On the 30th August 2013 Catch will close the doors on its cloud based note taking service. On a personal level, I’m a little saddened by this; they had a really nice product and it’s always a shame when innovative start-ups don’t achieve their potential. But on a professional level it provides an interesting prompt for thinking about supplier risk in the cloud.
The highest profile closure of a cloud service this year has been Google Reader, which according to some estimates displaced as many as three million users; dozens of other services, small and large have also gone the way of the dodo this year. In the consumer market this, all too frequent, occurrence is often met with a great deal of public outrage from a loyal fan base, especially when a large company is involved. To some extent we can hardly be surprised by the closure of these consumer services, they are often ‘free’ to use and exist in a market highly given to the cult of new. However, the shuttering of a service so clearly aimed at the enterprise should serve as a salient reminder to CIOs on how supplier management in the cloud requires a different mind-set to the way we’ve worked before.
It’s worth remembering that in a traditional applications environment we could say with reasonable certainty when a product would go end-of-life (for Microsoft and Oracle products this is up to decade away) and with smaller suppliers we had standard measures (such as code escrow) to mitigate risk. In any case you could keep the existing system limping along in your data centre until you arranged an orderly migration.
In the cloud things are different: contracts have a higher tendency to be click-wrap, product release cycles are shorter, ‘upgrades’ aren’t optional and the much touted benefits of no-commitment and not owning infrastructure are a two-way street when it comes to supplier failure. This isn’t to say that cloud services aren’t enterprise ready, clearly they are and provide significant commercial and technical advantages, more that we need to examine supplier risk mitigation in a different way. This was covered in depth in our White Book of Cloud Security, but bears briefly repeating.
Firstly, we need to examine the likelihood and consequences of service loss; this will be dependent on the type of service and the service provider. Start-up service providers (who are often the most innovative and interesting) need particularly careful examination because failure or acquisition are both likely, and each presents a risk to continuity of service. It is also important to look behind the ISV to consider the downstream risk of their infrastructure or platform provider. In some cases the platform provider may prove to be a positive they are willing to stand behind their ISV ecosystem; definitely something to discuss with your service provider.
Poor exit and migration planning is one of the risks of the ‘shadow IT’ culture that can spring up when CIOs are not fully sighted on cloud purchasing decisions by business units, a situation compounded by the fact that it is these departmental point solutions that are most likely to be using small, new suppliers. Therefore, CIOs need to also ensure they’re engaging with other parts of the business to check they are applying the same process of identifying and managing supplier risk where cloud services are being deployed locally.
Now we’ve worked out the service risk, we need to consider our strategies for managing this impact. Perhaps the most important consideration is data ownership and data recovery. Here we need to understand the method and format for recovering the data as well as an up-to-date inventory of what is stored where. Related to this we need to have a migration strategy, potentially to interim storage before transition to a long term replacement service. Given the volumes of data involved, this is another timely reminder that you need to keep up-to-date backups of cloud data too.
It is preparing for cloud service migration that is most challenging for CIOs and IT departments to deal with. We’re used to planning for migration once, with lead times of a year or more. Catch gave their users 30-days. This means that we need to ensure a constant engagement with suppliers and maintain an active migration plan for critical cloud services. This level of flexibility is something new for many IT departments, but can come with other upsides. Planning for rapid migration should ensure a more consistent use of standards and militate against unnecessary customisation of services; the more standard and standards compliant your service the easier it is to migrate.
In summary, the closing of Catch should remind CTOs and IT department that managing the risk of supplier failure in the cloud is different to the enterprise software that we’ve been used to. In particular they should maintain active migration plans for key cloud services and ensure they design services in such a way to implement migrations in weeks rather than months.
More information about adoption and management of cloud services can be found in Fujitsu’s White Book Series.
Last week I gave a talk optimistically titled ‘Entering the New Technology Era’. I quite like this idea. Aside from suiting my generally positive outlook, it is a counter point to the constant fug of gloom on the economic front. But there was more to this title than finding ways to stay chipper. It is a subject that has generated academic attention.
Carlota Perez is an economist who studies the relationship of technology innovation and the business cycle. I have a hazy recollection as an economics student the concept of the long term economic cycle – the Kondratiev Wave.Poor old Nikolai Kondratiev fell foul of Stalin in the 30s and was carted off to a gulag and executed. Perez, living in happier times, has developed Kondratiev’s idea and brought it up to date.
She observes that major technologies – like steam, steel and oil have generated long term patterns of activity, which have show similarities even across different centuries. The period we’re talking about is long – 60 years or more – and according to Perez occurs over two phases. An ‘installation’ phase, where the technology is built and becomes mainstream; and an ‘exploitation’ phase, where society adjusts to the new capability and finds new ways to benefit from it. In between these phases there is a period of adjustment, characterized by economic contraction.
