Recent Blog Posts

2014 Wrap-Up: What’s New, What’s Next?

2014.jpgStrategic IT decision-making was a big focus in 2014.


Ideas like integration, innovation, and accessibility were all hot topics for CIOs. While 2014 brought a barrage of enterprise-based technology issues to the forefront—mobility, security, IoT, and big data—the final takeaway was the “how” rather than the “what.”


How are CIOs going to sift through the noise and make careful, deliberate decisions regarding the implementation of new IT strategies?

 

As we look ahead to 2015, we also retrospectively look back at some of the important IT Peer Network conversations of 2014:

 

Pay vs. Passion in the Age of Data Science

 

In 2014, analytics cemented itself as a key aspect to develop within business strategy.  It truly went from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” strategic component.  With this increased awareness of its importance, analytics has also caused some issues as the industry is currently experiencing growing pains.  For example, the supply of qualified data scientists, who analyze and interpret the data, is still catching up to the growing business demand of having a more descriptive set of analytics.  IT Managers and CIOs should be wary of individuals attracted to the data scientist career path.  Many have pursued the profession solely for a bigger paycheck and a presumption that they will get hired quickly.  Michael Cavaretta, data scientist and manager at Ford Motor Company, recommends ways employers can find data scientists who want to cultivate their passion and add value to an organization:

 

“Some have proposed that we look at individual’s activities beyond formal education; participation in Data Science contests like Kaggle, TopCoder, or InnoCentive, or volunteer organizations like Data for Good, DataKind, or Code for America. Joining a Data Science oriented MOOC is also mentioned as a way to measure an individual’s passion for the field. Completion of a relevant, and well-regarded, MOOC is a good signal, but completion rates average less than 10%. But for individuals that don’t have formal Data Science training; people looking for a career change, or holding degrees without significant computer programming and/or statistics requirements MOOCs can be a valuable, and many times inexpensive, alternative.”

 

Strategic Leadership for Managing Evolving Cybersecurity Risks

 

As we’ve seen in recent current events, security will continue to be a hot button concern into 2015. With internal and external security breaches on the rise, Matthew Rosenquist, cyber security strategist at Intel, discusses the challenges and best practices of establishing a sound security structure:

 

“Cybersecurity is difficult. It is a serious endeavor which strives to find a balance in managing the security of computing capabilities to protect the technology which connects and enriches the lives of everyone.  Characteristics of cyber risk have matured and expanded on the successes of technology innovation, integration, and adoption.  It is no longer a game of tactics, but rather a professional discipline, continuous in nature, where to be effective strategic leadership must establish effective and efficient structures for evolving controls to sustain an optimal level of security.”

 

IT Leadership – How Do I Get There and How Do I Move Up?

 

There are many great technologists, but in order to take on the role of IT manager and be a true partner in the business, taking initiative is highly encouraged. Edward Goldman, CTO, enterprise segment at Intel, states that by taking charge and being an active participant an individual can flourish and become a very effective IT leader:

 

“As I’ve worked over the years, I have come to a profound discovery regarding career promotion. When you start to climb the ladder, your boss is the one that promotes you. But as you reach the middle rungs of the corporate hierarchy, it’s actually your peers that promote you. And as you get closer to the upper reaches of executive level leadership, it is the peers in your specific industry or executives outside your current path that are the ones that move you up the ladder. More often than not, this happens much sooner if you get directly involved rather than simply being in the right place at the right time.”

 

German National Football Team Uses Real-Time Analytics for a Competitive Edge

 

The uses for analytics in professional sports is endless.  In an industry where statistics and data have ruled for years, the technology for analytics in sports is booming.  R. Paul Crawford, data scientist at Intel, discusses why more and more professional sports teams are leveraging analytics to find a competitive edge and optimize talent:

 

“Like many other businesses, the sports and entertainment industry is starting to test and operationalize big data analytics. The annual MIT Sloan* Sports Analytics Conference has seized the mantle as the place to (at least publicly) talk about sports analytics. Optimized, personal training regimens, as well as perspective on overall team performance, enable teams to make the best use of their sometimes fantastically expensive talent investments…”

 

Information Technology is a huge investment for most businesses.  Choosing the right IT platform and strategy will be key for the enterprise in the coming year. According to a study by IDG Enterprise, Computerworld Forecast 2015, spending is expected to rise in 2015 – with a focus on security, cloud integration, and business analytics. The mobility and IoT space will see increased spending, too, as products like the Edison platform—Intel’s small, inexpensive, powerful processor—continue to allow entrepreneurs and designers room to innovate.

 

Thanks so much for being a part of our community this year. We can’t wait to see you back in the IT Peer Network in 2015!

 

To continue the conversation on Twitter, please follow us at @IntelITCenter or use #ITCenter.

 

 

Read more >

Meeting the Wi-Fi Demands of a Mobile-First Generation

As new mobile devices and laptops increasingly support fast 802.11ac wireless, the demand on institutions to keep up by delivering better wireless speeds and capacities has dramatically increased. The “GenMobile” workforce is pushing for greater flexibility and freedom in the … Read more >

The post Meeting the Wi-Fi Demands of a Mobile-First Generation appeared first on Technology@Intel.

Read more >

How Can HPC Assist Mainstream Businesses?

hpcassistbusiness.PNGHigh-Performance Computing (HPC) isn’t just for high end corporations and large scientific organisations. The cost of processing, coupled with the raw power of today’s servers means that small and mid-sized businesses can also benefit from the advanced simulation that HPC provides.

 

Simulation can assist with many elements of product design, says Stephan Gillich, Director of Technical Computing for the Intel EMEA Datacenter Group.

