Posts tagged ‘Technology’

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt…#CloudWF

Guest Blog with NCC Group

Author: John Parkinson, NCC Group

During the Cloud World Forum event in London on 24 July, we discussed the opportunities for Software as a Service businesses to become more successful. Focussing on the neglected issue of commercial security, we asked how the SaaS market can provide answers to potential supply failure in the market.  By anticipating, understanding and addressing the risks for customers who rely on outsourced application services, we argued that providers can contribute more to enhancing trust and confidence in the Software as a Service market.

How are SaaS businesses reacting to the issue?  In our experience, there are three broadly different attitudes:

  1. It was Mark Twain who perceptively wrote that ‘Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt’. The Risk Deniers perform according to type in asserting that it just won’t happen. ‘I haven’t failed yet and have no plans to do so’. Said with conviction it is likely that they have convinced themselves. As Isaac Asimov once wrote, they cling to the view that the easiest way to solve a problem is to deny it exists
  2. The largest group, the Agnostics, take a more considered view. They concede the possibility and see the wisdom of having a plan, but only if someone raises the question.  Whether hoping against hope, firmly in the wait and see camp or just too busy with other stuff, they generally accord with the opinion elucidated by TS Eliot that humankind cannot bear too much reality.
  3. Last but by no means least are the Innovators. They align instinctively to the perspective of Peter Drucker that innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. Salmon Software is one good example of a business that recognises this. John Byrne, the Salmon MD says ‘we understand the needs of our customers and the potential impacts of them not having access to the application’. Similarly Wazuko MD, Simon Hill asserts that the objective is ‘to show our existing customers and prospects that stepping into the cloud with Wazuko is simple and secure.’ Operating in a highly regulated sector of finance is Banking system provider, Mambu. MD Eugene Danilkis in a blog article commented: ‘Regulators have rightly recognised the critical role that technology providers play to support key business processes.  In turn, technology providers need to ensure consistent and reliable delivery of these services that financial institutions depend on to reinforce trust and extend the potential for future innovation and growth.’

As a SaaS Provider, which category do you fall into – a Denier, an Agnostic or an Innovator And which type of business would you trust when outsourcing your software services?

Original NCC Group blog here

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NCC Group were a Visionary Sponsor at the Cloud World Forum 2015, which took place on the 24th – 25th June.

The Cloud & DevOps World Forum delivers speed and continuous delivery to Europe’s Digital Enterprises, and will take place on the 21st – 22nd June 2016, at Olympia in London.

Register your interest for 2016 here

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Strategy: The Future of Work – Technology People and Moore’s Law

Source: Martin King

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When we think about work we usually think about people – their mental or physical effort – either alone, with other people or with technology. However, the characteristics of both technology and people are changing and so will the future of work.

Technology has always been an important factor in work – from the earliest of times people have developed and used tools to compliment, enhance and amplify what they can do. Where work and the actions of a tool are repetitive and predictable then it becomes possible to automate the tool to create a machine.

Tools compliment people in work whereas machines replace them in work and change the nature of work at the same time. While people use a tool to do work, with a machine its different –  the machine does the work  and people’s work becomes the machine – operating and attending to the machine.

Machines have only been able to go so far economically (compared with the cost of people to do the same task) and to where and how they can be applied. However, all this is changing – changing economics and technology suggest that we are entering a new machine age and this has radical consequences for the future of people in work.

Technology developments are starting to radically reduce the cost of robots and machines while at the same time the cost of people continues to increase  – making machines more economical than ever before. Computer developments, machine learning and AI are radically changing how and where machines are applied. The predictability required by machines once meant that they were applied only in controlled environments (a typical factory installation for example) but now we are starting to see more machines operating in the real world – Google’s driverless car is an important precursor of this development. The same trend has already happened in IT – where once computers were large, expensive and used in special conditions (think of an office and a desktop PC) .. we now find them out in the real world with us (think smartphones and wearable tech). In the years ahead we should expect to see more and more machines and robots leaving their factories for our world.

