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Smart City Connected by Hyperconverged Infrastructure

The evolution of Hyperconverged Infrastructure – NetApp’s role in this expanding market

Enterprises and mid-market organisations alike are starting to realise the transformational benefits of Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI), where server, storage and networking resources are provided as a combined, modular block and managed by a single interface.

Analysts are predicting that adoption will continue to rise and a recent report by the Evaluator Group highlighted that acceptance and implementation of HCI by enterprise sized firms has increased, with 79% of large enterprises expanding their use of hyperconverged infrastructure and using it for mission-critical workloads.

Traditional data centres are set up with all their resource layers set up separately and often managed individually. Conversely, HCI brings together different resources; server, storage, and networking in a way that is simple to manage, allocate and consume.

So how else do businesses benefit from hyperconvergence? Many HCI users  report improved IT team productivity, a more agile business operation and greater ability to support a hybrid cloud environment, with cloud applications.

Businesses also report lower capex, as SAN-based storage solutions are replaced by industry standard servers and overprovisioning is a thing of the past. Resources can be added as and when they are needed to scale out.

Opex is also reduced, as less resources lead to less floor space, power and cooling consumption. The simplified and automated nature of HCI administration means that management overheads are lower, increasing staff productivity and allowing IT teams to do more with the same number of staff.

Risks are lowered as downtime is reduced during upgrades and system refreshes, which happen automatically. The supply chain is smaller and that inherently reduces the operational risks associated with vendor management.

Modern HCI solutions need to be able to provide predictable and guaranteed service levels for multiple primary workloads all competing for bandwidth. They must integrate with multiple public clouds, creating a seamless, hybrid multi-cloud with a common data fabric for private and public clouds. Whilst the essence of HCI is that all components are provided together, in reality, most organisations do not scale equally, with demands for compute, storage and networking increasing equally. So, modern HCI solutions should be able to scale the individual elements of the solutions independently in order to truly maximise the resousces. A storage intensive environment may not necessarily need additional compute power.

NetApp understands the demands of a modern HCI environment and entered the market quite recently with HCI solutions that have been born in the cloud, for the cloud. NetApp HCI offers workload protection, for multiple workloads, allowing organisations to consolidate many different applications on it, safe in the knowledge that those workloads are replicated, protected and available.

NetApp HCI allows organisations to add compute or storage nodes independently, which eliminates overprovisioning and ensures the HCI environment is flexible enough to meet any business’s needs.

NetApp Data Fabric provides consistent data services across on-premises infrastructure, public and private clouds allowing it to meet the needs of today’s businesses, as according to Flexera’s State of the Cloud Report for 2019, 84% of businesses have a multi-cloud strategy and 58% of businesses have a hybrid cloud strategy.

In terms of management, NetApp HCI offers a automated deployment engine which has reduced the number of deployment steps from 400 manual steps to just 30 highly automated steps. Similar automation features in the management console mean it benefits from highly automated integration into higher-level management, orchestration, backup, and DR tools

In short, for customers looking at HCI solutions with a view to transforming their business should absolutely consider NetApp. It has been designed to be future proofed and meets the brief of what a modern HCI solution should offer.

Useful Links

Hyperconverged Infrastructure adoption rates

What is hyperconvergence?

IT Pro Article – Five business benefits of hyperconvergence

IT Pro Article – What is driving the risk of hyperconverged infrastructure?

Hypercponverged.org –Hyperconverged Infrastructure Basics

Flexera State of the Cloud 2019

Oracle spare servers for enterprise infrastructure and data centres in Birmingham

Why Oracle SPARC?

Choosing server technology is an important part of any businesses’ technology strategy and there are many factors affecting the decision. IT leaders should factor in the business platforms it should be running, will they be frontline applications or backup files, will it be cloud based or on premises, does it need to consolidate an existing server estate, what is the best technology the budget will allow?

What platforms will it be running?

For customers who are looking for server technology to run Oracle database and applications, Oracle SPARC servers are fully optimised for Oracle databases and applications and will deliver the best performance and security available. Oracle SPARC’s reporting and analytics capabilities are incredibly fast and inbuilt virtualisation features secure data and improve application performance. Whilst SPARC is optimised for Oracle applications, it is non-proprietary, enabling transformational performance and efficiency gains for most enterprise applications, at an affordable price point.

Cloud or on-premises?

Most businesses today are using the cloud, the Flexera State of the Cloud Report for 2019 found that 94% of businesses surveyed used cloud services, with 91% using public cloud, 72% using private cloud and 69% using at least one public and one private.

For organisations that are considering migrating services to the cloud, or extending onsite data centres to the cloud, even if it is not an immediate plan, servers that have been designed with cloud services in mind will have greater longevity. By taking a cloud-first approach to technology infrastructure development, Oracle has built its cloud solutions using the same SPARC technology that it uses in its servers allowing customers a clear path to the cloud. Customers undecided on when they will move to the cloud can purchase SPARC servers to use on premises, easily moving to cloud services with few migration costs, and without the need to change applications, driving value from today’s investment in the future.

