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Is digital transformation the answer to modernising your business?

It is a fact that today’s customers expect a lot from their suppliers and providers, whether that is a supermarket, bank, energy provider, insurance company or any other business they buy products or services from. The digital revolution has been a major contributor to customers’ rising expectations, with a recent customer survey from Salesforce “State of the Connected Customer”, finding that 75% of customers expect businesses to use new technologies to create better experiences, and 73% say that one extraordinary experience (tailored, contextualised engagements across different touch points) raises their expectations of other companies.

This offers businesses an opportunity but also a challenge, to update systems and infrastructure sufficiently in order to offer new services and extraordinary experiences, at scale.

The challenges of digital transformation are many. Legacy systems are costly to replace, businesses might not have the necessary skills and expertise in house and budgets are always reducing.

So, what does digital transformation mean?

Firstly, businesses need to understand how critical their data is. Businesses that are data-driven and data-centric outperform the competition.

Secondly, businesses must modernise their infrastructure in order to increase efficiencies and provide better customer service. A modernised infrastructure can allow businesses to streamline operations, automate tasks where possible, control their data and leverage the public cloud in order to succeed.

Finally, businesses should prepare for scale. Building a scalable platform from the outset means they can keep pace with the growth of the business quickly and without high levels of extra investment.

But how does a business get there?

Cloud infrastructure is an essential part of any data centric business, but it’s not always as easy as adding some public cloud services to your existing on-premise infrastructure. Traditional infrastructure is usually organised in application focused silos and data won’t be able to flow as required between this legacy infrastructure and the cloud, unless you add automation, public and private cloud elements. In fact, the most successful hybrid cloud environments are built on a private cloud platform which can provide the flexibility, automation and simplified data management that businesses need to serve their applications and manage data in any location.

Many businesses are turning to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) which is a popular building block for a modernised hybrid cloud infrastructure.  HCI contains every element of the infrastructure stack in a single, virtualised block. It is built in a modular way, allowing blocks to be added easily as and when additional compute or storage is needed.

HCI meets the needs of the data centric business, allowing them to serve the most demanding cloud-native applications from day one, and allow data to flow between locations and applications, in public or private clouds. When the business grows, the HCI environment can grow with it. HCI is managed centrally and simply and the day to day monitoring and management can be done by generalist IT administrators, without the need for specialist storage, virtualisation or networking administrators.

Because it is so simple, HCI enables the automation of custom provisioning and encourages and fosters self service, which means businesses become more self-sufficient and free up time which can then be spent innovating.

Businesses looking for HCI solutions should evaluate NetApp, which is designed for highly performing environments, with high availability, scalability and simplicity. All the key requirements of a modernised infrastructure.

NetApp HCI also integrates with NetApp Data Fabric which connects everything in the hybrid cloud together. It also unlocks other advanced services such as file services, object services, replication, data visibility, and backup and recovery.

Find out more about NetApp HCI solutions in this white paper.

ZDNet Digital Transformation Playbook

The Connected Customer – 3rd Edition

Oracle Cloud – everything you need to know

Why Cloud?

It’s a well-publicised fact that cloud adoption is rising at a speedy rate, but why? Essentially, there are three main reasons customers adopt cloud. Firstly, they are looking at ways of reducing the cost and complexity of their on-premises infrastructure. Secondly they would like to accelerate IT delivery by using the cloud for specific projects and finally, they want to create versatile business models to gain a competition edge or disrupt the market.

We’ve all heard of the main public cloud providers, but Oracle Cloud is gaining popularity amongst enterprise customers for a number of reasons.

Why Oracle Cloud?

Oracle Cloud is a next-generation public cloud architected that has been designed specifically to run enterprise applications and databases. It is as elastic and flexible as the first-generation public clouds, but allows additional control, security, performance and predictability which rival those of an on premises deployment. In fact, alongside public cloud and hybrid cloud deployments, Oracle also offers an option called Oracle Cloud at Customer which allows customers to deploy Oracle cloud as a private cloud behind their own firewall.

