The benefits of Bare-Metal-as-a-Service for fintech


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3 Sep, 2021

It is expected that, by the end of 2025, the global fintech market will grow to $125 billion. But the development and maintenance of a good app comes with challenges. What technologies should you choose? How much will it cost to maintain? And crucially, what hardware should a fintech project choose?

For the growing needs of high-capacity financial calculations, there’s almost no alternative to dedicated servers. Add to that the speed, flexibility and affordability of the as-a-Service format, and you’ll get a high-quality solution for all the infrastructural needs of your business: a public cloud with bare metal servers.

What is a bare metal server?

A bare metal server is a physical server rented by the client. The hardware is available as is – the user gets a clean system, with no pre-installed OS, and is in full control.

If you’re the sole lessee of a server, you have full control over all its resources. You can install anything on it and set it up any way you want, like your own desktop. You want to deploy your own virtual machines? Feel free to do that. You want to use the entire node for a single project? No problem.

Why is bare metal a good fit for fintech?

Dedicated servers are a better fit for resource-heavy apps. In the world of financial services, there’s a lot of transactions going on. Virtual machines are not the best choice for such an environment, since the “virtualisation tax” prevents you from using 100% of their capacity. Another issue is the distribution of the platform’s resources between users – when one of them uses too much of the server’s capacity, their neighbours pay for it.

Unlike virtual machines, dedicated nodes are better at coping with resource-heavy tasks. According to research, when performing tasks that require high processing speed, virtual machines lose up to 17% of capacity compared to bare metal servers. This is because bare metal users have full access to the server and can single-handedly use all its computational resources. This approach allows the organisation of a more productive platform to receive, process and store financial app data.

Why the Bare-Metal-as-a-Service model?

Bare metal solutions are often harder to order than a virtual machine, and you must wait longer for the server to be prepared for operation. Another issue is the management of the disparate infrastructure of dedicated servers, virtual machines and clouds when purchased from different providers.

G-Core Labs’ new offering, Bare-Metal-as-a-Service, solves these problems. With this service, a user can get a ready-for-use dedicated server as easily as a virtual one. Just select the right features, connect a private or public network, or several networks at once, and in a few minutes, the physical server will be ready for use.

Extra security is expected from fintech

To provide financial services on the EU and US markets, you need to be 100% confident that your app works securely and your infrastructure is reliable. If the PCI DSS standard is not met, a company may have to pay hefty fines.

That can be avoided by choosing a reliable provider. For example, with G-Core Labs, you can be confident about the high level of protection of the cardholder’s personal information in the cloud, which is particularly important for the financial sector and for any companies that work with acquiring. The G-Core Labs cloud has been certified under the PCI DSS 3.2.1 standard for storage, processing and transfer of payment card data. The certification has been confirmed after the yearly QSA audit run by the company Compliance Control Ltd.

To ensure even better data security, G-Core Labs dedicated server users can use the encryption technology Intel SGX, a set of processor instructions that an app can use to allocate private parts of code or data, ensuring extra protection from disclosure or modification.

Fintech app developers need full access to hardware

When working with high loads, you need maximum capacity, so it is crucial to be able to choose and set up all hardware components on your own.

For example, digital insurance creates a significant increase in policy administration speed and processing of hundreds of kinds of claims. Such apps help reduce the likelihood of insurance fraud. They can be anything from a simple website offering an insurance policy for a car rental to a complex CRM system, for which even the most powerful stock servers might not be enough.

In the G-Core Labs Bare-Metal-as-a-Service public cloud, all these tasks – configuration management, orchestration and the addition of new dedicated servers – can be automated through API to quickly scale the platform in accordance with the client’s resource needs. The data can be also stored on NVMe drives. Servers located in G-Core Labs data processing centres offer capacity and control so full as though they were located right in your office.

Latency should be minimal

Modern fintech apps need the servers to be as failure-proof and high-capacity as possible. Imagine you’re launching an instant loan service for small businesses. The first thing you need to ensure is efficient processing of credit requests and interaction between borrowers and loaners. The essence of this concept is very quick data processing, instant decision making and split-second responses.

