Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

My predictions for 2012…

January 3, 2012

I normally do this the other way round, but this time I decided to publish on the Softcat.com news site first – but for those of you who follow me here (thank you!), here’s my predictions for IT, plus some suggestions for how to address and take advantage of these trends. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from all at Softcat! I thought we would start the year off with a few predictions for what we expect to happen over the course of the year. Rather than this being simply some predictions in isolation, we’ve made a few suggestions as to how you might be able to respond to, or take advantage of, these trends:

Desktop – if you haven’t already, you will come under increasing pressure to migrate to Windows 7. We expect IT to need to reduce desktop management costs, while maintaining or improving service levels to the business. Windows 8 is looking likely to ship towards the end of the year – it’s looking good so far and could be interesting when your PC, phone and tablet run basically the same OS. We think Windows 8 will be the last revision of the ‘desktop’ operating system as we know it – Windows won’t go away, but will increasingly be a platform across a huge range of devices.

What to do?

Get your desktop house in order – look at management toolsets such as System Center to reduce the pain of migrating to Windows 7 and of ongoing maintenance, and reconsider server-based computing (VDI, Terminal Services etc) where this makes sense.

BYOD – more and more people within  your organisation will demand, and even expect, to be able to use their own devices – particularly phones and tablets – for work purposes. You need to set out your strategy here, as it is something that you can harness to improve productivity, employee satisfaction and business continuity.

What to do?

Evaluate the risk inherent in having data on these devices, versus the demand and potential gains. Technologies such as GOOD can encrypt data on those end-points, or you can use centralised computing to deliver Windows apps to those devices without any data getting on to the device. Over time, you may want to consider rearchitecting your line-of-business applications or at least having a transport mechanism that enables delivery to handheld devices.

Communications – we think there will be two main trends in communications. The first will be mobility-related – replacing desktop handsets by running telephony clients on mobile devices, and increasingly implementing VoIP over GSM or WiFi. The second will be an increase in the use of casual, desktop-based video conferencing and application sharing. Both of these trends will improve collaboration across geographical boundaries and bring disparate work-forces closer together.

What to do?

We think the increasing interest in Microsoft LYNC will drive both of these areas, so you could do worse than start there, especially if you have an Enterprise Agreement which gives you at least some LYNC entitlement. There’s a healthy ecosystem of products to improve and extend the capabilities of LYNC, as well.

Datacentre – virtualisation will continue to be the prevailing trend. If you haven’t, you really should – and if you have, you should probably do more! We’ll see more management technologies, both from the virtualisation vendors and from the ecosystem, which will help to push up the percentage of applications you virtualise, as well as to migrate towards the nirvana of a ‘private cloud’. No doubt your demand for storage will accelerate as well, so you will need to be clever about the way in which you use disk to keep on top of costs in that area while maintaining the performance your applications need. Oh, and you’ll need to improve your ability to recover in the event of a disaster, too.

What to do?

Review your strategy for virtualisation – are you trading physical server sprawl for the virtual equivalent? Would tighter management enable you to drive up utilisation? Review your storage strategy as well – can you make use of deduplication, for example – or employ a combination of SSDs for performance and cheaper, slower disk for data? The combination of clever use of storage and increased virtualisation can make it far easier – and cheaper – to implement a robust DR plan.

Cloud – this is the year that we will see ‘Cloud’ descend into Gartner’s ‘trough of disillusionment’. It wouldn’t surprise us if we saw the first serious security breach in the cloud space, and doubtless another large-scale outage.  Having said that, losing some of the hype will make Cloud a more realistic proposition for businesses when done properly. We think that localised, friendly cloud providers will be increasingly important – credit-card-cloud will be reserved for development and test.

What to do?

Don’t write cloud off – but look to providers where you have or can build a relationship and where doing your own due diligence is possible. Look to extend the capabilities of your infrastructure for capacity or DR by partnering with a provider of infrastructure as a service, and if your business needs a new application, consider cloud options against on-premise.