Oracle’s native toolset enables developers to build their own next-generation, cloud native and mobile apps in the cloud, and allow them to run traditional enterprise apps alongside cloud native apps. Oracle cloud users can strip right back to the bare metal infrastructure to install the exact operating systems, middleware and databases they need.

The toolset includes migration tools to move existing apps to the cloud without the need to rearchitect the apps, even those that have been customised. With any migration we perform though, skilled consultants from WTL and Oracle are on hand for trickier applications.

High Performance

Customers with high performance computing workloads like crash tests, real time analytics, modelling insurance risks or testing new manufacturing materials can rest easy that Oracle cloud can handle the workloads. It offers powerful CPU options, massive memory capabilities and dense storage capacity.

High bandwidth, low latency networks connect servers to file, block and object storage resources making Oracle ideal for customers who need the highest levels of performance. In fact, it can perform up to 5 million I/O operations per second for the most demanding tasks.

But where could Oracle cloud be used to best effect? For customers looking for a DevTest cloud environment, Oracle cloud allows them to test new app versions, validate security patches and test cloud native architectures and features.

For customers using the cloud for production applications, the single tenant, high performance bare metal servers are ideal for high performance computing and are highly available because of the load balancing, real application clustering and multiple availability domains.

Some customers use Oracle cloud for their backup and DR processes, because of its built-in storage resiliency, availability and security and automated backup features.

Finally, Oracle is ideal for extending a serviceable on premises environment to the cloud, without decommissioning the legacy equipment. On premises infrastructure can be connect to the new cloud infrastructure with a VPN or FastConnect, for seamless movement between the two.

Security

With the use of cloud in enterprise computing comes much concern about security, so this is a key area of concern for Oracle. Users access Oracle cloud resources via Oracle Identity and Access Management technology which allows role-based access controls and granular allocation and auditing features. Access to specific cloud compartments can be granted per person, per project or per group, as needed for additional security.

The whole cloud infrastructure is built with security embedded at every level, and the whole environment is monitored and protected by a 24/7 network operation centre staffed by skilled security professionals.

All great features, but how is it different to first generation cloud vendor solutions? Oracle Cloud moves the virtualisation layer to the physical network, utilising what’s known as off box virtualisation and creating single tenant servers. Customers use a virtual cloud network which is isolated from other customers for added security.

Oracle cloud is not just great for Oracle applications, although of course it IS fully optimised to run Oracle enterprise databases and applications, it is ideal for any business running any mixed workloads, regardless of throughput or security requirements.

Useful Links

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Purpose-Built for the Enterprise

Next-Generation Cloud Delivers Enterprise Scale

Cyber Security

How to implement a multi-layered cybersecurity approach

We’re all enjoying the benefits of digital transformation, with artificial intelligence and data analytics moving into the mainstream and previously inanimate objects being connected and “smart”. As consumers we are now coming to expect the personalised, self-service or automatic nature of everything from banking to utilities and supermarket shopping. To keep pace with this digital revolution, businesses now need to modernise their data centres and utilise the flexibility and scale of the cloud, develop mobile strategies, incorporate social media into their everyday businesses and consider data analytics, IoT and artificial intelligence as viable, useful technologies.

However, these transformational technologies increase both the complexity of the IT environment and the number of entry points into the corporate network, which means a considerable increase in the risk of cyberattack.

In Symantec’s 2019 Internet Security Threat Report it highlights some frightening statistics on cybercrime, citing 1 in 10 URLs being malicious, web attacks up by 56% and a huge increase in formjacking, where customer data entered into a form is being illegally read by a piece of code and diverted somewhere it shouldn’t be going. Enterprise and mobile ransomware are also on the increase and supply chain attacks have skyrocketed. Malicious emails and malicious powershell scripts are also more prevalent.

