Casting our eye over HCI – Ruairi McBride – Ep65

I’ve spoken a bit recently about the world of Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) especially as the technology continues to mature, with both improved hardware stacks and software looking to take advantage of this hardware, it is becoming an ever more compelling prospect.

ruairiHow do these developments, an HCI version 2.0 if you like, manifest themselves? Recently I saw a good example in a series of blog posts and videos from friend of the show Ruairi McBride, which demonstrated really well both the practical deployment and look and feel of a modern HCI platform.

The videos focussed on NetApp’s new offering and covered the out of the box experience, how to physically cable together your HCI building blocks and how to take your build from delivery to deployment in really easy steps. This demonstration of exactly how you build a HCI platform was interesting, not just on a practical level, but also gave me some thoughts around why and how you may want to use HCI platforms in a business context.

With that in mind, I thought a chat with Ruairi about his experience with this particular HCI platform, how it goes together, how it is practically deployed and how it meets some of the demands of modern business would make an interesting podcast.

So hear it is, Ruairi joins me as we cast our eye over HCI (stole the title from Ruairi’s BLOG post!).

We start by discussing what HCI is and why it’s simplicity of deployment is useful, we also look at the pro’s and cons of the HCI approach. Ruairi shares some thoughts on HCI’s growing popularity and why the world of smartphones may be to blame!

We look at the benefit of a single vendor approach within our infrastructure, but also discuss that although the hardware elements of compute and storage are important, the true value of HCI lies in the software.

We discuss the modern business technology landscape and how a desire for a more “cloud like” experience within our on-premises datacentres has demanded a different approach to how we deploy our technology infrastructure.

We wrap up by looking at why as a business you’d consider HCI, what problems will it solve for you and what are the use cases that are a strong HCI fit and of course, it’s important to remember that HCI isn’t the answer to every question!

To find out more about NetApp HCI visit here.

Ruairi’s initial “Casting Our Eye Over HCI” blog and video series is here.

If you have further questions for Ruairi, you can find him on twitter @mcbride_ruairi.

Until next time.

Thanks for listening.

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IoT more than a sensor – Mark Carlton -Ep64

Buzzwords are a constant in IT, Cloud, HCI, Analytics, GDPR are all in common parlance in technology discussions across businesses of all type. However often these words are bandied about and serious discussions are had, however not everyone is sure what some of these buzzwords mean, what the technology consists of and importantly what positive impact does it have on an organisation? if any positive impact at all!

Let me present another contender to the buzzword Olympics, IoT or “The Internet of Things” what does that mean? What is a thing? And do I want things? let alone an Internet of them! The only thing I know about IoT was that I don’tt really know much about it!

When I heard that a friend of the podcast had taken on a new role as an IoT Solutions Architect and wrote a great introduction to IoT blog post (Demystifying IoT)
It seemed like a great opportunity to get some IoT education for not only me, but also the Tech Interviews audience.

So, on this week’s show I’m joined by Mark Carlton, who is now an IoT Solutions Architect at Arrow ECS and asked him to share what he’s discovered in his time in the role, how he sees IoT as a technology and how implementing it can deliver value to a business.

We start off by trying to define what we mean by IoT and Mark shares how, like many a new IT trend, it isn’t really that new.

We also explore why IoT is more than just sensors and how in reality IoT is a platform architected from sensors, gateways and importantly analytics tools that can help us to make sense of the data we collect and turn it into something valuable.

We discuss how often IoT projects are too quick to focus on putting sensors in lots of places rather than starting with a focus on business outcomes and asking the question “What do I want to achieve with this sensor?”.

Mark shares the importance of looking at IoT projects like any IT project, with a focus on business outcomes, the Why? How? And What? Of a project and not the technology.

We then explore use cases, how are people using sensor data to discover new things about their business. Mark also explains how it’s not only this additional data from increasing amounts of IoT that is useful but how access to large amounts of historic data is allowing us to find new trends and information which is creating brand new opportunities and ways of working.

We finish up by looking at security and compliance, both crucial elements of an IoT platform design and how it’s critical they are included right at the outset because adding security retrospectively to these platforms could be almost impossible.

