Technology, Infrastructure and Cloud Focused.

Father of 3 lovely children, geek, infrastructure expert, technical architect and all round technologist.

Webcast: Enterprise storage in flash – all flash array

Join myself, HP (well HPE), Freeform Dynamics and The Register for a live webcast (yes internationally and live!!) to discuss the real world benefits of moving to all flash storage array’s in the Enterprise.

At first people look at the financial impact of flash based arrays without analyising the benefits, saving on spinning disk or event the CAPEX VS the OPEX financial models.  This webcast will take you on a journey of a real implementation, the up front business case produced and then the realisation of additional benefits that could not have been foreseen.

We detail not only HPE’s storage on-demand cost optimisation but also the intangible business benefits we saw post the implementation.

You can register for the webcast here – http://whitepapers.theregister.co.uk/paper/view/4230/

2016 Update:

Please find a recorded version of this webcast on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhDyqEl3xe4

My 2013 Technology Predictions

Welcome to my 2013 Predictions.

Technology Trends for 2013

Picture thanks to Flickr and future tech_26

I cannot really say Happy New Year this far into January however as tradition I wanted to get my thoughts and predictions for 2013.  This is my yearly post where we look back on 2012, the technological advances or trends of last year and more importantly look forward to 2013 and see what the next 12 months will bring into the Tech Industry.  Of course I will still add that these are my own independent opinions and not related to an vendor or manufacturers.

The past 2012:

So what why the highlights for you in 2012, myself it includes the following summary:

  1. Apple – We had the iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPad Mini (still thinking of getting one but I suspect as you will see below I may wait until the iPad Mini 2 comes out, depending on rummors) and the updated lines on the iMac, Mac Book Air and Pro.
  2. Cloud – Well before we keep talking about different cloud service models such as IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, Public, Private, Hybird and Hyper Hybird.  We saw Amazon AWS take off and go up against Microsoft Azure and the success of Microsoft Office 365.  There had been so much talk and hype within the media around cloud, how you can save your CapEx budgets and move them into an OpEx Pay-As-You-Go model, not need to worry about infrastructure and have uptime statistics that we all dream of – all this for a simple credit card payment – Of course I am simplifying this but these are some of the attractions and benefits that cloud brings, but not without risk businesses need to ensure they assess, invest the time and select the right suppliers.  I could go into the Pro’s and Con’s and provide some real world experiences but they may come in a later post, for now the UK uptake has mainly been around Test and Development environments, small businesses or companies that are not regulated or come under any compliance rulings.
    • Some of the biggest cloud providers also suffer from issues, I believe Amazon had a number of failures within the US in 2012 not forgetting the NetFlex issues.    Microsoft had some issues towards the back end of last with some email issues – so it goes to show that these providers do from time to time have problems but of course I bet their downtime is still less then your own and their resilience and failover will only improve from these incidents.
  3. Big Data – My interupretation of Big Data is really the over hyped media of the next stage of evolution from data warehousing.  Vendors developing faster, better and more intelligent platforms to crunch, transform and analyise data.  These systems change from using structured relational databases to a more flat structure with intelligent logic to tackle to compute and analysis.  I am sure most enterprises have the move on their roadmap but of course we need to think of the operational issues around putting all your eggs into one basket so to speak – the larger these warehouses get the harder to support, backup, restore and make highly available it will be.
  4. Virtualisation – You may think it is strange for me to put this down, I am in agreement with you but having talked to a large number of peers in 2012 I was surprised to see how companies are still making the move to virtualisation and only just realising these benefits.  We see VMware having to bring out small business editions (or kits) of vSphere to tackle Microsoft or Zen dominating this market, lets see what 2013 brings us..!
  5. BYOD – So “Bring-Your-Own-Device”, we have seen how demand for consumer grade devices have been pushed into the business (both small business and enterprises) – why do people want a work desktop / laptop, smart phone, tablet and then their homes devices – surely we can work in a more smarter and agile way.  Of course for small businesses this makes sense and should help reduce their overheads but for enterprises the risks around data leakage and how to protect their corporate network from any old device is a problem.  To me this IT consumerisation demand brings back memories of the old main frame age – where we are going to have to provide a virtualised desktop or application streaming if we have any hope of BYOD take on.  Many new vendors operate in this space now to manage these devices and secure them as does vendors offering always on access to your data (business or personal) anywhere, any time and on any device.
  6. Ultrabooks – Following Apple and the Mac Book Air last year saw a number of small ultra portable laptops called Ultrabooks – this bridges the gap between laptops and tablets.  More to come on this below for my thoughts on 2013.