With so many threats coming from every angle, our customers are increasingly looking for expert support and advice and we are delighted to announce that we have joined forces with the innovative cybersecurity experts, CyberQ Group, to offer a set of complementary technology services. CyberQ Group is an award-winning Cyber innovator and successful cyber security specialist, which uses artificial intelligence and automation to provide leading edge solutions including;

  • Continuous breach detection to provide real time threat intelligence and monitoring. Our Continuous Breach Detection Service (CBDS) dashboard provides clear metrics on and a heat map and displays alerts when an incident happens or if accounts are hacked and details the results of searches for customer data leakages on the internet.
  • Penetration testing helps customers identify weak spots or vulnerabilities in their infrastructure and gives customers all the information they need to close gaps in their security.
  • Security Operation Centre as a service (SOCaaS) is our 24/7/265 managed security service which identifies and neutralises cyber threats using specialist cyber professionals and a comprehensive network monitoring platform. This managed service allows customers to quickly mobilise enterprise class monitoring and cyber consultancy services at a predictable monthly cost.
  • Our Emergency Response and Readiness service gives customers access to a pool of skilled resources to deploy in the event of an emergency. The service turns an incident response plan into a proactive programme that can be deployed remotely or on-site to reduce the impact of an incident.
  • Virtual Chief Information Security Officer services allow customers to benefit from C level information security advice and guidance on a part time, ass required basis. The service will use frameworks to assess and analyse documents, policies and processes, to ensure compliance with regulation and legislation. The Virtual CISO ensures there is both a risk management strategy and a breach incident response plan in place. They will also ensure awareness amongst users and update access governance controls.

Useful Links

WLT Penetration Service Solution Services Guide

Continuous Breach Detection Service Guide

Security Operations Centre as a Service (SOCaaS) Guide

Emergency Response and Readiness Service Guide

Virtual Chief Information Security Officer as a Service Guide

Cloud Predictions for 2019 and beyond

Oracle’s top 10 predictions for cloud in 2019 and beyond

By now it is clear that cloud adoption shows no sign of abating, in fact, many businesses are moving towards infrastructures that are entirely cloud-based. Most businesses use more than one public cloud for infrastructure as a service or backup as a service, alongside multiple software as a service applications. Oracle has evaluated the cloud market and has made some informed predictions from now until 2025. Are you focusing your efforts in the right places? Read on to see if your strategy is aligned.

1.Next generation clouds will allow businesses to move 100% of their data centres to the cloud

First generation clouds were built for efficiency and economies of scale, without the reliability and security that mission critical applications demand. Next generation clouds are built with complexity and security in mind, designed to support AI and data analytics applications, IoT environments, and emerging technologies like blockchain. Customers are feeling confident enough to start moving their highly performing, high risk, most valued operations to the cloud.

2. 80% of all enterprise workloads will move to the cloud

Enterprise customers will continue to adopt different cloud services, from multiple cloud vendors, mixing public and private, managed and self-service and migrating data and applications from across the enterprise until 80% of all workloads are run in the cloud. This will include mission critical workloads, as confidence in the cloud grows.

3. All applications will incorporate AI, further distancing themselves from legacy applications.

As data volumes gathered grow at pace, application developers are utilising AI more and more to make sense of these vast data volumes. AI is being used in many different ways, to do more, faster, differently and Oracle believes that application vendors will build capabilities into every new application by 2025.

4. AI and emerging technologies will double our productivity

The reason Oracle believes AI will be incorporated in every new application is because it can significantly increase productivity. By processing and learning from massive amounts of data, automating activities and workflows and freeing up resources to focus human effort where it really counts, businesses that adopt AI and emerging technologies could double their productivity.

5. 85% of customer interactions will be automated

Automation doesn’t just drive efficiencies it can improve the customer journey and customer service. AI enabled chatbots and voice assistants will continue to improve, learning context and intent and leading to even better customer service. Businesses will use AI-driven analytics to understand customer needs, serving these with automated, humanised digital services.

6. The developer community will expand 10x and productivity will increase by 400%

As application development techniques become less about coding and more visual and user friendly and demand for new applications continues to increase, there may be a rise in the number of non-professional developers in the marketplace. This increased pool of developers will be able to use new intelligent tools and platforms that allow them to build, test and deploy applications quickly, making them more efficient and productive.

