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Simplifying IT Complexity in the Public Sector

Simplifying IT Complexity in the Public Sector

Written by Roberto Mircoli, CTO EMEA, Virtustream

Government and public sector organisations continue to seek ways to improve services and mitigate the risk of migrating mission-critical applications to the cloud.

 Already, many organisations, focused on improving the citizen experience, have set their sights on the cloud. Flexible, agile and affordable, managed cloud can accelerate the agency mission. Still, CIOs are cautious about which applications to prioritise and what steps they must take to ensure the reality fulfils the promise.

In the US, since the White House released the Cloud First Policy in 2011, organisations are prioritising the evaluation of cloud computing before making any new investments in IT infrastructure or software. Likewise in the UK, the government set out its plan to adopt a ‘Cloud First’ policy for public sector IT back in 2013. As a result, worldwide organisations have cautiously deployed sub-sets of applications in the cloud, like email, and an increasing number of organisations have undertaken projects to develop cloud-native applications; and successful deployments and more cloud choices are increasing public sector confidence in cloud.

The Benefits of Cloud Are Real

Originating with the government, mission-critical is a term now used by all organisations to describe the crucial dependency of an organisation on an application and its relationship with the business of governing. Delivering mission-critical applications more efficiently by leveraging the automation‑intensive operating models of cloud service providers which specialise on mission‑critical workloads and related managed services saves taxpayers’ money, strengthens security and enables government and public sector organisations to do more with constrained budgets. Migrating legacy workloads and applications to the cloud frees up the budget and skilled resources to tackle transformative new projects and programmes.

The financial incentives for migrating traditional applications to the cloud are real. In fact industry analysts estimate that in 2018 70% of the $95.7 billion U.S. federal IT budget will be spent on operating and maintaining existing IT investments, and that percentage figure will be similar in the UK.

Migration Speedbump: Reliance on Core Enterprise Applications

While modern, cloud native applications were designed to run in the cloud, most organisations still rely on a broad mix of existing mission-critical applications, many of which are legacy and not architected to operate in a cloud computing environment and leverage its scale‑out elasticity. Further complicating migration planning, applications may require stringent security or compliance controls to ensure that regulatory guidelines are met.

So while organisations are increasingly eager to move to the cloud, many soon realise that it takes considerable time and resources to plan, re-architect and manage the new solution. The majority of today’s mission-critical workloads do not fall into the category that makes it easy for public sector organisations to migrate and gain authority to operate (ATO) quickly and cost-effectively. Most general-purpose public cloud offerings do not allow these organisations to realise true IT transformation since the self-service nature of pure‑IaaS public clouds still requires organisations to perform most of the complex management activities themselves in order to support the workloads and the end-user base.

Cloud – The Public Face of Transformation

Public sector organisations need a better path to the cloud with secure and cost-effective managed cloud solutions that allow them not only to migrate their complex mission-critical applications to the cloud, but – most importantly – to also off‑load to their cloud service provider the heavy duty of related IT operations such as configuration, upgrades, patching, security, disaster recovery for those workloads. And government and public sector organisations in particular require a cloud purpose‑built to handle mission-critical applications for the most complex, highly secure IT landscapes in the world.

So, let’s consider some key characteristics of modern, managed public cloud purpose‑built for mission‑critical applications that Government and public sector organisations can take immediate benefit from.

Accelerate Time to Value

While public sector IT budgets remain stagnant or even decrease, expectations for and from new technologies are continually rising. Public sector and government organisations need to increase the performance and reliability while simultaneously managing and containing costs from their most expensive and time-consuming mission-critical applications. Organisations must be able to step into the cloud today by deploying existing applications with minimal changes and gain ATO sooner, versus taking a giant leap to re-architecting every application from scratch to be cloud-native, as this would take just too long, with often unpredictable associated costs and a high level of risk on the eventual outcomes.

Security and Compliance

Different applications have different use case characteristics and specific requirements which must be considered and guaranteed in their migration to the cloud; and this especially true and relevant for mission‑critical applications. For example, this includes understanding stringent security, compliance and high‑availability requirements to ensure that the migration to the cloud guarantees – or ideally even improves – crucial aspects such as continuity of operation and regulatory requirements while shortening time to value and gaining cost efficiency.