Finally, Mark shares some advice on where to start and some sources of information to consider.

I hope this episode has helped you better understand this emerging technology platform and how it could serve your business, I know it certainly has helped me.

For more information you can follow Mark on Twitter @mcarlton1983

His blog at justswitchitonandoff.com

Until next time thanks for listening.

Taking a GDPR Journey – Mike Resseler – Ep63

GDPR has been a constant business conversation over the last 18 months or so, it’s discussed in the press, on the news and social media, as well as a handful of episodes of this podcast. However, much of the conversation has focussed on what you should be considering and doing to take on the GDPR challenge, while very little has come from those who have already made great strides on their compliance journey.

With that in mind, a few weeks ago I read a fascinating series of blogs from software company Veeam, this series discussed the 5 principles they followed to build their compliance program. What was interesting, was this series of posts talked about the practical steps they took, not about the technology they deployed, or how their technology could help you, but a series of posts that shared their experiences and challenges they faced building their business compliance program.

As many of us are currently on our own compliance journey, I thought the opportunity to chat with someone who is already well down this path would be of real interest, so in this week’s podcast I’m joined by Mike Resseler, Mike is a Director of Product Management but is also a key member of Veeam’s global compliance team and has played a significant part in the way they have dealt with the challenges posed by GDPR.

In this week’s show Mike shares with us Veeam’s experience. We start at the beginning with the initial advice they took and research they did into what GDPR meant to them. We discuss the importance of putting together the right team to deal with business compliance and why it was important to realise the scope of the work they were about to undertake.

Mike also explains how it was important that Veeam saw GDPR as something that would have a positive impact on the business and how, although technology would play a part, this was something that would need a focus on people, workflow and procedures.

We also discussed how not everyone was enthused by the idea of business compliance and how they saw GDPR as just a European problem and how it was important that the compliance team educated all the business to the importance of compliance.

We also look at the practicalities of building a compliance program as Mike shares the 5 principles Veeam developed to help them, we look at those steps, knowing your data, managing your data, protecting the data, documentation and continual improvement. We discuss the importance of each step and the part they have played in building a global compliance program.

We wrap up looking at the future, discussing continual improvement, training and the way that Veeam are making compliance integral to everything they do across their business.

I hope you enjoy the fantastic insight that Mike provides into the way a company builds a compliance programme and tackles regulation such as GDPR.

To find out more from Mike you can find him on twitter @MikeResseler.

The original blog posts that inspired this episode can be found here https://www.veeam.com/executive-blog/our-journey-to-be-gdpr-compliant.html

Mike and his team have also produced this video in which they discuss how to accelerate your GDPR efforts https://www.veeam.com/veeamlive/accelerate-your-gdpr-efforts.html

Hope you enjoy the show and until next time, thanks for listening.

Getting your cyber essentials – Jason Fitzgerald – Ep62

Cyber Security, be it how we secure our perimeter, infrastructure, mobile devices or data, is a complex and ever-changing challenge. In the face of this complexity where do we start when it comes to building our organisations cyber security standards.

Well perhaps the answer may lie in standardised frameworks and accreditation’s. If you think about it, one of the biggest challenges we have when it comes to security is knowing where to start, so having a standard to work towards makes perfect sense.

That is the subject of this weeks show with my guest and colleague Jason Fitzgerald, as we discuss the value of a UK based accreditation, Cyber Essentials.

Jason is a very experienced technical engineer and consultant and today spends much of his time working with organisations to help them address their IT security concerns and develop policies, procedures, strategies and technologies to help them to improve their security baselines.

One of the tools that Jason uses extensively is a framework and accreditation produced by the National Cyber Security Centre here in the UK, Cyber Essentials. During this episode we discuss why such a framework is valuable and can help a business improve its security posture.

But first we start with discussing the kind of security landscape that Jason sees when he talks with businesses of all types, some of the confusion that they have and the often-misplaced confidence that comes with the “latest and greatest” security technology solution purchase.

We explore the importance of organisational “buy in” when it comes to security, why it can’t be just seen as an IT problem and how without senior sponsorship your security efforts may well be doomed to failure.

