Microsoft and Alibaba have developed a way to improve collaboration between application developers, operators and infrastructure teams in a new project that could speed up deployment of applications in Kubernetes.
In what the two tech giants termed as the Open Application Model (OAM), developers will be able define their application components without considering operational details, minimising any ambiguity over which capabilities operators should apply to an application that is being deployed.
By separating the description of an application from the details of how the application is deployed and managed by infrastructure teams, developers will be able to focus on the key elements of their application. These include information on which parameters of their applications can or cannot be rewritten by operators to fit different runtime environments, for example.
In an interview with Computer Weekly, Zhang Lei, a staff engineer at Alibaba Cloud, said the OAM will be useful to independent software vendors that want an easy way to package and deliver applications to a variety of cloud and mobile platforms.
Alibaba has been using the OAM since the start of 2019 to deploy internal applications, and is also migrating older applications to the new model, Zhang said. He added that the OAM will also let cloud suppliers handle the deployment of applications on behalf of developers in future.
“Developers shouldn’t have to care about operations,” Zhang said, adding that the OAM will pave the way for NoOps, where the IT environment is completely automated and abstracted from the underlying infrastructure.
The OAM is currently being developed under an Open Web Foundation agreement, and the two tech giants plan to contribute the specification to a vendor-neutral foundation to enable open governance and collaboration.
More information on the OAM can be found in this blog post by Microsoft and Alibaba Cloud.
At any large-scale event, whether it’s an independence day parade or a Coldplay concert, chances are you’ll see security personnel using push-to-talk devices or walkie-talkies to coordinate with one another to keep the crowds under control.
For a while now, voice has been the primary mode of communications transmitted over land mobile radio networks in such scenarios, but the rise of high-speed mobile broadband networks such as 4G has made it possible to include videos and photos into the mix.
During a media demo at Motorola Solutions in Singapore earlier this week, executives from the supplier of data and communications equipment show how it is possible for a team of police officers to share photos and videos of their immediate vicinities to one another, on top of voice communications.
Chuah Seng Heng, vice-president for Asia at Motorola Solutions, says this helps to improve the situational awareness of teams operating in mission-critical scenarios, be it delivering emergency services or securing an event attended by VIPs. “Video has become the new voice and we’re always looking at how to put the two together,” he said.
Earlier this week, Motorola Solutions introduced its so-called broadband push-to-talk offerings that can make use of existing 4G networks to support critical communications.
These could be public networks carved out solely for use by law enforcement officers or private LTE networks that cover a specific area of operations, according to Shanti Ravindran, principal architect for next-generation experience at Motorola Solutions. In some cases, telcos can even prioritise traffic for enterprises that require high levels of reliability, she adds.
Ravindran says while it’s important to extend the reach of land mobile radios into these networks, just as important are features on devices that make it easy for officers and enterprise workers to access key functions such as video streaming, secure messaging, as well as initiating an emergency call.
“Advanced broadband push-to-talk solutions enable emergency services and enterprises to communicate easily and securely via the same communications system – regardless of whether their workers use two-way radios, smartphones, desktop computers or other devices.
“This provides significant advantages to organisations at a time when workforce demographics continue to change and organisations require more solutions to enable wider interoperability and collaboration,” Ravindran says.
But Motorola’s expertise isn’t limited to devices and networks – it is also making a bigger push into software and managed services, a business that grew by 20% last year, according to Chuah. In March 2018, it completed its acquisition of Canada’s Avigilon, a specialist in advanced video surveillance and analytics.
Chuah says advanced analytics, in particular, will help security officers in command and control rooms make better sense of the alerts that they are seeing.
Asked about the efficacy of Motorola’s analytics capabilities as compared to best-of-breed offerings, Chuah said the company’s edge is in providing an integrated offering that meets the needs of enterprises operating in mission-critical environments.
Singapore telco M1 is planning a 5G trial at the latest outlet of Haidilao, a well-known hotpot restaurant in the city-state, in a bid to demonstrate the use of 5G networks in the food and beverage (F&B) sector.