For instance the oil industry was born around the turn of the twentieth century. It drove a whole new infrastructure from manufacturing to transport to chemicals. Thirty years later there was the Great Depression, and then a new era emerged. It was the age of freeways, suburbia and consumer goods. ‘You’ve never had it so good’ chimed Harold McMillan, the British prime minister in 1957.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. The million dollar question: is digital technology showing a similar pattern?
There are some reasonable grounds to consider it. The last thirty years have been about building digital infrastructure – first with the PC, data networks to the internet to data centers to mobile networks to cloud platforms. We have seen a host of giant companies emerge over the period – Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Google, Amazon – all from nowhere.
Now it seems the way that IT creates value is changing.
For a long time, this industry has focused on delivering gains in business productivity. From ERP systems to spreadsheets to email, IT has been about making the wheels of business turn faster. Today, technology is no longer restricted to the dark reaches of the back office. Retailers are finding innovative ways to use technology to engage their customers.
Or take Fujitsu’s smart walking stick. A device that can help elderly people to navigate (it has GPS) but also monitor their health, like pulse and temperature, and even raise alerts if they get into trouble. It sounds a little comical at first. But there is a serious issue behind it. Japan is challenged with an aging population, and much thought is being given to how to not only improve the lives of the elderly, but also to reduce the economic burden. It is not long before this will be a big problem in the west.
The signs are the role of technology is changing, and by exploiting what we have built – networks, cloud platforms, consumer technologies we can suddenly realize new value. If you can re-imagine something as simple as a walking stick, is there no limit to where technology can be used?
It is difficult to know where things will go, but if Carlota Perez is right the next thirty years will be very different from the last thirty.
I am at Citrix Synergy 2013 in Los Angeles at the moment at booth #305 if you wish to come along and meet. We are demonstrating our strategy for BYOD and Managed Mobile and our desktop virtualization offering Virtual Client Services. All built on Citrix technology.
Great news today as Citrix XenMobile™ Enterprise is announced. This is the first real fruits of their acquisition of Zenprise and, as I said in an earlier blog this year, BYOD and mobility are critical areas for our clients as they seek better ways to drive up productivity, reduce costs and be generally more agile in how they operate.
We have been delivering in enterprise mobility space for nearly 10 years and were the first major service provider to team with Zenprise nearly three years ago – so it is great to see how the technology is going from strength to strength.
Our clients continue to look for ways to improve the productivity of their end users. Work boundaries are no longer defined by time or location, but by the data itself. Therefore, secure access to that data on any device, anywhere is critical to enabling the modern workforce to be at its most productive. It also reflects how people increasingly want to work, time-slicing their day and blurring the boundaries between “work” time and “home” time.
This challenge necessitates the support of a variety of different use cases, such as users with traditional physical desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets. It also requires us to support different scenarios where people may be using a combination of these technologies throughout the day. In response, we must make the most of desktop virtualization, embrace the relentless trend of consumerization and be able to manage a plethora of business-owned and user-owned devices referred to as ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD). We call this a “blended service”.
We use Citrix technology to deliver this blended service and Citrix XenDesktop 7 announced today at Citrix Synergy™, is the next major release of this market-leading solution. It is designed to help businesses mobilize their core Windows line-of-business apps and introduces easy deployment, simple administration, time-saving automation and a flexible new architecture that prepares IT to leverage private, public and hybrid cloud resources.
XenDesktop 7 is built as an open platform that may be deployed on any hypervisor or cloud management solution. Fujitsu’s Virtual Client Services solution is optimized for this exciting new platform and it is this combination that will lead to significant new functionality while reducing complexity and pushing down costs.
This means we can deliver a compelling end-user experience while reducing costs and creating the agility to deliver the blended service they need to meet our customers’ diverse and challenging requirements.
If you would like to learn more about our work with Citrix we are Citrix Synergy 2013 in Los Angeles this week where we are demonstrating our desktop virtualization offering Virtual Client Services and our strategy for BYOD and Managed Mobile.
Our clients are increasingly looking to deliver a service to end users that encompass a variety of different use cases: supporting the traditional physical desktop and laptop users, exploiting desktop virtualization where appropriate and embracing consumerization and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). We call this a “blended service” and key to delivering this effectively is “user virtualization”.
We rely on AppSense, a leader in this field, as our partner of choice for user virtualization – a critical part of our standardized global Virtual Client Services (VCS) offering. And key to driving this standardized and global approach has been a joint investment in the creation of the first AppSense Center of Excellence for global User Virtualization deployments. Based in the Fujitsu Global Delivery Center in Kazan, Russia, we have created a streamlined and scalable global strategy for application packaging and a Global Application Store that will considerably reduce the cost and time needed to deliver desktop transformation projects. It is all about packaging an application once with the opportunity to deliver it many times across projects.
