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Overcome the Constraints of Continuous Delivery

One of the most pressing issues that software development organizations strive to overcome is the challenge of providing users with a quality product in a quick and cost-effective manner. In order to solve this problem and better satisfy their customers, a growing number of companies are adopting a continuous delivery model for software development and release.

The adoption of continuous delivery does not come without constraints, but these obstacles can be overcome with some strategic changes at the organizational and process level. By adopting a continuous delivery model, organizations are better able to satisfy customer needs, stay ahead of the competition, and provide the most innovative solutions.

Current Delivery Constraints

The constraints to continuous delivery are spread throughout the organization and penetrate to the project, program, and enterprise level. In order to understand the benefits of continuous delivery, it is helpful to explore some of the current people- and process-related constraints in providing quality solutions to customers at an accelerated pace.

Three specific challenges that delay product releases and prevent continuous delivery are related to process, infrastructure, and management.

Lengthy Processes: Manual testing, task-based checklists for release management, and other project management-related delays cause bottlenecks that prevent progress.
Infrastructure: Software organizations using physical servers and performing manual configurations face cost- and labor-related constraints that take time and effort away from the core project focus (moving the solution toward release).
Governance: Releases are delayed while awaiting approval from committees or senior executives.

Organizations can significantly mitigate the above constraints by adopting some core continuous delivery practices and focusing on key continuous delivery best practices.

Core Focus Areas for Continuous Delivery

While successful adoption requires a high-level examination of all processes across the organization, there are a few best practices when moving toward a continuous delivery methodology.

Agility: While continuous delivery doesn’t necessarily require an agile development organization, it does require the software team to strategically focus on simultaneous, incremental builds. Optimize efficiency by ensuring that one specific group or process is not holding up an entire release cycle.
Investment: New software tools and technologies are required in order to overcome some of the constraints presented by manual processes and infrastructure. Replacing manual testing roles with automated tools and upgrading infrastructure to virtualized platforms are two ways to make an investment in continuous delivery.
Automation: The QA role is critical in any software organization, but it also causes one of the most significant delays in the release cycle. Save time by replacing manual testing teams with automated testing suites for unit, acceptance, regression, and functionality. Automation is also helpful in speeding up infrastructure-related delays; leverage automated provisioning tools and workstations wherever possible.
Release strategy: Continuous delivery requires strategic re-structuring of the entire release strategy. Software development teams must design and execute software development processes in a way that takes into account known time constraints and prioritizes both quality and speed. Stakeholders can start this process by first adopting a continuous delivery perspective, and secondly by using this perspective to examine and reconsider the existing release process.

Continuous delivery benefits both development teams and the organization as a whole by encouraging efficiency, enabling adoption of the latest technologies, and providing customers with quicker access to the solutions they need.

Four Ways That Colocation Supports High-Density Data Centers

The data burden of today’s networked world is increasingly heavy as more backend power is required to support critical business functions. While data center centralization and consolidation efforts through means such as virtualization are helpful in meeting these increased demands, organizations with high-density data center setups are challenged to constantly provide the infrastructure to support ever-evolving data needs.

Data center colocation can help IT departments satisfy the data demand by powering high-density setups in an efficient and streamlined manner.

Here are four reasons why colocation is the right solution for some high-density setups:

Increased capacity

Colocation vendors design their facilities and architecture to accommodate very large workloads, and this requires enormous power. Colocation providers are uniquely positioned to regularly and consistently provide the amount of power needed to support these workloads. This is partly because colocation vendors often have a network of interconnected data centers to help ensure that each customer gets the power and space needed without sacrificing quality or service.

Streamlined delivery

Even for those organizations that may have access to large amounts of energy to power their high-density setups, it is unlikely that they have the ability to streamline the delivery of that energy in the appropriate manner.

Colocation providers use the most advanced power delivery solutions to provide optimal energy to each rack, and this eliminates the small energy drain that can occur with other power delivery systems. The sophisticated power technology available through colocation partners provides unprecedented levels of performance for high-density setups.

Better connections

Network latency is a primary concern for IT departments as more data moves through less network space.

Colocation providers build their infrastructure to support high-frequency exchanges with minimal latency. The quality and automation of connections resulting from this setup is only available through a colocation provider.