The two companies said they will be equipping the new Haidilao Hot Pot restaurant at Marina Square with a kitchen management system, an automatic soup base machine, as well as food delivery robots that will serve diners.
In addition, they are setting up a new 5G experience corner to showcase M1’s 5G expertise and capabilities.
Diners, for instance, will be able to immerse themselves in instructional, educational and interactive virtual and augmented reality gaming at the experience corner, while waiting in line for the next available seat.
Willis Sim, M1’s chief corporate sales and solutions office, said the telco has been building 5G capabilities to deliver 5G applications across a range of industries and that the Haidilao testbed is its first one in the F&B segment.
Frank Li, branch manager of Haidilao Marina Square, said: “Customer experience has always been a top priority for us at Haidilao, and we are very excited to explore this new experience with M1 for our new store. 5G is enabling better experiences across industries, and we are happy to bring the trial of this technology to our restaurant in Singapore”.
Besides the F&B segment, M1 is also setting its sights on the use of 5G in last-mile connectivity.
Just this week, it announced a partnership with Nanyang Technological University, to integrate 5G technology into cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) research testbeds and trials, as part of Singapore’s ongoing transition into a global innovation hub for research in connected mobility.
C-V2X communications is used to enhance safety by relaying real-time traffic navigation and hazard information to users in advance. It can send traffic warning notifications at road junctions, helping to optimise road usage by reducing travelling time and minimising the risk of accidents.
M1 will provide the infrastructure for a 5G connected mobility testbed and trial by deploying three 5G base stations for C-V2X communications at the NTU smart campus. The increased capacity and capabilities of the network will deliver ultra-fast and reliable low-latency communications over a wider coverage area.
The network’s radio efficiency is further improved by massive MIMO technology that will enable hundreds of sensors to be installed in vehicles and traffic lights. This allows industry partners to design and deploy 5G mobility solutions for a range of safety-related use cases such as collision avoidance and real time traffic routing.
In June 2018, M1 and Huawei conducted Singapore’s first 5G live trial where virtual reality content was transmitted at the former’s headquarters in Jurong.
The transmission was carried out using Huawei’s 5G equipment that operates in the 28GHz millimetre wave band and supports a theoretical peak download throughput exceeding 20Gbps.
Singapore’s DBS Bank has launched a digital logistics solutions package for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the logistics sector that are looking to expand their regional footprint.
Comprising digital solutions powered by the bank’s application programming interfaces (APIs), the package will provide SMEs with access to real-time trade financing and funds settlement capabilities directly through their enterprise resource planning (ERP) or internal systems.
In addition, SMEs will also be able to collect payments instantly and process refunds via online portals, mobile apps and DBS Max, a QR code mobile application.
Although logistics accounts for around 7% of Singapore’s GDP, it is becoming more saturated with tighter profit margins, spurring more SMEs in the sector to turn to overseas markets for growth.
But in doing so, they often face challenges such as access to trade financing, operational inefficiencies from paper-based and manual processes, the lack of supply chain traceability, as well as payments and collection inefficiencies.
“Customers looking to expand overseas need more advisory services and solutions and we are here to help them make the first step,” said Tan Su Shan, group head of institutional banking at DBS Bank. “We hope to make banking simpler and more seamless for our customers, so they have a more structured approach to their regionalisation plans.”
Yang Kee Logistics, a DBS customer since 2002, was the first firm to sign up for the package. It operates in 12 markets and is looking to grow its footprint in the region.
Said Ken Koh, group CEO of Yang Kee Logistics: “Expanding into new markets is always challenging, we lack market knowledge and understanding of regulatory requirements. Partnering with DBS gives me the confidence to take our regionalisation plans to the next phase”.
This is a guest post by Stephen Dane, managing director for cyber security at Cisco Asia-Pacific, Japan and Greater China
We live in a multi-cloud world. A world where a multitude of offerings from cloud service providers (CSPs) gives us the potential to respond to business opportunities and challenges at a moment’s notice.
According to IDC’s CloudView 2018 report, 85% of all businesses are evaluating or using public cloud, 87% of cloud users are moving towards hybrid cloud, and 94% are using or plan to use a multi-cloud environment, an increase from 84% in 2017.