Jason shares with us the 5 key areas that Cyber Essentials covers, from perimeter to patching. He also provides some insight into the process that an organisation will head down when building their own security framework.

We also look at the value of getting your security foundation correct, how it can greatly reduce your exposure to many of the common cyber security risks, but also how without it, your attempts to build more robust security and compliance procedures may well fail.

We finish up with Jason sharing some of his top tips for starting your security journey and how, although Cyber Essentials is a UK based accreditation, the principles of it will be valuable to your organisation wherever in the world you may be based.

You can follow Jason on twitter @jay_fitzgerald and read more from him at his blog Bits with the Fitz

If you want to learn more about Cyber Essentials, then visit the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre website www.cyberessentials.ncsc.gov.uk

Next week, we are looking at GDPR as I’m joined by a special guest Mike Resseler from Veeam as he takes us through the business compliance process they have carried out across their global organisation.

Thanks for listening.

Thanks for memory – Alex McDonald – Ep61

At the start of 2018 the technology industry was hit by two new threats unlike anything it had seen before. Spectre and Meltdown used vulnerabilities not in operating system code or poorly written applications, but ones at a much lower level than that.

This vulnerability was not only something of concern to today’s technology providers, but also to those looking at architecting the way technology will work in the future.

As we try to push technology further and have it deal with more data, more quickly than ever before. The technology industry is having to look at ways of keeping up and have our tech work in different ways beyond the limits of our current ways of working. One of these developments is storage class memory, or persistent memory, were our data can be housed and accessed at speeds many times greater than they are today.

However, this move brings new vulnerabilities in the way we operate, vulnerabilities like those exposed by Spectre and Meltdown, but how did Spectre and Meltdown look to exploit operational level vulnerabilities? and what does that mean for our desire to constantly push technology to use data in ever more creative and powerful ways?

That’s the topic of this week’s Tech Interviews podcast, as I’m joined by the always fascinating Alex McDonald to discuss exactly what Spectre and Meltdown are, how they Impact what we do today and how they may change the way we are developing our future technology.

Alex is part of the Standards Industry Association group at NetApp and represents them on boards such as SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association).

In this episode, he brings his wide industry experience to the show to share some detail on exactly what Spectre and Meltdown are, how they operate, what vulnerabilities they exploit, as well as what exactly these vulnerabilities put at risk in our organisations.

We take a look at how these exploits takes advantage of side channels and speculative execution to allow an attacker to access data that you never would imagine to be at risk, and how our eagerness to push technology to its limits created those vulnerabilities.

We discuss how this has changed the way the technology industry is now looking at the future developments of memory, as our demands to develop ever larger and faster data repositories show no sign of slowing down.

Alex shares some insights into the future, as we look at the development of persistent memory, what is driving demand and how the need for this kind of technology means the industry has no option but to get it right.

To ease our fears Alex also outlines how the technology industry is dealing with new threats to ensure that development of larger and faster technologies can continue, while ensuring the security and privacy of our critical data.

We wrap up discussing risk mitigation, what systems are at risk to attack from exploits like Spectre and Meltdown, what systems are not and how we ensure we protect them long term.

We finish on the positive message that the technology industry is indeed smart enough to solve these challenges and how it is working hard to ensure that it can deliver technology to the demands we have for our data to help solve big problems.

You can find more on Wikipedia about Spectre and Meltdown.

You can learn more about the work of SNIA on their website.

And if you’d like to stalk Alex on line you can find him on twitter talking about technology and Scottish Politics! @alextangent

Hope you enjoyed the show, with the Easter holidays here in the UK we’re taking a little break, but we’ll be back with new episodes in a few weeks’ time, but for now, thanks for listening.

Availability of all of the things – Michael Cade – Ep 60

Recently I wrote a blog post as part of a series that explored the importance of availability to a modern data platform, especially in a world were our reliance on technology is ever increasing, from the way we operate our business, to the way we live our lives and how the digitally focussed businesses can no longer tolerate downtime, planned or unplanned in the way they could even 5 years ago (you can read that post here).

So how do we mitigate against the evils of downtime? That’s simple, we build recovery and continuity plans to ensure that our system remain on regardless of the events that go on around it, from planned maintenance to the very much unplanned disaster. But there’s the problem, these things aren’t simple, are they?