Such solutions require high-bandwidth infrastructure. G-Core Labs has dedicated servers that provide this, located in reliable data Tier III and IV data servers in over 15 cities of the world.

Fintech apps need quick database access

Fintech apps, especially those with real-time bidding (RTB), often need quick access to user profiles and information about their access. Disintermediation is fintech’s most powerful weapon, but it has a lot of requirements.

For example, digital investment platforms allow beginner and pro investors to explore and use different financial assets. These solutions allow the users to get analytics data, which, in turn, allows them to increase the efficiency of their investments. The servers of such apps manage millions of operations simultaneously.

In the G-Core Labs cloud, you can use high-capacity NVM disks, and the processing power is ensured by Intel. In April 2021, the provider was one of the first in the world to start integrating 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable (Ice Lake) processors in the server infrastructure of its cloud services. This equipment allows fintech apps to quickly manage any tasks.

Cloud services pretty much emulate a local data-processing centre, with its high and predictable capacity. They are the perfect fit for the resource-heaviest tasks. Therefore, bare metal is the most useful for tasks like real-time transaction processing or analytics systems, without which a fintech app cannot be imagined. Bare-Metal-as-a-Service is the most realistic alternative to a private server for a fintech startup.

Discover more about Bare-Metal-as-a-Service with G-Core Labs

Google Calendar now gives greater insight into your workday


Justin Cupler

3 Sep, 2021

Google has announced a new Time Insights mode for its Calendar app that will show you how you spend your time, how many meetings you have, and who you spend most of your time working with. 

Google Calendar has become a powerhouse in the era of remote work, as it helps distributed teams better manage their schedules and share them across a group or company. Soon, it will offer even more with the new Time Insights mode that offers a deep dive into your daily doings.

Time Insights will give you a close look at the information that will help you better understand your day. It will show you your time breakdown, which displays your working hours and the various types of meetings you have. It will also give you insight into the time you spend in meetings, highlighting days and times especially heavy on meetings. 

Another key insight will be a look into who you are meeting with and the ability to “pin” key stakeholders to ensure you keep the lines of communication flowing. This feature will also highlight all your meetings involving a specific person if you hover over them in the Calendar app. 

All this information will only be visible to you — your manager will not have access to these insights — unless you give someone “manage time sharing access” permissions. 

Google began rolling out the new Time Insights update to admins on August 30, and it plans to complete admin distribution within 15 days. 

End users on Google’s Rapid Release track will start seeing Time Insights on September 6. Those on Google’s Scheduled Release track will see the rollout begin on September 20. Google expects to complete end-user distribution within 15 days of the initial release.

Google Calendar Time Insights will be available to Google Workspace Business Standard, Business Plus, Enterprise Standard, Enterprise Plus, Education Plus, and Nonprofits customers only. It will be visible on a computer only — the smartphone app will not gain the new feature. 

According to Google, Time Insights will be active by default, but admins can deactivate it at the domain/OU level. 

Microsoft announces new Spring Cloud offering on Azure


Simon Bisson

2 Sep, 2021

Today at SpringOne, Microsoft and VMware announced a new managed Spring Cloud service, Spring Cloud Enterprise running on Azure.

Building on the 2019 launch of Azure Spring Cloud, before Pivotal’s acquisition by VMware, it adds elements of VMware’s Tanzu with a focus on enterprise management. A private preview will be launching sometime later in 2021.

Azure Spring Cloud is designed to support running Spring Boot applications at scale, with Microsoft managing security updates, monitoring, and scaling, and it’s so far been a successful offering, with customers like Digital Realty and Swiss Re.

There’s a lot of experience with Spring, with many big enterprise users running thousands of applications that have yet to be moved to the cloud and with nearly 60% of Java developers using Spring. In order for them to start this transition, they need additional tooling to support running and modernising these existing applications.

By adding VMware Tanzu tools to the existing Spring Cloud service, Azure Spring Cloud Enterprise is intended to fill this gap, adding an extra tier to the existing Basic and Standard offerings. While the underlying Azure infrastructure remains much the same, the new service initially adds support for Tanzu’s Build, Application Configuration, and Service Registry services. Spring Cloud Gateway and Spring Cloud Data Flow are planned for future updates. These tools will make it easier for customers to automate container creation and operations with Buildpacks, simplifying moving on-premises applications to Azure.