Diverse power sources

One of the biggest limitations in hosting a high-density system within the internal infrastructure of an organization is the inability to support the required power redundancy. For example, a single backup generator may not be sufficient to support the high-density setup if the primary energy source fails.

Colocation partners solve this problem by diversifying their power streams and providing multiple levels of redundancy across data centers. Colocation partners help ensure consistent access to power by providing not just backup generators but also backup power sources from various utility vendors, local power resources, and on-site streams of power.

Looking ahead

As IT organizations continue to move toward high-density computing setups, data center colocation is becoming an increasingly crucial component in supporting the modern IT infrastructure. Only colocation partners are uniquely equipped to provide the power capacity, quality, delivery, and diversity necessary for a high-density data center setup.

Steps to Save Money With Colocation Services

By now, most either know or have had experience with cloud technology.It is certainly revolutionizing the way businesses operate in the 21st century. Its applications are unlimited, but embracing all of its possibilities can be difficult without the benefit of data center colocation.

Colocation plans offer advanced solutions for network burdens by establishing a centralized location for transmitting and receiving the constant stream of information from transactions, social media, and internal and vendor communications. Many businesses find colocation services can solve their own data center limitations and problem points.

But no matter the type of business considering colocation, the most important question in any capitalist endeavor is how to incorporate methodologies that solve workplace inefficiencies and reduce operational costs without overspending on the solution. And that is never easy.

A Big Investment

Web-based businesses and those that have already purchased servers to store and process their data are ahead of the curve, but protecting that investment is important. It would be madness to purchase expensive, high-tech equipment and then allow it to transform into a useless pile of dust-covered circuitry.

But oftentimes, limited facility space relegates this crucial apparatus to enclosed, cramped areas that feature improper environmental controls, inadequate power supplies, and other detrimental influences thatare harmful to servers. The resources simply aren’t available to construct or purchase a state-of-the-art housing complex to meet data center needs. Moreover, it’s not always practical to purchase servers despite frustrating disruptions in network functionality.

Colocation to the Rescue

Colocation offers business network solutions by storing privately owned servers in a secure facility that features plenty of room to “breathe” and precise environmental controls that regulate temperature and humidity.

In addition, most provider plans will include server lease options which allow businesses to receive the benefit of disaster recovery, safe storage, possible continuity plans, and all of the other advanced IT functionality benefits of colocation without having to purchase server equipment.
Colocation Comparisons

Every business decision requires proper analysis and choosing a colocation provider is no different.Before initiating contact, consider the following to create accurate cost comparisons.

• What are the current problem areas?

• What is the colocation goal?

• Will it be better to purchase or lease servers?

• How much storage space is really needed?

• How long will it take to make changes to storage capacity?

Once internal goals have been outlined, here’s how to find the most cost-effective colocation plan with potential providers:

• Find out how much it will cost to transfer servers to another provider or back to the business facility before signing with a provider.

• Determine whether or not IT staff can manage business servers remotely. If leasing, can the teamtake over after the initial set-up?

• Choose add-ons wisely because services like back-up and extended support can add up fast.

• Consider sharing rack space with another business. Most providers will offer this option, but don’t forget to factor in anticipated growth. If a half rack will suffice, go for it! You’ll save money. But if analysis projects substantial growth in the next few years, prepare for that contingency.

• Where is the provider’s physical location? It can make a difference. Rural areas offer lower costs but sometimes have bandwidth limitations and monitoring and compliance difficulties. Metropolitan locations are more expensive but offer convenience and heightened security.

The answers to these initial queries can help direct the course of colocation and contain the costs of the service.

 

 

Data Center Connectivity: 5 Things to Consider in Colocation Plans

Colocation services help businesses keep pace with demanding innovations in IT technology. New techniques in data transfer can make finding appropriate network solutions difficult, but colocation partnerships provide the key to getting information to end users efficiently.

A good provider will help companies mitigate challenges from cloud computing, video streaming, advanced web hosting and other activities required by today’s global marketplace. However, these services have the potential to rack up extraneous costs. Obviously, a major goal of implementing new solutions is to produce ROI, so it’s simply futile if the solution designed to fix a problem ends up further complicating things.