Moving into 2013

Ok so looking forward to the next 12 months what trends or predictions do I think we take over in this.  In summary I believe this will be the year of the desktop dimise moving more into the mobility space with companies looking more at their BYOD strategy or providing more laptops / come Ultrabooks.  Compound this with the mobile warrior work force or more companies reducing their overheads and pushing more flexible or home working policies in place.

So lets take a look at what I believe will trend this year:

  1. Ultrabooks – This year will see an explosion with the manufacturers bringing lighter, higher performance models and touch screen, so will tablets still be around with this – probably but it will be interesting to see what happens.  Lets look at what Windows 8 will bring, the touch experience will change how people interact with their computers – without touch screen I cannot use Windows 8 until they bring back the start menu within the desktop environment.  I do strongly believe that desktop sales will still keep reducing, Windows 8 sales will improve and mobility will increase.  
  2. Microsoft – So as mentioned Windows 8 is now released from the stats I saw before Christmas around 70 million copies sold worldwide which is approximately 4% down against the Windows 7 sales – but I do like the touch interface and the active tiles in a fantastic feature.  My issue is the desktop, going into the desktop environment is great and helps remind me of Windows 7 but where is the start menu?  Microsoft have removed this to force people going into the tile interface and setting up your applications in tiles, the only option is pressing Windows Key + X to pull up a small menu of features – now I know you can download Classic Shell from Source Forge or Start8 from StarDock.  I am sure with enough customer pressure we can force the inclusion within a Service Pack (please, please Microsoft) hence why you need a touch screen to get the full benefits of 8.  We now see Office 2013 coming into public release soon which I love, 2010 was brillent and now they have excelled with integrating this into your SkyDrive, abit the interface looks to “fancy” for more but Outlook and quick replying to emails is one of the best improvements I have soon for long time.  I am waiting to see if the Surface Pro takes off, personally I think it will enterprises will lap up the functionality and replace their iPad work force with these which can be secured and supported better compared to Apple. There is no forgetting SharePoint 2013 will be released with this wave including Exchange 2013.
  3. Apple – Ok I did not want to mention Apple but as I am typing this on my 1 year old Mac Book Air then I must – in my opinion Apple need to bring another game changer on the next gadget release this year – not just an Apple TV but something, I am not sure what or even if I can think of a gap.  If not then I feel other manufactures bringing out cheaper tablets will take the lead just like Samsung and their Galaxy S3.  Apple are rumoured to bring out the iPhone 6 with iOS 7, iPad Mini 2 and I am sure a refresh of hardware along their desktop and laptop range.  Lets hope the Mac Book Air’s get the retina display while keeping the battery life decent and maybe some cheaper iMac’s with touch screen would be good.
  4. Big Data – yes this will get more traction, more enterprises dipping their feet into the water.  Assessing companies, vendors and deployment options – instead of looking for on premise deployments could their be a marketing opening up for BigData-As-A-Service which will save companies time and improve costs.
  5. Hyper-V – More and more implementations and white papers are being released showing comparative stats and performance benchmarks of VMware / Zen VS Hyper-V 2012 – the ease of use, scaleability and license savings will show companies Microsoft means business.  More and more of their products are offering some form of free or discounted license model to deploy on Hyper-V servers this will be the year that Hyper-V is now a strong contender to VMware.
  6. Home Broadband – FTTC (Fibre-to-the-cabinet) or FFTP / FTTH ( Fibre-to-the-premise / house) Hopefully BT and the Government will help push this forward and we will see higher and higher speeds being brought into the house.
  7. Social Media – Well we have Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pininterest and Twitter to name a few.  Last week Facebook announced to the world their Graph Search this was collaboration with Bing (I think to start going up against Google) but this is not a text based search but more contextual, locational and based on your likes, dislikes and friends – so for example “What film shall I watch” should bring targeted films that I am interested in and then try XYZ cinema and is 3 miles away at 15:00.  We should see more business social media focus with enterprise tagging, attaching metadata and using more and more collaboration portals like Box, Huddle or Jive and for the people that know me SharePoint 2013 will be released.
  8. Cloud – One of my favourite topics at the moment and I am sure more vendors will release their offerings be it the newly formed BaaS, not Backup-As-A-Service but Backend-As-A-Service.  The big area’s I see here are:
    • Storage – More and more enterprise storage offerings will come out, we have seen in 2012 some issues with Dropbox, Oxygen Cloud focusing on the Enterprise, Citrix ShareFile, Google Drive and Microsoft increasing their Skydrive space.  More and more of these service will focus around businesses or teams to work on cloud drives that appear as a local network drive.
    • Cloud Backup – Or Backup-As-A-Service will find more businesses pushing their data out to provides for offsite storage / replication.  These facilities are very good in fact one I am testing at the moment had my test environment of 6 virtual machines configured within 20mins (excluding time for me to update the vm tools).
    • As-A-Service – These platforms will continue to grow and more and more vendors will be realising different spins or sales models the question is how do we engage or secure these providers and more importantly how do we de-ingest the data when we plan our exists
    • Copy Data Explosion (see below) – This is not something new but rather hidden within enterprises – the amount of wasted or copy data that sits within their infrastructure generally on Tier 1 (Flash, SSD or Fibre Channel Disks) or Tier 2 (NearLine or SATA) Storage.  These tiers have a high cost associated with them but server and storage admins do not take this into account when a request from a developer comes in to clone server 1 or virtual machine 2 or even clone a LUN from a database to work on or improve on.  We are know this is here but never really address it but IDC Analyst Ashish Nadkarni has some interesting facts and figures coming soon in his series of blog articles on the Copy Data issue.  One company is trying to soleve this issue by reducing the copy at the source and providing a single master copy that is hardly duplicated and if it is then this is primarily on tier 3 storage, couple this with backup, restore, continuity, data migration, SLA based classification and a simplified GUI all in a single platform meet Actifio.
  9. NFC – Near Field Communications – the technology starting to be embedded with phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and hopefully the iPhone 6.    This will allow the sharing of contact information or the ability to do something when compatible phones come near each other – one idea of this is what Moo.com are doing with businesses cards, embedding a chip into the card to pass over information or direct people to their website check this link for more details.
  10. Gaming – Will we see the Xbox 720 or PS4 this year?  What will be next for Sony?  Will they offer more cloud based gaming, or better 3D improvements – I will still go back to my 10 year fantasy of virtual reality umm maybe one day..!