7. More than 50% of data will be managed autonomously

Patching, updating and upgrading applications is a set of necessary but time -consuming activities and ripe for automation, if businesses are going to free up time. Autonomous, or self-healing applications can be brought online faster, cheaper and without specialist skills and knowledge. This is a predicted to be a big growth area.

8. 90% of enterprises will use a single identity platform that bridges premises and the cloud

The use of identity and access management technologies that can cross hybrid clouds and provide a unified identity that spans all applications and services is just starting to take off, but user expectations, demands on the business for real time provisioning and de-provisioning coupled with data privacy regulations will mean that single platform vendor solutions will be hotly in demand.

9. The number of security events will increase 100x and automation will become the most reliable way of preventing, detecting and mitigating threats.

Security events are increasing in volume and type and businesses are looking at automation solutions in order to analyse and prioritise these in order to protect against them in the future. It is likely that cybercriminals will deploy AI-enabled malicious traffic which is hard to identify. The logical response is to use AI enabled security solutions that analyse vast amounts of security event data to defend against these threats, from core to edge.

10. 70% of IT functions will be completely automated

The routine, repetitive functions undertaken by the IT department are the perfect type of task to be automated. Patching, tuning, deploying new services, adding more capacity, all of these jobs can be automated successfully to improve reliability, availability, scalability and allow businesses to meet application SLAs to the business. If 70% of these tasks are automated, the resources freed up can be dedicated to transformation and innovation projects that will truly set businesses apart from the competition.

Backup to cloud

Tips for planning your backup to the cloud strategy

Backup to the cloud is a rapidly emerging data protection strategy and can remove management overheads, whilst also improving performance and efficiency. It is a big shift for many organisations however and there are a number of considerations that it is wise to address beforehand.

Firstly, it is crucial that you clearly understand your data retention requirements, whether they are required by regulation, for compliance purposes, or set by the business. It is a recommendation that you retain data backups onsite long enough to cover around 85% of the typical file restore requests that come in.

On the topic of compliance, it is also wise to look at regulatory requirements as a whole to make sure that your new backup strategy adequately addresses those. This could mean making sure that your data will be kept in a geographical location that is accepted, and not moved to a cloud location in a country that doesn’t comply with your local regulations. It could also mean that you need to look at the protection your data has whilst in transit, not just while it is at rest in storage. You should look at encryption to protect the data while it moves from location to location and in between.

Before starting your backup to cloud planning, it’s useful to update your DR plans, as this can help you identify any areas that your current backup strategy isn’t addressing, where your backup to cloud strategy could help. At the same time, run a gap analysis on your current backup strategy to see where improvements can be made with the new solution. For sustainability and budget purposes, it is a worthwhile exercise to identify any reusable elements of your current backup solution, that will work in your new backup infrastructure.

The next step is to consult with the key stakeholders within the business. They can help you understand what the business requirements of your backup strategy need to be and could include performance requirements, scalability and security. The IT Department might think that some performance degradation is acceptable, or even unnoticeable, or that it a recovery window of 24 hours would work for the business, while another business function, such as finance or sales, might believe that performance cannot be undermined at any cost, and that data must be instantly recoverable for a set period. It is only through consultation with each head of department, that you will understand the expectations and requirements and be able to build these into the solution’s scope (or not, if you deem it unattainable or unnecessary).

Whilst reviewing the expectations of the business, review your formal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to make sure they are still appropriate and to ensure that your new backup strategy can meet the most up to date SLAs.

The stakeholder consultation may also uncover different requirements for different data sets, or applications, which is not uncommon. Finance data is likely to be governed by more regulations and could have longer retention periods than marketing or sales data for example. Most current backup strategies treat all data the same but a backup to cloud strategy could incorporate granular policies for different data sets, applications or departments.

The benefits of a disk-to-disk-to-cloud strategy are clear; rapid restores, almost instantaneous offsite vaulting, lower cost backup storage options and greater levels of security, but as with any major project, planning is essential if you are going to realise all the benefits and meet the needs and expectations of the business.

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