This is where data center connectivity can play a crucial role and increase efficiency in colocation plans. Here are five things to consider:
1. Cloud Computing. The reception and integration of data from various sources, both in physical servers and cloud data centers, often make cloud computing a vexing situation. Data from various locations around the globe can be hard to manage due to time delays, which hurt performance.

But colocation plans are perfect for cloud-related data because they establish a centralized location for data reception and transmission. When coupled with advanced connectivity plans that merge high performance interconnects and strategic operator networks, businesses can seamlessly integrate data.

2. Big Data. Connectivity is vital for solving the network burdens from analyzing massive amounts of data in real time or storing it for later. A colocation plan includes the necessary interconnects and data center configuration to deliver the appropriate bandwidth for supporting big data.

3. Video Performance. Video performance is highly affected by latency. Its data packets apportion a significant amount of a network’s bandwidth, creating susceptibility for dropped packets.

But connectivity options designed for colocation make it easy to resolve video performance problems. They feature intelligent routing and network resources with a high bandwidth that remove latency issues. These networks are the choice of many automated traders – where milliseconds are incredibly important.

4. Routing Options. Getting data closer to the client base is becoming more difficult as the global marketplace expands. Connectivity strategies combined with tactical operator networks provide superior interconnection service, so choose wisely when considering a colocation provider. The regional operator network availability will have a crucial impact on transmission performances.

 5. Elasticity. Intelligent colocation options offer flexibility for network systems, instead of just increasing bandwidths. It gives businesses workable solutions and the advanced resources needed to meet upcoming tech needs without having to resort to expensive system purchases.

Before choosing a colocation provider, be sure to consider the data center connectivity solutions included in the service.  Colocation can offer the applicable IT solutions for businesses to improve their network performance, but the data center connectivity will help establish better service and lowered operational costs.

Reinventing the CISO in a Changing IT Security Landscape

The cyber world is on alert following recent high-profile security breaches and hacking incidents. Inferior IT systems used in the automation of business processes and increased cyber trading have opened the floodgates for hackers.

Historically, the role of the chief information security officer (CISO) focused on all things IT. CISOs spent their time selecting, deploying and overseeing IT solutions. Some roles were even comparable to today’s IT security administrator jobs — guarding firewalls, negotiating with software vendors over antivirus solutions, scanning and clearing viruses from infected computer devices, and more. Many duties were completed to simply keep regulators at bay.

Multi-dimensional roles

Today, the CISO is a part of a much bigger picture — in security and in business. What can a successful information security officer bring to the corporate table?

Business Enabler  

The new CISO is not just an IT steward, but also a business enabler. The role now requires a seat at the C-level suite, sitting in boardrooms and taking part in IT decision-making with regard to systems availability and business performance. The CISO must understand business processes at all levels to be able to integrate the right machines and technology.

The Missing Link

In many organizations, IT and business still can’t see eye to eye. With IT security now a priority, the new role of the CISO  links the executive hierarchy to the individual business units. This new role calls for a second link – the bottom link – where more proactive collaboration between IT analysts and business managers can happen in each department.

Risk Manager

As an advocate for security, the new CISO is tasked as a risk manager. The role now requires identifying vectors of vulnerability and weakness in the security system and providing immediate solutions to mitigate risks. The CISO and team enforce access logs to establish traceable audit trails for easier determination of accountability. The CISO is likewise expected to explore opportunities to deliver enterprise IT systems and networks in a secure manner that is compliant with applicable regulations.

Influencer, Protector, Responder

These three new roles of the CISO were identified in a recent IBM survey. It revealed that organizations are looking at security with a holistic approach and are elevating the CISO to a more strategic position. Influencers are characterized as those who are confident and strategically prepared to influence business performance. Protectors are those with a strategic plan to prioritize security. And Responders are considered those who focus largely on protection and compliance.

Fundamental skills and competencies

Executives with a computer science or computer engineering background and experience in IT security at large enterprises are good candidates. Cybersecurity solutions product specialists and computer degree graduates with corporate IT experience can also fit into the role.

A deep technical background and experience is a must, but business acumen is another important consideration. CISOs must integrate IT into business to improve the performance of people, machines, processes, and the bottom line.

