‘Going postal’ in the age of the Internet

‘Going postal’ in the age of the Internet | F5 DevCentral

 

I check my post once a month. The post box, like for most people, is at the front of my house. But my driveway and daily entry/exit is at the rear of the house. Consequently, going to the letter box is a planned event. I know this makes me sound a bit lazy but let me present an argument in my defence.

Effort vs reward

 

Refer to this crude but effective effort vs reward chart – I’ve added a couple of points for context. Monday’s are definitely high effort/low reward. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. But at the end of every Monday I always feel like I’ve been very busy and yet not actually removed anything from my To Do list. Typically, its a planning day. And then there’s my most favourite thing ever, eating steak. The array of cuts, sizes, sauces. A veritable playground for the senses (Hey there vegetarians – just think of something else nice). But I digress…

 

Collecting the post occupies approximately 2 minutes of my time. While this is not very long in comparison to, say, my 90 minute journey to London, or, the torture of watching test match cricket, I remind you of the effort/reward chart. +90% of my post goes straight in the recycling bin. ~5% is not hugely important but is read and then shredded. Leaving the final ~5%, bills: Council Tax, Water Supply, Electricity,…..  Why would anyone like the postal service? My postman Tony is a pleasant chap but maybe my positive thoughts toward him could be best described as Stockholm Syndrome?

 

Bills: a process of informing the general public they have less money than they first thought. But all those listed above, typically utilities, can be, as I have done, set up as direct debits. So, why the post? The bill opening anxiety is not necessary! Begging the question, what is left for the post (all Hallmark days are being omitted intentionally – bah humbug and all that)?

 

I don’t want to receive post, EVER! Its not necessary. But for such a grand change to happen there are a couple of other steps in the way. The first being my 92 year old grandfather. He doesn’t have an email address and has never been on the internet. He’s an admirable and well respected man but I doubt he has ever sat in front of a keyboard and he prefers to communicate via written letter than via telephone. The second being the need for a government-run email directory as a primary contact point for all – possibly linked to one’s National Insurance ID or drivers license record. And lastly, but certainly not least, there’s the need for always-on and always-secure access to the Internet.

 

Matt Warman, Consumer Technology Editor at The Telegraph discusses a small step forward in making this a reality in, “Web access could be a human right“. I do hope this becomes a reality while I’m still kickin’. The sad truth is that moving beyond the postal service can only work when it works for everyone. To help get there, in the mean time, surely the utility providers and government departments could provide an opt-out service. I would happily sign up for online communication, owning the responsibility to check my emails regularly. Wouldn’t you?

Infosec 2013 – The BYOD Discussion Continues

Infosec 2013 – The BYOD Discussion Continues | F5 DevCentral

 

This week at Infosec has been a great opportunity to talk to fellow security experts and businesses alike and it’s no surprise that BYOD has remained top of the agenda.

 

In fact, our survey of 120 attendees during the first day of the event revealed that BYOD tops the challenges that IT leaders are facing when trying to secure their networks and devices. 87 per cent highlighted that it is more difficult than ever to secure their business from the threat of cyber attacks, with almost one in four citing the BYOD trend as the major factor in why their organisation is more vulnerable. It’s also no surprise that a high percentage of visitors to our stand this week came to talk to us about BYOD.

 

This may seem shocking to many – the BYOD debate certainly seems to have been going on for years. However, businesses of all sizes are continuing to negotiate the tricky process of managing new devices on the network and putting in place the right levels of authentication to enable the workforce, without too many restrictions for access. It’s certainly true that the introduction of smartphones, laptops and tablets to the workplace has undoubtedly been a huge step forward in enabling mobile working – but it’s also come with its fair share of threats to the business.

 

The good news is that there are all-encompassing solutions for businesses in the market but the solution doesn’t end there. It’s easy for me to talk to IT managers and CIOs about the solutions which are available through technology, but the processes set out within the enterprise environment are also key. It’s not a case of one size fits all. The number one focus for anyone looking to implement a BYOD solution has to be to first understand the user base and their needs. What types of device are they using? Where are they accessing information from? What type of data are they accessing remotely? Once you understand the workforce you can map your solution to ensure the right levels of authentication to protect the network and ensure the best possible end-user experience.

 

It’s been great to speak to so many businesses this week about the challenges they are experiencing and it’s good to hear that more businesses are looking at how they can better enable their workforce. Success is in the detail, though – it’s not a case of buying a solution to tick a box, it’s about establishing what your organisation needs and how you can better support your employees. If you keep that focus in mind, you won’t go far wrong.

Don’t forget the network in this Big Data rush

Don’t forget the network in this Big Data rush | F5 DevCentral

 

Big Data is one of those buzzwords that comes along every so often and which those in the technology industry like to grab hold of. Think social enterprise. Think cloud computing.

