Inside Track: 2012

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1 January 2012 | 0

There seems to be a little less uncertainty this year than last, as we begin 2012. Unfortunately, that certainty is that 2012 will be a difficult year for the ICT industry in Ireland. Continuing austerity, depressed markets and turbulent currency and bond markets all set a backdrop of challenging times for any businesses.

Adapting the Inside Track formula for this situation, we asked a number of leading companies, across a broad spectrum of the ICT industry, to make some predictions in their respective areas for the coming year, and to describe what they can do to allow your organisation to cope.

The response was strong and eight insights from Irish experts build a comprehensive picture of the year to come.
With greater emphasis on data centres, through the further adoption of cloud computing and services, TE Connectivity emphasises the need for underlying infrastructure to be developed to form a firm foundation. Cisco predicts the year of the technology leader, when forward thinking IT people can make a difference for their organisations in mobile and cloud services. Magnet Networks sees 2012 as the year that smaller businesses adopt cloud for critical business services such as telephony. O2 argues that organisations will to enhance their competitiveness by empowering workers to boost efficiencies and productivity through adopting the latest in computing, mobility and collaboration technologies. Sophos sees the accelerated rise of malware and mobile threats against non-Microsoft operating systems and Bryan S Ryan warns that in the rush to take up managed print services, provider selection is still key to a worthwhile contract.

With the breadth of views and advice on offer, Inside Track: 2012 provides you with the outlook for ICT in Ireland, and the knowledge get your organisation ahead.

 

Company: TE Connectivity – Enterprise Networks
Phone: +44 (0) 1799 520022
E-mail: peter@peterbush.co.uk 
Web: www.ampnetconnect.co.uk 

Answered by: Julian Riley, TE Connectivity – Enterprise Networks

Q: What predictions, from your area of expertise, can you make about the coming year, and what can your company do for end users in these areas?

A: As a major supplier of network cabling infrastructure systems, we are seeing some interesting developments in a market that in recent years has attracted a number of purveyors of lower-cost systems. 

While initially these low cost systems meet the demands of standards and applications, over time their ability to maintain those levels could be called into question, owing to the quality of the raw materials used and the quality of manufacturing processes. Fortunately, it is becoming apparent that end users are now starting to seek better value for money rather than just the lowest price. Opting for the lower cost solution is often a false economy-today’s physical infrastructure needs to be built using "best in class" low loss components and cable.

There is no substitute for investing in a quality brand from a highly rated supplier who will also provide a high level of long-term support and technical expertise. Despite the current economic situation, investment decisions will still need to be made because users’ needs will inevitably increase, and any investment will need to consider this future growth. There is no room for short-term thinking when communications infrastructure decisions need to be made.

Data centres
Probably the most important single sector of the network market is in data centres, where capacity requirements will continue to increase rapidly. A properly planned data-centre infrastructure must be able to deliver three key strategic concepts: agility, by providing optimum flexibility in design and implementation; availability of the network under the most stringent conditions; and efficiency through the highest and most reliable network performance.

This means that suppliers will need to continue to develop systems that increase rack density and efficiency without compromising usability-with particular attention to thermal design, energy optimisation and speed of deployment. It is important that these concepts are taken into consideration during the planning, design and implementation of the physical infrastructure. This will help to preserve and protect the initial investment, and it will guarantee the data centre’s capability to respond to future changes. For users, this will mean specifying a network infrastructure today, that can support the changes in technology that can be foreseen into the near future. Being able to keep on top of these changes is a vital part of a company’s ability to retain its business success.

Hence any successful migration strategy will need to preserve most of the current investment so that it is still possible to scale the network and accommodate latest technologies. This task needs to be performed by creating minimum disruption and by delivering the performance requirements expected by industry standards. One simple way to do this is by using pre-terminated cabling components, so that upgrades can be achieved by swapping only a few components while preserving the rest of the physical infrastructure.