Manage Costs

More than ever, today organisations need to maximise their operational efficiency while increasing cost transparency and gaining the ability to allocate cost to specific programmes, allowing them to achieve improved financial flexibility to choose and rapidly deploy the right services and resources for the right workload. A true consumption-based pricing model allows government IT departments to only pay for what they actually use — improving economics beyond basic virtualisation, and freeing up budgetary funding to be allocated to other areas and initiatives which boost innovation and transformation.

Offload Management Burden

Cloud platform infrastructure – i.e., IaaS ‑ is only part of the mission-critical workload story. Organisations can experience true IT transformation through comprehensive IT management solutions that raise the bar on current operations and ensure that the most value and performance is gained from information infrastructures. Industry-leading methods and innovative tools now exist, providing real-time metrics to automate, detect, diagnose, repair, and report on issues in the most complex business IT environments.

Focus on the Mission

Government agencies can now effectively navigate the complexities of digital transformation and modernisation. Managed cloud capabilities combined with state‑of‑the­‑art enterprise‑class cloud platforms allow organisations to deliver mission-critical applications more efficiently, strengthen security while simultaneously enabling them to tackle transformative new projects and programmes.

Technology

How sustainable AI improves the triple bottom line

How sustainable AI improves the triple bottom line 1

An investment in green AI enables financial services firms to align people, profit, and planet

By Nick Dale, EVP business development, Verne Global

Green investing is widely regarded as a mega trend, with chief executive Larry Fink of BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, stating, “Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects … awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

The recent seismic shift in public opinion about climate change has not only increased attention on the sustainability and societal impact of investing in a company, it’s also influencing the decisions being made in finance industry boardrooms overall, whether that’s implementing innovative business models or adopting new partnerships and technologies. However, as business leaders strive to make green choices, many are unaware of the hidden environmental costs of the technologies they are employing.

AI in the finance industry

The use of AI has become ubiquitous across industry sectors, and is now an integral part of the technologies being used in financial services, from optimising asset portfolios and underwriting loans to assessing risks.

AI is especially beneficial for things like quantitative trading, which uses large data sets to identify patterns that can then inform strategic trades. AI’s machine learning models can analyse vast and complex data and make predictions accordingly. But AI models are not only data-hungry, they are power hungry.

Power-hungry AI

Supercomputers train and test mountains of data for AI models, and can run 24-hours a day, for hours, days, or even weeks. These applications consume huge amounts of energy, and as AI technology continues to grow and develop, the computations behind it are also increasing in size and complexity. The carbon emissions from training a single AI model for language translation is roughly equivalent to 125 round-trip flights from New York to Beijing (AI Now 2019 Report).

The carbon cost of AI becomes even higher when you factor in the energy required to keep the computing equipment housed in data centres cool – overheating can impact performance and damage equipment. As a result, in a conventional data centre, at least 40% of all energy consumed goes towards cooling.

But sustainable AI is possible if financial services organisations take positive steps to minimise its environmental impact.

Minimising AI’s carbon footprint

Location, location, location

Many tech giants are committing to reducing their carbon footprint, with Amazon pledging to reach 80% renewable energy by 2024, and Google investing in data centres in Nordic countries specifically for better energy efficiency.

Nick Dale

Nick Dale

This is because in the Nordics, data centres are largely powered by renewable energy sources. Iceland, in particular, uses 100% renewable hydroelectric and geothermal power – with no nuclear power sources – and is connected to a reliable power grid. These renewable energy sources are much less harmful to the environment because, unlike fossil fuels, they don’t cause pollution and don’t generate greenhouse gases. Not to mention, renewable energy is based on natural resources that can be replenished within an average human lifetime, as compared to fossil fuels, which can take thousands—or even millions—of years to replace.

Over 80% of compute doesn’t need to be near the end-user, and in those situations, choosing data centre locations in cool climates has a significant impact on carbon emissions. AI compute can be located in places like Iceland, which can utilise all-year-round, free cooling due to its temperate climate.

Data centres that are located in hot climates, like Arizona in the US, require high-powered cooling systems in operation around the clock. With average high temperatures of 40° Celsius in the summer, these data centres can use up to 4 million gallons of water a day to absorb heat through evaporation into cooling towers. Consequently, when location doesn’t hamper performance or accessibility, housing AI compute in data centres with natural cooling is a no-brainer.

