Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Cloud’s my first, my last, my everything…

March 20, 2017

Or at least that’s the approach some people seem to be taking! I liked this article in Computing from last week – I’m definitely in agreement with the sentiments. I’ve always thought the ‘Cloud Bigot’ approach was the wrong one. I guess it comes down to my preferred approach to ‘solutioneering’ any IT problem – start with the business need and work back from there.

Cloud is a delivery route, a way of paying for IT as a service, a consumption mechanism, a way of offloading elements of IT you don’t want to run or that don’t have strategic value, a way of starting small and building up. It’s not a solution in and of itself, in my opinion.

I’ve always thought the best way to do it is to work out what solves the problem – and worry about the consumption model afterwards. Of course, these days, even if there’s a directive for Opex over Capex, most solutions can be financed – and many vendors have at least a ‘pay as you grow’ option, even if not ‘pay as you go’.

Anyone disagree?


Could GDPR be the next PPI?

February 13, 2017

Well, we love a few acronyms (or are they acrostics?) in our industry! I was talking with someone the other day, and we ended up on the subject of PPI and those irritating calls you get. Seems they are dying out a bit which, in my book, is no bad thing. I used to amuse myself by trying to keep them on hold as long as possible – my record was more that seven minutes…

Anyway, I digress! What are all these people going to do once the PPI gold rush is over? I reckon the new wave will be PPI-style organisations cold-calling you and offering to sue the companies that are in the public domain for having suffered a breach. Call me cynical but I could totally see someone hacking into an organisation and then having the temerity to offer to sue on behalf of the people whose information they have found!

Best get your house in order before May 2018, I reckon – let’s not give this PPI scourge the chance to spread…

Two kills three?

February 4, 2017

I was interested to hear this week of the probably demise of 3D TV. I can’t say it surprises me – it’s a bit of fun at the cinema but I can’t see the attraction myself at home. Admittedly that’s mostly because I wear glasses already and putting the 3D ones over the top isn’t ever so comfortable and just feels damned weird. It seems a waste of contact lenses just to pop them in to watch a film!

It got me thinking, though. I reckon what has really killed 3D is the ‘second screen’ phenomenon. I mean, when do you ever sit down and watch something without snacking on your email, fiddling about on social media, or looking at property or car porn? My personal addiction is Autotrader – drooling over what I could buy if someone would pay me good money for a kidney. Obviously doing this while wearing Roy Orbison’s shades isn’t the easiest thing. Am I alone in this supposition?

Memories of the machine…

October 2, 2014

Interesting article on Computing today about in-memory databases and what is hampering adoption. The fact that, being in memory, persistence and recoverability is an issue, appears to be hampering mainstream adoption outside of data-warehousing and BI, etc – which is understandable. Availability is pretty damned important and there is no point in going as fast as you can if you might lose everything or have to undertake a lengthy rebuild.
It seems to me though that organisations should be starting to work on this sort of architecture – if only to prepare themselves for the next generation of infrastructure where persistent memory will (hopefully; everything crossed!) solve the availability issue. Have a read about HP’s ‘The Machine’ project which will give you an idea of where this stuff may be going….

Letting the (Soft)Cat out of the bag at BETT

February 7, 2013

So the Softcat Education team were out in force at the recent BETT show, where the latest and greatest education technology was on display. I was roped in to conduct some ‘Sam’s Surgeries’ for our customers, as well as talking about our vision for Infrastructure for better learning outcomes.

No conference is complete without some giveaways of course. We had some natty Softcat branded bags printed up for our customers, and, as is becoming something of a BETT tradition, a load of Soft Cats – this year in purple! These proved really popular with the attendees – so popular in fact that one of our wonderful customers appears to have put two of these Soft Cats to work in his IT department. If they are half as good as our consultancy team, he’s got the right idea!
Anyway, just for a bit of fun, here for your delight and delectation is The Adventures of Cuddly Cat!
<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”The adventures of cuddly cat!” target=”_blank”>The adventures of cuddly cat!</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Sam Routledge</a></strong> </div>

If you want to join in the fun, Tweet a photo or whatever of your Soft Cat with the hashtag #SoftcatRocks – I’m sure we can rustle up a prize for the best!

How clear was our crystal ball?

December 11, 2012

Every year, in January, there is a flood of articles with predictions for the year ahead. Last year, I thought we should join the deluge and we put together our version of what lay ahead for 2012. I found myself wondering how many of these would be accurate and how many would quietly be deleted come December, so I decided that I would revisit our article and see how we did. I’ve summarised our points below, but you can find the original article here.

Desktop – we predicted the launch of Windows 8 and increasing pressure towards migrating from Windows XP. Surprise surprise, we were spot on here with Windows 8 being released and plenty of work for our consultants on desktop planning – both using management tools such as System Center and considering centralised desktop initiatives such as VDI.

BYOD – we got this one nailed – this area must have occasioned more conversations than any other over the last year! Having said that, the default play here seems to me to be securing the device and delivering email. BYOD promises much more than that if we extend the conversation to data and applications other than email – but I’m confident that will come. We’ve built a fairly complete stack of offerings to assist in this space so if you get stuck, you know who to call…

Communications – yep, I got this one wrong. We’re not all using corporate versions of Skype to communicate ad hoc by video! While telephony clients such as LYNC and Jabber are starting to become more widespread there’s some work to be done here. This is a shame in my opinion as there are some mobility and productivity benefits potentially here – but I think we will get there. Just maybe later than the over-excited geek in me expected…

Datacentre – we were fairly close here too. Demand for virtualisation and storage continued apace, and we did indeed start to see customers moving from heavily virtualised towards private cloud. I’m expecting to see more of this next year. What caught me by surprise was the speed with which our customers are asking us to help them to move some or all of their infrastructure ‘to the cloud’ – which is rather convenient really as we had spent a lot of time, money and effort building our CloudSoftcat infrastructure platform the year before…. Speaking of which:

Cloud – so we did see a few outages for the likes of Amazon, but I’m not sure I can recall a specific security breach that was purely cloud-related. Having said that, our friendly, service-led approach to cloud did seem to prove popular with customers so I’m calling this one a win!

Security – probably another one where we were a touch ambitious. The market for security in virtual environments did improve, and we had some particular success with TippingPoint. I’m not sure my brave prediction that organisations would loosen up on Facebook, however, was as accurate and this probably slowed the development of the Data Leak Prevention market. We’re still convinced that’s coming. 

I make that four out of six – not bad! I’ll publish our predictions for 2013 in the first week of January, so keep an eye out for that…

Has anyone got the Window Key?

May 25, 2012

I had to blog this… High geek comedy in the Softcat office this morning! 


Obviously it’s pretty warm today… An email went round to the Marlow Office distribution list asking if anyone had the window key (our aircon could be better…). Lovely response from one of our tech consultants:


Try that, it should work”

Gotta love geek humour… 

We live in interesting times…. Time spent with HP’s CTO

June 3, 2011

I was fortunate, yesterday, to get to spend most of the day with a chap called David Chalmers. He is HP’s UK CTO, focused on the infrastructure business – what is commonly referred to amongst the HP cognoscenti as ESSN (Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking). I have seen him speak on a few occasions, and I invited him in to present to our management team and then to lead a discussion with a few of our customers on current trends in IT, and how HP are looking to address them. For the benefit of those who couldn’t attend, I thought I would summarise the discussion:

The major flow of the conversation was that we live in interesting times, and should feel privileged (I do!) to be working in IT at a point of the biggest change our wonderful industry has seen. There are three major trends contributing to this shift:

1: The underlying technology, and the speed with which companies like HP are developing it

2: Changing business models – we’re talking cloud, here, of course

3: Changing workforce – this is probably the most interesting area. We talked about the fact that those joining the workforce – and increasingly in positions of power – are ‘digital natives’ rather than ‘digital immigrants’, and work in a different way. They won’t be bound to one device, or forced to work in the way in which IT want them to….

The figured David quoted were that there will be 7.8 billion people in the world by 2025, and that whilst there are 2 billion online today, there will be 4 billion by 2020. Digital content is accelerating at a rate of knots, and this presents real challenges in how we deal with this data – how we store, move, manage, protect and deliver it. At the same time, this presents an amazing opportunity, as we can know so much more about the world around us. He referred to the ‘sea of sensors’ that HP have produced, which are used by Shell to monitor seismic activity in the search for oil, and on the Golden Gate Bridge to ‘listen’ for stress fractures and wear. Mobile will be a key technology, with vastly more smartphones sold than PCs – hence the Palm acquisition and forthcoming TouchPad launch (regular readers will know that I’m a fan of the tablet form factor!).

So how do we as IT professionals respond, in a rapidly changing world, where we ‘don’t know what we don’t know? Well, in two ways:

Firstly, we need to adapt our existing infrastructure. Heretofore, we have locked stuff down, kept it as fixed as possible to manage it. Now, we need to move towards ‘The Instant On Enterprise’ – agile, responsive…

Secondly, we need to prepare for and embrace the world of ‘cloud’ – it’s doubtful that companies will all of a sudden go wholesale into the cloud, but it makes sense to work towards a hybrid model, where core services are managed internally, but tier two applications are consumed in this model.

I’ll post in a forthcoming blog on how Softcat are following this model as we evolve our own IT to support our next phase of growth.

The overwhelming view was that business is starting to outpace IT, and that the old model of restricting access for control (cross reference Mordac!) will lead to IT being bypassed. IT need to spend less time building things, and more time acting as a procurer, service-delivery-manager and broker of cloud-based services. There’s a lot of work still to be done in making this hybrid model a coherent whole for the consumers of IT services – and HP feel they have a strong play in this space.

So where does this fit in to HP’s vision of Converged Infrastructure that we have heard so much about? The point is that by bringing together a coherent stack of infrastructure, and most importantly delivering the software to manage it, will enable this fluid and agile environment. HP’s commonality of components across the range will drive down cost for customers as well. Of course, HP will still interoperate with other products where customers require – but the message was that this will be more expensive and harder to implement and manage. Is that a message that rings true within your organisation?

An interesting discussion followed, amongst the customers who had joined us. We had one organisation, set up as a ‘green field’ about eight years ago, who were real consumers of cloud services, with really only the key differentiating services delivered internally. Another company consider themselves a theoretical convert, but in looking into infrastructure as a service, they decided they could do it cheaper themselves!

The regulatory landscape and security concerns were both hot topics. I felt that the prevailing view here was that companies are more likely to consume services from smaller, friendlier local providers who could guarantee the geographical location of their data, rather than the large-scale, worldwide providers such as Google and Amazon. I’m hoping that’s the case; as you can imagine that would suit Softcat!

I thought I would round off this post with a few interesting things I learnt about HP that you may not know:

Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter all run on HP servers

HP have licensed their inkjet technology to a pharmaceutical company – the precise droplet delivery enables exact doses of anti-cancer medication to be delivered without needles, apparently

HP sell 2 PCs a second, and a server every 11 seconds!

HP’s European datacenter is in, believe it or not, Middlesborough! It’s not under any flight path, and it’s one of the coldest and windiest places in the UK – so the cooling is almost exclusively fresh air! This saves £16m a year in power that would have been needed for the aircon.

To cloud or not to cloud.. (part 1, I suspect!)

February 3, 2011

In between driving 450 miles yesterday, I managed to spend some time with two customers, and, as you might expect in this day and age, the conversation turned to ‘cloud’.
One organisation, a retailer, is going gung-ho for cloud. The centralised/distributed model, with a migration to operational expenditure, really suits them. They are also giving consideration to what their next generation of access devices might look like, including the potential of tablets in-store – even more reason to access services from the cloud (or perhaps cloud-delivered services is more of a reason for the tablets- but I suspect that is more about serving customers).
The other company is a financial organisation, holding many and various sensitive data within their systems. For them, any form of public cloud is an absolute no, as regulations dictate that they know exactly where their data are. Having said that, they are well down the road towards a private cloud strategy – heavily virtualised for starters, and beginning to wrap the ITIL based processes around the infrastructure that will mean that they can deliver IT as a service.
I guess my point is that this cloud thing is by no means cut-and-dried, and there are many ways to approach it depending on the needs of your business. As always with this sort of thing, that’s the place to start! Let’s not do cloud because it is cool or sexy- or because the CEO thinks it is the latest buzz. Let’s do it where there is a benefit to the business.
Same as any technology acquisition decision then, I hope!

Future of desktop apps?

September 13, 2010

I loved this article on the BBC website; quite a prophetic vision and one to which I certainly subscribe. Maybe I’m blinded by my love of handheld and slightly larger portable computing devices such as the iPad – but it certainly feels to me as if app-based computing is the most likely contender for the major future model.

I guess it will take us a while to get there, but in the meantime of course centralised computing (VDI, presentation virtualisation etc) will act as a staging post in much the same way as x86 server virtualisation seems to be a stop on the way to Platform-as-a-Service-based cloud computing… Or have I just got my head in the clouds today?