Jean Atelsek from 451 Research notes that Microsoft’s intent to focus on Spring Boot applications running on managed Kubernetes is key: “It is a best-of-both-worlds proposition, enabling quick builds using sensible defaults and accelerators but also allowing companies to tailor software to fit into their IT environments.”

At the same time, Lara Greden from IDC points out the benefits of bundling: “By recognising the importance of a fully supported experience for developers and architecture teams and with a pricing scheme similar to the Kubernetes offerings, the companies have put a beneficial wrapper on an already valuable set of technical capabilities.”

The new service also includes expanded support, with VMware offering Spring Runtime support services on top of Microsoft’s existing Azure support offerings.

Amazon global hiring spree to add 55,000 new jobs


Keumars Afifi-Sabet

2 Sep, 2021

Amazon is set to add 55,000 new roles to its global workforce, growing the size of its tech and corporate teams by 20% from 275,000 to roughly 333,000.

The firm will make more than 40,000 full-time hires across its corporate and tech divisions in more than 220 locations in the US, alongside tens of thousands of hourly positions in its operations network.

These new jobs will come alongside roughly 15,000 additional full-time hires in countries such as India, Germany, and Japan, according to CEO Andy Jassy, speaking with Reuters.

These new opportunities come after the firm hired 50,000 new workers for full-time and part-time positions in its US-based fulfilment centres and delivery networks, and goes some way to meet Amazon’s pledge to hire 100,000 delivery and operations staff to cope with mid-pandemic demand.

The company previously claimed in May that it would create 10,000 jobs during 2021 in the UK, taking the British workforce to 55,000. These new jobs include roles in its corporate offices in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Cambridge, as well as engineering, software development, cloud computing, AI, and machine learning roles.

The 55,000 new positions will be in areas such as engineering, research science, and robotics, Jassy added. These will be newly-created jobs, as opposed to vacancies that have opened up due to existing staff stepping down.

Amazon also announced last year that it would invest $1.4 billion (roughly £1.1 billion) to create 3,500 jobs and open roughly 85,000 square metres of additional office space. These roles were being created for tech hubs in major US cities including Dallas, Detroit, Denver, New York, Phoenix, and San Diego.

Although the firm has generally favoured a full office return, it’s been forced to row back its plans following the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Its workforce has been offered the chance to spend three days per week in its offices from 2022.

Amazon has announced its hiring spree alongside a careers programme designed to give its workers career coaching sessions and guidance.

A team of recruiters will give advice to prospective new starters on potential opportunities in its logistics network and corporate division. This is alongside preparing prospective employees for tech positions such as engineering and data science.

IT Pro 20/20: The end of the remote work dream


Dale Walker

1 Sep, 2021

Welcome to issue 20 of IT Pro 20/20, the digital magazine from our sister title that distils the most important themes of the previous month into a quick, easy-to-read package.

With the pandemic almost behind us, companies are now having to grapple with the thorny issue of returning to office work. For many, that involves choosing how much flexibility to give employees. However some organisations, across both the public and private spheres, are questioning the validity of paying all employees equally.

Recent policy announcements from major tech players like Google to cut the pay of remote workers has sparked an industry-wide conversation about the nature of flexible work, which many believe could result in a new era of discriminatory workplace policies.

DOWNLOAD ISSUE 20 OF IT PRO 20/20 HERE

The next IT Pro 20/20 will be available on 30 September – previous issues can be found here. If you would like to receive each issue in your inbox as they release, you can subscribe to our mailing list here.

Kaspersky Endpoint Security Cloud review: Merciless against malware


Dave Mitchell

31 Aug, 2021

Easily managed and good value, Kaspersky is a great choice for small businesses

Price 
£405 exc VAT

Kaspersky offers an endpoint protection answer for every business. Large firms that want total control can choose its on-site Endpoint Security for Business products, while smaller companies that don’t want to run their own host server have two cloud-managed solutions to choose from.