Managed connectivity
Today’s data centres and network infrastructures present significant management challenges to their owners and users. They are densely populated, hard to navigate and difficult to keep track of. As a result, we will see a growth in managed connectivity solutions that know where every piece of equipment is and offer the ability to manage moves, adds and changes effectively and efficiently. More forward thinking organisations will need to give serious consideration to increasing investment in this intelligent infrastructure management technology, particularly as the requirements increase to efficiently manage more complex IP based networks.

Company: Cisco 
Phone: (01) 819 2886
E-mail: airogers@cisco.com
Web: www.cisco.com

Answered By: Mary Lou Nolan, Country Manager, Cisco Ireland

Q: What predictions, from your area of expertise, can you make about the coming year, and what can your company do for end users in these areas?

Answer: 2012 has the potential to be the Year of the Technology Leader, when companies realise the potential of tools such as cloud and mobile connectivity to revolutionise their industries. Those technology innovators who are not daunted by the economic uncertainty of the current climate, and are willing to invest in technology ahead of the curve, can take advantage of the ‘gear change’ the industry is experiencing in remote and service-based IT.

According to a recent survey by Cisco in Ireland and the UK*, technology companies are currently in a contradictory position: they are optimistic about 2012 and acknowledge the need for technology growth, but their actual actions and budgets suggest "business as usual," and a focus on maintenance and security over innovation and progress. In order to move forward into a successful 2012 businesses must align their strategies and actions to their goals.
Innovations in the areas of cloud and mobile/remote access are actively changing the ways services are delivered into the enterprise, resulting in widespread changes in business process and strategy. With the rise of remote storage and mobile network access to near-ubiquity, investment in security innovation is also a must-have. Those who do not realign toward innovation now put their future competitiveness at risk. Without a focus on innovation, companies will face larger investment requirements in the future, when a better economy will mean a faster move forward. Many businesses may feel forced into false choices, with economic uncertainty forcing IT leaders to balance innovation against maintenance, collaboration against data security or employee productivity, and network reliability and security against flexibility and performance.

On a larger scale, corporate leaders struggle to balance making the business run smoothly in the present and making a positive difference in the future. In most cases, the missing pieces are technology investment and long-term planning. With those key factors in place, there need not be so many zero-sum games, in which businesses are forced to choose between two ideals (such as security and empowerment) that are both central to their success.

In order to realise the potential of 2012, business leaders need to act now, with the future in mind. Re-align priorities toward adoption and effective use of remote working and remote storage. Invest in appropriate new technologies to smooth this transition, looking to position their own businesses with or ahead of the new best practice. Involve strategic upper management in technology decisions, making technology investment a part of strategy discussions. Actively cultivate and train new technology leadership, combining long-term strategic planning skills with ‘hard’ technology skills. Those who do not innovate to meet these challenges risk putting themselves at a major strategic disadvantage in the future. Rapid changes in business infrastructure mean that in order to realise the technology benefits they know exist, businesses must invest in the technology tools which will shape the businesses of 2012.
*Cisco TechWatch Winter 2011

 

Name: Magnet Networks
Phone: 1800 819 888
E-mail: sales@magnet.ie
Web: www.magnet.ie

Answered By: Joe Lavin

Q: What predictions, from your area of expertise, can you make about the coming year, and what can your company do for end users in these areas?

A: 2012 is a year when we will see SME’s really adopt cloud applications. The buzz of ‘The Cloud’ will become a reality for many. 2012 will be the fourth year since the banking crisis which has affected businesses throughout Ireland in many ways.

Many of these businesses have not invested in new ICT infrastructure due to the shortage of finance and also due to the uncertain environment. Unfortunately for some businesses this lack of infrastructure is now reaching breaking point and companies need to upgrade servers, software and in particular Phone systems.