So thats it for now, stay tuned and hopefully this year I aim to bring out a couple of posts each week on a variety of subjects that interests me, as a sample coming soon we look into improving my test lab, IT Consumerisation, backups, cloud and storage services.

Happy New Year.

Copy-Data-New

What is Copy Data

Blog Series – My experience with the first Mimecast implementation part 1

I wanted to build up a series of blog posts around my first experience with implementing the Mimecast solution.  These posts will be part of an on-going series, as we progress throughout the project so please check back our look at our twitter feed for more details.  Before diving into the detail I want to give an overview (in my opinion) of what the Mimecast Solution has to offer and then the reason(s) for selecting this product for the company I am working for at present.

Mimecast offer a complete cloud based unified messaging platform that offers the following services.  It is worth noting that Mimecast are currently the best of breed within the industry and look at the Bloor report for Best Practice Email Archiving comes top:-

1. Email Security, Anti Virus and Anti Spam filtering.

2. Email continuity – if you Exchange (internal or cloud hosted, such as Office 365 / BPOS) server goes offline then the Mimecast client (additional module) will redirect the traffic to the Mimecast cloud.

3. Email archiving – the default is 10 years but you have the option of unlimited storage, yes that’s right UNLIMITED..!  Microsoft Office plug-in to search the archive – just like a PST file.