Security – Firstly, 2012 is the year we expect security technologies to start to catch up with virtualisation. Up until now the available technologies have been somewhat immature, and the new model of ‘introspection’ via APIs will improve this. Secondly, this will be the year the business tells you to stop blocking Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, as people are now genuinely using them as business tools. You will no longer be able to mitigate the risks by turning them off! We’ll also see more focus than ever on keeping data safe – something which is increasingly difficult in this mobile world.

What to do?

Firstly, if your legislative or threat landscape demands it, look seriously at Intrusion Prevention technologies which will work across your virtual environment. Secondly, make sure that your Web Security Policy is up-to-date, and supplement it with a powerful filtering technology that enables control down to application-level within social networking sites, rather than taking a simple allow-or-deny approach. Thirdly, gain an understanding of the way in which data moves around your organisation and make sure your access policy limits data misuse, especially through social media and email. Encryption of remote access is a sensible step, and you may, if your position requires it, like to give consideration to a data-loss-prevention tool.

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Did you ever know that you’re my HERO?

October 27, 2011

Interesting concept here from Forrester – apparently HERO stands for Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives. These are your execs, your top sales guys – the people who work to drive your business forward and help you to change and to innovate. This reminds me of a conversation I had with our wonderful (if somewhat crazy!) chairman about being a ‘challenger’. Very interesting!

So, according to Forrester, these people are increasingly using Macs (and, I would presume, iPads etc) in a business context, because they are not constrained to the Windows desktop that they are provided by ‘corporate’. This is noteworthy as it is only three years since Forrester declared that Macs only had a niche place in business.

This has been a trend I have been following for a while – regular readers will know about my iPad addiction. When I attended the VMware Premier Partner Exec Council in January of this year, which encompassed the top 200 VMware partners worldwide, I was amazed at the number using iPads and MacBooks – and the small number using PCs.

I’ve been experimenting with the Bring Your Own Device/ PC concept within Softcat, and you know what? It works. The main reason for this was the fact that I was starting to embrace some of the social media concepts that were around, wanted to have access to those tools from whatever device – and also work (sadly!) from a variety of platforms in and out of hours. I guess I am not your typical employee, and hopefully I am a touch more technically literate than your average IT user, but you know what? This stuff works! I’ve had the luxury of access to both Citrix XenApp and VMware View, and of course we run Outlook Web Access and provide external access to SharePoint – the latter two being where I spend most of my time.

Not only does this stuff work, but it’s coming. There are plenty of technology solutions out there for device security, any-device access, application delivery – make sure you get ready for it!

(UPDATE)

This is not intended as anti-PC and certainly not anti-Windows – of course I am using Windows, but just via a remote connection. What I am saying is that I am ‘pro-choice’ – over the form factor, the access device, the (local) operating system. It’s anti-corporate conformity, not anti-Windows… It depends on what you want, and how you personally work more efficiently. One of our VMware techies runs Fedora as his native OS – apparently that works for him, but it’s a stage too far for me!

Instant Messaging in decline?

May 6, 2011

Now this was interesting – and possibly a surprise! According to this article, instant messaging is in slight decline, in favour of email (I thought email had been declared dead some years ago) and social media. Initially, this came as something of a surprise, I think, particularly with all the excitement behind the release of LYNC and its inclusion within the standard Enterprise Agreement entitlement as of August.

Thinking it through, though, they might be on to something. I’ve changed the way I use our IM (we use OCS and integrate it with our Cisco phone system via CUCIMOC). I don’t use it nearly as much as I used to as a communications tool, mainly due to a personal drive to use face-to-face and phone methods of communication more. It feels to me like stuff gets done quicker that way, and communication is of better quality.

What I do use IM for however (and I would really miss this) is the presence aspect. This enables me to see if someone is around (and due to our telephone integration whether they are on the phone), and then pop round to see them. It also enables me to set up a quick informal meeting, usually involving coffee. So IM is more of an enabler for communication rather than a communication vector in and of itself. The main time I really use it for serious messaging is as a ‘backchannel’ during a conference call – which is incredibly useful.