Managing IT Risk: The Special Case of Privileged Users

Acts of fraud in the workplace cost companies around $145,000, according to a report from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. From theft and security breaches to tarnished reputations, businesses have more than enough reason to take swift, strong action.

Internal perpetrators and leaks causing much of the damage go largely unchecked while security budgets focus more on external threats. In fact, less than half of IT departments dedicate funds to combat internal threats, according to a recent Raytheon-commissioned survey

 

Privileged Users: Your Best Assets and Highest Risks

Every company needs privileged users with greater access to the most valuable and sensitive IT resources and restricted company info. Privileged users include many of your best and most important employees, but their accounts need special security attention for several reasons:

  • High-level IT professionals need access to data and information too valuable to go unprotected.
  • These privileged users make attractive targets for outsiders to infiltrate.
  • These employees are often skilled and knowledgeable in the ways of hiding their fraudulent behavior.
  • Privileged users may have multiple user accounts on the network or multiple employees may have access to the same administrator accounts. IT departments need the power to accurately attribute user actions.

Why We All Must Worry About Internal Threats

Failing to protect against internal risks presents a major problem for any company. Malicious intent does not even need to be involved. Privileged users with high-level access have the power to topple networks and steal or destroy data, but even a perfectly loyal employee can become a security risk.

Without proper monitoring and security protocols, those with high security privileges can become the next target of an attack. External attackers have more to gain from users with broader access. Any employee may fall victim to a malicious attack, but the privileged user would expose more risk. Thus, organizations must grapple with how to tactfully and effectively prevent and address internal threats.

Handling the Security Risks of Privileged Users

IT leaders should devise a plan to combat privileged user threats, beginning with a common sense view of behavior in the workplace. You need to know who has access, and you need to know who has taken action when something has gone wrong.

Monitoring can help prevent internal damage, but policies should be clearly defined. False alarms create the need for high-tech security tools and auditing. No one enjoys a security scare that leads to a top employee being accused of theft. Companies need video evidence and reliable user data to avoid this problem.

The latest technologies for internal threat protection include privileged account management tools, or PAM. In conjunction with clear policies and monitoring systems that help analyze the context of user actions and the intent of possible attacks, the billion-dollar industry of internal fraud can be greatly diminished.

More Than a Handful: Seven Prime Risks of the Cloud

It’s never wise to jump into something new without learning about the risks involved. Cloud computing offers a wealth of potential for both empowering businesses and cutting costs, but as a new technology, it’s important for IT leaders to thoroughly understand the cloud’s inherent and specific risks in order to prepare companies for successful deployment.

Assessing the Risks

Risk assessment of any cloud solution should look at the many different varieties of services in the cloud, the differences in providers, and the needs of the given industry.

Specifically, decision-makers should consider these specific risk areas:

Compatibility

Cloud implementation must be carefully planned before deployment. If it’s not, there could be frustrating or devastating problems if existing systems cannot function and communicate with cloud services. Without ensuring full compatibility, businesses could face unforeseen costs for reverting to other systems, fixing the compatibility issues, and losing time that could be spent elsewhere.

Compliance

Any compliance issues in an organization’s industry or location must be addressed when deploying cloud services. This especially poses an issue when using cloud services located in another country or for organizations with very specific and strict compliance requirements. There are cloud solutions to fit almost all compliance standards, but the issues should be addressed in the planning phase.

Security

Virtual environments create security vulnerability risks for two main reasons: because more data is being transmitted across networks and platforms, and because organizations are housing data in a new physical location. A complete security assessment should precede cloud deployment, and a rigorous security management program should be in place over time. Communication between the company and the service provider is vital to monitoring ongoing security risk.

Reliable Performance

Some downtime will occur with any service, but the right cloud provider for a given organization will work to develop guidelines and service schedules that do not interfere with regular business. Service should be reliable and supported to mitigate any issue and provide near-perfect uptime.

Portability

If your cloud provider changes its service offerings significantly or if it goes bankrupt, will your business be able to move forward? Risk management for cloud services should stress the importance of portability, wherever possible, or a plan for easing the burden of your next big switch. Better yet, the cloud provider should appear positioned to provide service indefinitely.

