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In late January, Google presented a detailed report entitled “Operating the cleanest cloud in the industry” to analysts. The private briefing detailed Google’s current status as a ‘net zero-carbon emitter’ (meaning it offsets any carbon emissions from its current operations with other programs). It also outlined its plans to be running entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030. 

Why it’s Important

All of the hyperscale Cloud vendors - Google, AWS, Microsoft, Oracle and Alibaba - have well-documented strategies to reduce their reliance on carbon-based fuel sources. Their strategies are all similar and simple: reduce energy consumption (with accompanying higher computing density) and development of renewable energy sources as part of data centre planning. Their efforts in this area are not just for environmental reasons, there are significant cost benefits in the immediate term to being free of fossil energy supply chains. All also see competitive advantages, not just against each other, but against on-premises data centres.

As these Cloud vendors announce not only net zero-carbon emission targets as being met, but zero carbon energy targets, the issue of sustainable ICT will once again start to emerge as a serial consideration for CIOs and data centre architects.  

IBRS and BIAP (via the IT Leaders Summits) have tracked CIOs interests in the topic of green IT. An IBRS study in 2008 had sustainable ICT being rated as “very important” for 25% of CIOs and “somewhat important” for 59% of CIOs. Since then, interest in sustainable computing has plummeted year-on-year. The IBRS / BIAP data for 2016 had 6% of CIOs rating sustainable ICT as a priority. By 2020, less than 0.5% of CIOs rated sustainable ICT as a priority.

With the growing call for action on climate change and the economic advantages the hyperscale Cloud vendors will have by moving to carbon-free energy sources, the pressure to provide sustainable ICT metrics will re-emerge.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Data centre leads
  • Infrastructure architects

What’s Next?

CIOs and infrastructure leads for organisations running on-premises services / data centres should expect a swing back to discussions of sustainability. However, unlike the 2000’s, the benchmarks for sustainability will be set by the hyperscale Cloud providers. By 2025, all Cloud vendors will start using their leadership in sustainable ICT as a selling point for policy-makers to mandate Cloud computing, or possibly even place unattainable goals for architects of on-premises data centres.

Rather than waiting, CIOs should review previous strategies for sustainable ICT, with the expectation that these will need to be updated and reinstated within the next 3-5 years.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The Status of Green IT in Australian and New Zealand (2008)
  2. Building your Green IT strategy
  3. Think green IT: Think saving money
  4. Forget Green; think sustainable computing in 2009

The Latest

17 February 2021: At the Learning with Google global event, the Cloud giant announced a slew of new education-oriented features for its education productivity suite. Previously called G Suite for Education, the Google Workspace for Education is now being aggressively commercialised.  

What’s included

The free tier service - now called Google Workspaces for Education Fundamentals, had found strong acceptance in Australia by providing educators and students with collaborative learning capabilities. 

This free tier now has three paid tiers, each with increasing levels of security and manageability. 

  • Standard: Adds security and analytics capabilities. The new features are aimed at improving traceability and providing more nuanced access rights to information.
  • Teaching and Learning Upgrade: Adds features to better manage the classroom experience.
  • Education Plus: Combines all the features of the previous tiers, in addition to extra management capabilities. 

In addition, Google increased the baseline storage capacity for educational institutions to a whopping 100 TB, and added online-learning features to Google Meet.

Why it’s Important

Google and Microsoft are locked in a fierce battle for ‘hearts and minds’ in education. Both vendors know that student’s experiences with their productivity platforms today, will set expectations and habits for the workforce of tomorrow. This battle extends beyond the productivity suite to device, operating systems and ultimately, the entire digital workspace.

By introducing features that have been much in demand by education (especially K12) into commercial tiers, Google is fundamentally changing its stance in this war. In most State K12 and private education systems, Principals have the final say on the extent to which Google or Microsoft is used in classrooms. Often the decision is delegated down to the teachers and often both vendor’s offerings sit side by side.

Google’s evolving commercial stance means that this can no longer be the case. Given the total national cost (as ultimate schools are funded through State and Federal funds) educational policy setters now need to consider taking a side in the battle. 

Who’s impacted

  • Educational policy makers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

Stakeholders within education need to immediately begin the laborious task of evaluating Google’s and Microsoft’s offerings, not just from the perspective of current offerings, but from their likely future directions. While the need to rationalise to one platform today may not be a burning priority, the need will increase over the next decade.

