CategoryMidsize Technology

Cloud: New networks are emerging from virtualised infrastructures

Cloud computing, the Internet of Things and new mobile technologies are also posing new challenges for networks. Industry is responding with an open network platform.

The four major issues that currently dominate the discussion in IT – big data, cloud computing, mobility and the Internet of Things – will require significant changes to the infrastructure of data centres in the coming years. Virtualisation, without which cloud computing in its present form would not be possible, is particularly important in this regard. However, while virtualised servers and increasingly also virtualised storage become the norm, networks are largely continuing to stick to their traditional structures. They create strong connections between clients and servers and establish gateways for communication between multiple networks. However, in a world in which virtualised workloads change quickly, this concept is too static. Even the expansion and extension of networks will not change that reality.

The path to software-controlled Cloud  data centres

In a future in which billions of devices are linked together on the Internet of Things and transmission rates are many times higher than current levels, networks must be able to react quickly and flexibly to ever more rapidly changing requirements. This is only possible, however, if they too are virtualised, highly automated, and integrated under unified management. This will result in a software-defined data centre (SDDC) or a software-defined infrastructure (SDI) with completely virtualised components, from the server to the storage device through to the network.

Cloud

Cloud

This virtualisation of networks can only be achieved through greater interoperability between the components of different manufacturers. This is the only way to transfer the proprietary control of the network hardware to a single console for the entire data centre, which then allows for uniform configuration. This, in turn, requires the definition of open standards that facilitate direct communication between the hardware and software of different manufacturers.

Interoperability in the consortium

Intel has launched the Intel Network Builders initiative for this purpose. It is intended to support and accelerate the pending transformation by developing solutions for software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV) in the networks of telecommunications companies and data centres. The programme aims to bring together service providers and users with infrastructure, software and technology manufacturers.

More than 180 companies have already joined this initiative; the list includes Brocade, CA, Canonical, Cisco, HP, Huawei, Infosys, NEC, Overture, SuSE, VMware and Oracle, among others. The (still short) list of users includes, for example, China Telecom, Nasdaq, NTT and Telefonica.

In mid-August 2015 Intel also launched a Network Builders Fast Track, which is designed to further promote the interoperability of different products by developing optimised hardware and software solutions and by integrating technology.

SDDCs require uniform standards

It is already foreseeable today that the networks of tomorrow will no longer be controllable by human administrators. They will have to be replaced by automatic mechanisms. The software-defined data centre is an important step in this direction. Before the software can take over the control, however, the hardware must first follow uniform standards. (rf)

Mobile customers expect top performance

E-commerce can look forward to a bright future. By the same token, customers are becoming increasingly demanding. Above all else, providers need to better cater to the target group of mobile users.

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Online customers are buying more than ever before. The most important trend here is that the number of buyers shopping on mobile devices has increased by a factor of 2.5 in the course of the past five years. This was the finding of the “2014 Consumer Web Performance Expectations Survey”, which was compiled by the service provider Akamai in collaboration with market researchers of the global market research company TNS.

On a similar note, Ericsson, the Stockholm-based manufacturer of base stations for mobile communications, estimates that the number of smartphone contracts will increase by 15% per year by 2020, resulting in 6.1 billion smartphones online worldwide. This has significant implications for e-commerce: in 2009, only 16% of smartphone owners bought online, but this figure soared to 40% by 2014.

Customers scared away by long mobile loading times

Mobile shoppers represent a challenging and dynamic target group, one which buys more, as well as more frequently, than PC users. But as expectations grow, so does impatience. Just over half of respondents are not prepared to wait longer than two seconds for a page to load. Japanese customers are particularly demanding and only accept page loading times of less than one second.

The operators of online shops now have their work cut out to provide buyers with a pleasant shopping experience. Long loading times or unavailable websites are the main annoyance. Operators should primarily make sure that their online platforms are scalable to the extent that they can offer more and more visitors a fast and trouble-free connection.

The aforementioned Akamai survey also found that customers with smartphones and tablets spend more money than PC users, spending on average around €160 per month (compared to around €100 for PC users). More than half of online purchases are made in the categories of fashion and footwear, followed by books, songs, films and video games. Somewhat further behind are online purchases in the categories of travel, computers, electronics and office supplies.

Top performance is key on Black Friday

In the United States, there are particular load peaks on occasions such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, caused by promotions and customised marketing campaigns. As a service provider, Akamai recorded three times more data traffic on the last Black Friday than in all of 2014, and four times more than in 2013. This is not surprising because the fourth Friday in November has been the strongest sales day of the year for both the stationary and online trade since 2005.

It would be disastrous for an online shop to have poor availability on those particular days. The Aberdeen Group estimates that a website with a daily turnover of US$ 100,000 loses around US$ 2.5 million per year when its pages are slow to load. The reason for this is that half of the disappointed users continue their shopping on another platform. One in five will not return to a poor website a second time. Disappointed shoppers tend not to come back. (Source: Akamai)

Mobility and IoT challenging companies

To be as well-prepared as possible for changes to company IT, IT managers should be aware of the latest trends, incl. IoT an mobility. Indisputably, the PC has lost its leading role as the workhorse in the office. Yet how does the working environment look today and in the near future?

According to a recent Citrix report, the total number of mobile devices used in companies over the past year has increased by 72%. At the same time, more and more employees are working outside the office. In responding to this change in working method, simply providing mobile devices is not enough. Instead, comprehensive mobility solutions and the right tools to manage the devices via remote access are needed.

IoT CloudAs more and more employees take their private devices to work, the way employees and companies access information has fundamentally changed. According to a 2014 IDG study, 82% of the companies surveyed had to change their IT network due to the increasing use of private devices in working life. They also considered themselves forced to introduce new guidelines for internal data exchange, and they required new software and hardware to prepare themselves for the coming challenges.