While the flexibility, productivity and cost savings benefits of cloud apps have fueled widespread adoption of multi-cloud across Asia-Pacific, organisations are challenged to deal with its fragmented nature, increasing complexity and lack of control when it comes to data, policy and security.
It is crucial for businesses to have an end-to-end multi-cloud framework in place or they may find themselves supporting inefficient traditional datacentre environments and inadequately planned cloud implementations that may not be as easy to manage or as affordable as they imagined.
Securing the multi-cloud environment
Today’s multi-cloud world consists of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, private, public and hybrid clouds, hosting infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and employees and branches accessing the cloud and internet from anywhere.
This means that chief information security officers (CISOs) do not have the same level of control in a multi-cloud environment as they have with their on-premises infrastructure. It also means that there is no single tool to build a unified security policy across the environment, adding to the complexity that CISOs face.
In Cisco’s 2019 CISO benchmark study, 70% of respondents in Asia-Pacific said that defending cloud infrastructure was “very or extremely” challenging, higher than the global average of 52%.
While ease of use is still the top driver for hosting infrastructure in the cloud, the potential for greater security is also high on the CISO agenda. In the same study, 50% of CISOs cited “better data security” as a reason to move into a cloud environment. This shows that while securing the cloud is a concern, security leaders recognise the ability of the cloud to offer more security benefits, and this possibly stems from general levels of trust in cloud providers to get the basics right and to make it easy for the consumer of those services to add their own security layered on top.
So where should businesses start? Here are four key considerations:
Gaining visibility into the network
Organisations are shifting IT resources to the public cloud such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Alibaba Cloud and Google Cloud at historic scale, driven by demands for greater capital efficiency, agility and scalability. Businesses need to understand that security in the cloud is not fully managed by either the customer or cloud provider; rather, it is a “shared responsibility model” where each party is responsible for different pieces.
The cloud provider is responsible for protecting the infrastructure that runs all the services offered in the cloud. This infrastructure is composed of the hardware, software, networking and facilities that run the cloud services.
The customer is responsible for security in the cloud, such as the management of the guest operating system (including updates and security patches), any application software or utilities installed by the customer on the instances, firewall or security group configuration.
To do so, businesses need to think about how they are protecting their data: Are their applications secure? Have they configured their firewall correctly? Have they managed identity and access correctly? Is their data is secure or is it being accessed by third parties? Failure to account for these responsibilities will create a greater risk of exposure and data exfiltration.
The first step to securing multi-cloud environments is gaining greater visibility at the network and application layer. This can be achieved with solutions such as Cisco Stealthwatch Cloud, which delivers security visibility for the public cloud, allowing organisations to detect abnormal behavior and threat activity, so they can quickly respond before a security incident becomes a devastating breach.
Protect SaaS apps as users bypass security perimeter
Users are increasingly self-selecting which apps to use anytime and anywhere. In today’s multi-cloud world, SaaS application usage is frequently a blind spot as independent applications running on an organisation’s hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures are constantly evolving.
Attackers can compromise cloud identities, gain access to information stored in the cloud through excessive file shares and public data exposures, and create malicious applications that connect to users’ cloud identities by exploiting the Open Authorisation (OAuth) protocol.
Currently, the majority of datacentres are designed with traditional perimeter-only security, which is insufficient, especially as the datacentre has become a multi-cloud environment. Providing a secure infrastructure for hundreds or even thousands of applications without compromising agility requires a new, multi-dimensional approach. As applications move from an on-premise datacentre, to a private cloud and a public cloud, security has to move with them.
This is why an application-first security model allows organisations to gain insight and control through greater visibility, achieve compliance with software guardrails and reduce risk with advanced threat prevention and detection across the environment.
Optimise networking and security with segmentation
Today’s work environment allows employees to work from any device, anywhere and anytime. As remote users work directly in cloud apps, and as organisations enable applications and devices at branch sites to directly access the internet, they bypass the traditional centralised security perimeter. This exposes the branch and devices to all types of internet traffic, and in the process, increases the attack surface at the edge.
To solve the security and complexity problems at the cloud edge where networking, security and multi-cloud environments meet, Cisco is building security functionality into its SD-WAN software while boosting support for cloud services.
This extends branch segmentation into the datacentre and cloud by carrying the relevant identifying segmentation information to all relevant points in the network. By integrating security and networking into one platform, we are in a position to optimise and secure the network and deliver the traffic directly to the cloud provider in a simple and cost-effective way.
Balance threat detection with trust verification
By now we have established that we have users, devices and apps accessing the network like always but also accessing data beyond IT’s traditional control points.
Application access decisions are often happening off-network when mobile users go straight to cloud apps. So, while a strong security posture begins with continuous threat detection that blocks attacks and malware outright and also continuously detects and remediates the most advanced threats, it has to be coupled with continuously verifying trust. This trust-centric approach enforces controls around access to sensitive data and apps and verifies trust in users, workloads and IoT devices.
By keeping these four considerations top of mind, businesses can adopt the cloud with confidence and protect their users, data, and applications, anywhere they are.
Managing and securing access to multiple public cloud services can be a challenge for enterprises that are embarking on a multi-cloud strategy.
Besides making sure that only authorised members of the IT team are granted access to cloud services, there’s also a need to implement controls to prevent misconfiguration of resources that could have grave consequences, such as data leakages in the case of misconfigured Amazon S3 buckets.
Then, there’s also a slew of compliance and legal requirements that enterprises, especially in regulated industries, will need to comply with.
While there are various cloud security management tools in the market, San Francisco-based start-up C3M is making it easier for administrators to implement security, compliance and access controls across multiple public cloud services.
In a demo of C3M, which can also be deployed on the public cloud and on-premise, the company’s chief product officer Anil Kumar showed off the software’s user-friendly interface that makes it easy to keep track of the status and security of multiple cloud services on a single dashboard.
In the policy compliance module, for instance, administrators can quickly see which cloud service configurations do not comply with pre-set policies, delve into the actual configurations, such as how long the service has not been in compliance, and even remediate the issues automatically.
And through audit trails, administrators can identify when the last configuration was made, by whom, as well as the severity levels of non-compliant configurations.
For now, C3M supports major cloud services including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure, with out-of-the-box security policies available for enterprises to enforce on public cloud services.
Kumar says administrators can also build custom policies if they like. This can be done easily using C3M’s query language in an explorer mode that lists various policy attributes that can be applied to a virtual machine, for example.
Aswin Unnikrishnan, C3M’s head of operations, says the company has received requests from channel partners for a cloud cost control module and is currently evaluating the option.
C3M also plans to support hybrid cloud environments that will enable enterprises to manage their private and public cloud environments through the same platform.
So far, the company counts some of the largest financial institutions as clients, including one in the US that was hacked years ago, according to Unnikrishnan. “We also have some smaller companies and software distributors in the UK as customers.”
C3M sells its software via a workload-based licensing model. It keeps track of the number of workloads its customers are managing through its platform, and the moment customers hit close to 90% of their licensed workloads, a reminder will be sent.
Unnikrishnan says some C3M customers manage as many as 100,000 workloads and claims that the company’s pricing strategy is disruptive. “It’s almost a third or a quarter of what the competition charges for similar features.”
In just under three years, tech veteran Ramesh Munamarty has accomplished what some of his peers can only dream of – building an agile culture, shoring up the IT infrastructure and delivering impact for the business.
The group CIO of International SOS, which provides medical and travel security services, joined the company in October 2016 to drive three strategic imperatives: enterprise IT, digital transformation and business process optimisation.
Munamarty got down to work quickly, starting with the development of a digital platform that provides common services for different business units, in areas such as identity and access management, customer relationship management and application programming interfaces.
Serving as the foundation of International SOS’s digital transformation across the globe, the common platform also provides access to no-code productivity tools for automating workflows as well as a mobile development framework.
The mobile development framework, says Munamarty, has enabled country teams to develop mobile apps designed to serve their own markets. “This level of centralisation allowed a lot of progressive thinking in terms of the need to ensure we have enterprise-grade architecture,” he told Computer Weekly on the sidelines of the ConnectGov Leaders Summit 2019 in Edinburgh.
The other change that Munamarty spearheaded at International SOS was business process optimisation. “It’s not just the technology that’s important to drive the transformation – the processes had to be changed, along with having the mindset and culture of change.”
Munamarty started a separate team for business process innovation, comprising people who are well-versed in the Six Sigma methodology. The team conducted “value stream mapping” across different processes to identify inefficiencies before streamlining processes. This was important to avoid automating a bad process, he adds
“Disciplines such as enterprise architecture and business process innovation, as well as using data analytics to drive engineering teams into having a DevOps mentality and having a common engineering platform, were some of the key fundamentals,” Munamarty says.
But that was not all. As it was just as critical to secure buy-in from different lines of business on the company’s digital transformation efforts, representatives from the business units were engaged to serve as the liaison between business and IT.
These “business partners”, says Munamarty, report to him as well as to the CEO, helping the IT organisation to prioritise demand and navigate a complex organisational structure.
The transformation efforts are bearing fruit. International SOS is already seeing a double-digit growth in its revenues from digital products while the stability of its infrastructure has improved significantly.
The increasing use of renewable energy, consumer expectations of digital services and market liberalisation are some of the forces that have been reshaping Singapore’s energy industry in recent years.
Faced with this disruption, SP Group, the country’s main energy supplier and power grid operator SP Group – formerly known as Singapore Power – has been embarking on a slew of initiatives to transform digitally.
A few years ago, it formed a digital business subsidiary called SP Digital to build “energy tech” products for industries such as marine engineering. Sembcorp Marine, for example, is using SP Digital’s products to monitor solar energy generation, and to optimise energy usage using artificial intelligence.
SP Digital has also launched a renewable energy certificates marketplace based on blockchain technology, as well as built a consumer engagement platform that lets residential customers track their energy usage, among other capabilities.
When SP Group’s nationwide electric vehicle charging network is ready by 2020, the engagement platform could also be used to deliver new capabilities for consumers, such as locating charging points and paying for the use of them.
The transformation at SP Group so far has been nothing short of impressive. SP Digital’s digital energy products have so far generated new revenue streams, putting the group in a better position to compete with young energy start-ups in a changing industry that’s brimming with innovation.
“The utility and energy world has always been about infrastructure behind the scenes, but things are changing,” SP Digital CEO Chang Sau Sheong told Computer Weekly on the sidelines of the 2019 ConnectGov Leaders Summit in Edinburgh.
“I was recently at the IEA (International Energy Agency) conference and you can see that sustainability and energy efficiency is so huge that there are lots of start-ups embarking on it. It’s no longer the old utilities industry.”
Chang rise to the helm of SP Digital was just as transformational. He took over from his predecessor who was running a team tasked with managing traditional IT and operational technology systems at SP Group.
After his predecessor left the firm, Chang was asked by the group CEO to spin off his team to form SP Digital, with its own profit-and-loss (P&L) account. That paved for way for Chang and his team to pursue new digital opportunities – and the rest is history.
This is a guest post by Rosie Cairnes, regional director at Skillsoft ANZ
When most people hear the term blockchain, they immediately think of bitcoin, the most widely known of the hundreds of cryptocurrencies being traded online today. Bitcoin, a blockchain-based decentralised digital currency with no central bank or single administrator, made headlines in December 2017 when its value reached an all-time high of almost $20,000.
For the majority people, this may have been the first time they had seen or heard of blockchain technology – unless they had already stumbled over Netflix’s Banking on Bitcoin documentary.
While it is still very much in its infancy, blockchain is more than cryptocurrencies, and is poised to disrupt every industry.
Blockchain is essentially the technology that provides a trusted decentralised ledger, which can be used to store data securely and independently verify transactions between parties. Think of it like one person trying to hold onto 50 marbles – these could be easily stolen or dropped because one person can’t hold that many securely in their hands.
If instead they were divided among 50 people who were asked to take care of one marble, each marble would be more secure, because it’s easy for one person to hold one marble, and if someone tried to run away with theirs, the rest of the group would quickly see the culprit and stop them. In the same way, blockchain ‘shares’ responsibility for the data, so it’s better controlled and more secure.