 

It’s particularly useful for computer-aided engineering e.g. in classical fields like mechanics and fluid dynamics, but also in finance life sciences and digital content creation, says Gillich.

 

The key point is that simulation is no longer just in areas where it has already been used for a long time, such as the aerodynamic design of planes. Now, you’ll find it in other product design areas to determine, for example, what happens to the components of a mobile phone when it hits the ground accidentally.

 

“Mainstream businesses can now access simulating compute capacity on HPC clusters more easily and at a very reasonable cost,” says Gillich. This is enabling them to go beyond the limitations of the workstations they currently use.

 

The small automotive supply engineering house Dörrer + Broßmann carried out a proof-of-concept to see how a cluster based on the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 product family can enable it to carry out more-sophisticated engineering simulations more quickly.

 

The more precise simulation services also open up opportunities for Dörrer + Broßmann to pitch for business that was previously too compute-intensive for the company to carry out.

 

From a technology perspective, the server platform has improved, offering more powerful processors with more cores that are capable of handling more data in one operation, for example using Advanced Vector Extensions.

 

Besides the processor, sophisticated network solutions such as Intel® TrueScale, and improved storage solution using Intel SSD, provide additional big improvements. On top of this, the software can be optimised so that processing is parallelised and makes the most of available compute cycles. The result is that we see the potential and benefits of simulation on a scale never seen before by SMEs: a “democratization” of HPC, comments Gillich.

 

Sectors such as life science are growing as businesses – as well as scientists – take hold of the opportunities that HPC offers them.

 

Technical computing Cloud technologies promise flexible resources with on demand computing, democratizing even further.

 

However, in order to deliver customers a high-performance experience without the complexity, there needs to be integration. “Basically people need the sort of interface they’re used to on a single workstation,” says Gillich.

 

The main business benefits of HPC simulation are these:

  • firms have the opportunity to increase their competitiveness
  • bring better products to market faster.


They can also cut product design costs, for example by simulating drop tests, product breakages, or the effect of water or pressure damage. There are cost-effective, entry-level HPC packages supported by hardware and software vendors such as ANSYS, Altair, and others, and new clusters are easier to set up.

 

Data centre and server management has also come a long way, with today’s servers, and cloud-based Technical Computing solutions offering flexibility for changing workloads, and faster time to setup.

 

Have you considered moving from workstation to HPC computing?

 

- Arif

Read more >

8 Things You Should Know About Windows 10

Microsoft unveiled its next Windows operating system, Windows 10, at the end of September 2014. The forthcoming operating system has features specifically designed for business, including an updated user experience and enhanced security and management capabilities.

 

8thingswindows10.PNG

Here are eight things businesses should know about Windows 10:

 

1. Key dates

Microsoft released an early technical preview for laptop and desktop version of Windows 10 on October 1, 2014. This is just over three years after Microsoft unveiled the first public beta build of Windows 8. Microsoft also released its Windows insider program on October 1, designed to keep early adopters up-to-date with the latest preview builds on Windows 10. Then, from October 7, the preview build was available to Windows 7 users as well. (However, consumer preview builds will not be available until early next year.) The technical preview, ends on April 15, 2015, timed to coincide with Microsoft’s Build 2015 conference. At the conference, Microsoft is likely to issue a release date for Windows 10. The company has promised that Windows 10 will ship to consumers and enterprises “later in the year” 2015.

 

On October 13, Microsoft announced that over 1 million people are currently testing the Windows 10 technical preview. This is likely to include a number of enterprises planning for the future.

 

2. Multi-device platform

According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will continue to follow Microsoft’s strategy of making its operating system a platform that is suitable for use on multiple devices. The company describes it as a converged application platform for developers on all devices. Consequently, developers will be able to write an application once and deploy it easily across multiple device types, says Microsoft. This includes desktop PCs, smart phones, tablets and Xbox consoles. Microsoft adds, “Windows 10 will run across the broadest range of devices ever from the Internet of Things to enterprise data centres worldwide.”

 

3. New security features

Microsoft is continuing to focus on adding enterprise security features to its operating system. Windows 10 will feature identity and information protection technology. The new operating system will also have new features around user identities, to improve resistance to breach, theft or phishing. Windows 10 will additionally help advance data loss prevention by using containers and data separation at the application and file level, enabling protection that follows the data as it goes from a tablet or PC to a USB drive, email or the cloud.

 

4. Device management changes

With Windows 10, management and deployment have been simplified to help lower costs. Microsoft says it will offer in-place upgrades from Windows 7 or Windows 8 that are focused on making device wipe-and-reload scenarios obsolete. Businesses will be able to customise an app store so that it to make it more specific to their needs and environment. The idea is to be able to create an app store that will allow for volume app licensing, flexible distribution, and the ability for organisations to reclaim or reuse licenses when necessary.

 

5. Interface tweaks

There are new interface enhancements, one of which is an expanded Start menu, replacing the Windows 8 navigation system. Microsoft says the familiar Start menu will be back, providing quick one-click access to the functions and files that people use most. And it includes a new space that can be personalised with favourite apps, programs, people and websites. Apps from the Windows Store will open in the same format as desktop programs. They can be resized and moved around, and have title bars at the top allowing users to maximise, minimize and close with a click. Working in multiple apps at the same time will be easier and more intuitive, with Snap Improvements. A new quadrant layout allows up to four apps to be snapped on the same screen. Windows will also show other apps and programs running for additional snapping, and it will make intelligent suggestions on filling available screen space with other open apps. In addition, there will be a new Task view button on the task bar, to enable one view for all open apps and files, which will allow the user to switch quickly, giving them one-touch access to any desktop created.