The Scottish platform provider LogicNow assesses the current Windows 10 as an impressive operating system. Companies, however, continue to be challenged when it comes to backing up and protecting data within the system. Apart from a few initial technical problems and security concerns, Windows 10 shows real improvements, including new features such as single sign-on and two-factor authentication. And the IT service providers should be able to answer questions about security, compatibility and provision of the new software in order to enable a smooth transition.

IoT – machines are learning

Machine learning has the potential to fundamentally change the way companies provide their IT services. However, not many have concerned themselves with the topic in more depth. Using the available databases, further results based on real-time data can be acquired. This real-time data is based on data points for the managed devices and is collected by a management platform.

The market researchers from IDG thus also expect that the global market for IoT devices and services will exceed the turnover limit of $7 bn by 2020. This statistic is giving many companies an insight into the need for an IoT strategy. In view of the current hype surrounding IoT, it is still difficult to decide what aspects are realistic and feasible. Yet to prepare the strategy and implementation as effectively as possible, it is important to begin the learning process now. (Source: MAXfocus)

Data security: Used devices are a treasure trove for cyber-criminals

Security

Business documents or a company’s intellectual property getting into the wrong hands can have grave consequences. However, on many used end devices, hard discs and SSDs there is still old data of widely varying kinds that can be misused by cyber-criminals.

According to Blancco and Kroll Ontrack, in an examination of 122 used devices, 48% of the hard discs and SSDs still had residual data on them. On 35% of the mobile devices, old emails, calls lists, text messages, photos and videos could be called back up. A more detailed examination showed that on 57% of the mobile devices and 75% of the storage media this data had actually been deleted.

Delete is not Security

Standard deletion methods may seem reliable but often do not eliminate the data permanently. Companies and consumers therefore need to understand which deletion methods are effective and not blindly to trust that a simple deletion will remove everything for good.

It is especially difficult to wipe out content and communication data on mobile devices. This is because manual deletion or signing out of an app does not remove the data from the device. Deleting in this way means only that the data cannot be located by the system. Physically, though, the data continue to exist and can be restored relatively easily. In the worst-case scenario, the remaining emails and text messages cause personal or financial damages for the user or their employer.

When it comes to hard discs and SSDs, whether the data are actually deleted after formatting depends on the operating system. The standard options for deleting files often lure the user into a false sense of security. Quick-formatting or reformatting are also common but unreliable methods. To ensure that no data can be restored, deletion software should be used to fully overwrite the data. (Source: Blancco)

Internet of Things: How do we save the connected world?

The Internet of Things (IoT) will radically change our lives. However, while the risks of this brave new world are already apparent, there may still be time for the industry to learn from past mistakes in IT security.

 

Internet of ThingsThere are forecast to be around 212 billion IoT devices in use in 2020, with 30 billion of these machines and appliances being automatically connected. Their software is expected to collect up to 30 million petabytes of data across both consumer and industrial applications. In the light of these impressive IDC figures, Belgian security expert Eddy Willems from the anti-virus manufacturer G DATA has pointed out the security problems arising from the widespread use of interconnected “things”. One area that Willems addresses in a recently published article relates, in particular, to the increasingly popular fitness tracker.

Health data for scammers and extortionists

The virus institute AV-TEST was largely satisfied with the results of their investigation into data transmission from trackers to smartphones and then from smartphones to the cloud. The testers pointed out, however, that none of the products in the study were able to achieve the highest security level. There is a risk that hackers could intercept data during transmission.

For Willems, this raises a number of worrying scenarios. As organisations such as health insurance companies seem determined to offer special, and often cheaper, rates to those who wear fitness trackers, there is a growing temptation for people to reduce their own contributions by using data belonging to their neighbours, colleagues or even complete strangers. For this to go unnoticed, the targeted insurance customer only needs be around the same age as the attacker. In other, more drastic scenarios, hackers gain access to the software for insulin pumps or pacemakers and attempt in this way to extort money from patients.

More and more security vulnerabilities in connected cars

The attention of security experts has long been focused on new connected cars, which were dubbed “smartphones on wheels” by the former German Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. A series of unsettling news reports about security vulnerabilities have come to light in the course of 2015. Fiat Chrysler was forced to recall 1.4 million Jeep models after a successful cyber attack. Hackers succeeded in remotely controlling the brakes of a Corvette. And, at the start of the year, a software update for BMW’s ConnectedDrive technology had to be given to 2.2 million cars, which otherwise could have had their doors unlocked with just the use of a smartphone.

Such updates are likely to be increasingly necessary for the cars of the future. This begs the question as to how they should be carried out. A workshop recall is the safe option, but this is expensive and inconvenient for vehicle owners. Automatic software distribution such as via mobile networks would be considerably cheaper. However, this also carries the risk of criminals tampering with update mechanisms.

Customers expect verifiable security policies

From these examples, Eddy Willems concludes that it is high time for the IoT sector to develop policies that can be used to monitor the security of connected products. He proposes that an independent organisation or institute should be established for this purpose. One already in place is the Online Trust Alliance, which, with its IoT Trust Framework, is intended to provide manufacturers and developers with appropriate guidelines for improving the security of their products. The initiative also promotes the development of best practices in data security, privacy and sustainability.

What we need, for example, are security concepts following the model of Security by Design. This means working to achieve the highest possible level of security, especially in terms of software, right from the development stage of a product. The history of IT has shown that whenever this is not the case, the resulting flaws are almost impossible to handle. Companies must no longer be allowed to bring products to the market without considering security first – only then to attempt to rectify one new vulnerability after another with an endless series of retroactive security updates. (Source: G DATA)

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