Server consolidation

By consolidating large numbers of smaller servers onto fewer large symmetric multiprocessing (MSP) servers the workload demands on compute power are evened out improving overall utilisation and performance. Large SMP servers simplify the deployment of applications, and less servers to manage means less management overhead, meaning further savings. Oracle approaches server consolidation with different levels of partitioning within SPARC servers, involving PDoms, Oracle VM Server partitioning and Oracle Solaris Zones technology, getting increasingly more granular and flexible. Different workloads have different service levels and will utilise resources differently, which will require different configurations. Oracle’s centralised, single management console simplifies the management of the consolidated servers.

Cost

Oracle SPARC has been priced competitively in the enterprise server market, with feature rich hardware at comparatively lower prices than many other vendors. Cost savings can also come from efficiency gains, enabled because SPARC servers perform more business transactions at a faster rate, so customers need less of them, keeping hardware costs and software license costs down.

Performance

Performance is critical for servers that will be running enterprise applications and serving mission critical data, and this is another area where Oracle SPARC performs well. Core and processor performance are strong, and specific features like Software in Silicon have been designed to ensure faster enterprise apps.

Security

Oracle has built in security from the group up, with advanced encryption for data at rest, in transit and in storage, with no degradation of performance. Oracle’s Silicon Secured Memory provides 24/7 intrusion protection. In addition, SPARC servers running Oracle Solaris offer protection for applications in memory, access controls, automated patching, and security compliance auditing.

Whatever the business requirement, application or environment, Oracle SPARC is a viable server technology that can meet the needs of a modern business, today and in the future.

Useful Links

Flexera State of the Cloud Report – 2019

Network security & cyber security in Birmingham & The West Midlands

The Rising Cost of Cyber Security Breaches

Technological advancements are undoubtedly changing the world for the better, with automation, AI, the IoT and cloud driving forward innovations across every sector. However, with this advancement comes greater risks as cyber threat actors use the same technology against individuals and industry for their own gain.

The 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report identified that 52% of breaches in the past year of those surveyed (17,300 incidents with 1700 actual breaches) featured hacking, 33% featured social attacks and 28% involved malware. Targets spanned all sectors and sizes of businesses. Small businesses were targets in 43% of breaches, 39% of all breaches were perpetrated by organised criminal groups and 56% of breaches took months or longer to discover.

These figures highlight the varied and indiscriminate nature of data breaches that businesses today face. But what are the implications of a data breach? According to Deloitte , firstly there are the well-known and more obvious effects, such as the costs and resource needed to undertake a technical investigation and improvements to cyber security defences required to protect customers and business systems as a result. Then there are the PR and customer notification costs and efforts required to ensure customers are not in the dark and reputational damage is limited. Then the compliance and legal fees that could be incurred. There may be regulators’ fines to consider, as with GDPR. The hidden costs lie slightly off radar and include increased insurance premiums, and reduced appeal to investors, plus the value of any contracts lost as a result of the breach. It’s hard to quantify the impact of operational disruption, but this can be devastating for some businesses. The company brand and name could be devalued as a result, valuable intellectual property could be lost, and customers could take their business elsewhere. The time taken to repair much of the damage done to the business can take years. Processes need to be redesigned and implemented and new cyber security programmes are an investment in time and money.

With all of the above to consider and calculate, it is not surprising that the global average cost of a data breach in 2019, as calculated by the Ponemon Institute, has risen by 1.5% in a year to reach $3.92m.

How can businesses mitigate the risk of a costly breach, with so many attacks happening and new vectors used, with the costs so high?

Businesses need to shift focus from a reactive security model to a proactive approach which seeks not to secure the whole perimeter but to reduce the size of the attack surface and increase security focus on apps and data which travel around the enterprise. This is in contrast to the traditional model of cyber security which focused on protecting the data centre. Organisations can better secure their apps and data by having a clear understanding of how they work and interact, then developing intelligent policies, access keys and secure rooms which compartmentalise the whole infrastructure, protecting each area individually and limiting the impact of a breach.

Real time and continuous breach detection and monitoring ensures that businesses understand exactly when something unexpected or anomalous is happening. This information can be triaged with other systems to trigger alerts or next actions. Emergency response plans can then be mobilised quickly and effectively to reduce the impact of a breach.

Finally, regular testing will identify any weak spots and provide the essential information that is needed to close any gaps and make changes to security defences.

Only by moving with the times and adapting to the latest threat actors will organisations be able to mitigate the risks associated with a cyber security breach.

WTL offer a range cyber security solutions which employ next-generation features to ensure you remain one step ahead of the cybercriminals.

If you’re ready to make some changes to the way you protect your business, please get in touch.

Useful Links

Deloitte Hidden Business Impact of Cyber Attacks

Ponemon Institute Cost of a Data Breach

Oracle Solaris as the best managed service in Birmingham and The West Midlands from WTL

Don’t be a dedicated follower of fashion. Choose the best OS for the job.

Solaris has been the number one UNIX operating system for over 25 years, and while it might not spring to mind as the enterprise OS of choice today, there are many reasons why it still rates very highly by users. Most enterprises are using Oracle Solaris in their business somewhere, but if you are considering a data centre modernisation project, looking to simplify your virtualisation environment, moving to the cloud or are running critical Oracle databases and applications, then Solaris should be your number one choice.