With the average life of a phone system being 7 years there are a lot of systems that in reality should have been upgraded from 2009 to 2011. The great news for these businesses is that with more and more cloud applications becoming available, migrating your applications or phone system to the cloud is now an affordable and realistic option. These applications have become the mainstream and have been around for years, meaning the processes businesses have to go through to move to the cloud are easier to undertake. Also cloud services have become even more competitive from a cost perspective.

Here at Magnet, we have been using cloud applications for our CRM and billing platforms for over five years and have been providing cloud services such as hosted phone systems for over four years. However over the last number of years, many small businesses were nervous about migrating mission critical services to the cloud. In 2012 businesses will have heard so much about cloud applications that their awareness plus their internal needs to upgrade systems will overcome a lot of the initial inertia about moving to the cloud.

Magnet will continue educating the market on the benefits of migrating to the cloud as this is an area of expertise for us. As we have built, own and manage our own network, we are in a position to offer the most reliable and cost effective connection to the cloud available in Ireland. Magnet are leading the way in terms of providing phone systems in the cloud (hosted and managed PBX), where we can provide a single phone system connecting a number of sites across the country as extensions.

We have recently enhanced our solutions to enable advanced call centre functionality, meaning you can now have people distributed across multiple locations all participating in a call queue, servicing your customers. With advanced call reporting functionality and an easy to configure web interface this service is enabling businesses to change the way they receive and make calls and thus become more efficient. Another of the key offerings from Magnet is our Managed broadband service which is a suite of broadband connection types that offer customers a connection with an advanced, managed router that is monitored by our level 2 technical support team. It also comes with a higher SLA. This suite of services also includes high availability options tailored to the customer’s needs.

Managed broadband is an important service for any company looking to migrate key applications to the cloud. Having won significant government and business contracts in 2011 Magnet knows what business customers need and most importantly how to deliver them.

Company: O2
Phone: 1800 2000 17
E-mail: business@o2.ie
Web: www.o2.ie/business

Answered By: Alan Brown, business director, Telefónica Ireland, Irish operator of the O2 brand

Q: What predictions, from your area of expertise, can you make about the coming year, and what can your company do for end users in these areas?

A: 1. Increasing use of cloud-based solutions: Research conducted by O2 during 2011 found that over half (54%) of Irish businesses are confused about the term cloud computing. Despite this, 2012 will see continued adoption of cloud services as the real benefits and reality become more widely accepted. A key driver across both public and private sectors will be the need for more productivity and efficiency to ensure maximum returns on investment. This will apply to organisations of all sizes from start-ups to large enterprises against a backdrop of a continued tight rein on capital expenditure (CapEx) and for many, difficulties accessing funding. Organisations must nonetheless seek to enhance their competitiveness by empowering workers and boosting efficiencies, productivity and customer service by adopting the latest developments in computing, mobility and collaboration technologies. Solutions such as O2’s cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 service offer productivity and mobility benefits on scalable, monthly rental basis-very attractive when CapEx is constrained. Another route to reduced CapEx, as organisations seek to move from legacy telephone systems to gain the productivity benefits of an IP infrastructure, is the hosted unified communications service recently launched by O2 and Cisco.

2. Continued consumerisation of devices to create challenges, and opportunities, for IT departments: Proliferation of personal mobile devices such as the latest smartphones and tablets will accelerate. CIOs are already aware of the challenges but with proper application of device management and security policies there are huge upsides. Security and management solutions can ensure the protection of corporate data and compliance with all data protection requirements.

3. Robust networks supporting mission-critical applications will become more important than ever: There will be increased demand on networks in 2012, both public and private. Greater collaboration and mobility creates demand for always-on, reliable access not only to e-mails and voice but also to files, corporate applications and video. This data explosion will see companies turning to partners who can provide reliable broadband networks-to their core locations and to their workers on the move. For example, O2 delivers business services via fibre and copper as well as wirelessly, which allows for great network resilience. On the mobile side, it is currently rolling out its 21Mbps high speed broadband network nationwide. Already live in major urban centres and in a number of regional towns, a further 38 towns are currently being upgraded.

