Microsoft and T-Systems Find Innovative Solution To Address Customer Data Privacy Concerns

Paul Miller

The big public cloud providers, most of which are still from the United States, sometimes have a hard time finding ways to balance their legal obligations at home with the quite different sensitivities they encounter amongst their new international customers. For a long time, the toolkit has been pretty consistent: site data centres as close to the customer as possible, vehemently support political efforts to harmonize laws, and ocassionally be seen to stand up to the worst execesses of Government over-reach.

Photo of German and European flags in Berlin, from Flickr user Luigi Rosa
(Source: Flickr user Luigi Rosa. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License)

Microsoft's announcements in Germany today appear, on the surface, to follow that model pretty closely. But there's a twist that's potentially very important as we move forward.

First, the standard bit. Microsoft, yesterday, announced new data centres will be operational in the UK next year, joining existing European facilities in Dublin and Amsterdam. Big competitor Amazon did much the same last week, announcing that a new UK data centre will be online in the UK by "2016 or 2017." Given the vague timescales, it might be easy to assume that Amazon was trying to steal a little of Microsoft's thunder with a half-baked pre-announcement. And then, today, Microsoft announced two new data centres in Germany. Amazon already has a facility there, of course.

So, why's this interesting? 

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The Emergence Of The German Digital Autobahn Ecosystem

Dan Bieler

A few days ago, at an event hosted by Continental, Deutsche Telekom AG, Fraunhofer ESK, and Nokia Networks, I came across an interesting example of an emerging mobile Internet-of-Things (IoT) solution: the initiative to “connect the Autobahn” in Germany. The goal of the Digitales Testfeld Autobahn initiative is to develop a platform that allows a wide range of players to access a common platform for digital services in the context of Germany’s road infrastructure. The event also included a test drive to highlight how driving “assistants” in connected cars could communicate with a latency of about 15 milliseconds. Discussions at the event underlined several insights that CIOs should consider when devising mobile IoT solutions:

  • Ecosystem partnerships create more value for IoT solutions than standalone approaches. At the event, Deutsche Telekom’s CEO, Continental’s Head of Interior Electronic Solutions, Nokia’s VP of Strategy, Fraunhofer-Institute’s Head of Embedded Systems, and Germany’s Minister for Transport all pointed to the necessity for close cooperation to make the “digital Autobahn” platform work. Proprietary OEM technologies will not boost the connected road infrastructure. Continental told us that open IoT systems create more value than closed systems for the company and its customers. To uncover its true potential, the “digital Autobahn” platform will also need to be open to third parties like weather forecasters, retailers, and entertainment companies. This means that CIOs need to support open APIs.
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Predictions 2016: Welcome To The Digital Savvy, Customer Obsessed CIO

Nigel Fenwick

It’s that time of year! The time when every prognosticator comes up with their predictions for the next year. And this year my colleague Pascal and I took the lead in developing our 2016 predictions for the CIO role.

Rather than call out banal and obvious trends I wanted to make a stronger call on the CIO role in particular. In part this is because so many people gleefully post blogs predicting the demise of the CIO. And in part simply because it sometimes feels like I see the role of the CIO differently to many; as first and foremost a business leader.

So will 2016 be the end of the CIO role as we know it?

“No" is my simple answer. In 2016 the Age Of The Customer will further accelerate the role of technology in creating new sources of customer value to drive revenue. As a result we’ll see more and more CEOs expecting their CIOs to help lead their firm toward a clear digital future.

CEOs realize that, increasingly, future growth is tied to their ability to continuously deliver new digital services that create value for customers – across both B2C and B2B business environments. But failure to meet evolving customer expectations will result in losing customers and ultimately lower revenue growth. Without a technology team focused on building the digital platforms of tomorrow, companies cannot hope to keep up with their evolving customer expectations. 2016 will be a pivotal year for CIOs and CEOs – one that will see a significant change in leadership thinking when it comes to a company’s technology capabilities and digital assets.