Essentially Big Data is the collection of vast data sets – data sets that are so large common data processing tools simply cannot cope with the capture, storage, analysis and so much more required to take advantage of it.

But like many subjects that get hyped up to a huge extent, Big Data seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. For example, a report released in April 2012 by The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) claimed that Big Data could add £216bn to the UK economy by 2017, as well as create 58,000 new jobs.

 

However, on the flip side is the fact that another survey revealed 38% of IT managers said they did not have a clear understanding of what Big Data actually is. That did not stop 49% of them saying they were very concerned about managing Big Data.

 

The explosion in the use of smartphones, cloud computing and social networking means more data than ever before is being created and stored. But one aspect of this seems to be often overlooked: the network. To get the best out of Big Data, businesses must enable all that traffic from applications and so on to move freely across the network.

 

Here at F5 we are helping enterprises get the best out Big Data by ensuring that traffic and therefore all the data it is carrying gets where it needs to go in the most effective and cost-efficient way.

 

The recent announcement about updates to our Application Delivery Controller (ADC) included the new VIPRION 4800 chassis. It offers rates exceeding 20 million layer 7 requests per second and 160Gbps of SSL bulk throughput.

 

This throughput is vital to the health of your applications and networks. The network is vital to Big Data; you cannot get the right insights out of your data if it is not allowed the flow across the network and applications are not allowed to do what they need to.

 

The benefits of Big Data are clear – better customer insights mean increased sales. If you know more about your business and your customers you know them better and can offer them exactly what they want, even if they don’t know they want it. But to fully embrace it and its benefits you must ensure that your network is up to the challenge and can cope with the vast amounts of data that it will be travelling across it.

Google antitrust pressure

Latest | UK | Technical Blogs | F5 DevCentral

 

On the 7th of June, 2004, the European Commission of the European Union filed a case against Microsoft for abuse of its dominant position in the market. It started in 1993 as a complaint from Novell of Microsoft licensing practices with a ruling not decided until the 17th of September, 2007. Thats fourteen years of what I can imagine to be a lot of lawyers fees.

 

But it wasn’t all over for Microsoft, on the 6th of March, 2013, the European Commission fined Microsoft for non-compliance with browser choice commitments. The EC showing how serious it is about antitrust and proving that its initial case was not just a very public slap on the wrist.

 

But we are far from finished with antitrust cases from the European Commission and now it’s Google in the spotlight. From the FT yesterday, Google in peace deal with Brussels, “Google is bowing for the first time to legally binding constraints on how it presents search results, according to a draft agreement with the EU’s top competition authority.

 

Several people familiar with the deal told the Financial Times that the US internet giant will revamp its results page to include prominent links to rival search engines and clearer signposts for its own in-house services.

 

While fair trading is clearly important to the EU competition authority, are they going too far? Google’s search engine isn’t forced upon me in any way. I make the decision to trust Google with my questions because I’m happy with its results; it’s never let me down. Furthermore, I use their web browser, Chrome, which, yes, does default its search queries to Google’s search service but this was my choice also and, equally, I am provided with the option to change search engine preferences to another provider. One of the many reasons I like Chrome. Its pro-choice!

 

Should fair trade regulation replace letting the best man (service) win? I choose no!

Creating IT Heroes

Creating IT Heroes | F5 DevCentral

 

As an IT professional, technology evolution can be a blessing and a curse.

The constant conveyor belt of new products mean you have potentially a huge arsenal of tools at your disposal. But the demands of the business and the difficulties of where to place your technology bets means you’re constantly facing difficult decisions.

At the moment, we’re experiencing the most accelerated pace of IT change we’ve ever known. Cloud computing, big data / analytics, mobile and social are transforming the way we work and the way our businesses operate.

Yet, there remains a sentiment in some quarters that the IT department has lost influence in the business in recent years, is unreliable or is a barrier to progress, lacking the necessary knowledge to tackle and implement new solutions and infrastructures efficiently.

We think these trends and the technologies that support them, however, represent a massive opportunity. In fact, we don’t think there’s been a better time for an IT manager to shine, delivering real value to the wider business and transforming the perception from cost centre to business enabler.

The secret is in the enabler bit. The rise of trends such as BYOD and even Bring Your Own Cloud have led – quite rightly – to employees feeling increasingly empowered. They’re bringing their own devices into the workplace, using consumer apps for business purposes and sharing data externally using tools such as Dropbox.

Your challenge is to ensure that employees can continue to innovate and drive change in the way they work, but in a secure environment. As applications move around the data centre and out to the cloud, it’s easy for security and access policies can become disconnected, particularly when supporting an increasing number of personal devices requires additional policies. By consolidating security and access control at the application delivery tier,  you can consistently enforce policies while also improving scalability—to ensure vital services are available to users—across applications and environments.