I’ve recently worked on a project where we’ve been doing exactly this, building DR and continuity plans in the more “traditional” way, writing scripts, policies and procedures to ensure that in the event of some kind of disaster the systems could be recovered quickly and meet stringent recovery time and point objectives. What this project reminded me of is how difficult these things are, keeping your documentation up to date, making sure your scripts are followed and ensuring you can fully test these plans, is tricky.

With that in mind the recent product announcement from Veeam of their new Availability Orchestrator solution, caught my attention, a solution that promises to automate and orchestrate not only the delivery of a DR solution, but also automating its documentation and testing, this was something that I needed to understand more and thought I wouldn’t be the only one.

So that is the topic of this weeks podcast, as serial guest Michael Cade, Global Technologist at Veeam, joins me to provide an insight into Availability Orchestrator, what challenges it addresses, why Veeam thought it was important to develop and how it can help you deliver better availability to your critical systems.

During the show Michael shares some insight into understanding your availability gap and why today business cannot tolerate downtime of key systems as well as the difficulties that come with maintaining a robust and appropriate strategy.

We explore the challenges of testing when the business doesn’t want downtime, how to keep track of all of the little tricks that our tech team keep in their heads how to get that into a continuity plan.

We finish up looking at how Availability Orchestrator can help, by providing a automation and orchestration solution to automate testing, documentation and execution of our continuity plans and how it can also be a tool to help us build test and dev environments, as well as help us to migrate to cloud platforms like VMware on AWS.

Availability Orchestrator, in my opinion, is a very powerful tool, having just worked on a continuity and DR project, the challenges that come with manually maintaining these plans are still very fresh in my mind and had this tool been available when I started that project it would certainly of been worthy of investigation into how it could help.

If you want to find out more about Veeam availability orchestrator, check out the Veeam Website.

You can follow Michael on twitter @MichaelCade1

And if you’d like to read his blog series on Veeam replication you’ll find that on his blog site starting here.

Hope you’ve found the show useful.

Thanks for listening.

Managing the future – Dave Sobel – Ep59

As our IT systems become ever more complex, with more data, devices and ways of working, the demands on our systems and ensuring they are always operating efficiently grow. This in turn presents us and our IT teams with a whole new range of management challenges.

Systems management has always been a challenge for organisations, how do we keep on top of an ever-increasing amount of systems ? how do we ensure they remain secure and patched ? and how do we cope with our users and their multitude of devices and ensure we can effectively look after them?.

Like most of our technology, systems management is changing, but how? And what should we expect from future management solutions?

That’s the subject of this weeks podcast, as I’m joined by returning guest Dave Sobel. Dave is Senior Director of Community at SolarWinds MSP, working with SolarWinds partners and customers to ensure they deliver a great service.

As part of this role, Dave is also charged with looking at the future (not the distant future, but the near future of the next 2 years) of systems management and what these platforms need to include in them to continue to be relevant and useful.

Dave provides some excellent insight into the way the management market is shifting and some of the technology trends that will change and improve the way we control our ever more complex yet crucial IT systems.

We start by asking why looking at the future is such an important part of the IT strategists role, whether you are a CIO, IT Director, or any person who makes technology direction strategy decisions, if you are not taking a look at future trends, it will seriously limit your ability to make good technology decisions.

We see why we need to rethink how we see a “computer” and how this is leading to a proliferation of different devices with the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) as well as looking at why that is such a horrible phrase and how this is affecting our ability to manage.

We discuss the part Artificial Intelligence is going to play in future systems management as we try to supplement our over stretched IT staff and provide them with ways of analysing ever more data and turning it into something useful.

We also investigate increased automation, looking at how our management systems can be more flexible in supporting new devices as they are added to our systems, as well as been smarter in the way we can apply management to all of our devices.

Finally, we look at the move to human centric management, instead of our systems been built to support devices, we need to be able to understand the person who uses the technology, and build our management and controls around them, allowing us to provide them with better management and importantly a better technology experience.