4. Cost concerns will drive increased focus on management information: In 2012 companies will increasingly want to know how and where they are spending money on technology and communications services. Cost control begins with knowledge and measurement and organisations will move to access better management information. The O2 Analyser is an example of a service with a simple user interface that gives this level of visibility and control.

5. Companies will seek partners not vendors: As reflected in ComReg reports, businesses increasingly want to partner with one trusted supplier to provide a broader range of telecommunications services. A single account manager and single bill is essential as companies will not have time to chase around separate providers. More importantly they will seek a partner who can advise on a range of technology solutions rather than selling commodities.

 

Company: Interxion
Phone: (01) 434 4900
E-mail: infodub@interxion.com
Web: www.interxion.com

Answered by: Tanya Duncan, managing director, Interxion

Q: What predictions, from your area of expertise, can you make about the coming year, and what can your company do for end users in these areas?

A: Smart Grid for power and cooling: One way to beat the data demands of the future
People are living longer, cities are getting bigger, and as the population continues to grow sharply, so too will their data demands. The world’s seven billionth baby was born recently, according to a recent UN report, and by 2050 the world population could top 10 billion. The rapid rise in population brings about a number of new challenges and it is important to plan for the sheer amount of data and energy demands that will be placed upon IT infrastructure over the next few decades.

The next generation born will live their entire lives online and by 2100 it is estimated that everybody alive will be connected. The rise in smart devices and cloud computing mean that regardless of any improvements on IT and infrastructure, increased energy and load demands will be placed on the world’s data centres.

A radical and forward thinking approach is necessary in order to plan for the pressure that data centres will be under in as little as a few decades. Interxion, a leading provider of colocation data centres, believes that the answer lies in integrating data centre cooling with the smart grid. How we plan societies will change: data centres need to be placed at the heart of future communities, due to the inevitable needs for future connections.

The smart grid refers to an improved network that intelligently gathers data regarding behaviour, in order to ensure a sustainable, economic and secure electricity supply. The development of smart grid in the UK will be very organic, and while development has so far been slow, in the future we could see one, UK-wide integrated grid emerge.
The cooling demands of the data centres of the future will be immense. Optimising current cooling methods will not be enough, thus we need to plan for major restructuring of a cooling grid.

The smart grid is already in discussion, however so far development has been slow. Firstly, the smart grid needs much faster acceptance and development by governments, academia and enterprise. Secondly, the smart grid needs to be linked with a cooling grid, to form a Smart Grid for Power and Cooling.

Interxion believes that the Smart Grid for Power and Cooling will help protect the environment and resources through more efficient power and cooling management on a mass scale; enabling the world to grow economically through the establishment of new communities which can connect to big hub cities through the cloud, and limiting the need to travel. It will also help improve future quality of life by avoiding the need for people to migrate towards existing population centres; and to establish a new model where data centres are scaled to keep society working, connecting, living and communicating in spite of population growth.

 

Company: Threatscape
Phone: (01) 901 7000
E-mail: info@threatscape.com
Web: www.threatscape.com

Answered by: Dermot Williams, managing director, Threatscape

Q: What predictions, from your area of expertise, can you make about the coming year, and what can your company do for end users in these areas?

A: Hacking will cause loss of life: Throughout 2011 we have seen an increase in targeted cyber-attacks, and a number of high profile incidents involving critical infrastructure. Many of these were suspected to be state-sponsored. In 2012 I expect this type of attack will not only continue, but that given the type of systems being targeted, we will see at least one incident where direct loss of human life results.