4. eDiscovery and Litigation – the ability to securely search for mails or mailboxes under investigation.  You can define a very tight sign off and auditing procedure for this.

5. Email Migration – One of the biggest selling points of the continuity elements are the benefits to aiding Exchange migration to 2007 / 2010 or even off premise.

6. Blackberry continuity – those Blackberry outages last year are a thing of the past with Mimecast’s solution.  The ability to invoke Blackberry DR and route all your RIM email traffic through the Mimecast cloud.

7. Email Branding – the ability to multi-brand emails based on users, Active Directory groups, email addresses etc and have some limited reporting on how many recipients click back.

8. Secure attachment portal – remove the attachment and email the recipient a link to retrieve the document from a secure portal.

9. Convert attachments – convert attachments based on a rule-set to PDF.

10. Online based portal – Web based admin portal and Blackberry / iPhone based application to search the archive.

11.  100% Uptime and SLA – yes I said it Mimecast claim to offer 100% – I will report back on this.

12.  Data Sovereignty – yes, this is a massive benefit for me and one that I think will make cloud providers stand out – UK based data, securely encrypted within the UK (the data is written to a number of data centres at once).

 

As you can see with all the above features there is no wonder why this has become a truly “best of breed” technology.  Now the reasons for purchasing in this example is to replace an on-site email archiving, consolidate the current email security devices, dramatically reduce the onsite email storage, improve email continuity and provide a lower TCO.

So where am I now?

The process of implementing and on-boarding the Mimecast service is one of the best I have ever seen so far.  Very positive, organised and informational at each of the 3 phases:

1. Configure Outbound Routing.

2. Configure Inbound Routing.

3. Data Ingestion – Configure Exchange servers, export the data and roll out the Outlook client / plug-in.

Mimecast have a very good knowledge base system and provide free online training.  You get assigned dedicated engineers to assist at each phase with information provided via email, PDF and direct contact with the engineer.

The next post will going into the phase 1 Outbound configuration testing.

New EC Law – Businesses to report data breaches within the EU within 24hrs

I have been meaning to post this information up for the last 2 weeks.  Recently I came across an interesting article from the SC Magazine regarding a new EU Law that will apply to the 27 counties within the EU.  Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission in charge of justice, fundamental rights and citizenship mentioned that companies will need to report breaches within 24hrs.

The article goes on to explain the need and role of a data protection officer.  For more details please see the following link.

http://www.scmagazineuk.com/businesses-will-have-to-report-major-data-breaches-within-24-hours-under-new-ec-law/article/224624/ 

 

Our 2012 Technology Predictions

Firstly Happy New Year to you all, I know this post is slightly late into 2012 but as you can imagine we have been pretty busy working a couple of projects for the new year.  I wanted to write down a couple of ideas and opinions that I believe will set 2012 apart from last year, of course as always these are just my personal views.

Lets take a quick look back at what happened in 2011 before we look forward, what was released last year?  What was the focus last year in the technology industry:

1) Apple – Firstly and unfortunately we have lost a great leader, a visionary and a technological genius – R.I.P. Steve Jobs, we will never forget you.  Well we had the iPad 2 (or 1.5 depending on what your views are), the iPhone 4S and some new updated specifications on their “Air” range of Mac Books.

2) Cloud – Yes there you go I said it!!  This is one of my favourite subjects that I find very interesting, we all know this not a new concept or technology just evolution from Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) which of course has spawned from hosting companies providing large scalable private infrastructure.  Looking from the outside I do enjoy seeing how much up take there is from companies, both Small and Large thinking this is a new technology, of course I do understand and appreciate the benefits.  Indeed we are looking at designing a number of concepts within this space for 2012, granted it does allow businesses to cut down the over head of on-site hardware and scale out as and when the capacity is needed.