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Forrester’s 2016 Data Predictions: Out With Data Pack Rats. Turn Data Into Action

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Instinctively we know that it is not just about collecting the data. Big and bigger doesn’t necessarily make you smart and smarter.  It just makes you one of those pack rats that has piles of stuff in all corners of your house.  Yes, it might be very well organized and could have a potential use that makes it work keeping. But will you ever take it out and use it? Will you ever really benefit from what you’ve so painstakingly collected? Likely not.

Image GalleryDon’t be a data pack rat.  This is the year to turn your data into actions and positive business outcomes.

In 2016, the energy around data-driven investments will continue to elevate the importance of data and create incremental improvement in business performance for many but some serious digital disruption for others.  Here are a few of our data predictions for 2016.

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Atos’ Acquisition Of Unify Offers The Potential For A New Enterprise Collaboration Platform

Dan Bieler

French IT service provider Atos has reached an agreement to acquire Unify, a provider of integrated communication solutions, from The Gores Group and Siemens for an enterprise value of €590 million, of which €340 million is cash. Unify’s 5,600 employees generated an estimated €1.2 billion in revenue in 2014. Atos, 12% of which is owned by Siemens, hopes to finalize the deal in the first quarter of 2016.

Over the past few years, Unify has managed to transform its portfolio from traditional PBX products to robust, scalable, and carrier-grade solutions for IP voice, web collaboration, video conferencing, mobility, and advanced messaging; clients can add these to existing communication infrastructure to enhance business processes and productivity. However, this transformation wasn’t always easy for Unify’s customers, as it brought disruption and often meant integration and transition assistance. What can Unify’s customers expect should the Atos deal materialize? We believe that the deal will:

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OpenStack Pushes Local Stories In Tokyo

Paul Miller

I was in Tokyo last week, for the latest OpenStack Summit. Over 5,000 people joined me from around the world, to discuss this open source cloud project's latest - Liberty - release, to lay the groundwork for next year's Mitaka release, and to highlight stories of successful adoption.

Tokyo's Hamarikyu Gardens combine old with new (Source: Paul Miller)

And, unlike many events, this wasn't a hermetically sealed bubble of blandly anodyne mid-Atlantic content, served up to the same globe-trotting audience in characterless rooms that could so easily have been in London, Frankfurt, or Chicago. Instead, we heard from local implementers of OpenStack like Fujitsu, Yahoo! Japan, and - from just across the water - SK Telecom and Huawei. 

In keynotes, case studies, and deep-dive technical sessions, attendees learned what worked, debated where to go next, and considered the project's complicated relationship to containers, software-defined networks, the giants of the public cloud, and more.

My colleague, Lauren Nelson, and I have just published a Quick Take to capture some of our immediate impressions from the event. As our report discusses, the Foundation is making some good progress but there are a number of clear challenges that must still be addressed. How well do you think the Foundation is addressing the challenges we discuss?

AT&T Delivers Its Network On Demand

Dan Bieler

I believe that network-as-a-service-type offerings — where customers can control the provisioning and characteristics of their network transport services — will have a long-term impact on those enterprises undertaking digital transformation. Businesses that fail to recognize the significance of quality network infrastructure will undermine their digital business strategy. Secure, stable network connectivity is a prerequisite for using cloud, mobile, big data, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) solutions. As the business technology (BT) agenda gains momentum, CIOs are looking to technologies like virtualization and cloud that create agility by dynamically responding to business conditions. Network infrastructure has been a laggard on this score — until now.