Vetting Your Options

When you use a relatively new technology like cloud solutions, it can be difficult to assess whether you’re getting your money’s worth and whether your services are in line with what the market has to offer. Until cloud technologies and the market have matured and become more standardized, you should expect to put in some effort to regularly gaze at other providers and options while remembering the work it would take to shift gears.

Growing to Scale

Cloud gives businesses the power to disrupt markets and create new revenue streams. Will your provider be able to grow with you? Cloud services are generally very scalable, but not all providers are equally prepared for the task. Think about your future needs when choosing a provider; you can reduce some risk by being optimistic and finding a provider with robust, diverse services.

CIO 101: Systems Are Never Fully Secure

One of the biggest mistakes that a CIO can make is to assume that their systems are fully protected from security threats. It is a costly assumption that many CIOs make at some point; however, rather than repeat mistakes, like any leader, CIOs are better off learning from them instead.

Learning from Mistakes

Just a couple of months ago in Cambridge, CIOs from around the country gathered to participate in the MIT Sloan CIO Summit. While there, they were asked to discuss a significant failure that they had made during the course of their careers.

One of the most notable responses came from Fidelity Enterprise CTO Stephen Neff.

Neff discussed his time at Salomon Brothers and the early days of his career. He related how the firm had a double backup system that it relied upon; this ensured that the backup had a backup. The firm believed that this was sufficient coverage to protect their data. After all, while one backup could be corrupted or lost, the odds of corrupting two backups were considered to be so low that it wasn’t even a possibility.

Against All Odds

As it turned out, those odds were considerable. Upon review, it became clear that the mirrored site was corrupted, and the backup, which hadn’t been updated with crucial software, wasn’t backing data up at all.

The entire system wasn’t working properly. Fortunately, the problem was discovered before any major damage was done, and the data was able to be recovered from disks.

However, the experience taught Neff that no system is foolproof and that making assumptions such as those made at Salomon Brothers can lead to very costly mistakes.

As Neff said, “Stability isn’t a given. You might think your organization’s systems are stable, but you have to test them constantly to be sure.”

The Best Plans Go Fallow

Neff’s story illustrates that even the best security and backup plans can fall apart because of any number of factors. In this case, it was because of factors that were out of his control.

It also highlights what many IT professionals feel in the current environment that is promoting cloud-based solutions. For many, these systems represent an enormous risk because they operate out of their direct control. Stories like Neff’s underscore this concern, and it is something that each IT professional will need to address in terms of his or her organization’s specific needs and requirements.

Plan for Every Error

The bottom line is this: whether an organization is using internal or cloud-based solutions, it is important to factor in everything from human error to mechanical failures. Though CIOs can take steps to prepare for any eventuality, the truth is that all bases never will be 100% covered.

Things can and do happen. It’s important to ensure that an organization’s IT policies are consistent, constant, and always evolving. While not full proof, it is the best way to ensure that an organization doesn’t make the same mistakes that others have made.

Excellent Data Analysis: The Key to an Excellent Business Strategy

The overall success of a business depends on many factors, including leadership, vision, economics, competition, and analytics. But it is data that is the driving force behind a business’s success or failure.

According to Ovum Research, a business receiving poor quality data could lose revenue of at least 30 percent. Business leaders across the board are now recognizing the significance and importance of using high-quality data to ensure a successful business–and making changes to do so.

Smart Data Management

For many businesses, the answer is to invest in high-tech data processing applications and advanced predictive analytics to rein in the data and make it work for them. However, some businesses are finding that even the latest data processing equipment doesn’t help when the core data is a mess.

Expert business analyzers have found that there is a better way for companies to manage data; it’s called master data management (MDM). Although this isn’t a new concept, it has come to the forefront for many business leaders because of data’s vital nature.

Leaders know the importance of collecting data on customers, suppliers, products, location, assets, and employees. Although the overall success of a business depends on this critical data, it can be hard for managers to focus on it because of other priorities, business mergers, or siloed systems.

