and integration to enterprise IT controls – could you ask for more!?

And Finally, XenApp is here to stay

Following much confusion in recent times, one of the key themes of the event was in re-iterating Citrix’s support for the core technologies that have made them famous.  In recent releases, the XenApp brand was de-emphasised in favour of XenDesktop, which confused everybody, and ultimately led to an about turn and its quick re-introduction.

Mark Templeton and the rest of the Citrix executive used Synergy to re-iterate the commitment to the XenApp brand and technology, with a strong “We XenApp” message.  Throughout the event were several sessions showing the continued evolution of the core product range, with further enhancements such as in Lync support  – particularly for audio/video.  Very relevant for the modern, collaborative and cloud connected world.

 

This is very much a high level overview. There were many breakout sessions and lots of other content shared and discussed which I couldn’t possibly cover in any detail.  Overall it was a great see Citrix continuing to focus on their core solutions, but also exploring and developing a many emerging tools and capabilities to realise their vision.  I recommend that you observe the ongoing developments around CWC, Octoblu and the Mobile platform with interest, I certainly will be!

Getting ready for Windows 10?

As you’re all no doubt aware by now, Windows 10 will be with us shortly, supported by a great degree of excitement from the technical community who have been evaluating the platform in recent months via the “Insider Preview” programme.

Talk has quickly moved from “How good will Windows 10 be”, following the well documented failings of Windows 8 it needs to be significantly better from a user perspective, to “How will enterprises view and adopt it”, particularly given some of the changes in technology and philosophy associated with the new release.

It may have passed you by, but Windows 7 passed out of mainstream support in January this year, and extended support ceases in January 2020.  While these are highly notable dates, it’s clear from the Windows XP experience that this event, in and of itself is not enough to drive a shift to a new platform.  Any move to a new OS, particularly in enterprise, is driven by key new features, particularly given the challenges associated with upgrades – the mass logistics, application compatibility and user training to mention just three.

Whilst Windows 10 offers a lot of new functionality and benefits, and is a much more “usable” experience, it does seem to lack specific compelling features that would encourage organisations “en masse” to move.  So the question remains:

How are Microsoft going to entice the organisations who have adopted Windows 7 to move quickly to Windows 10?

My expectation is that adoption of Windows 10 will be organic.  There may be specific functionality that benefits particular user types, particularly when you align the OS to different hardware types and applications to meet specific user needs (this is where User Workstyle Analysis is of benefit to an organisation).  As organisations refresh their devices, Windows 10 will slowly permeate into the environment in a much more gradual manner.   The technology shift to support Windows 10 is quite limited, allowing adoption to happen simply, and marks a shift towards what we term a “Dynamic Platform” where technology is no longer an inhibitor to change, but supports the need for business agility though an a flexible and responsive technology infrastructure.  This is a new approach for everybody, as organisations historically downgraded devices to maintain consistency in enterprise, but we should be looking to move to a “new way” where possible.

Enterprise interest has primarily related to traditional “productivity” endpoints, i.e. the laptops and desktops, but Windows 10 will be a unified platform covering Tablets and Smartphones too.  This, in theory, provides a compelling proposition, but how successful Microsoft will be given the dominance of Android and iOS in the hearts and minds of users and consumers is yet to be seen.  The opportunity in enterprise seems far greater than in the consumer markets, but it will still be a significant change from where we are today.

The key new features in Windows 10 represent a huge change in philosophy for Microsoft.  “Universal Apps”, which are applications that run from a single code-base across any device form- factor, sounds enticing, but is predicated on (re)development of such apps using this code-base.  Existing applications will not directly benefit from this, and many organisations have already shifted towards Browser based standards for app development and/or native mobile apps from the other dominant platforms.  And perhaps even more notably is the shift in servicing model with Windows 10.  “Patch Tuesday” will be no more, and ongoing updates and new functionality will be provided directly by Microsoft directly to devices in the same way as iOS or Android updates are today.  The key challenge being the impact of such a dynamic or “evergreen” approach to enterprises where the need for management of change is ever present.

Our initial testing of Windows 10 under the “Insider Preview” programme has been very positive from a user perspective, and also in core application compatibility.  My colleagues across our technology teams will shortly start a series of more technical blogs about the changes and features of Windows 10 to help you consider and plan your adoption as we move towards the formal launch.

All we need now is a formal release date from Microsoft….  With lots of early interest from customers for selective pilots and deployment, we’re ready to get started!

EMC World Day 1 Announcement Summary

It was an interesting but different opening keynote session at emc world in Las Vegas this morning; the noticeable absence of Joe Tucci pointing to future sessions as the federation moves forward.

The other thing of note was the inclusion of a significant amount of hardware announcements, for a company moving rapidly towards a software defined world this was pretty unusual.

As the session opened David Goulden CEO of EMC II reminded us that software is the enable of the connected world, how software enables connected devices and how our expectations of technology and data have changed.

Ultimately we have all become part of the Information Generation.

What followed therefore felt a bit strange; it started to feel a bit old-school EMC. As you would expect the product announcements made sense, but the continued focus on infrastructure was not what I expected.

The first major announcement was the launch of VX Rack, targeted to provide Hyper-Convergence at a datacenter scale. The number associated with the launch were admittedly pretty impressive, scaling from 4 to 1000 nodes the VX Rack can provide up to 38PB and up to 240M IOPS. whilst I’m still not sure why I would actually want 240M IOPS it is an impressive number, certainly more then the 24 IOPS I managed to tweet at the time (I’m blaming auto-correct).

Where VX Rack fits between VSpex Blue and VBlock I’ll endeavour to find out across the coming days and report back here.

The second major announcement was the release of Xtremio v4.0, dubbed ‘The Beast’ and launched by David Goulden and Guy Churchward to much fanfare including a caged ‘Beast’ being released into the wild.

With this release comes the availability of the 40TB C-Brick, and with up to 8 such Bricks in an array the overall raw total becomes 320TB. Free upgrades for customers with v3 arrays should be available at an unspecified time this year. With the hardware upgrades comes enhancements in the software with the array such as enhanced management, data protection and cloud integration functionality.

The third announcements was the release of the Data Domain 9500, promising 2x every feature of previous models.

In summary, this morning’s announcements seemed slightly disappointing for those of us that are regular attendees at this event. Enhanced hardware offerings are fine for what they are but hardly earth-shattering. Speaking with other attendees this feeling was shared amongst many others, a general disappointment, but surely there is more to come across the week.