Once something becomes digital change and impact becomes rapid (if not exponential) – we are starting to see “Moore’s law” in the digital aspect of machines – if this is the case then we should expect to see radical advances in the application of machines and robots in the 21st century. In 1997 IBMs Deep Blue became the first machine to beat a human world champion at chess – 14 years later IBM returned with Watson to become the first machine win the TV trivia game Jeopardy in 2011. Deep blue was very much a traditional machine – it did one thing .. a special purpose computer to play chess by “brute force analysis” to work out chess moves to greater depth than any human player ever could. Watson however represented something different – IBM describes it as a “smart machine” able to answer questions in natural language. Since winning Jeopardy IBM has developed Watson and what it calls cognitive technology – Watson is now 24 times faster, 90 times smaller and described as performance improved by 2,400%. IBM have made Watson available on the web as a cloud product and developer “ecosystem” to support the development of what IBM describe as “cognitive apps” – today – you can carry Watson in your pocket!

On the 7th June 2014 computer program Eugene Goostman simulated a 13 year old boy from Odessa in unrestricted conversations – a machine passed the Turing test for the first time

On December 7th 2014 IPsoft launched Amelia – described as “the first cognitive agent who understands like a human … our cognitive knowledge worker, interfaces on human terms. She is a virtual agent who understands what people ask – even what they feel – when they call for service. Amelia can be deployed straight from the cloud in a fraction of the time. She learns as she works and provides high-quality responses consistently, every day of the year, in every language your customers speak”  IPsoft sees Amelia supplementing, or directly replacing, virtually all ‘non-expert, repetitive’ job functions from customer support to expert assistance and back office roles.

Management consultancy Accenture is using Amelia in its cognitive services saying “The cognitive and learning capabilities of the Amelia platform allow it to easily absorb routine processes as well as learn from natural language interactions in order to solve customer problems and respond successfully to a wide range of queries”. Accenture is helping Shell deploy Amelia in its internal training programme, answering queries from learning advisors – “she will observe how advisors interact with staff until she is ready to automate the processes herself.” Baker Hughes is testing Amelia in its financial department on its Accounts Payable helpdesk to address queries from vendors around invoices and payments.

Sean Ammirati writes that Any office job that involves drudgery is a candidate for automation. One way to think about occupations ripe for robots is to look at different professional tasks with a knowable problem and solution – even if it’s really complex to figure out that solution.

Research from the Oxford Martin School at Oxford university suggests that nearly half of all jobs in the US are likely to be automated in the coming decades. The research concludes that  “While computerisation has been historically confined to routine tasks involving explicit rule-based activities  algorithms for big data are now rapidly entering domains reliant upon pattern recognition and can readily substitute for labour in a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks . In addition, advanced robots are gaining enhanced senses and dexterity, allowing them to perform a broader scope of manual tasks. For workers to win the race, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.

A recent report from Deloitte suggests that Computers and robots are set to replace more than a third of UK jobs in the next twenty years. Work in repetitive processing,  office administration, clerical and support service jobs, sales and transportation are most at risk. The report says that “Although the replacement of people by machines is well understood, the scale and scope of changes yet to come may not be … Unless these changes coming in the next two decades are fully understood and anticipated by businesses, policy makers and educators, there will be a risk of avoidable unemployment and under-employment”

But wait .. there’s more. Brian Arthur writes about the Second Economy – the computer-intensive portion of the economy where machines transact with other machines without humans in a “vast, automatic, and invisible economy without workers thereby bringing the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution

At the very extreme pessimistic end of the spectrum Stephen Hawking thinks that “Artificial Intelligence Could End Human Race”, Nick Bostrom warns that AI could be more dangerous than nuclear weapons and that “artificial intelligence may doom the human race within a century” while Elon Musk hopes “we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence”  that “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon” and “worries Skynet is only five years off

The changes in technology mentioned above suggest radical and pessimistic negative impacts for work and for people but this assumes nothing else changes. However, people are incredibly resourceful  and other views are more optimistic.