For summary the following services where launched in 2011 within the Cloud space:-

  • a) Office 365 – Microsoft launched its global domination of the Office 365 platform, an upgrade to the hosted BPOS (Business Productivity Online Services), incorporating Exchange 2010 online, SharePoint 2010 online, Lync 2010 online and Office Web Apps.  Having been an early adopter of the BPOS platform we made our own manual migration of Office 365 some 6 months ago and have not had any issues with the platform so far – we are now in the process of moving some of our clients over to this.
  • b) Microsoft Azure – Again Microsoft’s Infrastructure-As-A-Service platform delivering highly scalable and performant services.  This has seen significant growth not only with developers but also enterprises scaling out for various test, proof-of-concepts and production environments.
  • c) Cloud Storage – A number of vendors have introduced or expanded their services including LiveDrive (which we resell, email us quoting this post for a significant discount), Jungle Disk, Oxygen Cloud, Drop Box, Huddle, Box.net.

3) Social Media – With Google releasing its new Google+ service to take on Face Book, Twitter expanding by the day, LinkedIn focusing on advertising and PPC spaces.  It is obvious that this is a space to watch coming into 2012 and seeing what will happen.

So moving forward and into 2012……..

I believe this is going to be a very interesting year for Technology, when you review the Gartner predictions for the next 2 years, then think about the some of the points raised above I think the following spaces are worth considering and looking at for this year:-

1) Apple – Being an avid Apple fan it only makes sense to start with them, now if any of the rumours are true going around the Internet then within the next 2 months we should expect the iPad 3 – will this get 4G or just a higher resolution screen?  Will the iPad 4 be with us before the end of 2012 I have to wonder!  Now I am sure a hardware refresh will be on Apple’s road-map for their Mac Book’s, will they remove the 11″ Mac Book Air?  Now the iPhone is an interesting point, I am sure the iPhone 5 will be released to the specification that the iPhone 4S should have been.

2) Hardware – This will be the year of the tablet and ultra notebooks, allowing for the mobile warrior to finally get the powerful hardware they may need.  These devices will become more and more important in business, with Executives and management demanding the removal of their laptops and adoption of these powerful and lightweight devices.  Enterprises now need to seriously consider how these devices could integrate securely into their networks, software virtualisation playing a key part within this delivery.

3) Cloud – With the UK’s Government introducing the G-Cloud Alliance and the expected growth of Cloud Services 2012 (and even 2013) will be the year of security for Cloud providers ensuring the confidence with their services.  Data placement will be an interesting area, especially for UK or Data Protection aware companies demanding that their Cloud data resides int he UK.  I hear Microsoft made this mistake with their European Data Centre being located in Ireland, it would not surprise me to see if Microsoft build a new UK based Data Centre will be provisioned this year.  Enterprises will start to explore the use of hybrid based cloud services allowing them to cherry pick the best services from different cloud providers – again integration of these will be interesting potentially forcing companies to build an internal cloud to support such activities.  More businesses will look to remove the onsite hardware or consolidate their Data Centres into these environments, personally we will be looking to build out our lab environment in the cloud.

4) Hosting – More and more companies demanding cloud services mean this hardware needs to reside in a facility, therefore more demand for Data Centre and Co-Location suites will be on the rise.  Interestingly I think this will force hosting providers to search for more “green” or Eco-friendly solutions for power requirements.  Recycling environmental air, solar / wind / water power and even using the good old UK weather for air cooling.

5) Web and Social – Well we now have HTML 5, tablets currently dominating the market that do not support flash, let us guess where this could be going!!!  Social media will increase, from a business perspective we are seeing more and more companies focus on social media channels for customer service, marketing, branding and company reputation initiatives.  Of course Twitter and Face Book lead these channels but with Face Book having such negative propaganda from its privacy settings will the number of users reduce?  We are already seeing the children of Generation X and Y people moving away from Face Book to the likes of Imbee, Togetherville 3D virtually communities such as Outerworlds, Activeworlds and Secondlife.  Will businesses embrace these technologies to archive their goals and strategies or just ignore them?  Will they just concentrate on pushing the traditional telephone based interactions or move towards LiveChat, Social Media and even 3D interactions – only the other day a friend of mine had an issue with his broadband line, as they use Twitter most days, an off the cuff comment regarding this resulted in an engineer being dispatched the next day to fix the issue – this channel of interaction fixed within 20mins rather than the 7 calls he made before to sort the same issue out!!!

So let me know your thoughts and don’t forget those New Year’s resolutions…..