While VCS delivers desktop and application virtualization, it is AppSense User Virtualization that enables us to provide the blended service to both physical and virtual desktops and support anywhere, anytime, any device flexibility – safely and securely. This means we can deliver a compelling end-user experience while reducing costs and creating the agility to deliver BYOD.
As Cameron McNaught, Senior Vice President, Cloud and Strategic Solutions, International Business, Fujitsu says, “Our partnership with AppSense allows Fujitsu to deliver a blended service focused on the user and not the underlying technology or device,”
If you want to read more follow the links to learn about our work with AppSense, the Fujitsu desktop virtualization offering Virtual Client Services and our strategy for BYOD and Managed Mobile. There is also a video on why we look to “manage the user not the device”.
It’s almost exactly ten years since I gave a presentation to 160 Characters, the UK SMS and mobile messaging association, which looked at current trends in mobile phone usage in Japan and tried to answer the burning question of the day for the mobile industry – why hadn’t Japan’s wonderful handsets and mobile internet services such as i-mode made it to the rest of the world?
The reasons were many - partly because of the use of different wireless technologies and systems in Japan compared to the rest of the world, but also because of the difficulty in setting up the kind of eco-system that worked so well in Japan of network operators, handset manufacturers, software developers and content providers.
So I was cheering loudly at the positive coverage Fujitsu received at the Mobile World Congress last month, where we showcased our Stylistic S01, a smartphone designed especially for senior users which will be available via Orange France from June 2013.
The GPS walking cane also attracted plenty of positive media attention (“the best thing we’ve seen so far this year” Engadget) as did the PalmSecure technology for tablets.
All of these technologies illustrate what it was that made Japanese handsets special even ten years’ ago – what at Fujitsu we call “human-centric” technology. An attention to detail, technical innovation and quality of course, but always in support of customer needs.
We have been spending quite a bit of time over the past few months talking to CIOs, along with Citrix, looking at the consumerization of IT and the challenges and opportunities of BYOD. The discussions suggest that our interpretation and approach meets the needs of the market.
The executives told us that BYOD is a key issue for many organizations – across all sectors and geographies – and while the specific issues may vary, the general consensus is clear: BYOD is something to embrace and be proactive about. Yes, there are risks around security, compliance, privacy and keeping control of the organization’s data but there is significant “upside” to be had in terms of improved productivity, user experience and attracting and retaining new, young talent. There is also the very real issue of senior Executives expecting to use their “shiny” new tablets on the corporate network!
All this plays well to Fujitsu’s approach to BYOD as we take a business and not a technology perspective. Our focus is on helping deliver a BYOD initiative that suits your organization, something we achieve through a consulting service that is backed by the managed services needed to deliver desktop and application virtualization and Mobile Device Management (MDM).
Interestingly, with the recent purchase of Zenprise by Citrix, both our desktop virtualization and MDM solutions are now underpinned by Citrix technology. For Virtual Client Services (VCS) we use XenDesktop and for Managed Mobile we use XenMobile MDM Edition (which is part of the Citrix Mobile Solutions Bundle – a comprehensive solution to enable strategic mobility initiatives). So we are expecting to drive even greater synergies in the future.
If you want to know more about our approach to BYOD you can read more here, download our brochure and watch our videos on how to “manage the user not the device” and “Improve employee’s productivity”.
Fujitsu will launch this spring the Big Data Plaza platform for the Japanese market, where firms can access the data that other organisations have gathered on online shopping habits, traffic flow data from taxis, smartphone location information etc. The data can then be analysed by companies for product development and creating new business lines.
To address privacy concerns, all data on the exchange will be anonymised. Fujitsu is aiming to sign up 1000 customers by 2016 and is currently in talks with various retailers and manufacturers. The Plaza webpage (in Japanese) is here.
We only issued the press release in Japanese but you can find a translation of the front page news article from the Nihon Keizai Shimbun here (subscription only).
Fujitsu has been developing various software and middleware for big data analysis for some years – more on our Interstage software can be found here (in English this time!) and we have a big data user cases brochure here:
Last week I had the pleasure of being the MC for the 6th Annual Fujitsu North America Technology Forum. The theme this year was “Powering a Sustainable Future with Next Generation Technologies”. With over 500 registrations and standing room only the event was a sell-out. More information can be found here
Mr. Kimura, President and CEO of Fujitsu Laboratories of America opened the event and set the scene for an action packed day. We then heard from Mr Tomita, President, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., about how to create new value by leveraging advanced technologies in particular the Fujitsu business and global workforce highlighting Fujitsu’s innovations over time. We learnt about Fujitsu labs and their global partnerships. Tomita san introduced the human centric perspective and the need for ICT to contribute towards a safe and happy society. The challenges we face across borders and interrelated social issues. We heard about the ageing population and impact on healthcare needs.