Gerd Leonhard suggests that the concept of work as we know it is toast but that many new areas will open up in new or unpredictable niches, with titles we can only guess at at present and that there are all those areas where human soft skills are essential. Many lower-paid but intricate jobs (think electricians or plumbers) with too many variables may be too expensive to automate. And there will surely always be a premium for the human touch in some areas that could be automated – cooking or teaching, for example

Greg Satell gives some useful advice on How to Avoid Being Replaced By A Robot –  learn To Ask Questions, Improve your social skills and go beyond the routine. “the division is no longer between manual and cognitive tasks as much as it is between routine and non-routine work.” Anything that is standardised and routine is at risk of being automated.  Greg leaves us with the optimistic message that by “automating tasks, we are liberating human imagination and the human spirit.  The more we unlock the secrets of technology, the more we find ourselves.”

Andrew McAfee compares the information revolution with the industrial revolution and takes a very optimistic view – “what we’re in the middle of now is overcoming the limitations of our individual brains and infinitely multiplying our mental power. How can this not be as big a deal as overcoming the limitations of our muscles?” … we ain’t seen nothing yet. The best days are really ahead”. Andrew makes the point that “Economies run on ideas. So the work of innovation, the work of coming up with new ideas, is some of the most powerful, some of the most fundamental work that we can do in an economy. In the technology-facilitated world .. the work of innovation is becoming more open, more inclusive, more transparent, and more merit-based.

As automation looks set to impact traditional notions of work and how we work technology changes and a new generation of people emerge that can make the most of the new conditions and potentially reimagine work as we know it. In 2014 Internet traffic from mobile use exceeded PC use for the first time – signalling the start of a new era of anytime, anywhere IT and the potential for anytime, anywhere work. Rather than us having to come to work – work can come to us. Mobile IT combined with social media, cloud and web access are powerful tools in the right hands. New cultural movements like the Maker Movement combined with new technologies like 3D printing, Internet of Things and cheaper more accessible “maker” electronics like Raspberry PI, Adruino and Intel’s Edison suggest potential future artisan economies of scope, creativity and imagination while machines replace more routine and standardised work.

The generation who have “grown up digital” in the 21st century have grown up with the tools we shaped for them – the Net, the Web, mobile phones, smartphones, social networks and social media. Generation Z have grown up with information and communication at their fingertips. Those born in the 21st century will be able to “race with the machines” – and as Greg Satell says “our value will be determined not by how much we know or even how hard we work, but how well we collaborate with machines and with each other”. Research by Sparks & Honey’describes Generation Z as developing their personalities and life skills in a socio-economic environment marked by chaos, uncertainty, volatility and complexity. They have learned that traditional choices don’t guarantee success. They  “Intend to change the world. That entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship is one of their most popular career choices – 72% want to start a business and 61% want to be an entrepreneur rather than an employee.

While it seems that a new generation are ready to “race with the machines” John Hagel suggests that our institutions and their organisation are the main problem. He says that “at its core, this isn’t a technological challenge, but an institutional challenge. We’re dealing with a set of institutions that are increasingly inappropriate for the mounting pressure we face. The root cause is how we’ve defined work in companies … one of the issues is this formula for how work is conducted was developed in the last century, and it was based on a set of infrastructures and assumption of a stable environment that made it easy to define standardized highly-scripted work. Now we’re in a world that’s more rapidly changing, more uncertainty, more of those extreme events that Taleb calls the “black swans” that make it really critical for us as individuals in the workplace to take much more initiative, to be constantly exercising creativity and imagination to respond to the unexpected events.  That’s a very different model of work.  It requires a very different way of organizing our institutions and a different set of work practices that are much harder to automate.  Rather than pursuing scalable efficiency, perhaps we need a new set of institutions that can drive scalable learning, helping participants to learn faster by working together.