Why Oracle Solaris?

Well, with every new release of Solaris, Sun and now Oracle, have always ensured backwards compatibility to protect your investment in existing applications. In fact, Oracle even offers an application binary guarantee to ensure you can run legacy applications on the latest infrastructure.

In many publicly available reviews Oracle Solaris is hailed as a stable, scalable and super speedy platform. It has been designed with the enterprise and their needs in mind and offers advanced security features on premises and in the cloud, with anti-malware protection from the hypervisor to the application. Oracle Solaris is cloud ready and natively uses ZFS, having been developed by Sun in the early 2000’s, is still in operation and still one of the most popular features. The zones or containers are also commended for being lightweight and simple, so, what are the downsides?

The Future of Oracle Solaris

The biggest issue surrounding Solaris is its image and the speculation around its future and longevity. If customers aren’t sure that their investment is future-proofed, they will be wary about investing. To counter this Oracle have guaranteed that they will deliver binary compatibility until 2034 at least, so any current and future investment will be secure for a minimum of 14 years, and doubtless much longer.

Specialist Skills and Resources

Another issue faced by users is that because Oracle Solaris is a proprietary OS, with different and unique commands to those used to administer other Linux systems, it requires additional skills which may make it more difficult to recruit and retain experienced technical expertise. A quick trawl online Indeed found 209 current jobs requiring Solaris skills, which suggests an immediate skills shortage in this technology. It can even be tricky for organisations to find outsourced support services that have the necessary skills. Not every MSP or IT Support firm has the expertise to best manage an Oracle Solaris environment.

WTL is a Solaris and Linux specialist, with the skills and knowledge required to support all customers’ heterogeneous environments, both on and off premises. We don’t just keep the lights on with your Oracle databases, Solaris and SPARC infrastructure, we optimise your environment, proactively managing your whole estate, improving service levels, efficiencies and availability, driving down costs and suggesting ways of making even more savings.

We also offer a Solaris Heath Check that is designed identify and address configuration, updates, security, and performance problems you might be experiencing.

Shows opened padlock to represent security threat

Why automation will become the most reliable way of preventing, detecting, and mitigating security threats

Modern organisations are taking advantage of new and innovative technology, transforming their business operations, continuously improving efficiencies, delivering high levels of customer service, and unearthing new opportunities for products and services that wouldn’t have been conceivable 5-10 years ago. This transformation comes at a price however, and the same technologies used to drive businesses forward are also being deployed maliciously, primarily for financial gain (71% of data breaches were financially motivated, according to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report) or to gain a strategic advantage. Businesses face greater numbers of security related events more frequently and in different guises than they did five years ago, with attacks on individuals using social channels becoming more prevalent. Alongside this, workforces are hypermobile, well used to downloading applications and accessing, storing and transmitting corporate data anywhere and on any device. In order to keep this edge data secure, businesses must now do more than simply protect against attacks, they must try and prevent them from happening in the first place, wherever the user happens to be and whatever device they happen to be using.

So how do you do that?

The first step is to identify genuine threats from the vast swathes of security incident data that is collected for analysis from a myriad of different sources. They are deliberately not easy to spot, and attackers will use next generation technologies such as AI to hide amongst legitimate traffic. However, some AI and machine learning driven security solutions can analyse massive amounts of data from across any number of data sources, using the power of the cloud to process the analysis right across the organisation, from the edge to the core.

Oracle is one such security solution, enabling businesses to secure modern hybrid clouds with a set of security and management cloud solutions, which draw on data gathered from logs, security events, external threat feeds, database transactions and applications. It uses AI and machine learning technology to detect malicious intentions, then automates the process of finding available security patches and applying them, and all without downtime.

In addition, Oracle’s automated services encrypt production data and enforce user controls, so you don’t have to do it manually.

As we’ve mentioned, to protect data from edge to core, organisations must implement a multi-layered strategy, and when using the cloud, don’t assume that all data protection responsibility lies with the cloud provider. Most cloud providers assume a shared responsibility model, where they offer assurances around the security of the data held on their infrastructure, but access to that data and SaaS data is usually the responsibility of the customer. Consider layering your security solutions to protect every layer of data and each access point, including a Cloud Access Security Broker and Identity Access Manager which will monitor, detect threats, automate the identity management process, sending alerts if anomalous behaviour occurs and remediate wherever possible, without the need for human intervention. Making this work across heterogenous technology on different platforms, on-premises, in the public cloud and in private clouds, is the trickiest part, but Oracle has got it absolutely spot on. Consider the manual alternative, thousands or even millions of security alerts coming into different management consoles, to be sifted through, users to be authorised and behaviour to be monitored and analysed, patches sought and applied and data to be encrypted. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

WTL offer a range cybersecurity solutions which employ next-generation features to ensure you remain one step ahead of the cybercriminals.

Useful Links

Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report

Oracle Cloud Essentials – Secure and Manage Hybrid Clouds

Oracle’s Top 10 Cloud Predictions 2019

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