Trust in digital certificates gets undermined: 2011 saw multiple instances where compromises of certificate authorities ("CAs") allowed attackers to issue fraudulent certificates (Comodo and DigiNotar for instance). I fear that the CA business will suffer an increasing number of cyber-attacks, something it is vulnerable to because of its highly fragmented and widely distributed nature. Microsoft and Mozilla (Firefox) recognise over 50 root certificates, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has mapped over 650 CAs, which major browsers trust directly or indirectly. Secure web communication via the HTTPS protocol is only as strong as the security of the weakest of this myriad of CAs, and attackers have many targets to choose from. I predict that further compromises will severely test trust in the whole system.

Microsoft software patches monthly instead of weekly: Patch Tuesday is the monthly event which sees Microsoft release security updates to remedy the most recently discovered security vulnerabilities in their products. The intention is to fix flaws before attackers have time to actively exploit them. But with an increasing number of flaws being discovered, and a greater scramble by hackers to exploit them before patches are released and widely deployed, I think 2012 may see Microsoft bow to the inevitable and start to release their patches with greater frequency, perhaps weekly.

Export controls introduced for ‘lawful intercept’ hacking tools: Want to export a nuclear missile to a rogue state such as Iran or North Korea? No, of course you can’t-ditto for a long list of munitions, stun guns, ‘dual use’ materials and much more. Various computer security products, especially those containing strong encryption, are likewise prohibited from sale to those who the USA and its allies consider a threat to world peace. But bizarrely, the sale of computer technology designed to defeat computer security is not controlled in this way. So while it is illegal to sell software to those fighting for democracy in various states, supplying their governments with technology that allows their secret police to spy on private citizens is perfectly legal. Hopefully 2012 will see export controls updated to remedy this bizarre double standard.

Ever more sophisticated mobile threats emerge: Imagine if you could track the movements of an individual of interest to you anywhere they went. Or read their e-mail messages, spy on their SMS messages, maybe even remotely eavesdrop on their conversations or take a few undetected photos or video clips from far away. Orwellian nightmare? No, this is the real threat faced when powerful smartphones are targeted by sophisticated malware. This is just the tip of the iceberg and for 2012 I predict that some of the most audacious and intrusive of all cyber-attacks will be those targeting mobile devices.

 

Company: Sophos
Phone: 00 44 844 767 1131
E-mail: sales@sophos.com
Web: www.sophos.com

Answered by: Dermot Hayden, Sophos

Q: What predictions, from your area of expertise, can you make about the coming year, and what can your company do for end users in these areas?

A: In the global IT security arena we anticipate there will be continued growth in the volume of malware in 2012 and the use of social media and the web for distribution. Cyber-criminals will continue to increase their focus on non-Windows based operating systems and non-Microsoft applications, as they are currently seeing rich pickings in these areas. The explosive growth of mobile devices will continue and with it the pressure on IT departments to gain control of and securely manage these devices. Allied to this, casual consumerisation will make IT’s job harder still, as IT departments struggle to define and enforce suitable security policies to govern the use of these devices. I’m reluctant to mention virtualisation and cloud as a focus for 2012 as Sophos’ Irish customers have been benefiting from our virtualised and cloud based security for the past two years and we will continue our development of these technology areas through 2012.

So, how will all this impact Irish businesses in 2012? I believe we will see even greater pressure on already stretched budgets as businesses look to reduce IT security costs to fund innovative revenue generating projects in anticipation of an upswing in economic activity later in 2012. I see four key areas where businesses could achieve these cost reductions.

Firstly, most Irish businesses are still protecting themselves from the ever growing web malware threat with costly, standalone, non-integrated web security solutions. Sophos is leading the way in our integration of full web security in our Endpoint security solutions thereby reducing web security costs and complexity while improving protection and reporting on users web browsing whenever and wherever they are connected.

Secondly, many Irish businesses use a number of different network security solutions such as firewall, web, e-mail.wireless and intrusion prevention from a diverse range of vendors and I believe here too there is great scope for cost and complexity reduction by deploying a Universal Threat Management appliance which can address all network threats in a single hardware, virtual or software format from one vendor such as Sophos. In fact, our base network firewall software is available free of charge.