 

Finally, Windows 10 will have multiple desktops support. According to Microsoft, instead of too many apps and files overlapping on a single desktop, it will be easy to create and switch between distinct desktops for different purposes and projects — whether for work or personal use.

 

6. 2-in-1 features

Microsoft says that many of the new multitasking features will be optimised for touch devices as well, for example Task View. However, Windows 10 will also have a hybrid interface mode for 2-in-1 laptops and hybrid devices. This will contain elements of the current Windows 8.1 Start screen, but the new touch-focused start screen can switch based on the input used. Microsoft hinted that it will use large icons and response to gestures or swipes, as well as more traditional mouse or touchpad interaction, with smaller buttons and list-like interfaces.

 

7. Cloud integration

Windows 10 is likely to be more integrated with the cloud than previous versions of Windows. With products like Office 365, and OneDrive staying at the centre of Microsoft’s cloud strategy, and advances in Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform, businesses can expect more Cloud integration.


8. Open and collaborative development

Microsoft has introduced the Windows Insider Program, through which it can work closely with customers to help shape the future of Windows. Windows Insiders will be able to give feedback on early builds of the product throughout the development cycle. The program will include various ways for Windows Insiders to engage in a two-way dialogue with Microsoft, including a Windows Feedback app for sharing suggestions and issues and a Windows Technical Preview Forum for interacting with Microsoft engineers and fellow Insiders.

 

Although it’s early days, Windows 10 is coming. Now is a good time to investigate the technical preview and see how it might benefit your organisation.

 

- Arif

Read more >

Will you be ready with the “Powerful Yes’s and Powerful No’s”?

In the latest episode of the Transform IT Show, those “Powerful Yes’s and No’s” made all the difference to our guest, Susan Cramm. Susan is a former CIO, former CFO of a large restaurant chain and is now a respected coach and author. She shared with us some contrarian views of what it means to be an effective IT leader…and so much of it seemed to come down to your ability to know yourself.

 

She shared with us that you must understand your passions and your gifts and honor them. But that you also needed to invest in relationships and in really understanding those around you. We talked about an article that she wrote where she said that sometimes the advice to put together a great team and then to let them do their job was actually dead wrong. That in many cases, the leader needs to take those toughest assignments themselves and to use them as an opportunity to develop their team. She explained that the problem is that sometimes as leaders we start out by reflecting what we think we should be or do, rather than reflecting who we are. And that lack of self-awareness is where things go sideways.

 

We also talked about another article that she wrote where she took issue with Sheryl Sandberg and her book “Lean In.Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.07.26 PM.png” Her big issue wasn’t that the advice was wrong, per se, but that it just showed one possible way to handle the situation. In Susan’s essays, sometimes you just need to be prepared to “lean out” instead. She challenged that if your values aren’t in line with your company’s corporate values, then perhaps you should step away and create a culture of your own that’s in line with your own values.

 

It really all comes down to knowing who you are and what you want out of life. And to know that, you need to take the time to think deeply about what you want to achieve. It is only with that knowledge that you can put all of the pieces together. For her, that came down to what she called those “Powerful Yes’s and Powerful No’s”. They were those moments that she was ready to step up and volunteer for a position that didn’t exist…and those times when she walked away from an opportunity that just wasn’t right at that time. She explained that by having a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, you can have the confidence to make those decisions because you will believe that “if not here, then somewhere else.”

 

She wrapped up our time together by reminding us that we really only have two assets: our time and our ability to influence others. And that in order to influence others (which is the essence of leadership), that we needed to invest in relationships and always be focused on making those relationships work as much for the other person as it does for you.

 

Susan offered us some great insights and some thought provoking contrarian advice. Through her fascinating career spanning everything from hands-on coding, to consulting to heading IT and to being a CFO, she has developed a unique perspective that most of us will never have the opportunity to experience. So it was a great pleasure to be able to have Susan share that perspective with us.

 

You can watch the replay of our latest episode – Stepping In and Leading Out to be an Exceptional Leader.

Read more >

Why Move Big Data Analytics into the Cloud?

movebigdatacloud.PNG

With the growth of new data types and the increasing volume of available data businesses need to implement analytics solutions to effectively extract the most benefit from the Big Data to which they have access. Meanwhile, data analytics is moving from batch to real time. This is particularly the case for predictive analytics, which can help the organisation to become future-focused.

 

Cloud is ideally positioned to provide the power and flexibility for Big Data analytics. Cloud computing itself has the potential to enhance business agility and productivity, while enabling greater efficiencies and reducing costs. Cloud and Big Data analytics technologies continue to evolve, and forward-thinking businesses are increasingly investigating both. A growing number of enterprises are building efficient and agile cloud environments that can process the large volumes, high velocity and varied formats of Big Data.

 

So, why move your analytics into the cloud? Here are three great reasons:

 

  • Cloud-based Analytics-as-a-Service (AaaS) has the power, flexibility and scalability to cope with Big Data. That said, cloud-based Big Data analytics is not a ‘one size- fits-all’ solution; organisations using cloud infrastructure to provide AaaS have multiple options. The cloud platform might vary, depending on factors such as workload, cost, security, and data interoperability. IT might choose to utilise their private cloud to mitigate risk and maintain control.

 

  • Businesses might prefer to use public cloud infrastructure, platform, or analytics services to further enhance scalability. Cloud service providers are offering various data analytics solutions to meet different IT needs – form MapReduce to more complex analytics packages.

 

  • IT might implement a hybrid model that combines private and public cloud resources and services.

 

Servers based on the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 and E7 families provide the performance and data handling capabilities for many different Big Data analytics environments. Advanced storage capabilities are also available through Intel Solid-State Drives (SSDs), featuring high-throughput and high endurance. Additionally, Intel Ethernet 10Gbit Converged Network Adapters provide high-throughput connections for large datasets.

