Category Archives: Technology

Samsung Making Strides In IoT Innovation

Samsung Making Strides In IoT Innovation

Samsung IoT Innovation

Samsung’s recent Developer Conference highlighted a few key concepts the organization plans to cultivate going forward, not least of all plans to simply produce more of everything. But the conference’s logo, “connecting the future everywhere you look”, is perhaps eloquently expressive of some strong initiatives Samsung is making in the Internet of Things (IoT) arena.

Appealing Innovations

At this year’s conference, Samsung has displayed a few products that, while not likely to reach the consumer market any time soon, exhibit some of the possible devices their Artik line of chips will support. The Otto prototype, an emotive robot able to answer questions as well as act as a casual security system, is functionally similar to Amazon Echo and is also able to interact with smart appliances. Samsung additionally displayed a light switch that listens and responds to questions, and a security system which uses algorithms to differentiate between humans and animals. The goal of these devices is to encourage customers to conceive of new ideas, and says Curtis Sasaki, vice president of ecosystems at Samsung, “I don’t think any other company is going to this length to build this quality of reference designs… This is a different way of giving an idea of where IoT can go.”

Smart Devices in Our Homes

Already one of the world’s largest TV and smartphone manufacturers, Samsung plans to immerse itself even more in our homes in the coming years through home automation, focusing on internet connected appliances such as ovens, refrigerators, washing machines, and light bulbs. Earlier this year, a Samsung smart refrigerator able to recognize missing items and send a relevant grocery list to its users was demoed, but with recent reports of vulnerabilities in their Smart Home automation system, Samsung’s SmartThings developers have been faced with some fresh challenges that will need to be adequately addressed before going ahead with further smart home innovations.

Samsung Cloud Services

future-iot

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

In order to improve the performance of their future IoT devices, Samsung is building its own cloud services, and not only advancing the functionality of IoT devices, this network will also assist with wearable data collection. Rivaling Microsoft’s Azure and IBM’s Bluemix, Samsung’s Artik Cloud is built on top of Amazon Web Services and being developed to provide connections to organizations’ existing data storage and cloud services. Addressing what might be one of the chief obstacles to the rapid adoption of IoT, the Artik Cloud provides privacy and permissions management, open internet standards based authentication, and secure device registration.

Fostering Loyalty through Intersection

Because hardware is no longer a primary differentiator, hardware manufacturers like Samsung are fighting to create their own development ecosystems that encourage the implementation of their products. And so, while the reference designs unveiled at the Samsung Developer Conference are unlikely to ever become Samsung consumer products, their high quality and fascination help engage both consumers and developers. Along with these prototypes, Samsung’s Artik Cloud will enable the connection of smart home devices across brands. This means that products which currently can’t interact could be melded for more tailored user experiences, and Artik will be able to cooperate with Twitter, Instagram, Amazon Echo, Nest, FitBit, and other home smart technologies. Samsung will apparently even be working with Amazon’s digital voice assistant, Alexa. Says Abhi Rele, Samsung director of product marketing for Samsung’s Strategy and Innovation Center, “You want all of those [smart home] devices to talk to together. Today a lot of that is custom work people need to do. But with the Artik Cloud, you’re able to easily wire up or connect those devices.”

According to Harbor Research and Postscapes, in 2014 the smart home industry generated revenues of $79 billion. Cisco believes that today’s 15 billion connected devices will rise to 50 billion by 2020, while Intel optimistically predicted (in 2014) that 31 billion devices will be connected by then. 

internet-things-Intel

If even the most cautious estimates are trusted, our world will soon be dominated by IoT devices and smart appliances, and so Samsung’s move towards interoperability and cross-brand compatibility deserves commendation. Hopefully, synergy in the IoT market will follow.

By Jennifer Klostermann

The Four C’s – Cloud, Culture, Clash, Change

The Four C’s – Cloud, Culture, Clash, Change

The Cloud, Culture, Clash, Change

I told the new CTO that this cloud stuff was BS. He came charging in with this ‘cloud first policy’ and look what happened. Previously rock solid systems that had worked for years slowed down and had outages as we tried to run them on the cloud. I doubt that the fantasy business case he came up with will ever be validated. We got guys who have been with us forever heading for the exits. I even thought they were planning on getting rid of me. I heard his new lieutenants calling me a ‘server hugger’. Now, I’ll bet he is the one getting the boot.”

cloud-comic3

That’s an ugly but unfortunately surprisingly common scenario. How does it arise? Many managers and executives consider the Cloud a technology issue. It may look like it at first glance but in reality it is so, so much more. How do you avoid negative outcomes when adopting cloud? Well, you could just not use the cloud. And, despite what surveys say about its cloud’s widespread take-up, many actually do just that.

Unfortunately, that is a bit like trying to command the tides to not come in. The economics and benefits are just too powerful. So what do you then do? Why not consider following the “Four C’s”? When dealing with Cloud you must always keep in mind that it represents a Culture disruption. These can lead to Clashes (like our narrator tells above) and therefore must be introduced through careful Change Management.

Culture

Culture can be one of those management consultant buzzwords. It is a powerful and important concept but let’s keep it simple.

Here is a nice definition of culture:

– The beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time

–  particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.

– A way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)

Infographic-Company-Cuture

(Infographic discovered via: Tech.co)

Your organization’s IT department has a very unique culture. Many, or even most IT shops, inside commerce; government and academia are built on old stuff and managed by old paradigms. That’s not to say there are not cutting edge CIO’s and CTO’s trying to make a difference but 80% of their effort is devoted to just keeping the legacy stuff up and running. They can barely respond to new needs. The other challenge is that IT is pretty people intensive. Up to 40% of annual budgets are for people and related expenses. Bottom line: your IT culture has a lot of legacy and a lot of people.

Moving to the cloud, whether Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and/or Software as a Service (SaaS) can be threatening since it represents a pretty significant break with how things have been done. Sure, IT shops have outsourced their assets and operations in the past but that was really a “your mess for less” tactic. Cloud adoption represents a new paradigm in the people, processes and organization of how IT solutions are built and delivered to users.

Think about it. With cloud, a lot of the work that used to take place is just gone. In IaaS, nobody runs around managing or fixing servers. In SaaS, nobody does application upgrades. And the tempo is really accelerated. Instead of months to spec, order and deploy equipment – you do it in minutes. And when it comes to release cycles what may have been quarterly majors and maybe monthly minors – it is now daily, some are even several times a day.

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

This looks pretty scary if you are not some hot shot just out of school. Who is going to need you? Sure, you can work on the legacy stuff, at least that will be around for a while – won’t it? Or, you can up grade your skills – especially if you want to keep your job. Just check out AT&T. Either you master the new reality or you will not be part of it. Just how long before your role is in the cross hairs.

Feel threatened? I would. Now you understand why disrupting culture – the old ways of doing things – leads to potential resistance and even clashes. Fear is a powerful motivation. Before you go adopting cloud be smart. Do some change management planning. Maybe get some help. Step back and consider the culture where you will introduce it and plan.

There are lots of change management processes you can utilize. Quite frankly, you’ll probably use a blend of them. But, like those great exercise machines you can buy on TV, if you don’t use them faithfully all the good things they promise will not come about. Your goal is for your folks to understand the change, feel they will be treated fairly, and finally come to the ah-ha! moment where they think – could this be an opportunity for me?

By John Pientka

Upwork Causes Stir In Freelance Marketplace Due To New Pricing

Upwork Causes Stir In Freelance Marketplace Due To New Pricing

Upwork Freelance Marketplace

The Upwork freelance marketplace is one of the largest global platforms supporting freelance work, has made a significant change to their terms of service that has a lot of users, both client- and freelancer-side, in an uproar. At the end of 2013, Elance and oDesk, two of the largest freelancing marketplaces on the web, announced a merger, and in 2015 the company relaunched under the name Upwork. Though the oDesk platform was rebranded as Upwork, Elance continued to run its old platform, while encouraging users to move to the Upwork platform. It’s taken about a year for everything to pull together, but the beginning of this year saw the final move of all clients, freelancers, and work portfolios from the old Elance platform to the amalgamated Upwork platform.

Moving Towards a Freelancing & Remote Working Culture

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Thanks to many advances in technology in recent years, freelancing and remote working have become viable and profitable options for many, and while freelancers in years gone by might have struggled to find new clients, platforms connecting job hunters with employers have improved their prospects. According to the Freelancer Union report, 34% of the national US workforce is doing freelance work, contributing an estimated $715 billion to the economy. The majority of freelancers believe that freelancing prospects are improving, and 32% of freelancers surveyed have experienced an increase in demand over the past year. Income stability and finding work, however, are the top barriers reported to performing additional freelance work, and it’s significant that 69% of freelancers believe technology helps them find this additional work. To date, Upwork has been a significant part of this technology.

The Terms of Service Furor

Before the Upwork rebranding, oDesk charged fees slightly higher than Elance’s fees, and so with the rebranding, Upwork continued the fee structure of oDesk, while Elancers continued using the slightly lower fee structure of the Elance platform. The final move therefore of clients and freelancers from the Elance platform to the Upwork platform caused some grumbling, but it was a move long in the works, and so it seems the community accepted the change rather peacefully. However, the new terms of service released by Upwork, due to come into effect in early June, is causing much criticism in the freelancing community.

Freelancers who had previously been charged a flat 10% commission on all jobs won through the Upwork freelance platform will now be charged commission on a sliding scale. Those earning less than $500 per month will pay 20% commission, earning between $500.01 and $10,000 will pay 10% commission, and top earnings billing in excess of $10,000 will pay only 5% commission. And clients have also been hit with additional fees. Apparently in efforts to offset high payment servicing costs, a processing fee of 2.75% per payment or flat $25 monthly fee will be charged to clients.

The internet community has quickly made their thoughts known, and in typical fashion dissatisfaction is most loudly stated. Clients, freelancers, and general commentators have expressed anger and disappointment at the changes, though a few savvy Twitter members are using the trend in #Upwork to source new business outside of the platform.

Future Alternatives?

Upwork Freelance Marketplace

The advantages of freelancing and remote working are flexibility in working hours and locations, self-management, the potential for greater income, and additional tax deductions. Of course, the disadvantages also merit thought. Working freelance you’ll typically need to earn more than you would working a standard desk job because you have to pay for all of the benefits you’d receive working in-house. You’re also responsible for a far wider range of tasks; you are your own micro business responsible for all of the accounting, management, and operational functions. Cash flow tends to be inconsistent, you have to actively search for work, and at the end of the day, you are the solely responsible party for all successes and failures. Though some in the freelance marketplace have expressed criticism and general pessimism for the online buyer/seller market as a whole, if after weighing up the pros and cons you still believe freelancing is for you, then go for it.

Over the next 12-18 months we firmly believe that many new competitors will spring into action in order to chip away at the Upwork freelance market share. Where it stands now based on the online responses, this won’t be difficult.

By Jennifer Klostermann

How Big Data Can Impact Marketing Sector

How Big Data Can Impact Marketing Sector

Big Data Marketing Sector

It would be an understatement to say the era of big data is upon us. If you have been living under a rock, then you should know that big data means a collection of data which is so complex and large that it cannot be processed by traditional ways.

And it is increasing by every day. According to this report, big data generation will increase by 4,3000 per cent. This big data can also be used for creating marketing strategies to tap on new customers and win back the old ones.

When you use traditional techniques to analyse your data, you won’t know you are losing customers until you have actually lost them. And any effort or strategy made after that wouldn’t be half as effective because you would have already lost customers.

But with big data marketers can analyse future customer buying patterns and devise a marketing strategy accordingly to prevent customer loss.

Understand your business’s customer life cycle

If you pay attention to the numbers and the data trends, you will actually notice clear signs when a customer decides to make their first purchase or when they decide to stop buying from you completely. Using these signs, you can take the required steps.

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

In order to do that, you will first have to identify the customer life cycle. The life cycle should be as granular as possible and it should resonate with every step of your business.

Once you have defined each step of the life cycle, it’s time to define what it means to be in each of those steps. For instance, the initial phase could be when a customer makes his first purchase in the first 15 days. On the other hand, an in-between phase could be an engaged customer who has already made 3 purchases, or visited your website at least 10 times in the last 30 days.

To make the life cycle actionable, you have to make sure each customer is in a single life cycle phase at a given point of time.

Depend on your data

Now that you have defined different phases in the customer life cycle, you have to identify what it means to be in each of these phases. You need to define customer behaviour in each phase and divide it into segments accordingly.

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Basically, you need to use data modelling here to define the difference between an engaged customer and an at-risk customer.

This customer behaviour can help create the right marketing campaigns to make the at-risk customers go back to the engaged phase.

Find the customer lifetime value

Here’s a fact that every marketer already knows – some customers generate way more profit than the others. By calculating the customer lifetime value, it becomes easier to identify those customers and give more attention to them.

With this data, you could either create campaigns for less profitable users, to make them buy more or you could decide to exclude them from marketing campaigns.

Considering the future impact

While running any campaign, it’s important to concentrate on the full picture instead of just relying on the immediate campaign metrics.

For instance, you run an email campaign for upcoming discounts and within a few days you notice the number of purchases on the website have gone up. Noticing the immediate results, you decide to push the campaign further.

But what you don’t notice is the fact that many users unsubscribed from your company’s newsletter. This means that though there was an immediate profit from the email campaign, it ruined your company’s relationship with the customers in the long run.

That is why, instead of running every new campaign for the entire set of customers, choose a test group and run the campaign with them first. This will help you get the idea of how it will impact your business in the long run.

In Summary

Big data driven marketing will lead to more engaged campaigns. And while using customer data is not new to marketing, big data helps utilize all the data that a business has about their customers and it will definitely help improve profits in the long run.

By Ritika Tiwari

Taking Your Access Governance Processes To The Cloud

Taking Your Access Governance Processes To The Cloud

Access Governance

Access governance is a growing market in many different industries across the United States and beyond. Companies are investing money in access governance solutions to efficiently improve processes and ensure security of their networks, without a great deal of effort. As the cloud has become more of a standard in every organization, how does access governance apply to the cloud? Let us first look at exactly what it is.

The Importance of Access Governance In The Cloud

First, it’s important to fully understand exactly what access governance is and how it can help organizations of all sizes in every industry. Access governance ensures that each employee within the organization has the correct access rights to the exact resources that they need. This is important for many reasons, including for employees to efficiently perform their jobs and to keep the company’s network secure. While access management allows an organization to easily manage accounts and access, access governance puts a method in place to ensure and monitor access is correct for security reasons.

How is a typical access governance solution set up to work? The company first needs to set up a model of exactly the access rights for each role in the organization. For example, someone working as a manager in the IT department will need certain access rights to systems, applications and resources. This allows the person who is creating the account to easily do so without accidentally making any access mistakes; either giving the employee too many rights or too little rights.

Separation of Duties

Since access governance helps to ensure correct access rights according to a model, there needs to be methods in place to also ensure that there are no mistakes in the model. For example, in a large organization there are many different types of positions and responsibilities, many of which might overlap. It needs to be ensured that someone does not have the permission to both initiate some type of request and then also accept it. Separation of duties ensures that there is no conflict between usage and assignment of access rights.

digital-marketing

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Reconciliation is another way to ensure absolutely correct access rights. This module compares how access rights are set up to be in the model to how they actually are and creates a report on any differences. Anything that is not accurate can then be easily corrected.

Attestation is still another form of checking access and goes one step further to verify everything is correct. A report will be sent out to managers of a department of set of employees for them to verify that everything is correct. For example, the marketing manager will receive a report on the access rights of everyone in the marketing department. He or she will need to look over and either mark access right for deletion, change access right directly, or create a ticket in the helpdesk system to change the access right. After looking everything over the manager must give their final approval for the proposed set of changes to ensure that everything is correct.

Why is access governance important though for all applications throughout the company? As the amount of employees who are working remotely increases so does the users of cloud applications. In turn, there needs to be ways of ensuring security for these types of applications and for employees who are not working in the physical office.

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When the employee is first hired at the company, it is not uncommon for them to accidentally receive too many rights, or acquire them over time from working on projects and never have them revoked. Access rights are frequently overlooked, especially for cloud applications. Access governance ensures that access rights are correct across the entire organization, from in house applications and cloud applications to even physical resources, such as cell phones.

This allows all access to be monitored across the entire organization. Here is what a typical situation would look like in an organization with varying different applications. A new employee is hired in the finance department as a senior accountant and needs accounts and resources created so he can begin work. Based on the model, which the company set up, the employee will automatically receive a Coupa cloud account, Quickbooks, access to the finance share drive and an email address.

Then the organization has it set up so that once a quarter the finance manager receives a report of all of the employees in the department and the access that they have, including now the new senior accountant. A few months later the manager sees that the senior accountant has access to an application for which he was using for a project that is now completed. The manager can easily tag the access to be revoked and ensure that it is done right away.

Since today’s organizations have many different types of applications, several types of employee working situations whether it be traveling, in office or remote, varying types of resources both tangible and intangible, etc., it is important that an access governance solution works with all of these situations. Organizations are willing to invest because access governance solutions ensure security, while overall also allowing employees the opportunity to remain productive, and, in the long run, save the company money.

By Dean Wiech

How Cloud Computing Is Changing The Retail Game

How Cloud Computing Is Changing The Retail Game

Cloud Computing Retail

The retail industry is constantly evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers. This transformation is influenced by e-commerce, social networking and the latest technologies. Today’s shoppers expect a connected and interactive consumer experience from start to finish. According to a report by the National Retail Federation, it is a projected that retail sales (this includes automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) will grow at around 3.1% this year – that is higher than the 10-year average of 2.7%.

As the size of the retail industry continues to grow, so does the pressure of retailers to satisfy the expectations of consumers. Retailers are expected to provide a seamless consumer journey across multiple channels as well as personalized offers based on consumer location and shopping habits. According to a recent survey by Accenture, 74% of surveyed retailers were ranked at or below “underdeveloped” to deliver a seamless customer experience. The survey further showed that 72.5% of retailers described having underdeveloped or absent capabilities in making the end-to-end shopping experience across different channels.

There are three major areas for retailers to address:

  1. Innovation: As the competitive landscape is constantly evolving, innovation is needed to keep pace.

  2. Agility: Agility is a key factor for differentiation as it enables rapid development and deployment of new solutions.

  3. New Technology: To stay ahead in the retail game, investing in new technologies and capabilities will be required.

Enter Cloud Computing…

Cloud computing is a very effective solution for retailers to build capabilities quick enough to attract consumers; it allows for them to adapt their offerings to meet the expectations of today’s digitally connected consumers throughout their shopping experience. In addition, retailers will start to recognize cloud computing as a cost effective technique that can enable rapid adoption of the latest solutions. There are those in the retail industry that are starting to recognize the potential of cloud technology and are utilizing it to their advantage.

The benefits of cloud computing for retail are numerous, to include:

  • Flexibility to scale up and down when required
  • Cost-effective streamlined operations
  • Real-time reporting
  • Quicker speed to market

Below are a few areas where cloud computing is influencing the retail industry:-

Marketing and Merchandising

One challenge for many retailers is the ability to sort through mountains of data, both internal and external, looking for insights and patterns to help them make merchandising decisions. Cloud technology can help in personalizing the in-store experience by analyzing digital data to fully understand their consumers. For example, there are mobile apps that can detect when a user steps in a store, sending them relevant promotions and coupons. There are also cloud-based social tools which give consumers the power to shop whenever and wherever they want.

Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS)

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

At present, many stores have fragmented legacy systems (i.e. inventory, reporting, shipping) that are used to run their operations. However, this means that data in each of these systems are stored in different formats. With cloud, retail-as-a-service (RaaS) is a possible solution as it brings multiple operational processes into a single cloud platform. With RaaS, both hardware and software updates can be handled by cloud service providers. The number of retailers adopting RaaS will surely increase in the near future.

Point of Sale (PoS)

Tablets and smartphones are now serving as POS systems, handling inventory, payments, and location information. These POS systems are eventually transitioning to the cloud. According to Accenture, Nordstorms was an early adopter of mobile POS systems, having implemented these systems in all of its stores by mid-2012.

Supply Chain

Not many retailers have adequate supply chain systems that are capable of handling their processes. However, with cloud supply chain, retailers can capture real-time information, as well as adjust to various conditions or even take advantage of new opportunities. Retail processes such as data tracking can be made easier through cloud technology.

As retailers adopt and utilize cloud technology, they will find themselves embarking on a path of differentiation and competitive advantage.

By Joya Scarlata

The Internet of Everything: Why The IoT Will Take Over Every Industry

The Internet of Everything: Why The IoT Will Take Over Every Industry

Why The IoT Will Take Over Every Industry

It’s a big mistake to think that the Internet of Things will only remain relevant with tech industry movers and shakers and early adopters. One glance at the world around you, and you’ll quickly realize that the IoT is well on its way to becoming an everyday aspect of even the most low-tech workplaces.

The IoT is removing mundane busywork from countless blue-collar jobs, enabling businesses, cities, and entire industries to increase services while cutting demands for labor, training, resources, and equipment. In fact, the American Society for Quality surveyed a number of manufacturing companies that have embraced the IoT and uncovered some staggering numbers: Manufacturing efficiency increased by 82 percent, approximately half of the users saw fewer defects, and customer satisfaction swelled by 45 percent.

There’s no denying the fact that IoT applications are effective, but if you aren’t aware of just how widespread they are, you’re probably not prepared to keep up with the many sweeping changes on the horizon.

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

What’s yet to come extends into the realm of what was once unthinkable: restaurant coolers that automatically place orders when they detect low stock and buildings that are wired to self-monitor their needs so custodians can place their focus elsewhere.

IoT automation is shaping up to be the future of any and all industries that currently revolve around manual-based labor, especially when it comes to monitoring and assessment.

The Low-Tech IoT in Action

Not long ago, mechanics had to look under the hood of a car to see what needed fixing. Now, all they need is a computer that automatically conducts the diagnostics. Similarly, industries such as home appliance repair, HVAC maintenance, and the following three are positioned to lose their reliance on human-based analysis because of IoT solutions:

  • Parking: The “dumb” devices we used to know as parking meters have smartened up. Instead of individual meters merely accepting change and outputting a simple timer, parking kiosks can now process credit card transactions, sense when spaces are available, and accept remote payments to extend time. Drivers can even interact with these systems remotely to find open spots. This cuts down on time, traffic, fuel consumption, and, most importantly, frustration.The impact here is bigger than you might guess. A study showed that drivers searching for parking rack up more than 950,000 miles every year in just one district in Los Angeles. The need for parking efficiency is obvious, and only the IoT can deliver such key solutions.
  • Metering: Self-monitoring “smart” meters in utility markets means millions in savings because of fewer mistakes and less maintenance. But that’s just the beginning; they also allow for optimization. The possibility for high granularity — reports can be collected as often as every 30 minutes — will help utility companies anticipate demand and respond accordingly.
  • Farming and agriculture: Even though it’s one of the oldest and least technical industries out there, not even farming is immune to IoT development. Farmers are currently using sensors to help increase crop yields, monitor weather patterns, and utilize their human resources with more accuracy. Believe it or not, they’re also tracking herd locations and monitoring hormone levels in livestock to determine ideal calving and milk production schedules.Some of the biggest names in farming and agriculture are already joining the IoT revolution: John Deere wants to transform the tractor into a data control center, and Monsanto is analyzing weather with the help of Google alumni.The data collected through IoT solutions can also enable food producers to offer the label transparency that today’s consumers increasingly demand.

Once again, innumerable man-hours and resources are saved in low-tech industries that embrace IoT applications — and, as a result, profits soar.

In the Future, Everything Is IoT-Oriented

The IoT will continue to develop fruitful collaborations between the high- and low-technology worlds — and anyone who isn’t prepared will be left behind. “Adapt or die,” the old adage, applies here as much as anywhere.

What we’re going to see in the coming years will be unprecedented, but not unpredictable. Processes and operations that weren’t even conceivable a few years ago are going to come to life, take over, and replace low-tech methods with unmatched efficiency.

The coming convergence of high- and low-tech approaches is certain to happen in very disruptive and unpredictable ways. Soon enough, anything that isn’t connected will be as good as dead. The term “high-tech” itself could cease to exist as we watch the most unexpected industries begin to integrate labor-saving tech connectivity to multiply their efficiency.

Your choice is simple: Get ready for the IoT to come to your business, or get ready to go out of business.

By John Horn

John-HornJohn is the CEO of Ingenu, which he joined after serving as president of RacoWireless, a leading provider of machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity solutions. Before joining RacoWireless, Horn was a leader at T-Mobile for more than nine years while he focused specifically on developing the company’s M2M program and go-to-market strategy.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Cloud

It Takes a Village to Raise a Cloud

The Community Cloud

We are special. We have unique needs. Our demands for compliance and security go way above your average organization. There is no way we are going to put our precious data in a public cloud. It is just a non-starter.”

Sound familiar? This kind of reasoning is often the driver behind either not using cloud or justifying adopting a “private” cloud. Unfortunately, “private” cloud is too often really the old on-premise, run your own data center with a new coat of paint. Something the industry calls “cloud washing”. You get few of the benefits of cost effectiveness, flexibility or agility that comes with a real cloud.

Community Cloud

cloud-community-comic

But what if the choice was not only between public or private cloud? What if there was a third way? There is. It is called community cloud. Here is one of the best definitions from the National Institute of Standards:

A community cloud in computing is a collaborative effort in which infrastructure is shared between several organizations from a specific community with common concerns (security, compliance, jurisdiction, etc.), whether managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally. This is controlled and used by a group of organizations that have shared interest.”

Let’s take a look at a good example where it has really caught on – government. The US Federal government has specific laws governing how information is handled. Among them is the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA). It is a crime not to follow them even for data that is considered low or moderate in its sensitivity (about 80% of all the government’s data).

Public cloud would really need to step up to meet these requirements. Nonetheless, the government determined in 2010 that it needed to adopt cloud computing as a way out of the enormous mess of the information technology it had created. This sounds like the perfect case for a community cloud: a big pool of organizations with similar but unique needs.

But, how did the US go about corralling a sprawling set of agencies (often compared to managing a herd of cats) to adopt this community cloud? How do you also go about inducing a large enough set of commercial public cloud providers to build dedicated federal clouds? The Feds did it by building trust and then applying a bit of the carrot and the stick.

The trust part was essential to even get past go. The key was to create a security certification that all agencies could rely upon. In 2010 the US government launched a program called FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program). In an unprecedented step, the CIO’s for the Department of Defense, The Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration formed a Joint Authorization Board (JAB). They would officially certify any cloud provider who met their rigorous security controls and standards. They set a very high bar for cloud providers so that when they were blessed, they should be acceptable to any federal (and also state and local) organization to safely use.

800 Pound Gorilla

Now came the carrot. With the standards in place the government threw open the doors to any cloud vendor to build a dedicated government community cloud and get it certified. The Feds are the 800-pound gorilla of IT spending with over $80 Billion per year raining down on a multitude of vendors. Any taste of this would be huge to the public cloud vendors at that time where the biggest had at most a few billion in revenues.

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

To both sweeten that attractiveness and ensure the sprawling federal organizations went along it created a “stick” of executive orders. It counted on the combined drivers of its “cloud first policy” and a mandate that by 2014 agencies could only buy cloud from providers that had the FedRAMP certification. As you might have guessed the big public cloud providers (Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) jumped in and away things went.

Being in a community cloud has a few drawbacks. It is a little more expensive (about 15%) and has a few less services and features than the full public cloud. But the security and compliance is pretty much bullet proof and that’s important to you as an agency CIO. After all, the last thing they want is to be fitted for is an orange jump suit. Adoption has been significant. AWS reports triple digit year-over-year growth since inception. Microsoft is likewise very happy with its government offering.

You are probably asking yourself, if community cloud is so good, why haven’t I heard more of it. The truth is, except in certain arenas, like government, it is hard to get all the participants to align on the offering (or service catalog), security standards, costs, operations and other factors. So many attempts are stillborn. Just look at all the work the feds had to do to get it rolling.

And yet, who knows what may still happen. A number of cloud providers have said that banks and other major private sector players are very attracted to the rigorous FedRAMP standards. Maybe in addition to a GovCloud, we will see a FinCloud or a HealthCloud someday.

John has recently joined the CloudTweaks influencer program. You will now be able to read many of John’s original and syndicated articles here.

By John Pientka

CloudTweaks Comics
Is The Fintech Industry The Next Tech Bubble?

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Cloud Infographic – The Data Scientist

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The Global Rise of Cloud Computing

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Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

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Your Biggest Data Security Threat Could Be….

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