Smart Data Analysis

Eventually, though, it becomes glaringly obvious that there are gaps between what they do know about these critical data categories and what they should know. Such a realization compels leaders to start looking at these critical concepts:

  • Sales are optimized by knowing the customer, the product they purchased, the location of purchase, and the supplier.
  • Recalls can only be effectively and efficiently handled when the business knows where the defective part came from, where it went, and where the products are located.
  • Marketing new drugs requires knowing the researcher, the research site, compounds used, and test patient data.
  • Product models, date of manufacture, and location of manufacture play an important role in meeting regulatory reporting guidelines.

Many times, this data is easy to manage until the business begins to grow. The larger the business gets, the harder it can be to track the data. As the data becomes fragmented across applications, it’s harder to see the “big picture.”

Smart Adaptation

Moreover, the data keeps changing when the following occur:

  • Customer demographics change.
  • Suppliers move or change.
  • New products launch and old products discontinue.
  • Assets are gained or retired.

All of these changes result in inconsistent, scattered data that’s hard to find and possibly not accurate. This costs businesses time and money and can result in frustrated, overworked employees.

Adapting, forward-thinking leaders can take a different approach:

  • They can locate the data glitches.
  • They can focus on the process of receiving and storing data.
  • They can find a product that is designed to manage business data from one location (like MDM).

MDM can help a variety of industries achieve a streamlined method of data management by helping marketing teams optimize the cross-sell and up-sell process, helping the procurement team optimize sourcing, and helping the compliance team manage data needed to create regulatory reports efficiently. MDM brings all of a business’s data under one umbrella, resulting in the most up-to-date, accurate, critical business information possible to help businesses thrive and grow.

Despite the management style of choice, it’s clear that smart approaches to data analytics is what puts one business ahead of another.

8 Ways Businesses Are Innovating with Cloud

Many companies have joined the cloud to cut costs and enjoy easier scale, but the technologies that power the cloud can also help companies innovate within their own markets. When companies begin experiencing the benefits of cloud adoption, the savings and flexibility can be used to alter revenue streams or reinvent an entire industry.

Cloud propels innovation through intrinsic benefits and by inspiring and enabling changes. Here are eight important ways that the cloud fuels innovation:

Collaboration

When employees have greater access to and communication with each other, possibilities emerge for innovative ideas. Businesses even find new revenue streams. Cloud technology enables collaboration across different locations and departments more easily– within the building and across the globe.

Faster innovation

The most popular cloud solution, SaaS (Software as a Service) helps the vast majority of companies using the cloud get results faster than ever. The agility and scalability of SaaS encourages companies to experiment with transformative new projects and disrupt their market rather than simply gaining efficiency.

New revenue streams

Rapidly changing technologies fuel companies to quickly alter their own business models. While selecting from SaaS and other cloud services, companies are taking the new value added and applying it toward reinventing the business with new revenue streams added.

Making the jump from specialist to leader

In addition to collaboration and crowd-based information, the cloud also helps businesses search and discover specific talents and specializations. When you need a revolutionary thinker, the cloud helps you find the right person for the task. Cloud takes the value in a niche skill and brings its benefits to scale.

Sharper insight, better decisions

The cloud brings together big data and provides access to highly sophisticated analytics. In turn, companies can use this information in decisive moments to propel innovative ideas into successful projects. The cloud pulls people and ideas together and gives executives the information they need to move forward confidently on new projects.

More mobile tech projects

With mobile apps fully ingrained in both internal use and consumer platforms, companies need cloud to integrate IT, product development, customer relations, and other departments. Cloud technologies offer the perfect solution for generating better mobile products that change how business is done or create an entirely new model of the customer relationship.

No more red tape during development

Innovation can unfortunately be slowed down by clunky testing and deployment processes. Companies that are innovating quickly are doing so by using cloud-based tools to integrate IT development and operations teams, cutting the red tape and enabling productivity in innovative teams.

Engaging and learning from customers

The cloud makes it easy to interact with customers, creating a new font of information and the opportunity to test new products quickly. Innovation leaders are using cloud-based data to source ideas about what customers want next. Cloud solutions also serve as an agile way to test new ideas and engage customers during product testing.

Many companies are using the cloud for cost reduction without leveraging the technology to grow or disrupt the market. Increasingly, though, businesses in the cloud are finding the tools necessary to innovate in profound and fundamental ways.