 

The bottom line is: no matter which cloud delivery model makes the most sense, businesses with varying needs and budgets can unlock the potential of Big Data in cloud environments.

 

- Arif

Read more >

8 Things You Should Know About Windows 10

Microsoft unveiled its next Windows operating system, Windows 10, at the end of September 2014. The forthcoming operating system has features specifically designed for business, including an updated user experience and enhanced security and management capabilities.

 

8thingswindows10.PNG

Here are eight things businesses should know about Windows 10:

 

1. Key dates

Microsoft released an early technical preview for laptop and desktop version of Windows 10 on October 1, 2014. This is just over three years after Microsoft unveiled the first public beta build of Windows 8. Microsoft also released its Windows insider program on October 1, designed to keep early adopters up-to-date with the latest preview builds on Windows 10. Then, from October 7, the preview build was available to Windows 7 users as well. (However, consumer preview builds will not be available until early next year.) The technical preview, ends on April 15, 2015, timed to coincide with Microsoft’s Build 2015 conference. At the conference, Microsoft is likely to issue a release date for Windows 10. The company has promised that Windows 10 will ship to consumers and enterprises “later in the year” 2015.

 

On October 13, Microsoft announced that over 1 million people are currently testing the Windows 10 technical preview. This is likely to include a number of enterprises planning for the future.

 

2. Multi-device platform

According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will continue to follow Microsoft’s strategy of making its operating system a platform that is suitable for use on multiple devices. The company describes it as a converged application platform for developers on all devices. Consequently, developers will be able to write an application once and deploy it easily across multiple device types, says Microsoft. This includes desktop PCs, smart phones, tablets and Xbox consoles. Microsoft adds, “Windows 10 will run across the broadest range of devices ever from the Internet of Things to enterprise data centres worldwide.”

 

3. New security features

Microsoft is continuing to focus on adding enterprise security features to its operating system. Windows 10 will feature identity and information protection technology. The new operating system will also have new features around user identities, to improve resistance to breach, theft or phishing. Windows 10 will additionally help advance data loss prevention by using containers and data separation at the application and file level, enabling protection that follows the data as it goes from a tablet or PC to a USB drive, email or the cloud.

 

4. Device management changes

With Windows 10, management and deployment have been simplified to help lower costs. Microsoft says it will offer in-place upgrades from Windows 7 or Windows 8 that are focused on making device wipe-and-reload scenarios obsolete. Businesses will be able to customise an app store so that it to make it more specific to their needs and environment. The idea is to be able to create an app store that will allow for volume app licensing, flexible distribution, and the ability for organisations to reclaim or reuse licenses when necessary.

 

5. Interface tweaks

There are new interface enhancements, one of which is an expanded Start menu, replacing the Windows 8 navigation system. Microsoft says the familiar Start menu will be back, providing quick one-click access to the functions and files that people use most. And it includes a new space that can be personalised with favourite apps, programs, people and websites. Apps from the Windows Store will open in the same format as desktop programs. They can be resized and moved around, and have title bars at the top allowing users to maximise, minimize and close with a click. Working in multiple apps at the same time will be easier and more intuitive, with Snap Improvements. A new quadrant layout allows up to four apps to be snapped on the same screen. Windows will also show other apps and programs running for additional snapping, and it will make intelligent suggestions on filling available screen space with other open apps. In addition, there will be a new Task view button on the task bar, to enable one view for all open apps and files, which will allow the user to switch quickly, giving them one-touch access to any desktop created.

 

Finally, Windows 10 will have multiple desktops support. According to Microsoft, instead of too many apps and files overlapping on a single desktop, it will be easy to create and switch between distinct desktops for different purposes and projects — whether for work or personal use.

 

6. 2-in-1 features

Microsoft says that many of the new multitasking features will be optimised for touch devices as well, for example Task View. However, Windows 10 will also have a hybrid interface mode for 2-in-1 laptops and hybrid devices. This will contain elements of the current Windows 8.1 Start screen, but the new touch-focused start screen can switch based on the input used. Microsoft hinted that it will use large icons and response to gestures or swipes, as well as more traditional mouse or touchpad interaction, with smaller buttons and list-like interfaces.

 

7. Cloud integration

Windows 10 is likely to be more integrated with the cloud than previous versions of Windows. With products like Office 365, and OneDrive staying at the centre of Microsoft’s cloud strategy, and advances in Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform, businesses can expect more Cloud integration.


8. Open and collaborative development

Microsoft has introduced the Windows Insider Program, through which it can work closely with customers to help shape the future of Windows. Windows Insiders will be able to give feedback on early builds of the product throughout the development cycle. The program will include various ways for Windows Insiders to engage in a two-way dialogue with Microsoft, including a Windows Feedback app for sharing suggestions and issues and a Windows Technical Preview Forum for interacting with Microsoft engineers and fellow Insiders.

 

Although it’s early days, Windows 10 is coming. Now is a good time to investigate the technical preview and see how it might benefit your organisation.

 

- Arif

Read more >

6 Ways To Improve Collaboration in the Enterprise

6waystoimprovecollab.PNG

Today’s businesses need to move fast, and good team-working and collaboration is foundational.

 

Here are eight ways to improve collaboration in the enterprise:

 

1. Enable BYOD/CYOD flexibility

Collaboration across the enterprise is enhanced when workers are free to be productive wherever they are. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) schemes enable individual employees to work on the device that suits them best. People work in different ways, and there is a now massive range of computing devices available to businesses to offer their workforces. These include powerful smart phones, touch-screen tablets, 2-in-1 detachable and convertible notebooks, desktop-replacement Ultrabooks, clamshell mobile workstations, and all in one PCs. Added to these are the traditional fully-loaded desktops and mini desktops for home working, andoffice-based business workstations.