“We have stone-age emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology.”— E.O. Wilson

Hagel says that “Until we can develop an alternative institutional model, one that can scale as effectively as the scalable efficiency model, we will face mounting pressure from machines and remain locked in a race against the machine without the ability to finally race with the machine. The problem is how do we innovate our institutions and our work practices so that we, in fact, can start “racing with the machine.”

Ultimately technology may provide a platform to race with machines – a new generation of developers like Vitalik Buterin working with open, autonomous, decentralised technologies suggest could Bootstrap decentralized autonomous corporations where we can work together with other agents on the network … not necessarily knowing whether they are human or not.

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Martin will be presenting in the Employee Experience Theatre at the Cloud World Forum, at Olympia Grand in London on the 24th June 2015, on ‘Capitalising on New Technologies: Discussing the Future of Cloud, AI, Robotics, Anticipatory Computing

Don’t miss the chance to take advantage of all the knowledge and networking opportunities presented by EMEA’s only content-led Cloud exhibition.

Register for your FREE exhibition pass here!

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AT&T, IBM bring cloud-to-cloud connectivity down to minutes #telcocloud

AT&T Labs, IBM Research and consultancy Applied Communication Sciences (ACS) said this week they have seen the culmination of a project that started out as a hypothetical network study in 2007, resulting in a real-world, proof-of-concept this May.

The technology, co-developed under the US Government’s DARPA CORONET program, aims to bring cloud and data centre interconnectivity into a more dynamic, elastic state, taking cloud-to-cloud setup times down to minutes from days or even weeks.

The shift relies heavily on software defined networking (SDN) developments to create a smart network that AT&T imaginatively calls the User-Defined Network Cloud (UDNC). A key area it will impact is cloud-to-cloud connectivity. As AT&T explained, when using a traditional network model, the connection between clouds is static – meaning it can’t expand or contract based on the need for bandwidth. Moreover it has traditionally been labour-intensive, expensive and time-consuming to set up these cloud-to-cloud connections.

The carrier believes that as the cloud’s potential grows, the networking between the datacentres – or clouds themselves – needs to be similarly dynamic. So, the proof-of-concept technology can set-up a cloud-to-cloud connection in under a minute. “This prototype uses just the right amount of bandwidth, and can enable setup times as short as 40 seconds, compared with the previous setup time of several days,” AT&T said.

Why is this important? The developers use the example of an emergency situation. Imagine a hurricane is headed toward a datacenter. Ideally an operator would quickly provision enough bandwidth to transfer all that data to another datacentre. While not possible before, this proof-of-concept technology makes it achievable. But in the future, the use of flexible, on-demand bandwidth for cloud applications – such as load balancing, remote datacentre backup operation, and elastic workload scaling – will provide major service flexibility and efficiencies for businesses.

Researchers at IBM labs revealed a related development back in December, with a technology that allows for the storing and moving of data across multiple cloud platforms in real time. IBM said the method for dynamic data migration and backup uses a “cloud-of-clouds” approach, a multi-cloud distributed storage system that can link data in over 20 different public and private clouds.

Researchers at the company have developed a software toolkit that lets users drag and drop block or file storage across almost any cloud platform, with little data replication. The development avoids service outages because it can tolerate crashes of any number of clients, using the independence of multiple clouds linked by a distributed storage algorithm to increase overall dependability.

The storage services don’t talk to one another directly but instead go through the cloud service for authentication and storage synchronisation; data is encrypted as it leaves one storage platform and decrypted before reaching the next. If one cloud fails, the back-up immediately responds.

Source: Telecoms.com

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Oracle’s Bob Evans on marketing and technology #cloudwf

Cloud World Forum Speaker and IT giant Oracle’s chief communications officer, Bob Evans, discusses why marketing is skewing away from the technology and towards its benefits.

Read his interview with Marketing Week below!

bob_evan_460“Oracle is at its heart a hardcore technology company,” says Bob Evans, the IT giant’s chief communications officer. After 35 years of building databases, the company is in the midst of changing its marketing focus to create awareness of how its products can be applied to business.

Oracle’s target market is changing too, comprising not just computer technicians but professionals from many other business areas.

