CategoryMidsize Business

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.

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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)

IT trends 2016: IT budgets are growing

 

it-201637% of companies expect spending on their corporate IT to grow in 2016. 15% of the companies even expect the growth rate to be in the double digits. In contrast, 21.3% of IT managers are facing budget cuts.

The preliminary results of the annual trend study conducted by the French management consultancy Capgemini show that CIOs also expect increasing investment in IT for the following year, whereas forecasts for 2018 are somewhat more restrained.

The expenditure breakdown reveals that more is slated for updates, upgrades and enhancements than in previous years. The proportion of these investments is increasing from 20.9 to 22.7%. IT departments are thereby clearly responding to the specialist departments’ complaints about outdated equipment. These increases are nevertheless at the cost of investments in new systems: They will account for only 16.6% of expenditure in 2016, whereas the figure was 20.9% for the current year. Dr Uwe Dumslaff, Chief Technology Officer at Capgemini in Germany, criticises this development: He feels the digital transformation cannot be carried out with updates, and that this requires taking more radical steps.

Another trend Capgemini has identified is the transfer of responsibilities for the  budget from CIOs to the specialist departments. Many of them are apparently dissatisfied with their IT departments: 15.9% want to engage external providers in the future as their own specialists cannot deliver fast enough. This figure was only 12.9% in 2015.

The transfer of IT budgets to the specialist departments currently already affects more than 60% of companies and is being increasingly criticised by CIOs. They fear that doing so will result in a shadow Information Technology and new data silos. According to CIOs, the specialist departments are spending significantly less on IT overall than in previous years; their share in the total budget decreased from 17.3 to 12%. (Source: Capgemini)

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)

Big Data: How data analysis can be optimised

Efficiently utilising large quantities of data requires more than just buying corresponding analysis tools. Fundamental changes must also be made in terms of the approach. Otherwise, by 2017, around 60% of the current projects to analyse big data will be halted within the pilot or experimentation phase.

This is at least what market research company Gartner predicts, while also offering tips as to how companies can prevent big data implementation failure:

Choose a task that promises quick results.
Find a current problem that either offers high business benefits or rapid success. This could be the operational decisions of the day, tactical considerations in areas like planning, or individual strategic decisions, such as expanding into another country.
Commission third-party companies and buy finished programme packages.
Many companies believe it is better to establish a central analysis department with its own tools. However, for rapid success, it is often of benefit to commission an external service provider or buy modern analysis software to demonstrate the value of big data analyses for a certain problem.
Identify the key players in your company who need to be won over.
It is the naysayers, pessimists and decision-makers who you have to get on your side. The most difficult task is always to change people’s beliefs. A business case that shows the value of big data analyses helps with this. What’s more, it is generally necessary to establish a business culture based on data.
Consider whether you actually want to set up the expertise and tools in-house.
An in-house solution is not the best method in every case. It is only sensible if a) the analyses in one’s own sector are an important USP or if the sector is of strategic importance, b) highly flexible and granular control is required and c) there is the possibility in the company to apply the analyses in numerous fields of application or business sectors. (Source: Gartner/rf)

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