What do you reckon? Have you deployed IM/ presence in your organisation? How do people use it? Would they miss it?

Technology@Work Takeaways

May 5, 2010

It’s nearly a week since I got back from HP’s Technology at Work event, in Frankfurt, and I have just about caught up, so I thought it was time to summarise my experience. First out, I very much enjoyed it – the organisation was very slick, Frankfurt was friendly and the content was superb. I feel less guilty now that HP have cancelled their tablet plans (or at least delayed them pending the integration of Palm) for my use of an iPad throughout the event…

My first comment would be that getting involved in the social media scene at events like this is a good idea. It made me feel really engaged with the event to be following #HPTAW and tweeting with folks like @StorageGuy and @JezatHP (follow both of these guys for good insider info on HP Storage and Networking respectively). It’s a really useful back-channel to comment on what is going on and point people in the direction of stuff that is interesting. Needless to say I was delighted to end up as Mayor of HP Technology at Work on Foursquare

Now on with the technology industry… My primary takeaway was the emphasis from Gartner (who were out in force) on a simple statistic: that in their research, 70% of IT budget is spent on ‘keeping the lights on’, and only 30% spent on innovation – finding technology solutions to move the business forwards. That’s pretty scary, and I would welcome feedback from our customers as to whether that’s common experience. It feels about right to me. Almost every keynote referred back to this statistic, and HP are focusing their efforts on remedying the situation. A lot of the conversations were around reducing cost: power and cooling, management, etc. However, an interesting point was that CIOs with responsibility for the power bills refresh infrastructure more often, deriving ROI from this refresh – and in the process giving their organisation access to the latest technology, making the business more agile.

I’m sure we all hope we are on the way out of recession. Certainly the feedback from Gartner was that organisations are investing. In fact, the focus appears to be moving away from out-and-out cost, although budget growth will remain low or nonexistent. The focus is on balancing value with risk and innovation – the goal is to enable the business to be flexible and adapt to change. The legacy of the economic situation will leave organisations in a state of flux – M&A, emerging markets, volatility and a need to advance and retract into areas will mean that IT must be able to react to and enable this constant change. No wonder virtualisation, cloud and Web 2.0 are the top three technologies on CIOs’ watch-lists. HP are working hard on the concept of ‘converged infrastructure’ (separate post to follow) to provide a cohesive platform from which to deliver services to meet the needs of your organisation.

End-user computing was another area, and one which has interested me for some time. The story echoed my post on Next Generation Desktops, but suffice it to say that the computing environment of tomorrow will be a little different. Virtualisation of the desktop in its various forms will become commonplace, and management by separation of the various layers (hardware, OS, apps, profile etc) will be the norm. At the same time, IT departments will need to get used to delivering mobile, lightweight apps to laptops, netbooks, smartphones and (dare I say it) the iPad.

Lastly, there was a fair amount on the networking front. HP contest that the acquisition of 3COM gives them an end-to-end networking portfolio, from the core to the edge, including security, for the first time. Networking is key to the Converged Infrastructure message, so keep an eye on this (we will announce an event soon). There was a lot of talk about unified communications, in particular integration of Microsoft Exchange and OCS with Procurve and Proliant.

Whilst I don’t think I recall Cisco being mentioned by name throughout the entire event, it’s fairly evident that they have a fight on their hands here!

Well, that was rather easier than expected!

November 10, 2009

I’ve recently become a bit of a social media fanatic – not in a personal sense, although I do use Facebook sporadically to keep up with friends – mainly consuming, rather than updating. Rather, I’ve started using Twitter pretty hectically – it seems to have become a pretty good way of connecting with people, sharing ideas etc – in a business related sense, something that never really happened for me with Facebook.

In a way it is a bit of a shame that the two aren’t one and the same, but actually I quite like keeping work and personal separate. I was delighted to see today that you can now push Twitter updates to Linkedin and vice versa – thanks Mashable for that – http://mashable.com/2009/11/09/twitter-linkedin-sync. I’ve set it up already and it works very well. Must remember to keep my Tweets business related….