Stakeholders outside of education should monitor the decisions of education networks, as the platforms they select will impact new staff expectations and work habits. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Dr Sweeney on the Post-COVID Lessons for Education (Video Interview)
  2. Kids, Education and The Future of Work with Dr Joseph Sweeney - Potential Psychology - 25 July 2018
  3. Higher Education Technology Future State Vision
  4. BYOD in Education: A report for Australia and New Zealand

Conclusion:

Thinking that the pandemic will soon be past and some form of new normal will emerge, be it working from home or office work, or a hybrid mix - is a misconception. Even with a vaccine, the pandemic will continue in isolated, difficult to predict pockets, and cause sporadic rapid changes to work practices for the foreseeable future. Organisations will need to be able to quickly flip-flop work environments rapidly, and work processes - and thus technologies - must evolve to meet the challenges of the 'age of uncertainty'. A fourth wave of ICT architecture is emerging, with a focus on information over architecture, low-code everything and powered by algorithms.

Find attached at the bottom of the article a free downloadable PDF copy of the trends for 2021-2026 executive presentation deck.

Conclusion:

As is common in security, a buzzword becomes a product segment which is then flooded with new entrants or even old players with new offerings. A classic case is the detection and response segment. Initially, it was one approach – endpoint detection and response. But as vendors entered the segment they were driven to find differentiation points to stand out from the crowd.

What was a simple segment became one with many new acronyms, new problem definitions and of course a plethora of products. To help understand the basic differentiation of products in this segment this advisory provides a direct and simple definition for each main sector along with points to note about how to select any specific product in the segment.

Conclusion:

The recent SolarWinds security compromise provides a timely reminder that a cyber security compromise from third parties is a clear and present threat. Virtually all organisations utilise third party vendors to provide services, software solutions and to store data. For these reasons, it is essential that all organisations have a third party risk assessment and compliance program as part of a broader cyber security strategy. Given that organisations utilise a multitude of vendors it is impractical to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to third party risk management. This article provides a pragmatic approach to mitigating this risk.

With the rush to deploy Teams to enable remote work in 2020, the majority of organisations have not yet fully considered the highly disruptive nature of deep collaboration. Governance has been largely overlooked in the effort to ‘just get people working’. IBRS outlines the seven critical areas of governance that must be immediately addressed for Teams to be sustainable and to mitigate the new risks (and benefits!) of deep collaboration. Find attached a PDF of the webinar to download for free. Or to view the webinar, click on the video below.

 

Conclusion: Most organisations have vast pools of data (a. k.a. information assets) lying underutilised, as many IT and business professionals are unsure where it is stored and are unaware of its value. To turn the situation around organisations must strive for data mastery1, which is the ability to embed the data into products and services to increase efficiency, revenue growth and customer engagement.

Conclusion: Cyber attacks are a clear and present threat. Some organisations now have varying degrees of detection, monitoring and response capability in place, while other organisations still rely on their major incident response process to identify and manage cyber security incidents. In these organisations, cyber security operational responsibility is still embedded in traditional ICT operations. Such a siloed approach is suboptimal and presents risks in the effective management of cyber security risk. CIOs and other cyber security professionals should ensure that they have implemented a SOC capability that is appropriate to their organisation.

Conclusion: Regardless of its digital strategy, many organisations have not been positioned to properly leverage the digital and data assets that are available to them. A Chief Data Officer (CDO) role can improve this situation by advancing an organisation’s data portfolio, curating and making appropriate data visible and actionable.

The CDO position is appropriate for all larger organisations, and small-to-large organisations focused on data-driven decision-making and innovation. These organisations benefit from a point person overseeing data management, data quality, and data strategy. CDOs are also responsible for developing a culture that supports data analytics and business intelligence, and the process of drawing valuable insights from data. In summary, they are responsible for improving data literacy within the organisation.

Conclusion: Credential theft is still one of the prime means of attacking systems. Dictionaries of passwords are readily available (many with millions of passwords). These allow attackers to perform credential stuffing attacks – often successfully.

Eliminating passwords has been difficult in the past. However, the consensus amongst vendors of both software and hardware is to bring to market methods of achieving authentication without passwords. The ubiquity of mobile devices with touch or facial authentication is one prime element.

This is a necessary evolution of authentication.

Observations: In theory, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology enables organisations to be nimble, providing flexible, remote working and (for some use cases) more cost-effective deployment of digital workspaces. Recent events and technology advances have tested this theory and spawned several major changes. The rush to cater for remote working has increased adoption to Cloud-based VDI for ‘burst workloads’, at least in the short term. The need to quickly address scalability issues for organisations that had previously invested in VDI has favoured increased sales of hyperconverged solutions.

Longer term, organisations are looking to leverage VDI to enable compute and data-intensive tasks while keeping information ‘inside the data centre’. Some organisations – especially in financial services – are looking to expand previous VDI experiments to transform workplaces and service delivery models.