In addition to digital currencies, blockchain has the potential to automate and streamline huge numbers of tasks and business processes. There are new applications and use cases popping up every day. The technology is poised to transform how journalism is funded, change how we buy and sell property, and even reinvent employee management and HR.
And it’s not all blue-sky thinking. Numerous blockchain projects are well underway in large organisations. More than 75 of the world’s largest banks have joined the Interbank Information Network, which uses blockchain technology to minimise friction in the global payments process.
A fundamental shift
We are at the dawn of a technological revolution. Blockchain, as well as a host of other fledgling technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and 5G, is poised to fundamentally change the makeup of the workforce.
Blockchain-based technologies will automate repetitive tasks, significantly speed up global data processes and replace a huge number of jobs. Research on the topic is limited – and predicting the future workforce landscape is difficult, if not impossible.
At a recent blockchain summit, the CEO of one of the industry’s best-funded startups estimated that blockchain could make 30% to 60% of current jobs redundant, simply by enabling people to share data securely with a common record.
To compete and thrive in the blockchain world, organisations need to apply fresh thinking to prepare their workforce for the coming changes. They will need to create new ways of working.
Preparing for change
While there is no shortage of programming roles when it comes to blockchain – and this demand is set to grow exponentially – many people without programming skills will need to prove their value in other ways, or face being replaced by increased automation.
The challenge for business leaders will be empowering their workforce and ensuring their employees are ready. Workers must be willing and able to embrace new and exciting roles. This will mean upskilling employees to use automation to augment their roles – rather than replace them – and explore more creative styles of working.
While it is difficult to predict what many of these new roles will look like – indeed, research from Dell recently predicted that 85% of 2030’s jobs do not even exist yet – it is likely they will involve employing uniquely ‘human’ attributes, such as creative thinking, leadership and adaptability.
Attracting and retaining the right talent will be crucial over the coming years, more so than ever before. But the key to long-term success for many businesses will be providing their people with the opportunities to transition into roles that are more skilled, value-based and rewarding.
This means ensuring employees have access to high-quality digital skills training, while also encouraging an organisation-wide culture of continuous learning and soft skills development. Not only will this help employees prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, it will drive innovation within the organisation today.
While enterprises are expected to be one of the early beneficiaries of 5G networks that promise low-latency connectivity for driverless vehicles and factory machinery, consumer use cases of the technology have not been widely discussed.
Ericsson’s latest ConsumerLab study offers a glimpse on how Singapore consumers expect to benefit from 5G. According to the study, which involved interviews with 1,500 respondents in Singapore, more than half believe augmented reality (AR) glasses will become the norm by 2025.
They also expect to make use of the higher bandwidth of 5G networks to watch three hours more of video content, of which an hour will be spent on AR and virtual reality glasses. This will have cumulative effect on mobile data consumption which will grow to as much as 200GB per month by 2025.
Besides entertainment, Singapore consumers appear to be warming up to smart home solutions, with smart home sensors expected to be one of the top two applications for 5G, the other being 5G TV services.
And the good news, at least for telcos, is that Singapore consumers are willing to pay a 52% premium for 5G services.
That consumer expectations of 5G revolve around video and rich media content should come as no surprise and mirrors similar expectations of 4G networks when they were first launched.
The bigger takeaway from Ericsson’s study lies in the growing reception towards smart home offerings, which haven’t really taken off in a big way due in part to the disparate markets for home IoT devices.
Telcos looking to capitalise on the 5G-powered smart home trend will have to take up the systems integrator mantle – like what they’ve been doing for enterprise customers – and make it easy for consumers to use and manage smart home solutions.
Globally, Ericsson expects 5G coverage to reach at least 45% of the world’s population by the end of 2024, thanks to the use of spectrum sharing technology that lets telcos deploy 5G and 4G services using the same spectrum.
Device and chipset makers have already laid the groundwork for 5G devices, with smartphones for the main spectrum bands expected to hit the market over the course of this year. This will drive the global number of 5G subscriptions to more than 10 million by the end of 2019.