Moving to communicate with new audiences outside the traditional IT customer base is not an unusual journey for business-to-business (B2B) technology companies. The largest – by profit, turnover and market capitalisation – is IBM, which has been trying to shift perceptions through its Smarter Planet campaign. The aim is to emphasise the effects of technology on the world.

Financially, it has not worked well of late for IBM. Profits and revenue both shrank in the year to December 2013, while this year’s first-quarter results disappointed stock markets, with revenue down 4 per cent on the same period last year. Oracle’s corresponding figures were up for its most recent quarterly results, though they were also short of analyst expectations.

Oracle does not have IBM’s size or brand value – Millward Brown’s BrandZ ranking of the world’s most valuable brands put the two at 35th and 3rd respectively in 2013. Business software provider SAP also outshined Oracle, at 19th place, despite being a smaller company. However, Evans believes Oracle has a distinctive selling point in helping its business customers adapt to today’s new global business environment “at every level”.

Click here to view the full interview!

Hear more from Oracle at this year’s Cloud World Forum 2014!

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Microsoft’s Cloud Services Growth Drives Second Expansion of its Dublin Datacentre

Microsoft is sponsoring as Enterprise Cloud Partner at the CLOUD WORLD FORUM  this year

Microsoft today announced plans to further expand its Europe Middle East and Africa mega datacentre in Dublin, Ireland. The expansion, due for completion in Spring 2014, represents a new investment of €170m million. Construction of the facility, which has already commenced, will create 380 building-related jobs. Once the new datacentre is operational next year, an additional 20 people will join the team of approximately 80 already based at the company’s existing facility.

This second expansion brings the total level of investment at the company’s Dublin facility to €594 million, increasing the datacentre campus’ computing capacity by 15,700 m2 (169,000 square feet) bringing the total footprint up to 54,255 m2 (584,000 square feet). The datacentre was officially opened in 2009, with the first expansion announced in February 2012. This continued programme of investment is driven by the growth in demand from consumers and businesses for Microsoft’s cloud services.

Welcoming the investment, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore T.D. today said: “We welcome this further commitment from Microsoft, one of the earliest multinational investors in Ireland. As a country, we have a strategy to become the Cloud Centre of Excellence and the country of choice for datacentre investments. Microsoft contributed greatly to this strategy when it chose Ireland as the home for its first mega datacentre outside of the United States. We realised that the factors that influenced that decision were key differentiators that could also attract further investors.

“We are delighted that Microsoft continues to choose Ireland as a location and welcome the decision to further expand its footprint in Dublin. I’d like to congratulate Microsoft on today’s announcement and thank Cathriona Hallahan and her team for its continued support in positioning Ireland as a location of choice for Cloud Services and the associated infrastructure.”

Speaking about the investment Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland said: “This expansion is evidence of the continued demand for Microsoft’s cloud services such as Office 365, Bing, Skype, Xbox Live, and the Windows Azure platform across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. As the demand for these Cloud-based services continues to grow we are investing to meet our customers’ needs.

“Not only does this highlight the growth in our cloud services business but it also highlights our continued commitment to investment and innovation in Ireland and Europe. I’d like to thank the Government and the IDA for their continued support and look forward to working with them in the years ahead.”

Mr. Barry O’Leary, CEO, IDA said “Data centres have been a buoyant sector for IDA for the past number of years and Microsoft’s continued investment in the sector will allow Ireland to win further investments worldwide. This investment, by such a well-respected global brand, reinforces Ireland’s credentials as the leading location in cloud computing.’’

The expansion of the datacentre will help Microsoft meet growing customer demand for its cloud services, and provide a reliable, scalable, secure, efficient and cost effective cloud infrastructure for future cloud growth.

The datacentre makes extensive use of Ireland’s cool outside air to efficiently cool its facilities year round with air side economization, resulting in greater power efficiency and an annual Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) average of 1.25during peak usage hours. The datacenter is also 50 percent more efficient than traditionally built facilities and use only 1 percent of the water used by other similarly sized datacentres in the industry today. With a strong focus on sustainability, approximately 99 percent of all waste at the facility is recycled, including packaging, pallets, crates, and cabling.

Microsoft’s Cloud Infrastructure – By the Numbers

  • 1989: The year Microsoft opened its first datacentre on its Redmond, Wash., campus.

  • 1 billion customers, 20 million businesses: The number of customers and businesses in more than 89 countries that use the Microsoft cloud.

  • 109: The number of marketplaces that our cloud services are available in today.

  • 200-plus: The number of online services delivered by Microsoft’s datacentres 24x7x365.

  • €11 billion-plus ($15 billion-plus): Microsoft’s investment in building our huge cloud infrastructure.

  • 1 million-plus: The number of servers hosted in our datacentres.

  • 2.5 billion-plus: Our infrastructure storage capacity in megabytes globally.

  • 1.125: Microsoft’s average PUE for its new datacentres. Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is a metric of datacentre energy efficiency and is the ratio of the power and cooling overhead required to support our server load. The industry average is 1.8.

  • 2.3 billion kWh: The amount of green power purchased by Microsoft as part of our carbon-neutral goal — ranking as the third most purchased by any U.S. company, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

  • 3: The number of times Microsoft’s fiber optic network in North America, (one of North America’s largest), could stretch to the moon and back.

  • 16: The number of carbon offset projects Microsoft has invested in, including projects in Brazil, Cambodia, China, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mongolia, Peru, Turkey and the United States. (including Keechi Wind Power investment announced November 4, 2013)

  • 100: The percentage of our servers and electronic equipment that we send to a third-party vendor for recycling and/or reselling after it has been securely decommissioned.

  • 2007: The year Microsoft began sharing its best practices for cloud infrastructures with the industry. Download our latest Top Ten Best Business Practices for Environmentally Sustainable Datacentres white paper.

Source: http://www.microsoft.com

European ignorance of new technology keeps it behind US – Rackspace

“Companies are simply not investing in the knowledge to allow their staff to learn, play and understand the products and services available. When we compare this to the US, their impressive training and level of knowledge is much higher, giving them a huge competitive advantage”

The VP of Technology, Nigel Beighton, goes on to highlight the importance of wearable tech which, as we know, hasn’t exactly taken off quite as many would have hoped.

“In theory, Big Data has only just landed but the increasing use of it to support wearable technology will be the catalyst for its huge adoption in 2014. When the two eventually marry up, we can expect to see massive growth.

There is still a long way to go until we will see exponential consumer adoption [of Google Glass and the Samsung smart watch]. One of the reasons for this is that the real value lies not in the design of the glasses or watch, but the information we get from these devices. Only when it adds context-sensitive data like recognising a person or knowing locations will it truly take off.”

What do you think?

Are wearable technologies really as integral to progress as Beighton states? Or, if they were, would they even require such justification?

Can you imagine yourself sporting sensors and trackers in the form of a wristwatch?

Let us know!

Full interview: http://www.cbronline.com/news/tech/cio-agenda/the-boardroom/lack-of-human-knowledge-halted-tech-trends-in-2013-says-rackspace-4154421

2014 Predictions: Computing Technologies in the age of the customer

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Our friends over at world renowned Forrester Research make six typically insightful predictions for the coming year including notably the rise of “Siri”-like assistants, gestural computing and channel innovation.

“2014 will be the year in which you walk into a store and it “knows you” and customizes your visit. Technologies will start to bring a greater sense of relevance and tailored experience to shopping, as Tesco is doing with facial recognition software that allows it to serve up appropriate ad content in its stores.”

They also go into wonderful detail on the notion of “the age of the customer” and how it’s integral to IT and business in general.

The full article can be seen here: http://blogs.forrester.com/jp_gownder/13-12-30-predictions_for_2014_computing_technologies_in_the_age_of_the_customer

What do you make of the six predictions? Are wearables really going to take off? Are consumers going to be happy with stores saving profiles of their customers?

Let us know!

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