AT&T has unveiled its solution, Network on Demand. It’s the basis for a new category of services aligned with customer requirements, including self-service access, control, and configuration of network bandwidth and features like security, routing, and load balancing. Network on Demand:

  • Gives customers control of network services. Network on Demand offers a completely different customer experience regarding network provisioning. Near-real-time provisioning via a self-service portal makes the customer’s network responsive to business needs.
  • Is a real game changer in the realm of connectivity solutions. As on-demand networks take off, products have the potential to become features on an access pipe that customers can turn on and off rather than remaining standalone "silo production".
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Mobile Solutions For The Internet Of Things Raise The Prospects For Edge Computing

Dan Bieler

Source: Forrester

I recently attended IBM BusinessConnect 2015 in Germany. I had great discussions regarding industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrie 4.0 solutions as well as digital transformation in the B2B segment. One issue that particularly caught my attention: edge computing in the context of the mobile IoT.

Mobility in the IoT context raises the question when to use a central computing approach versus when to use edge computing. The CIO must decide whether solution intelligence should primarily reside in a central location or at the edge of the network and therefore closer to (or even inside) mobile IoT devices like cars, smart watches, or smart meters. At least three factors should guide this decision:

  • Data transmission costs. The costs of data transmission can quickly undermine any mobile IoT business case. For instance, aircraft engine sensors collect massive amounts of data during a flight but send only a small fraction of that data in real time via satellite connectivity to a central data monitoring center while the plane is in the air. All other data is sent via Wi-Fi or traditional mobile broadband connectivity like UMTS or LTE once the plane is on the ground.
  • Mobile bandwidth, latency, and speed. The available bandwidth limits the amount of data that can be transmitted at any given time, limiting the use cases for mobile IoT. For instance, sharing large volumes of data about the turbines of a large container ship and detailed inventory measurements of each container on board is completely impractical unless the ship is close to a coastal area with high mobile broadband connectivity.
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Amazon Web Services Pushes Enterprise And Hybrid Messages At re:Invent

Paul Miller

The hordes gathered in Las Vegas this week, for Amazon's latest re:Invent show. Over 18,000 individuals queued to get into sessions, jostled to reach the Oreo Cookie Popcorn (yes, really), and dodged casino-goers to hear from AWS, its partners and its customers. Las Vegas may figure nowhere on my list of favourite places, but the programme of Analyst sessions AWS laid on for earlier in the week definitely justified this trip.

The headline items (the Internet of Things, Business Intelligence, and a Snowball chucked straight at the 'hell' that is the enterprise data centre (think about it)) are much-discussed, but in many ways the more interesting stuff was AWS' continued - quiet, methodical, inexorable - improvement of its current offerings. One by one, enterprise 'reasons' to avoid AWS or its public cloud competitors are being systematically demolished.

Not headline-worthy, but important. And, as I and a number of my colleagues note in our Quick Take view on this week's show, AWS is most definitely turning up the heat. Frogs, we're told, don't know they're being boiled alive if you just turn up the heat slowly. CIOs, hopefully, are paying more attention to the warmth of AWS, all around them.

Microsoft Begins To Bridge The Smartphone/Laptop Divide With Windows 10

Tim Sheedy
On 6th October, 2015 Microsoft launched a number of new devices into the market, including the Microsoft Surface 4, Surface Book, and a number of new Lumia smartphones. While the hardware is certainly attractive, that is not enough to peak my interest, nor that of my clients. What is interesting, however, is the introduction of the Microsoft Display Dock and Continuum for phones. This new technology allows users to connect their smartphone to a screen, keyboard, and mouse and use the smartphone on a large screen – running universal Windows apps designed for the PC and phone. Suddenly the power of Windows 10 as a universal operating system can be realized.
While not a complete PC experience, it will be enough for a lot of users within your business. Most firms have employees that only require casual PC access (think site staff in construction firms, store management in retail, traveling sales staff, factory floor management teams etc). At present we spend more than we need to in order to serve these employees – often providing a dedicated PC or laptop for them – along with their smartphone. In a world where universal Windows apps are readily available, many or all of these users could be given a smartphone and a Display Dock to use with a screen on-site or at home – helping you save money and direct this spending perhaps to rewriting your internal applications as universal Windows apps. Even a communal screen and dock would be enough in some workplaces.
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