Thirdly, as new EU regulations come into being and data, particularly personally identifiable information controls are strengthened, encryption will become a focus area once again. Businesses will need to deploy fully integrated, easy to use and manage encryption and here too Sophos can help Irish businesses with fully integrated encryption in our Endpoint security solutions.

Lastly, businesses will struggle even more in 2012 to patch the range of non-Microsoft applications on their computers such as Winzip, Adobe, Java, Skype etc and will need to deploy technology to identify and ensure crucial security patches are applied in a timely manner! Sophos now has fully integrated graded security patch assessment in our Endpoint security solutions, thus automating this potentially onerous task for our customers!
In summary, taking the cost and complexity out of security by the consolidation and integration of currently disparate solutions such as endpoint, e-mail security, web security, encryption and application patching will go a long way to delivering the IT security cost reductions Irish businesses will need to realise in 2012. Sophos is uniquely placed to help all sizes of Irish businesses do this as the one vendor who can offer Complete Security without complexity across the mobile, endpoint and network security domains.

 

Company: Bryan S Ryan
Phone: (01) 404 7900
E-mail: info@bryansryan.ie
Web: www.bryansryan.ie

Answered by: Brian Whyte, managing director, Bryan S Ryan

Q: What predictions, from your area of expertise, can you make about the coming year, and what can your company do for end users in these areas?

A: The past two years have seen a sharp acceleration in the move to managed print services as companies adopt business strategies to cut costs and raise efficiency. Today’s business climate ensures the trend will continue, with global MPS vendor revenues expected to grow 20% annually until 2015, according to industry analysts.

The corporate migration to better managed and cheaper printing has morphed almost beyond recognition since the pioneering days of multifunctional devices (MFDs). Likewise, vendors fighting for a slice of this lucrative pie are now unrecognisable from the guys in boiler-suits who previously changed toner cartridges and serviced printer-copiers. Workflow and costs are now controlled by sophisticated software tools, with MPS vendors and resellers having to employ staff armed with the skill sets needed to provide support.

Since a managed print contract is likely to be a three or five year marriage of convenience, we at Bryan S. Ryan, Irish MPS specialists, aim to future-proof our clients through an armoury of cross-platform software and hardware. Our offerings now encompass a wide range of IT disciplines, including virtualisation and server technology.
Beyond our expertise in managed print, we offer our customers support in general IT, including software and hardware, server technology and virtualisation skills. The advantages to the MPS customer include expense oversight and control, plus a clearer understanding of the ROI in the daily infrastructure-benefits that would not accrue simply through a move to outsourced virtualisation.

The predicted 20% annual growth in vendor revenues reflects the accelerating adoption of MPS by companies recognising the benefits of such a strategy. Savings achieved are "consistently as high as 30%", claimed the Photizo research and consulting specialist this year (2011).

These savings are achieved through better deployment and by sourcing the right product to enable printing at optimum cost for the customer. Software tools such as Uniflow and Equitrac control the print through a suite of reports tailored to meet a specific organisation’s requirements. These reports include analysis of cost and usage, broken down by department, and charge back for clients where appropriate.

However, prospective customers need to be aware of the pitfalls that could ensue from a less-than-careful choice of vendor. You don’t want to find yourself locked into a contract tying you to specific brands of software or hardware that could at some future point leave your expansion plans hobbled.

So a vendor should be able to showcase successful deployments and provide verifiable customer references. The key elements to watch for are not merely the lowest cost, though this may be part of the equation. More important is the approach by the MPS project team, the scoping exercise, listening to the client and gathering information, aided by software tools, and rollout procedures based on the team’s experience. The SLA agreement and measurable reports to benchmark success after the event are also key elements.

Once a potential customer is satisfied that a vendor checks all the above boxes-and provided the cost is competitive-a company probably has all the right information needed to make a decision that is the best one for that organisation.

 



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