We wrap up looking at how smarter systems management is going to allow us to free our IT teams to provide increased value to the business, as well as looking at a couple of areas you can focus on today, to start to look at the way you manage your systems.

To find more from Dave you can follow him on twitter @djdaveet

You will find Dave’s Blog is here

I hope you found the chat as interesting as I did.

Until next time, thanks for listening.

Straight as an Arrow – David Fearne & Richard Holmes – Ep58

If there is one thing that we can say is a certainty in the technology industry it is the constant state of change, how technology works, how we want to use it, where we want to use it and what we expect from it is constantly changing and in reality is ever more demanding.

For those of us who work in technology, either as IT pro’s or IT decision makers, this presents its own challenges, when we are planning our IT strategy how do we know where to focus, what technology bets should we be taking and what trends are others taking advantage of that we could bring into our organisation to help us to improve our services.

One of the things I like to do in my role is spend time looking at technology predictions and listen to ideas from those in the industry tasked with defining the strategic direction of their businesses, not to judge whether they are right or wrong (predicting things in this industry is so very difficult) but to pick out trends and areas that are of interest to the work I do and then at least be aware of it and keep a watching brief on how it develops.

Keeping a watching brief gave me the idea for this week’s podcast as I catch up with two guests who produce an annual technology predictions blog and back that up with episodes on their own successful podcast where they look in more detail at those predictions.

David Fearne and Richard Holmes work for Arrow ECS, a global technology supplier and one of the worlds largest companies. David is Technical Director, charged with looking after the relationship and developing strategy for over 100 different technology partners and suppliers. Richard is Business Development Director for Arrow’s Internet Of Things (IoT) business. The gents also present the excellent Arrow Bandwidth podcast.

This week we look at their predictions from 2017, not to review whether they have been successful, but rather to focus on just a few areas of particular interest and look at how those areas have developed over the last 12 months and how we expect they will continue to shift.

We start by discussing data management and the concept of “data divorce” and why in a rapidly changing landscape how we look after our data will become increasingly important. We also look at how, in a world that is removing barriers to our ability to collect more and more data, how we manage that and importantly how we only collect things that are relevant and of use to us and our organisations.

The second area we explore is data analytics and how do we build into our businesses the ability to make data driven decisions. We discuss the fact that all businesses make decisions based on data, however, how do we remove our human inefficiencies and more importantly bias when we look at data, how many of us make decisions based on someone’s “version of the truth”?

We also investigate the inhibitors to more of us embracing data analytics capabilities, capabilities that are increasingly available to us particularly via providers like Microsoft, AWS and Google, the challenge isn’t a technology one, but more about how we get those tools into the hands of the right people and empower them.

We wrap up looking at security and David’s assertion of a change in “security posture” and how it’s crucial that we rethink the way we look at security of our systems. We discuss why “assuming breach” is an important part of that change. We look at, as the security problem becomes ever more complex, how do we continue to address it, is the answer to employ ever more security specialists?

We wrap up by discussing how each of these areas have a common thread running through them and how as technology strategists it is important that, when making technology decisions, we don’t focus on technology but fully understand the business outcomes we are trying to achieve.

It’s a great chat with David and Richard and we could have discussed these trends for hours, luckily for you, it’s only 40 minutes!

Enjoy the Show.

You’ll find David and Richards full list of prediction from 2017 here – https://www.arrowthehub.co.uk/blog/posts/2017/february/what-are-the-hottest-technology-trends-of-2017-part-1/

You’ll also find the 2018 predictions here https://www.arrowthehub.co.uk/blog/posts/2018/january/what-are-the-hottest-technology-trends-for-2018-part-1/

If you’d rather listen, then check out the excellent Arrow Bandwidth podcast you can find the episodes discussing all of last years predictions as well as this years in the following places Tech Trends 2017 Part One, Tech Trends 2017 Part Two, Tech Trends 2018 Part One, Tech Trends 2018 Part Two.

If you’d like to keep up with David and Richard, you can find them both on twitter @davidfearne and @_Rich_Holmes.

Thanks for listening.