Our first guest speaker was Dr John Hennessy, President, Stanford University who shared with us lessons from Silicon Valley and how to create innovation organically and it’s relationship with growth. How we have seen research move back more and more into universities. We heard him talk about promoting innovation in a university or company and then the transferring of innovations from labs to products. With some great stories about Xerox and Yahoo and Google to name a few. Key insights included: The key is to get the very best people and to reward impact to change the world. The key to transferring technology is to transfer the people not the technology.
In the panel session on “Future Solutions for Smart Energy” we learnt about the advances in smart grids, reducing peak power demand, developments in automated demand and response standards and world leading efficiency power supply devices. We discussed not only the technology challenges but the challenges in end user behaviour, read an associated article here
After lunch we heard from our second guest Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman Emeritus of MIT Media Lab and Founder of One Laptop per Child Association. He spoke about how business schools will be replaced by design schools in the future. We heard about the early developments of the MIT Media labs and the relationship with Fujitsu labs. With the early introduction of technology in the developing world dramatically increased the rate of kids going to university and kept the passion for learning alive. “If kids can learn to read then kids can read to learn and learning is part of a mission not a market.”
Followed by our second panel session on “Big data: application and security privacy.” We discussed cloud security alliance and the Big Data WG which has 60 members who are looking at a range of issues, such as how you can use big data for security and not view it as a barrier. Security challenges as a result of big data due to public cloud and the nature of the data itself and the cloud attack surface taxonomy.
Our third panel session was the “Next Generation Human Centric Technologies” and we heard about consumer level sensing devices and the sprout platform. Combining different data streams for example combining stress data with GPS data. We heard a about eye tracking and how technology can monitor the user and the device can learn what the user wants to do.
Our final guest speaker was Alan Kay, President and Founder of Viewpoints Research Institute and he spoke about sustainable thinking. “Why we aren’t seeing the bigger problem?” We heard him talk about blind spots and the world isn’t what it seems and how most human learning is remembering in context. We love stories and are indifferent to science, we accept the story. How we are still operating as hunters and gatherers which have no regards for sustainability, we are basically cave people with briefcases. “Our biggest challenge with sustainability is we can’t imagine as we all we can experience.”
The technology showcase was fantastic and great for attendees to really see the innovations come to life.
Fujitsu CTO Craig Baty talks about Fujitsu’s quest to build an advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) Undergraduate
Fujitsu Laboratories and Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII) will take part in an artificial brain project, known as “Can a Robot Pass the University of Tokyo (Todai) Entrance Exam?”, otherwise known as “Todai Robot.” Based on formula manipulation and computer algebra technology, Fujitsu Laboratories will participate as the math team for the project.
Led by NII professor Noriko Arai, Todai Robot was started in 2011. The goal is to enable an artificial brain to score high marks in the Japanese National Center for University Entrance Examinations by 2016, and to cross the admission threshold for Todai by 2021.
For many years, Fujitsu Laboratories has been researching formula manipulation and computer algebra for solving mathematical problems related to mathematical analysis and optimisation technologies. Fujitsu’s involvement in the Todai Robot math team is a way to develop technologies required for human-centric ICT. Technologies developed under this project should enable anyone to easily use sophisticated mathematical analysis tools, leading to solutions for a wide range of real-world problems, and the automation of mathematical analysis and optimization.
The project aims to increase the accuracy of elemental AI technologies developed to date, and integrate them to create future value in information technology, while also deepening our comprehensive understanding of human thought.
For a computer to solve math entrance-exam problems (1), it must first convert the problem text (expressed in natural language and formulas easily understood by humans), into a program executeable form. The next step is for a program known as a “solver” to solve the problem. This requires three processes as shown in the diagram below.
Getting a computer to understand text that was intended for humans is not an easy task. Using natural-language processing to draw out a semantic representation of the problem text is not simply a matter of analyzing the words. It also involves skillfully integrating mathematical terminology and a high-school level understanding of math. Beyond that, it needs to decide the best way for the computer to solve the problem. Currently only approximately 50–60% of Level 2 entrance-exam problems can be solved, even using computer algebra technology, so the challenge of the project is to improve the algorithm.
1.Math Problems. Math entrance-exam problems are high-school math problems been contributed by the Benesse Corporation, Tokyo Shoseki Co., Ltd., and JC Educational Institute, Inc
2.The initiatives of the math team are scheduled to be detailed in “Uniting Natural Language Processing and Computer Algebra to Solve Mathematics Problems” (Akiko Aizawa, Takuya Matsuzaki, Hirokazu Anai), a paper in a special issue on the Todai Robot project in vol. 27, no. 5 of the Journal of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence.