All posts by Jamie Davies

Bosch boosts enterprise IT credentials with IoT Cloud launch

Bosch IoT cloudGerman engineering and electronics giant Robert Bosch has thrown its hat into the IoT ring with the launch of Bosch IoT Cloud.

The new initiative comprises technical infrastructure as well as platform and software offerings, and claims to cover the full IoT proposition, from the device to the cloud. It will be initially utilized for in-house solutions, though plans are to roll out the platform as a service for other companies worldwide from 2017.

“As of today, we offer all the ace cards for the connected world from a single source,” said Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner. “The Bosch IoT Cloud is the final piece of the puzzle that completes our software expertise. We are now a full service provider for connectivity and the Internet of Things.

“A major factor in the success of connected solutions is their scalability. Business models must be able to grow quickly when necessary. The Bosch IoT Cloud means Bosch now has the relevant infrastructure. We see this as a major milestone for Bosch.”

Traditionally a major player in the automotive, building and appliances spaces, the announcement follows a lengthy transition into the digital industry with Bosch apparently spending €500 million annually on new technologies. “The key prerequisite for this is to have in-house software and IT expertise,” said Denner. “Bosch has been building these capabilities for many years. Digital transformation and increasing connectivity are huge opportunities for us.”

The move allows Bosch to increase its influence in the development of the connected world in such areas as smart homes, smart cars and Industry 4.0. Current applications include detection of parking spaces, insurance rebates for careful drivers, a platform which connects user’s smartphones with the heating, lighting and smoke alarms at home, as well as a system to connect technicians directly with their customers’ heating systems. The company claims to currently connect more than five million devices and machines.

Denner’s leadership over recent years has driven Bosch’s strategic transition and brought about a number of acquisitions, including Pro-Syst Software, to build the company’s software expertise – the cornerstone of Bosch IoT Cloud.

This move is a great example of how IoT is bringing businesses from a very diverse range of industries into the same space as partners, competitors or both. Companies like Bosch will increasingly be bumping shoulders with the likes of Ericsson, Cisco, Intel and Amazon in the race to serve up the most comprehensive IoT proposition.

Salesforce modernizes wealth management offering

Salesforce WearSalesforce has launched Financial Services Cloud, a new product suite that includes portfolio management, prospecting and data management tools.

As part of the new look product offering, Salesforce has built an ecosystem of more than 20 partners to implement the additional features into the suite. “Today’s investors don’t wait for quarterly meetings to discuss their finances with advisors; they expect to be able to engage them for advice when and how they want,” said Richard Lumb, Group Chief Executive, Financial Services at Accenture, a member of the product ecosystem.

While seen as a more traditional industry, wealth management businesses are apparently under increasing pressure to provide more detail to customers on a more consistent basis. Whereas a quarterly meeting might have been sufficient in the past, customer demands for information, speed and continuous delivery has forced the wealth management industry to evolve into the internet age and an open-all-hours model.

With clients demanding more face-time, and instantaneous insight into the performance of their investments, wealth managers are seeking digital solutions to increase productivity. Such product launches not only demonstrate the trend of modernizing more traditional industries, but also the need to provide the complete customer experience to remain competitive in the CRM space.

“Legacy advisor solutions were created decades ago to serve a product-centric world. Today, we live in a new world that is digital- and client-centric, which is turning the wealth management industry on its head,” said Simon Mulcahy, GM of Financial Services at Salesforce.

To develop the new features, Salesforce developed a number of new partnerships with niche technology providers. For example, DocuSign and eSignLive plan to add integrations that could allow advisors to send, sign and manage financial documents, and WealthEngine provide tools to facilitate wealth scoring and analytics.

“The wealth management industry is undergoing rapid change, and the ability to deliver on customer expectations for a more responsive and highly personalized digital-led experience will become an increasingly important competitive differentiator,” said Kieran Hines, Practice Leader for Financial Services Technology at Ovum. “Investing to enhance the customer experience is a top three IT priority for a significant number of private banks in 2016, with institutions in Western Europe and North America particularly focused on this area.”

IT security still a barrier to public cloud and employee mobility – Dell survey

Dell office logoDell has released the findings from its Data Security Survey which revealed IT decision makers are still not confident enough to encourage mobility or use of public cloud platforms.

Although the pattern over the last few years has been to broaden employee boundaries, increasing flexibility within the working environment, the survey demonstrated that a substantial number of businesses are resisting mobility due to security concerns.

The majority of businesses would claim cyber and cloud security sits at the top of the priority list, and whilst this might be the case, Dell’s survey has highlighted a number of deficiencies across the board.

Over the last 12 months the tech world has been lit up by numerous data breaches, hacks and leaks on both sides of the Atlantic. From TalkTalk to Ashley Madison to Kaspersky Labs, security has once more been highlighted as a major deficiency in the IT world.

Following a number of PR disasters for large scale enterprise throughout the world, 75% of decision makers agree that C-Suite recognises the importance of data security, though only 25% believe that the C-Suite is adequately educated about the issues to make informed decisions. The survey also highlighted that only 25% feel that their leadership has the ability to set suitable budget to tackle the challenges of data security over the next five years.

65% of mid-market companies are freezing plans to increase mobility within their workforce, with 67% resisting BYOD programmes, due to security concerns. The benefits of a mobility strategy, both from an employee satisfaction and productivity perspective, are well documented, though these statistics demonstrate security fears drastically outweigh the benefits. In fact, 82% of decision makers have made attempts to reduce mobility for employees, by decreasing data access points.

On the contrary, only 40% of respondents highlighted that they were actively interested in pursuing opportunities to increase employee mobility.

In terms of public cloud platforms, there does not appear to be a high level of confidence in offerings such as Google Drive. Almost 80% of decision makers said that they would not be confident in uploading critical data to the cloud, 58% highlighted that they believed the threat to be greater than 12 months ago, and 38% restricted access to public cloud sites within their organization.

Another area addressed by the survey is that of Shadow IT. Almost every business will have a strict IT policy in place, though there will still be a proportion of the workforce deems this to prohibit their working day. Despite the concerns of public cloud platforms, 83% of respondents acknowledge that their employees are using such platforms to store or share valuable data.

As these statistics demonstrate, most organizations have not identified the crossroads between security, assumed business risk and productivity, to most effectively enable the workforce.

“Security programs must enable employees to be both secure and productive, and this means enabling technology that helps them do their jobs,” said Brett Hansen, Executive Director, Data Security Solutions for Dell. “Companies can try to limit or prohibit public cloud use, but it’s more effective to use intelligent data encryption to protect corporate data wherever it may go, and reduce the risk of employees working around restrictive policies in order to be productive.”

While the survey demonstrates growth within the cyber and cloud security world, it also highlights a number of restrictions. On the positive side, security is now a priority throughout the business, as opposed to simply in the IT team. It also emphasises a slight overreaction from decision makers who have taken the move of reducing mobility and access to public cloud offerings; two areas which could increase an organization’s competitiveness in an already challenging market.

Cisco and Verizon team up to launch Cisco Spark

Cisco corporateCisco is expanding its partnership with Verizon Enterprise Solutions to offer its new cloud-based collaboration service, Cisco Spark, to Verizon’s customer base.

The announcement builds on continued efforts from Verizon to bolster its range next-generation collaboration solutions, which already includes offers such as Cisco WebEx Cloud Connected Audio, Collaboration Meeting Room and Verizon’s UCCaaS Mobile First service.

The new joint offer will deliver Spark Message and Spark Meet features integrated with Verizon’s business collaboration services. The ultimate goal of the partnership will be to develop a service delivered in such a manner that customers are unable to differentiate between the Cisco and Verizon components. While currently available in the US, the service will be available to enterprise and government customers worldwide towards the end of the year.

Cisco has also announced the allocation of $150 million to the Cisco Spark for Developers Fund to generate new ideas for the ecosystem. The fund will cover direct investments, joint development, additional enhancements and developer support.

Verizon has been making considerable efforts over the last 12 months to increase its cloud-based communications offerings, to meet the demands of an increasingly mobile and collaborative workforce. With enterprise increasingly searching for opportunities to create a more productive working environment, software- and cloud-based offerings which enable employees to work in the office, from home or on the road, are quickly becoming the norm.

“Verizon is a leader in delivering global, mobile-enabled unified communications solutions to our business and government clients,” said Bob Minai, Executive Director, Advanced Communications at Verizon. “By integrating Cisco Spark meeting and messaging capabilities into Verizon’s collaboration portfolio and global network, Verizon and Cisco will continue to help enterprise clients with digital transformation initiatives that drive better customer experiences and meaningful, measurable business outcomes.”

The partnership continues Verizon’s trend of collaborative business, following up on last month’s announcement that it would be teaming up HyperOffice. As part of the agreement, HyperOffice would distribute its communications suite from Verizon Cloud infrastructure. Primarily, the tool will enable employees to work alongside freelancers, customers and other stakeholders all using different collaboration tools that need to work together.

Dropbox celebrates 500 million users

Dropbox 500 millionJust over nine years since the launch of its file hosting service Dropbox has announced it has reached the milestone of 500 million users.

According to the company, Dropbox users have created 3.3 billion connections by sharing with each other. To date, the company’s marketing policy seems to revolve around word-of-mouth, as 44% of new accounts were opened when existing users introduced people to the service.

Founded in 2007 by MIT students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, the early idea arose after Houston repeatedly forgot his USB flash drive. Initially a personal tool for Houston, the potential was soon realized and shortly thereafter seed funding was provided from startup fund Y Combinator.

After initially focusing on the consumer market, Dropbox officially ventured into the B2B space during 2011 and has continued to grow in recent years. Having evolved into Dropbox for Business and then adding Dropbox for Enterprise last year, the service is now used is more than 8 million businesses, with 150,000 using the premium service. Strong growth is expected to continue as 25,000 corporate customers bolster the ranks each quarter.

Dropbox still boasts a strong US following, though recent growth has come from worldwide markets. The team highlighted that 75% of users are based outside the US, with the majority of the last 100 million coming from Germany, US, India, Brazil and the UK.

While Dropbox has received substantial international growth, the brand still experiences resistance from Chinese authorities. The service was banned in the country from May 2010, with most in the community considering the censorship evidence of Dropbox’s growing international popularity and influence. The service was unblocked between February and June 2014, before being reinstated on the censored list. Today, it still remains unclear as to why Dropbox was uncensored for this period.

While user growth has continued, Dropbox has come under scrutiny in recent months following rival Box’s January 2015 IPO, which valued the company significantly lower than expected. The news has put pressure on Dropbox, whose last funding round valued it at $10 billion, though many believe the current value to be substantially lower.

Executives at Dropbox have rigorously defended its position, market capabilities and future outlook, highlighting user growth as a demonstration of market demand. Dennis Woodside recently commented to Forbes “We are continuing the scaling of the business across both consumer and enterprise.”

Microsoft strengthens cloud offering by bringing SQL Server to Linux

Microsoft1Microsoft is bringing its SQL Server to Linux, enabling SQL Server to deliver a consistent data platform across Windows and Linux, as well as on-premises and cloud.

The move has surprised some corners of the industry, as Microsoft moves away from its tradition of creating business software that runs only on the Windows operating system. It has historically been difficult to manage certain Microsoft products on anything other than a Windows server.

Microsoft has always sold PC software which can be run on competitor’s machines, though Chief Executive Satya Nadella broadened the horizons of the business upon appointment through a number of different initiatives. One of the most notable moves was decoupling Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing system from Windows and this weeks’ announcement seems to continue the trend.

The news has been lauded by most as an astute move, strengthening Microsoft’s position in the market. According to Gartner, the number of Linux servers shipped increased from 3.6 million in 2014 from 2.4 million in 2011. Microsoft in the same period saw its shipments drop from 6.5 million to 6.2 million. The move opens up a new wave of potential customers for Microsoft and reduces concerns of lock-in situations.

Microsoft EVP, Cloud and Enterprise Group, Scott Guthrie commented on the company’s official blog “SQL Server on Linux will provide customers with even more flexibility in their data solution,” he said “One with mission-critical performance, industry-leading TCO, best-in-class security, and hybrid cloud innovations – like Stretch Database which lets customers access their data on-premises and in the cloud whenever they want at low cost – all built in. We are bringing the core relational database capabilities to preview today, and are targeting availability in mid-2017.”

The announcement also detailed a number of key features for SQL Server 2016, focused around the critical avenues of data and security. Security encryption capabilities that enable data to always be encrypted at rest, in motion and in-memory are one of the USPs, building on Microsoft’s marketing messages over the last 12 months.

Furthering efforts to diversify the business, Microsoft announced that it would be acquiring mobile app development platform provider Xamarin, last week.

Incorporating Xamarin into the Microsoft business will enhance its base of developer tools and services, once again building on the theme of broadening market appeal and opening new customer avenues for the tech giant.

E-procurement platform could save UK government £10 billion – report

Duncan: 'Australian public sector is warming to cloud but technology gaps remain our biggest challenge.'

Central government could save up to £10 billion per annum through a reformed e-procurement platform, placing a greater emphasis on administrative efficiencies and market competition, according to a new report.

With the use of e-procurement models championed by the likes of South Korea and Estonia, The Reform, a public-service think-tank, claims that savings of 25% could be made to the present $40 billion procurement bill. Even if e-procurement growth continued on trend, UK government would be set to save in the region of £550 million annually.

Whilst there is a large level of scrutiny placed on the government spending, significant steps have been made since 2010. The government now procures more than 25% of its services from small and medium-sized businesses, and since 2015, has relied upon G-Cloud for the procurement of cloud services.

G-Cloud as a platform has lowered barriers to entry, allowing more firms to compete for government business, and saving in the region of 20-50% when compared to legacy contracts. Building on this success, the implementation of the Crown Marketplace platform will enable government to move e-procurement models to new departments beyond IT services.

While it is still early days within the UK, other countries have demonstrated the wide benefits of e-procurement. Estonia currently attributes roughly 50% of its expenditure through e-procurement platforms, saving an estimated 30-40% on the cost of administrating procurement.

The Reform has recommended a consolidated platform for all government procurement activities:

“The Crown Marketplace should be a single portal for the e-procurement of goods and services. This should be accompanied by an integrated payment function,” said the report. “The framework to purchase commodities must be recompleted regularly to ensure maximum competition.”

While the immediate benefits demonstrate a reduction in expenditure, the move away from the current process will allow government employees to create value-for-money propositions, as opposed to drowning in administrative tasks.

Though the report and supporting statistics demonstrates a positive outlook for government spend, the potential of e-procurement can only be achieved if trends accelerate. The report highlights “If e-procurement continues to expand at the rate of G-Cloud growth in 2015, total government e-procurement spend could reach £3 billion by 2020”

Current e-procurement adoption levels would see UK central government save in the region of £1.8 billion and £4.5 billion depending on the level of pro-rata savings, though emulating the example of South Korea or Estonia would see the UK save in excess of £10 billion.

Fresh redundancies illustrate IBM’s continuing cloud challenge

IBMWithin the last twelve months, the company has inducted more than 70,000 IBMers and spent more on acquisitions than in any other 12-month period in its history. Focusing on data analytics, security, machine learning and mobile, the business is attracting a new breed of employee to its ranks. All would seem well until you consult social media.

The Facebook group, Watching IBM, has increased its following by more than 66% over the last week. The group has taken responsibility for bringing light to the 70,000 job losses experienced by the firm in the past few months. Comments such as “At the beginning of 2015 our department had 25 people in it. At the beginning of 2016 our department has 13 in it,” highlight the decline.

For all the positive news of expansion, new product offerings, and 70,000 new employees, the headcount over the course of the twelve month period has shrunk around 1% to 377,757 from 379,592.

With company revenues declining for fifteen consecutive quarters, this should not come as a great surprise for most; IBM’s struggles to re-invent itself as a cloud business have been well documented over recent years.

Back in January, Clive Longbottom, Service Director at Quocirca commented that IBM could risk being left behind, should the transition take too long. With AWS, Microsoft and Google continuing to surge forward, that risk is continuing to grow, though the consultancy skills nurtured in IBM will remain in demand “I still believe that IBM will remain a major force in the IT world, it just has to make sure it positions and messages itself effectively to its existing customers and to its prospects”

Last week IBM released a report which highlighted that two- thirds of organizations implementing hybrid cloud are gaining competitive advantage from their hybrid environments are nearly three times as likely to use it to assemble data assets or monetize data.

Surveying more than 500 hybrid cloud implementers, in 26 countries worldwide, the report highlighted that 85 percent of respondent commented that a hybrid approach to cloud is accelerating the digital transformation in their organization. During 2015 Q4, total cloud revenues (public, private and hybrid) for the vendor increased 43% to $10.2 billion, though revenues throughout the business were down 9% to $22.1 billion in the same period for 2014.

Despite some negative press, and a surge in social media activity being directed towards the tech giant, it seems the workforce transition is far from complete. “We’ve been shifting resources aggressively,” CFO Martin Schroeter commented last week “and we’d like to shift them more aggressively.”