Energy efficient and cost-effective

Many in the financial sector have traditionally viewed sustainability as a trade-off between profit and planet, but when it comes to green AI, financial services firms can have it both ways. By housing the servers that train AI models in data centres powered by renewable energy sources, businesses can substantially reduce energy expenses and benefit from long-term, fixed pricing.

And when renewable energy sources are combined with year-round, cool climates, the energy demands and costs of AI can be dramatically reduced. AI is here to stay, but by making the right choices, companies in the finance sector can still drive profitability whilst making real and measurable progress on sustainability.

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Technology

Survey of IT decision makers exposes the increased pressures IT organisations face amidst covid-19

Survey of IT decision makers exposes the increased pressures IT organisations face amidst covid-19 2

Independent Survey Uncovers the Limitations Traditional IT Infrastructure Imposes, Exacerbated by a Remote Workforce

Nebulon, Inc.®, the pioneer of Cloud-Defined Storage, released today the results of an independent survey completed by IT decision makers at 500 companies in the IT, financial services, manufacturing, retail, distribution and transport industries across the UK, US, Germany and France. Conducted in June of this year, the survey exposes the biggest challenges enterprises face in transforming their on-premises application storage environments, which have only been exacerbated during this COVID-19 era. While IT organisations cite multiple restrictions, the survey reveals limited infrastructure automation and high CAPEX as the most significant challenges for those deploying enterprise storage array technology, forcing them to re-examine IT spending and operations even more so than usual amidst the pandemic.

While increasing automation and reducing costs may seem like mainstream initiatives for any large organisation, the pandemic and resulting workforce restrictions mandate significant progress in days or weeks, versus months or quarters. The results of the survey, undertaken by Vanson Bourne, further reinforce this as respondents also highlighted their on-premises application storage environments are difficult to maintain, and reveal that they lacked the in-house expertise necessary to manage them. Even more disconcerting, respondents indicate that their traditional external storage arrays are not suited to handle new workloads, including containers and NoSQL databases. This is unsurprising as modern workloads have been architected for local versus shared storage resources.

British IT decision makers specifically ranked “expensive” highest, with 57% making this one of their top three challenges, followed by “time consuming to maintain” (50%) and “difficult to automate at scale” (49%). Respondents from smaller organisations (1,000-2,999 employees) were more likely to mark “lack of in-house expertise” highly compared to larger organisations (3,000+employees) (59% compared to 31%) while these larger companies were more likely to consider cost a top challenge (61% compared to 35%).

“The impact of the pandemic is forcing CIOs worldwide to reconsider their operations,” said Siamak Nazari, Co-Founder and CEO of Nebulon, Inc. “Reducing costs through server-based storage alternatives without the restrictions of hyperconverged infrastructure, and reducing operating cost pressure through cloud-based management of the application storage infrastructure are crucial initiatives for IT organisations looking to survive this new normal.”

For companies with a growing class of mission-critical data that cannot or should not move to the public cloud, Cloud-Defined Storage is an alternative to expensive storage arrays, offering enterprises a cloud-managed, server-based approach for mission-critical storage. By combining a cloud-based control plane, called Nebulon ON, with server-based storage that is powered by the Nebulon Services Processing Unit (SPU), Nebulon enables organisations to reduce cost for enterprise storage by up to half without compromising on enterprise data services. This is made possible by Nebulon’s unique architecture that makes use of commodity SSDs in industry standard servers, Ethernet in favour of Fibre Channel, and by eliminating operational complexities by moving management to Nebulon ON with an as-a-service model.

Nebulon ON uses AI to analyse application workloads during operations, provides actionable recommendations for IT organisations and provides a single API endpoint that greatly streamlines automation at-scale. Customisable application templates, tailored for customer’s application clusters, eliminate the guesswork in configuring infrastructure and produce repeatable, reliable infrastructure services for modern, mission-critical workloads. With the architectural and operational simplicity of Cloud-Defined Storage, application owners gain a self-service infrastructure provisioning that is unmatched with existing on-premises storage solutions.

“IT organisations have been seeking a cost-effective alternative to external storage arrays for years,” said Nazari. “With our Cloud-Defined Storage offering, they finally have the opportunity to reduce costs while also deploying a self-service solution for application owners that also reduces the operational burden.”

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Technology

Are you ‘prescribing’ the right security solution to your merchants?

Are you ‘prescribing’ the right security solution to your merchants? 3

By Sandra Higgins, Chief Marketing Officer at Sysnet Global Solutions, draws parallels between taking multivitamins for the body to keeping small businesses ‘healthy’ using an all-in-one security solution

When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, eating the right food, taking regular exercise, and maintaining a positive mindset are key. However, despite these best intentions and practices, you still might not get all the nutrients your body needs to ensure it is working as effectively as possible. To combat this, a doctor might suggest taking a daily multivitamin as an insurance policy, to guarantee the body gets all the minerals and vitamins it needs, avoiding any shortfalls. Makes sense, right?

This same logic can be applied to businesses and the importance of cybersecurity and compliance solutions, especially in the current climate and the risks associated with remote working. Like a doctor prescribing a multivitamin to help their patients’ minds and bodies function effectively, in the same way, acquirers can offer security ‘prescriptions’ to help merchants keep on top of business health. The prescription is then deployed by a security software provider, much like a pharmacy would, dispensing the multivitamin of data security services and tools to help keep businesses in good health.

Just what the doctor ordered

With a wide variety of data security and compliance solutions available, like the streams of vitamins you see on pharmacy shelves, smaller businesses can often become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of available tools and may forego sourcing their business ‘medication’ altogether.

Taking the stress out of trying to understand what the business needs, it’s an acquirer’s responsibility to prescribe one solution that allows merchants to stay security fit and prevents them from becoming overwhelmed at the choice available. That way, merchants don’t end up buying the wrong solutions or supplementary add-ons at additional cost, that they don’t actually need.

The benefits of an all-in-one solution

Like with medicine, merchants need to know the long-term benefits of prescriptions before administering it, and with an all-in-one solution, the benefits are vast. In addition to easy compliance with payments standards such as PCI DSS and access to security tools that are appropriate to business set-up, other benefits of all-in-one security solutions include;

  1. Increased energy levels. With business security taken care of, business owners will have more time to focus on what matters, giving them more energy to run other areas of the business.
  2. Reduced fatigue. If a business has to work hard to manage its security levels, or its owner is losing sleep over not managing it at all, resulting in overdrive just to perform simple tasks, being compliant with regulations, like the PCI DSS standard, becomes much harder.
  3. Long-term healthy lifestyle. By taking an all-in-one security solution, businesses will become ‘compliance and security fit’. Everything will run more efficiently, without security issues slowing things down and preventing a business from moving forward.
  4. Improved mood. Certain studies have shown that a daily multivitamin has positive effects on a person’s mood and emotional well-being. Not having to think so much about security and compliance lifts a burden and has the same effect – business owner don’t feel guilty about not paying it enough attention and there’s no need to worry about breaches or facing fees from not being PCI compliant.
  5. Reduced stress and anxiety. Similar to having an improved mood, by simply attending to security matters, businesses will have one less thing to worry about.

Strength in numbers

Not only is there a multitude of long-term benefits attached to having a fully managed data security solution prescribed by acquirers, allowing businesses to be faster, simpler and more profitable, it also means that costs are kept low. Many people buy vitamins in bulk to help share the cost with family or close friends. By buying security tools at scale, costs are kept down for merchants. This means that when a business is weighing up their budgets, they can be sure their compliance and security cost is entirely affordable.

When buying a multivitamin, customers will likely buy from a reputable brand so that you can rely on the quality and effectiveness of the daily dose, as reputable multivitamin providers undergo meticulous analysis and rigorous quality controls during the manufacturing process. In the same vein, humans wouldn’t want a substandard multivitamin for their own body, so businesses wouldn’t expect this from an acquirer’s prescription.

Easy to consume

Multivitamins can provide patients with numerous health benefits but the biggest benefit of all is having these solutions in one place. It makes it easier to ensure the body gets all it needs to stay healthy. It is the same thing for businesses. Taking a security ‘multivitamin’ will greatly take the stress out of addressing compliance and security, and provide a business with more time to focus on other pressing tasks.  If small businesses, in particular, can get into the habit of taking a regular multivitamin, a straightforward all-in-one solution, to address compliance and security at their business, they will be more open to trying other things too that may lead to an evolution of the business.

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