IT Pro’s and the Tech Community – Yadin Porter de Leon – Ep 57

One of the favourite parts of my role over the last few years has been my involvement in tech community, whether that’s been working with advocacy groups like the NetApp A-Team, with local user groups like TechUG, presenting at a range of different community events or just answering questions in technical communities, all of these investments (and they are investments) have paid back, they’ve introduced me to great people, given me access to resources and expertise I would never have found normally and opened up great opportunities for travel and too develop some great friendships.

We are fortunate to be part of an industry that does have a strong sense of community, full of people with shared interests and a passion for their subject, a passion they are often happy to share with anyone who’s interested.

One of the challenges with tech community is however its size and if you are new to it or even a part of it, it can be overwhelming and hard to know where to start? How do you find the resources you need, find out which events you can attend or find out who the leaders are that you can engage with?

071517_1725_Livingonthe1.jpgLast year I was invited to get involved in a project called “Level Up”, a project started by this week’s guest on the podcast Yadin Porter de Leon, Yadin has been on the show before in his capacity at data protection company Druva, however that’s not what we discuss this week as we chat about the Level Up project, why he started it, the project aims and how it can help you in your career.

In this week’s episode we discuss why you may want to get involved in community and what benefits it can bring and how involvement in the wider community can benefit both you and your business providing you with opportunities to develop your skills.

Yadin shares how one of the focuses of the project is to engage those who are not already involved in community and provide them a way to get started.

We look at Level Up’s first project the vTrail Map a fantastic guide to the world of VMware and the virtualisation community and we also look ahead to what’s next for the project and the longer terms aims.

We wrap up by asking Yadin about another project he is involved in which is the excellent Tech Village Podcast, again focussed on career development and the technology business, a great show which I’d recommend anyone gets on their regular podcast list you can find the show on Soundcloud and follow the show on twitter @TechVillagePod

For more information on Level Up, you can find them on twitter @Tech_LevelUp

You can also contact Yadin on twitter @porterdeleon

Hope you find the show interesting and if you’re not already involved in tech community maybe this will give you a bit of inspiration to involve yourself more, it’s most definitely worth it.

Thanks for listening.

Turning Up The Amp On Your Data – Matt Watts – Ep56

Wanting to get the very best from your data and “extracting value” from it seems to be a constant conversation with technology and business leaders in pretty much any organisation, but what does getting value from it mean and how do we go about it?

A couple of weeks ago I read a very interesting article from this weeks guest where he introduced the concept of Data Amplification Ratio, the basic premise of this article was that one of the key ways to get more from your data is to ensure that the datasets you have can be presented to multiple different systems and services all of which can add their own particular value and extract their own unique information from the data presented to them (you can read the whole article here What is your data amplification ratio?). I thought this article presented a really good insight in to the practicalities of getting the most from our data and wanted to get the author to share that insight for the Tech Interviews listeners.

032617_2030_TheFutureis1.jpgThat’s exactly what we do this week, as I’m joined by Matt Watts, Director Technology and Strategy for Data Management company NetApp, to explore more this idea of Data Amplification, what it means and what it could mean for those can take advantage of their data to deliver new services, opportunities and value.

We explore the wide range of ideas that Matt covered in his article in a little more depth. We start by exploring what is a “Data Amplification Ratio” and why it’s important to focus on the right things if we want to make the most from our data.

We discuss the line between what are underlying storage “table stakes” versus what are things that can allow us to do more with our data assets. We look at how the secret to unlocking your data is having the flexibility to present it to numerous different systems, services or people who can gain insight and information from it.

We also examine the idea of how a technical chat still has a place in a world where increasingly our technology investments are about delivering business outcomes and not about the technology itself. Matt also discusses the concept of a “data fabric” and how data mobility is going to be a crucial for getting the very best from the data you have.

There is also a bit of Tech Interviews controversy as Matt shares his view on why one of the tech industries favourite phrases “data is the new oil” may not actually be true!

We wrap up by looking at what’s next for data amplification and how frequency and speed is the next challenge to overcome.

Matt as always shares some fantastic insights on the data industry and its direction.

To find out more from Matt you can read his latest article at watts-innovating.com and find him on twitter @mtjwatts

If you enjoyed the show, then why not subscribe, you’ll find Tech Interviews in all of the usual places.

Until next time, thanks for listening.