 

An important part of having BYOD/CYOD flexibility is to actually allow employees to work remotely on their device of choice. For some organisations, this will mean a change in policy or business culture. But as long as the business gives its workers freedom, whilst reinforcing that the organisation values collaboration and teamwork, employees will be both productive and loyal.

 

2. Centralise communication

It’s important to have some sort of central point for communication, delivered and managed by the business. This could be a fully-featured enterprise collaboration system, or it might be an intranet or social media platform. Providing that employees feel comfortable using the system to communicate and share information, collaboration will be the natural result. Cloud-based systems can offer access through any web-based device, which means that workers can collaborate at any time, from wherever they are. Clear and open communication is important in establishing productive collaboration. It’s also a good idea to have clear guidelines on how people should share information in an efficient way. If you can avoid duplicating information, and wasting time with irrelevant or repetitive communications, then your collaboration will be better for it.

 

3. Implement enterprise collaboration

There are many high-quality enterprise collaboration systems available. The great thing is you can set them up and have teams working together in minutes. Many enterprise collaboration tools have project or workflow management built into them, which helps teams to work together to a particular timeline. Microsoft SharePoint is one of the most popular enterprise collaboration tools on the market. It enables you to create online spaces for business projects; find and pull-in team members using search, and keep all project-related materials in one centralised location. Team members can also have their own blogs, through which they can collaborate and share expert information.

 

Another good tool is Yammer, which has an intuitive user interface. It also has social media features such as newsfeeds, likes and event hashtags, which help teams to engage and collaborate. Other tools worth noting are Huddle for online content; Jive, particularly for mobile and remote collaboration; and a cloud-based content management system called Box, which enables teams to securely create, upload and share content quickly and easily.

 

4. Use social networking

Use business-centric social networking, perhaps established channels like LinkedIn or Facebook, as they will give your teams the means to collaborate. They can also help you to create a sense of identity for the business. However, social networking requires clear guidelines for employees, because the systems are often public-facing, which means the company is on show to outsiders. Other enterprise social networking tools to consider are: tibbr, which allows you to customise your profile and follow employees who have similar interests.

 

Chatter is a secure social network for sales departments, which helps salespeople to work as a team. For teams that need to share videos, Kaltura allows businesses to store training workshops, product demos, and other video content in one central location. Videos can be posted privately or publicly and shared easily.

 

5. Encourage conferencing

Audio and video conferencing has become a must-have for every modern business. It’s now an essential tool for linking up disparate teams, pulling in experts, and connecting people across the world. There are some great on-premise conferencing systems, packing high-definition video and audio. These can project a highly professional corporate image. Meanwhile, the quality of web-based conferencing has improved to the extent that it is possible to create highly successful collaborative meetings at a moment’s notice, using something like Skype.


There are also a number of excellent web conferencing services, such as GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect Pro, GlobalMeet and Cisco WebEx. These offer features such as the ability to record a meeting; real-time screen sharing; file transfer and remote desktop control. The better services let the presenter pass controls over to others, and allow for participant annotation. They may also allow duplex support, so that meeting attendees can speak without having to take turns.

 

6. Create a culture of collaboration

Lastly, it’s important to create a culture of collaboration, leading by example. Business heads should be using collaboration to share and disseminate information. There should be training available to help workers to get the most out of the collaboration tools and software available to them. According to a study, by training firm ESI International, many members of the workforce don’t possess the skills required to effectively collaborate, so they need to be instructed and guided on how to do it. Research has also found that a very high proportion of business professionals need to improve their communication skills.

 

Professional development can include improving communication and collaboration skills, resulting in greater team working, productivity and efficiency.

 

In addition, many businesses have found that they have been able to improve collaboration by redesigning the workplace. Practical changes you can make include altering room and desk arrangements to better support mobile working, hot-desking, and video and audio conferencing. Breakout areas should facilitate conversation and collaboration, and flexible spaces with high-quality conferencing facilities will enable teams based in different locations to work together on the same project.

 

Having a collaborative business is as much to do with your business mindset as it is providing the right processes and technologies. How could you improve collaboration in your organisation?

 

- Arif

Read more >

Top 10 Things to Consider When Buying a Cloud Service

10thingsaboutcloud.PNGThe distinctive features of cloud computing are now widely recognised. Unparalleled processing capabilities, agile virtualisation, and fast Gigabit networking enable enterprises to process more information than ever before at high speed.

 

Because of its ‘on-demand’ nature, cloud can provide businesses with significant cost reductions compared with traditional computing models. Cloud has also brought flexibility, scalability and performance to enterprise computing, and this can be achieved through private, public or hybrid clouds.

 

However, it’s important to note that cloud service providers vary greatly in their offerings, technical capabilities, service levels and data centre technologies. It’s therefore prudent to carry out due diligence before signing a contract with a cloud services. Here are ten things to consider:

 

  1. PricePrice is important though it shouldn’t be a deciding factor. The cheapest service isn’t always the best one. Take a closer look at the features that each cloud provider offers, and then compare prices with this in mind. Look out for hidden costs, for example for data extraction, legacy application integration, and premium storage. There may be additional bandwidth charges, data access costs, migration fees and internal and external support requirements. Calculating the long term cost of externally provided cloud operations compared with on-premise is also a worthwhile exercise.
  2. SLAsAlong the same lines, scrutinise a potential service provider’s service level agreement. Try to find out: who is responsible for any losses due to cloud outage; what is the response time to fix failures or respond to customer requests and demands? Also, what is the performance of the service being offered: the response time, throughput, bandwidth, uptime, etc. When it comes to backup, who has the responsibility to carry it out; and where are backups stored? Lastly, what happens if you want to migrate off a certain cloud provider’s infrastructure? How badly could your service be affected during a data centre upgrade or software migration? According to Gartner, service providers differentiate themselves on such things as service reliability, support, ease of management, turnkey deployments and integrated value-add services.
  3. ScalabilityThe promise of cloud, and particularly hybrid cloud, is that workloads can be scaled up quickly and massively by bursting out to public cloud. Consequently, the ability for your prospective cloud service provider to scale on demand is an important one. Think of seasonal peaks in workload, or sudden business demand for analytics, workloads that involve floating point calculations, or high-bandwidth multimedia data. Can a cloud service provider’s infrastructure cope with your needs? Web-based enterprises should have growth in mind, and a good cloud services company should be able to accommodate your workloads and future growth.
  4. Porting to the cloudIf a cloud service provider is offering to migrate a particular legacy application to the cloud, try to understand whether there will be a one-off porting operation. If so, will the application be optimised for the new infrastructure, or left alone, no matter how inefficient it might be once migrated? If so, what sort of monitoring and maintenance will cloud service provider have for your application?
  5. SecurityCloud security is a maturing area, and one that is still at the top of the list for many enterprises. Cloud service providers can now implement security right across the stack, starting with encryption at the server processor level, running through their virtualisation systems, and right up to user access authentication and controls. How secure is your potential cloud partner? What type of security are they offering; and what data protection standards do they meet? In terms of access control, is it internal – within the data centre – as well as external?
  6. ExpertiseDifferent providers will have different specialties, so try to look into a company’s specialty or area of expertise before you sign. For example, they may be strong in a particular vendor technology, for example, Microsoft, SAP or Oracle. Or their strength might be in integrating cloud with legacy apps. The data centre engineers might be particularly good at optimising particular workloads for their customers, or they may have strong security credentials.
  7. HardwareDoes a potential cloud services provider have the latest technologies – server, storage and networking? Are they investing in software-defined infrastructure (SDI), as many cloud service providers are? If so, where are they on the road to having an agile and highly-responsive infrastructure – one where whole workloads can be moved at will, to optimise their performance? Try to find out the extent to which the service provider has implemented virtualisation in servers, storage and networking, and how effective their orchestration is.
  8. SupportIf the service goes down, are you able to call the company and connect with a real person on the phone? Are they able to find out what the problem is and answer your questions? Do they have the right access to engineers who can give them a timeframe for fixing the issue? Also, are staff on call around the clock? Can they be reached in a timely manner? These are good things to find out. Technical support is a really important area to investigate. Talking to existing customers will help you get a sense of how responsive the cloud services firm really is.
  9. PowerPower is a major data centre concern. You want your cloud services provider to be using power-efficient servers and equipment, because it means its operations are cost efficient. This, in turn, will have an impact on the cost of the service. A cloud service provider’s carbon footprint is also worth trying to get a sense of, in order to know how green their data centres are.
  10. ExtrasOther considerations include how well the cloud service provider will integrate with your private cloud or on-premise systems. Do they expect you to do the bulk of the integration? Will they be able to offer you tools and help, if you need them? Also, what sort of monitoring dashboards do they offer you to keep track of the service? Is there a comprehensive control panel, or is it difficult to monitor the various applications and service levels? Do you have an input into the user interfaces that might be deployed? Are you able to customise them, particularly if the interfaces are non-intuitive and hard to use? If this is the case, then there may be trouble ahead.

 

Finally, disaster recovery and business continuity are areas worth investigating. Try to find out how well data is backed up and restored in the case of emergency. Make sure you are satisfied with the level of backup, and the speed at which services can be restored if required.

 

With these things in mind, choosing the right cloud services provider should be straightforward.

 

- Arif

Read more >

How Can HPC Assist Mainstream Businesses?

hpcassistbusiness.PNGHigh-Performance Computing (HPC) isn’t just for high end corporations and large scientific organisations. The cost of processing, coupled with the raw power of today’s servers means that small and mid-sized businesses can also benefit from the advanced simulation that HPC provides.

 

Simulation can assist with many elements of product design, says Stephan Gillich, Director of Technical Computing for the Intel EMEA Datacenter Group.

 

It’s particularly useful for computer-aided engineering e.g. in classical fields like mechanics and fluid dynamics, but also in finance life sciences and digital content creation, says Gillich.

 

The key point is that simulation is no longer just in areas where it has already been used for a long time, such as the aerodynamic design of planes. Now, you’ll find it in other product design areas to determine, for example, what happens to the components of a mobile phone when it hits the ground accidentally.

 

“Mainstream businesses can now access simulating compute capacity on HPC clusters more easily and at a very reasonable cost,” says Gillich. This is enabling them to go beyond the limitations of the workstations they currently use.

 

The small automotive supply engineering house Dörrer + Broßmann carried out a proof-of-concept to see how a cluster based on the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 product family can enable it to carry out more-sophisticated engineering simulations more quickly.

 

The more precise simulation services also open up opportunities for Dörrer + Broßmann to pitch for business that was previously too compute-intensive for the company to carry out.

 

From a technology perspective, the server platform has improved, offering more powerful processors with more cores that are capable of handling more data in one operation, for example using Advanced Vector Extensions.

 

Besides the processor, sophisticated network solutions such as Intel® TrueScale, and improved storage solution using Intel SSD, provide additional big improvements. On top of this, the software can be optimised so that processing is parallelised and makes the most of available compute cycles. The result is that we see the potential and benefits of simulation on a scale never seen before by SMEs: a “democratization” of HPC, comments Gillich.

 

Sectors such as life science are growing as businesses – as well as scientists – take hold of the opportunities that HPC offers them.

 

Technical computing Cloud technologies promise flexible resources with on demand computing, democratizing even further.

 

However, in order to deliver customers a high-performance experience without the complexity, there needs to be integration. “Basically people need the sort of interface they’re used to on a single workstation,” says Gillich.

 

The main business benefits of HPC simulation are these:

  • firms have the opportunity to increase their competitiveness
  • bring better products to market faster.


They can also cut product design costs, for example by simulating drop tests, product breakages, or the effect of water or pressure damage. There are cost-effective, entry-level HPC packages supported by hardware and software vendors such as ANSYS, Altair, and others, and new clusters are easier to set up.

 

Data centre and server management has also come a long way, with today’s servers, and cloud-based Technical Computing solutions offering flexibility for changing workloads, and faster time to setup.

 

Have you considered moving from workstation to HPC computing?

 

- Arif

Read more >

8 Ways to Secure Your Cloud Infrastructure

8waystosecurecloud.PNG

Cloud security remains a top concern for businesses. Fortunately, today’s data centre managers have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal to secure their private cloud infrastructure.

Here are eight things you can use to secure your private cloud.

 

1. AES-NI data encryption

End-to-end encryption can be transformational for the private cloud, securing data at all levels through enterprise-class encryption. The latest Intel processors feature Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI), a set of new instructions that enhance performance by speeding up the execution of encryption algorithms.

 

The instructions are built into Intel® Xeon server processors as well as client platforms includingmobile devices.

 

When encryption software utilises them, the AES-NI instructions dramatically accelerate encryption and decryption – by up to 10 times compared with software-only AES.

 

This speedy encryption means that it is possible to incorporate encryption across the data centre without significantly impacting infrastructure performance.

 

2. Security protocols

By incorporating a range of security protocols and secure connections, you will build a more secure private cloud.

 

As well as encrypting data, clouds can also use cryptographic protocols to secure browser access to the customer portal, and to transfer encrypted data.

 

For example, Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols are used to assure safe communications over networks, including the Internet. Both of these are widely used for application such as secure web browsing, through HTTPS, as well as email, IM and VoIP.

 

They are also critical for cloud computing, enabling applications to communicate over the network and throughout the cloud while preventing undetected tampering that modifies content, or eavesdropping on content as it’s transferred.

 

3. OpenSSL, RSAX and function stitching

Intel works closely with OpenSSL, a popular open source multiplatform security library. OpenSSL is FIPS 140-2 certified: a computer security standard developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cryptographic Module Validation Program.

 

It can be used to secure web transactions through services such as Gmail, e-commerce platforms and Facebook, to safeguard connections on Intel architecture.

 

Two functions of OpenSSL, that Intel has contributed to, are RSAX and function stitching.

 

The first is a unique implementation of the popular RSA 1024-bit algorithm, and produces significantly better performance than previous OpenSSL implementations. RSAX can accelerate the time it takes to initiate an SSL session – up to 1.5 times. This provides a better user experience and increases the number of simultaneous sessions your server can handle.

 

As for function stitching: bulk data buffers use two algorithms for encryption and authentication, but rather than encrypting and authenticating data serially, function stitching interleaves instructions from these two algorithms. By executing them simultaneously, it improves the utilisation of execution resources and boosts performance.

 

Function stitching can result in up to 4.8 times performance improvement for secure web servers when combined with RSAX and Intel AES-NI.

 

4. Data loss prevention (DLP)

Data protection is rooted in the encryption and secure transfer of data. Data loss prevention (DLP) is a complementary approach focused on detecting and preventing the leakage of sensitive information, either by malicious intent or inadvertent mistake.

 

DLP solutions can profile content against rules and capture violations or index and analyse data to develop new rules. IT can establish policies that govern how data is used in the organisation and by whom. By doing this they can clarify security practices, identify potential fraud and avert accidental or unauthorised malicious transfer of information.

 

An example of this technology is McAfee Total Protection for Data Loss Prevention. This software can be used to support an organisation’s governance policies.

 

5. Authentication

Protecting your platform begins with managing the users who access your cloud. This is a large undertaking because of the array of external and internal applications, and the continual churn of employees.

Ideally, authentication is strengthened by routing it in hardware. With Intel Identity Protection Technology (Intel IPT), Intel has built tamper-resistant, two-factor authentication directly into PCs based on third-generation Intel core vPro processors, as well as Ultrabook devices.

 

Intel IPT offers token generation built into the hardware, eliminating the need for a separate physical token. Third-party software applications work in tandem with the hardware, strengthening the authentication process.

 

Through Intel IPT technology, businesses can secure their access points by using one-time passwords or public key infrastructure.

 

6. API-level controls

Another way in which you can secure your cloud infrastructure is by enforcingAPI-level controls. The API gateway layer is where security policy enforcement and cloud service orchestration and integration take place. An increased need to expose application services to third parties, and mobile applications is driving the need for controlled, compliant application service governance.

 

WithAPI-level controls, you gain a measure of protection for your departmental and edge system infrastructure, and reduce the risk of content-born attacks on applications.

 

Intel Expressway Service Gateway is an example of a scalable software appliance that provides enforcement points and authenticates API requests against existing enterprise identity and access management system.

 

7. Trusted servers and compute pools

Because of cloud computing’s reliance on virtualisation, it is essential to establish trust in the cloud. This can be achieved by creating trusted servers and compute pools. Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) builds trust into each server, at the server level, by establishing a root of trust that helps assure system integrity within each system.

 

The technology checks hypervisor integrity at launch by measuring the code of the hypervisor and comparing it to a known good value. Launch can be blocked if the measurements do not match.

 

8. Secure architecture based on TXT

It’s possible to create a secure cloud architecture based on TXT technology, which is embedded in the hardware of Intel Xeon processor-based servers. Intel TXT works with the layers of the security stack to protect infrastructure, establish trust and verify adherence to security standards.

 

As mentioned, it works with the hypervisor layer, and also the cloud orchestration layer, the security policy management layer and the Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), and Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) layer.

 

Conclusion

Cloud security has come a long way. It’s now possible, through the variety of tools and technologies outlined above, to adequately secure both your data and your user. In so doing, you will establish security and trust in the cloud and gain from the agility, efficiency and cost savings that cloud computing brings.

 

- Arif

Read more >

Three Innovations Coming to Mobile in 2015

3innovations.PNG

There are a number of innovations in business mobile debuting from Intel and mobile device manufacturers in 2015. These will help enterprises to improve the user experience and productivity of their mobile work forces, and help IT bridge the gap between new user demands and the mobile equipment they offer.

 

  • Form factor innovation

The forthcoming low-power, high-performance Intel Core M processor will enable form factor innovations such as razor-thin tablets that can offer the performance of a PC.

 

Ultra-thin 2 in 1s are also going to be attractive to businesses who will be able to offer smaller and better form factors to their mobile workers and business travellers.

 

These form factors will bridge the gap between new user demands for business client devices, and what the business can offer. The new super-thin tablets and notebooks will offer improvements in user experience, collaboration, productivity and portability.

 

 


  • No wires technology

The second innovation coming to mobiles is ‘no wires’ technology, which will simplify life for everyone. It will be a boon for mobile workers and IT departments, and continue the trend of workplace transformation.

 

No wires docking, through Intel WiGig-based Wireless Docking technology, will transform meeting rooms. It gives workers ‘walk up’ convenience as it remembers their preferences, making them instantly productive.

 

No wires docking can be used in combination with wire-free keyboards, mice, printers and monitors – such as the Intel Pro Wireless Display – and is poised to improve office working and modernise both consumer and business computing.

 

Another exciting development coming in the future is ‘no wires charging’ for mobile devices. This will enable mobile workers to lay their device down on the desk so it can be charged automatically.

This technology will accompany existing enterprise-class technology such as Intel vPro, which provides security and manageability to wire-free environments. Intel vPro can make wire-free meeting rooms secure, offer remote management and features such as transferring screens from one room to another to enhance collaboration.

 

  • Stronger, simpler security

Thirdly, more advanced security – which is simpler both to use and administer – is coming to mobile devices. New security innovations will simplify the sign-on process, and reduce the number of passwords required.

 

Mobile devices will increasingly use multi-factor authentication, particularly biometric data such as face recognition, to improve business security. This ‘no passwords’ approach will simplify life for end-users, who will be able to unify their passwords by replacing them with a single biometric input instead.

 

As for IT departments, multi-factor authentication will harden the security of the platform, and will also simplify security management.

 

It will mean single sign-on for multiple cloud services through face recognition or two-factor authentication, and will utilise existing manageability and security features offered by Intel vPro technology.

 

Mobile computing is about to enter a new phase of sophistication.

 

- Arif

Read more >

Accelerating the Transformation to Software Defined Storage

We are all aware of the explosion of data happening that’s driven by social media, streaming video, and other content-rich applications. Most of it needs to be stored somewhere, and many new applications and devices consume more resources and need to be deployed more rapidly than traditional back office enterprise applications.softwaredefinedstorage.PNG

 

Six months is now too long to wait to deploy a new application or service. IT organisations now need to move in a matter of hours. This means the storage environment needs to be flexible, scalable and responsive. In other words, data centres need to be more cloud-ready or software-defined, presenting numerous challenges for the traditional storage environment in today’s data centre.

 

In order for data centres to transform into scalable, flexible environments,storage must evolve from purpose-built, dedicated silos designed for specific applications to more general large pools which are dynamically allocated and controlled via the software-defined storage control layer.

 

Intel says its vision of software-defined storage (SDS) is a framework that enables dynamic, policy-driven management of storage resources – a world where the application defines the storage.

“Intel is helping to accelerate this storage transformation with processor innovations, non-volatile memory, and networking and fabric products optimised for storage workloads,” says Andreas Schneider, Intel EMEA StorageProduct Marketing Manager.

 

“We are actively engaged with partners in the ecosystem to deliver optimized SDS solutions that take advantage of these latest technologies and have reference architectures, or ‘recipes’, available as well.”

For example, Intel® Storage Acceleration Library provides optimised algorithms that streamline the path through the processor, improving performance of storage functions like deduplication, compression and erasure coding. These libraries are available to storage OEMs and ISVs and contributed to the open source community.

 

Fujitsu recently announced a new hyperscale SDS appliance based on Intel technologies and Ceph open source software. The appliance is ideal for cost-sensitive users who need instant online access to large data volumes. Fujitsu and Intel collaborated to integrate Intel processors, SSDs, and software technologies such as Virtual Storage Manager (VSM). VSM is an open source software tool which simplifies Ceph cluster setup and management.

 

To continue moving forward with the SDS vision, we need the SDS controller, which has the visibility and control of all storage resources, as well as communication between applications, orchestrator and storage systems. This SDS controller needs to be based on open source standards to allow for interoperability across hardware platforms.

 

Schneidersays, “We are working with the community to develop an open SDS controller prototype to help demonstrate the concept and validate the value proposition. As part of this effort, Intel is looking to partner with the OpenStack community to help solve key storage challenges.”

 

Where are you on the path to SDS? Does the requirement for the SDS controller resonate with you?

 

- Arif

Read more >