IT has to be in control, but that doesn’t mean restricting the innovation within your organisation. By ensuring a secure but flexible IT infrastructure is in place with a defined set of processes, business units can incorporate technology which works well for their needs, and allows them to make their own IT choices.

In fact, although the transformation of IT can be a daunting prospect, it also offers a fantastic opportunity to build closer ties with other business units and develop a more collaborative approach. It’s not a time to wait for them to come to you – make the point of reaching out beyond the IT department to find out how you can better work with the wider team to support new digital initiatives in the company. Discuss your cloud, BYOD or security strategy with business unit heads and encourage them to put you in front of their team to better understand their needs and explain the central processes which they should follow.

The good news is that IT spend is continuing to increase. According to a recent global study from Gartner, global IT spending in 2013 will increase 4.2% compared with last year, reaching £2.28tn.

The IT heroes will be the ones who spend it wisely, enabling the business to carry on what it does best.

Google patent to make The Truman Show a reality?

Google patent to make The Truman Show a reality? | F5 DevCentral

 

Good post by Bill Slawski of ‘SEO by the Sea’ yesterday covering Googles Patent application for Query-based User Groups – the dynamic creation of Google Circles based on what Google know’s about you.

Bill summarises, “A query-based social circle approach could potentially connect a lot of people who might otherwise not communicate, and there seems to be a lot of potential in enabling people to connect through circles like this.”.

Road testing the idea in the office this morning, I threw the question out to F5’s Ellie Robson, Marketing Ops PM, who feels this is, “…far too stalkerish. I don’t want strangers talking to me because of a false sense of familiarity derived from their ‘smart’ phone”.

My inner geek tells me this is quite cool. Its using data sources already in existence, like location, personal preferences,  habits, and its turning them into something meaningful. On the other hand, its using my location, personal preferences and habits – to reach out to strangers.

Are we venturing dangerously close to Drew Carey’s character in ‘The Truman Show’ – where Truman thinks that he is an ordinary man with an ordinary life and has no idea about how he is exploited?

And where would this work? I struggle to see it here in the UK where talking to another passenger on the train is strictly taboo; make eye contact at your own risk. Or, is this a generational thing? I, for one, can’t help feeling that take up of such an experience is something a new generation needs to be born into. A generation with less of a sense of privacy.

I like a bit of mystery, an element of surprise in my day. Of not knowing what could happen next.

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Curiosity gave it a reason to go outside and explore!

An Intelligent Services Framework within the Network

An Intelligent Services Framework within the Network | F5 DevCentral

 

The requirements for delivering employee and customer applications have never been more similar. Largely due to mobile working, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement and the webification of the data center, organizations are forced to deliver internal employee applications with similar delivery demands as required for external facing customer applications. With a broad range of devices to support and varying connectivity profiles, they must deliver access from anywhere and on any device securely, fast & always available, 24 hours a day.

And the landscape for enterprises hosting customer facing applications and services has also changed. Competition has raised consumer expectations demanding improvement over generic, one-size-fits-all architectures and programming methodologies.

Competition, internally between IT Departments and Software-as-a-Service providers, and externally, between competing organizations, is driving a review of not just what applications are being delivered but, more importantly, how. But longstanding has been the disconnect between data center networking and the way in which applications & services are consumed. Customers have always had the right to choose and will exert that right by taking their business elsewhere when expectations are not met. And this right to choose now also extends to employees. The term ‘consumer’ must now be redefined to include colleagues.

And in a time of high expectations, where consumer’s desire for ‘instant gratification’ reigns, organizations can ill afford to allow application errors, performance related issues and security shortfalls, however severe or temporary, to impact service delivery.

The Network must lose its rigidity and in place provide an Intelligent Services Framework delivering a service-to-consumer oriented view of application delivery. The Network must focus on the expectations of those consuming services.

There is no way to manage mobile device and application growth simultaneously without an Intelligent Services Framework, a broker between the users and applications providing:

  • Application Awareness: Total insight into how the application is supposed to look on the wire.
  • User Awareness: Ability to see which users are trying to access what application from which devices.
  • Resource Awareness: Tying all pieces of the application delivery infrastructure together to provide real-time visibility into the entire Application Delivery Network

Meeting consumer’s performance and availability expectations, without compromising on security, is achieved by architecting a consumer-focused data center network. A feat made possible only by injecting programmable intelligence into the application delivery path.

F5’s Intelligent Services Framework brings context to every aspect of Application Delivery; a previously unintelligent architecture. And context is the key to addressing device and connectivity specific challenges in building a faster, more reliable and resilient user experience.