Tag Archives: Software

The End of the Beginning

In his Tech Futures talk at the a16z Summit in November 2018, Andreessen Horowitz Partner Benedict Evans walks through where we are now in software eating the world and how things may continue to change over the next 10 years.

What’s the state of not just “the world of tech”, but tech in the world? The access story is now coming to an end, observes Evans, but the use story is just beginning: Most of the people are now online, but most of the money is still not. If we think we’re in a period of disruption right now, how will the next big platform shifts — like machine learning — impact huge swathes of retail, manufacturing, marketing, fintech, healthcare, entertainment, and more? Especially as technology begins to tackle bigger problems, in harder markets, at deeper (and more structural) levels?

Digital Trends and Predictions for 2018

With software and adjacent technologies continuing to eat the world, we see the pace of #digital transformation accelerating in 2018 as organizations strive to enhance their customer and operational intelligence.

Organizations will grapple with a variety of digital technologies and skillsets this year to become more data-driven in order to improve their agility and decision-making capabilities. As always, they’ll be looking for ways to simplify operations and get more done with less. We predict the concepts and trends listed below will light a path for organizations to show them the way forward:

  • Climbing the Stairway from the Edge to the Cloud

The ongoing journey to move data, apps and other digital assets from private, on-premises data centers to public clouds will continue unabated as organizations look to reduce or eliminate internal ICT functions and responsibilities. Even in the midst of cutting costs, organizations will still struggle with concerns around cloud vendor lock-in via PaaS which will benefit IaaS virtual machines, container technologies like Docker and container orchestration technologies like Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, Mesos and Marathon. Overall, Amazon AWS plus Microsoft Azure and Office365 will continue to be the biggest beneficiaries of the public cloud megatrend. Along the way, one of the stair steps that remains on-premise is something called the Fog or the Edge. If you’re familiar with how content delivery network (CDN) proxy servers around the world cache and speed the delivery of Web content to your browser, Edge gateway devices do something similar. With more and more of an organization’s compute occurring in distant, public clouds, Edge devices residing on the local network can cache, aggregate, analyze and speed up cloud content to give employees inside the office a better experience. Edge devices can also be used with the Internet of Things where they connect to machines and cache, aggregate, and analyze data locally instead of waiting for that data to be transported to a distant cloud. Since neither people nor machines are vary tolerant of too much latency, expect the adoption of Edge gateway devices and associated local storage to surge in 2018.

  • Enhanced Networking Inside and Out

As organizations reduce the number of digital assets and activities that take place in-house, the primary role of ICT departments will be to create and maintain fast, reliable connectivity via wired and wireless technologies. Wired networking will be “more of the same” as we push speeds forward with fiber optics and Gigabit Ethernet to shuttle employees out to the Internet. Wireless is where things get more interesting. Inside the office, organizations will continue rolling out 802.11ac Wi-Fi access points running in the 5 GHz band to deliver data and high-bandwidth content like HD video to any device. Outside, the 3GPP has officially signed off on the first 5G specification which promises to deliver greater bandwidth, lower latency, better coverage, lower battery consumption and a higher number of simultaneously connected devices. As you might imagine, it will take some time to roll out technology based on this spec so we will look to get more mileage out of 4G technologies like LTE Advanced. On the slower side of things, you have Low-Power, Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) technologies that are making great strides for certain Internet of Things use cases. The ability to create a large wireless network in places where no cellular coverage exits is compelling for organizations capable of managing such a system. If you have devices or machines that don’t send much data every day, require years of battery life, or need to send data over long distances, one of the many LPWAN technologies might be a good fit. Whether you’re inside or outside, looking for narrowband or broadband, there’s plenty of wireless choices for organizations in 2018.

  • Mobility for People and IoT for Machines

While the mobile device revolution has been the biggest megatrend of this new century, the torch has now been passed to the Internet of Things. When you think about it, they’re not terribly different from each other except for the endpoints. Mobile device endpoints are proxies for people and Thing endpoints refer to machines (intelligent or otherwise). They’re both sending data about themselves and other topics of interest over a network. Both interact with apps, analytics and other on-prem or cloud data sources to derive value and business intelligence. In order to regain a level of simplicity and perhaps sanity, organizations will push back against the use of multiple enterprise platforms for Mobile people and IoT machines. Additionally, many organizations will wring their hands of having to understand an alphabet soup of protocols and myriad IoT standards and revert to using the same Web and Internet standards they already understand. Just like they currently do with Mobile and the Web, organizations will insist that IoT sends and receives JSON data to and from URLs over HTTP/REST while being displayed via HTML5, secured with TLS and brought to life with JavaScript. This use of familiar, widely-used, “good enough” Web technologies will win the day over the more advanced but esoteric technologies currently employed by IoT platforms. This move to simplicity and familiarity will reduce friction and help the Internet of Things deliver value and fulfill its promise the way the Mobile, Web and the Cloud have. Expect big changes in IoT for 2018 along with a big shakeout of the hundreds of Internet of Things platform companies.

  • Digital Twins make Everything Digital

The rise of Digital Twins will give every organization the starting point they’re looking for to begin their Digital Transformation. A Digital Twin is essentially a digital representation of a physical object. It can be a machine, a person, a complex mechanical subsystem, a collection of machines working together on an assembly line, or even a process. These twins have attributes or properties that describe them like a person’s heart rate or a motor’s temperature or current revolutions per minute (RPM). Organizations can assign key performance indicators (KPIs) to the current values of these properties. A red heart rate KPI might be 200 whereas a green motor temperature KPI might be 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Digital Twins can exhibit behavior by executing programming language and/or analytics code against the combination of their current property values and associated KPIs. Not only does this bring everything in an organization to life, it also facilitates the running of simulations to see how things will behave when different types of data points are fed to these Digital Twins. This is definitely the most promising and exciting technology for 2018.

  • Security, Privacy and GDPR cause Organizations to Stumble

Unrelenting cyberattacks keep organizations in a defensive posture rather than moving forward with important digital initiatives and deployments. While we won’t cover the myriad security steps every organization must follow in order to stay ahead of individual and state-sponsored hackers, this is one of the most important functions of an ICT department. Organizational leaders who don’t take this seriously by not funding the appropriate security technology or staffing the appropriate security employee headcount do so at their own peril. Needless to say, organizations must prioritize the privacy and protection of data, people (employees and customers), and systems if they want to remain viable. To turn up the heat a bit, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes enforceable on May, 25 2018. This regulation gives control back to EU citizens and residents over their personal data by strengthening data protections for all individuals within the  European Union as well as the export of personal data outside the EU. Quite a few companies operating in countries across the globe play it fast-and-loose with the security and privacy of individual data without user consent. This comes to an end in May when companies can be fined  up to €20 million or 4% of their global annual revenue, whichever is greater, for violating this regulation. Any company operating in the EU must obtain explicit consent for all data collected from an individual as well as reason/purpose of using and processing that data. Additionally, that user consent may be withdrawn. Many companies around the world haven’t made the necessary changes to their digital systems to be compliant with GDPR and will be in for a rude awakening in 2018. Data privacy and security matters in a big way.

  • Making Sense of an Avalanche of Data with Advanced Analytics

While data and analytics systems have been around for decades, the amount of data collected for analysis by organizations has increased exponentially. With a 50x growth rate from machines alone, the Internet of Things has become the newest data source for organizations to analyze. Lots of little data integrated from people, machines and business systems adds up to an overwhelming amount of Big Data to make sense of. Luckily, there are an increasing number of streaming and batch analytics systems and tools to tackle this job. Making this trend better is that most of these technologies are open source and free which helps level the playing field between small, mid-sized and large organizations with varying amounts of money to spend. Head over to Apache.org. Another interesting trend in data science is how Python has surpassed R as the most popular language for Machine Learning. An increase on online courseware, an abundance of scientific libraries, and the fact that Python is one of the easiest programming languages to learn, means you don’t always have to be a PhD in Statistics to get the job done. Virtually every organization in the world is looking for Machine Learning/Deep Learning expertise, so this trend should help the supply side of this equation. The last analytics trend that is coming on strong in 2018 has to do with where data is analyzed. It will no longer be the exclusive domain of the cloud or large clusters of servers. The need to answer questions and make decisions more quickly is driving analytics of all types out to the Edge. Thanks to Moore’s Law and the need to eliminate latency, more and more edge gateway devices will be performing IFTTT and even Machine Learning predictions (with models trained in the cloud). There’s no shortage of important trends that are simplifying advanced analytics for organizations in 2018.

Clearly, 2018 is going to be a transformational year where properly-equipped decision-makers and leaders can shift their organization into the next gear to accelerate their digital transformation. Hold on tight.

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Reduce Business Risk by Migrating your Legacy Software to Modern, Secure Platforms and Programming Languages

Businesses drag their feet when mobilizing line of business #apps via legacy #software migration thinking it’s cheaper to maintain a codebase than to rewrite for #mobile.

I get it. Migrating all those apps to mobile seems like eating the proverbial elephant. They cost a lot of money to build, the highly-skilled developers needed to rewrite the code are harder to find than ever, the code isn’t commented and there aren’t any docs. This often leads to IT decision makers putting off these projects, perhaps until it’s not their problem anymore. So why do it?

For starters, your employees will be significantly more productive running your apps on the mobile devices they actually use. Since work is not a place to go but a thing to do, employees can get their jobs done from anywhere. Millennials won’t be chained to a desk and they’re going to use the devices they like best. Face it, those Win32 apps are never going to run on someone’s iPhone and your new generation of employees haven’t ever heard of Windows 95. Not changing is a non-starter as you’ll just miss out on younger talent entirely.

Another good reason migrate all these apps and systems is because they’re running on outdated hardware and software. It goes without saying that this infrastructure has far surpassed its end of life (EOL) and there is absolutely no support coming from the original vendors of the computers, operating systems, software and development tools. I’m actually not 100% correct on this point. There are some giant technology vendors that charge tens of millions of dollars per year to support old systems that reached EOL without migrating. In the end, migrating is significantly cheaper and it rescues your valuable intellectual property from fragile, unsupported, failing systems.

There’s a more ominous reason to migrate your apps. Most data breaches are due to running unpatched, out-of-date, and therefore unprotected software. This includes:

  • Software written before PCs were pervasively open to Internet attacks.
  • Apps that don’t require authentication.
  • Apps that don’t encrypt data at-rest or data in-transit.
  • Apps written before established secure development lifecycle procedures.
  • Un-patched software.
  • Software oblivious to buffer overflows or SQL injection attacks.
  • Software and services built with the assumption that they would always be “inside the firewall” and therefore protected.
  • Apps that don’t follow “least privilege” principles.
  • Apps that don’t work with modern sandboxed operating systems.

This older and often unattended software is putting your company at risk. Individual and state-sponsored hackers are attacking the software of companies all over the world. Valuable intellectual property and sensitive customer data is being stolen daily. Company executives are getting fired. You absolutely don’t want this to be your priceless intellectual property or your customer data. This is a fast ticket to losing your competitive advantage as well as the trust of your customers. Oh, and you might be looking for a new CEO and CIO.

So what’s the game plan?

  • Catalog all your Win32 and Web 1.0 apps and assemble a v-team to take ownership of them.
  • Send out surveys to all your employees to find out who’s still using which apps.
  • Utilize asset management discovery software that scans the company network searching for apps running on Windows, Macs and servers.
  • Pull the plug on apps that don’t show up in a survey or via asset management scanning.
  • Listen carefully for screaming employees and turn those apps back on. I expect you’ll find a good percentage of those apps aren’t used anymore.
  • Eliminate the next chunk of apps by seeing if employees can use a new or different process to accomplish certain tasks. Your business and processes may have changed so much over the years that some of these apps aren’t relevant.

When rewriting the remaining apps, focus less on the code and more on data sources, workflows, user interfaces, performance and latency. I’ll talk later about new ways to connect to data and build new apps. It’s more important to reverse-engineer the way employees perceive these apps to work than how the existing code actually makes them work. This provides a good opportunity to stealthily update business cases.

Reduce risk to your company by migrating unsafe, unsupported, end of life software to modern, secure platforms and programming languages. How rapidly is your company de-risking its exposure to legacy business applications?

Learn how to digitally transform your company in my newest book, “Mobile Strategies for Business: 50 Actionable Insights to Digitally Transform your Business.”

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Click here to purchase a copy of my book today and start transforming your business!

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Reduce Corporate Expenses by Configuring Devices and Delivering Apps to Users with MDM

When you’re ready to deploy #apps or provision Wi-Fi, certificates, VPN or email to #mobile devices, get an #EMM solution to provide #MDM.

With the basics of device-level security and policy enforcement covered by Exchange ActiveSync, you’re ready to take the next step in providing value to your employees. Extending access to PIM, delivering apps to devices and provisioning functionality over the air was the reason the earliest mobile device management (MDM) packages were built. I should know since I co-founded the first cloud-based MDM company back in 2003. The space has broadened significantly and is now referred to as enterprise mobility management (EMM) with an evolving set of features. The MDM component of EMM delivers:

  • Support for the most widely used mobile operating systems
  • Software lifecycle management that deploys, upgrades and retires apps
  • Operating system configuration management that enforces the IT policies applied to devices, monitors compliance and provides auditing
  • Simplifies users’ lives by provisioning pre-configured settings for email, VPN, Wi-Fi and certificates via profiles
  • Asset management and usage of devices and apps
  • Telecom expense management
  • Service management and remote helpdesk support capabilities
  • Scalability to support hundreds of thousands of devices

Reduce your expenses and improve user productivity by remotely configuring devices and delivering apps to users without needing additional support staff. What is your organization doing do help employees configure their mobile devices and get the apps they need?

Learn how to digitally transform your company in my newest book, “Mobile Strategies for Business: 50 Actionable Insights to Digitally Transform your Business.”

Book Cover

Click here to purchase a copy of my book today and start transforming your business!