We tested Kaspersky’s Endpoint Security Cloud, which is managed entirely from a cloud portal and protects ten to 150 Windows systems and Macs. Licensing is flexible, with each user licence supporting one workstation, laptop or server, plus two iOS or Android mobile devices.

The standard service includes protection against all types of malware and ransomware, a client firewall, a network attack blocker and vulnerability scanning. There’s also a new cloud discovery feature that lets you keep an eye on email, file-sharing, messaging and social networking services being accessed by users.

If you need more, you can move up to the Plus version, which adds Office 365 protection, URL-based web filtering, endpoint device controls, encryption and patch management. The Plus service lets you block specific cloud services too, while the regular tier only monitors them.

We found deployment pleasingly simple: the agent can be downloaded and installed directly from the web portal, or you can email a download link to users. Either way, it takes around five minutes to set up, with a further 15-minute wait while the client registers its licence.

Once that’s done, protection starts immediately with a default security policy that enables everything Kaspersky has to offer. If you want to customise your coverage, it’s easy to create your own policies, organise clients into groups and grant admin rights to specific users. For Windows systems there are three levels of file and web threat protection on offer, and you can choose whether to scan emails for dodgy content and enable network threat protection. If you have the Plus version, you can browse all detected cloud services and decide whether to block any. Macs get file, web and network threat protection, but mail and cloud discovery are off the menu.

It’s a varied offering for mobile users too. Android devices benefit from antivirus protection plus web and app controls, while for iOS it’s more about access security: the portal lets you create APNs certificates, allowing you to choose what device features are accessible, set a screen lock and password policy, apply simple website keyword blocking and restrict which networks can be joined.

As you’d hope, the whole system is highly responsive to threats. When we tried introducing malware to some of our test Windows 10 systems, the local client blocked them immediately, with email alerts landing in our administrative mailbox barely ten seconds later.

The web portal is very informative. A graph displays the top five categories of cloud services in use and lets you drill down to see exactly who’s using what; our only slight niggle is that this took several hours to populate with details on detected services. Below, more graphs show device protection status, the OS spread, detected threats and the results of daily vulnerability scans. There’s a good set of predefined reports too, covering protection status, threats, database updates and cloud discovery, which can be exported in CSV and PDF formats.

If your business is of a suitable size, Kaspersky Endpoint Security Cloud is great value, especially since each licence includes protection for two mobile devices. The cloud discovery component can be a little slow, but endpoint protection doesn’t get any stronger than this and the cloud portal is very easy to work with.

Windows 11 rollout will begin on 5 October


Zach Marzouk

31 Aug, 2021

Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 11 will be released on 5 October, with all eligible devices to be offered the free upgrade by mid-2022.

From 5 October, Microsoft will start rolling out Windows 11 to eligible Windows 10 PCs, while PCs that come preloaded with Windows 11 will start to become available for purchase. The update is set to be rolled out in a phased approach, which means that new eligible devices will be offered the upgrade first. 

For UK customers, the new update will be available “beginning this holiday season”.

“The upgrade will then roll out over time to in-market devices based on intelligence models that consider hardware eligibility, reliability metrics, age of device and other factors that impact the upgrade experience,” the company stated.

Microsoft expects all eligible devices to be offered the free upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022. Users that have a Windows 10 PC that’s eligible for the update will be notified by Windows Update when it’s available. Alternatively, users can check to see if it is ready by going to Settings>Windows Update and select “Check for updates”.

New features in Windows 11 include “Start”, which uses the power of the cloud and Microsoft 365 to show users their recent files, no matter what device they were viewing them on. Chat from Microsoft Teams is integrated into the taskbar, a new Microsoft Store will be available, and Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops will allow users to multitask and optimise their screen space.

One feature that won’t be included at launch is the inclusion of Android apps support in Windows 11 and the Microsoft Store, through the company’s collaboration with Amazon and Intel. Microsoft said that it will start with a preview for this feature for Windows Insiders “over the coming months”.

Microsoft recently provided more details on the reliability of computers that could update to Windows 11, saying that those systems were more reliable in use.

“Those that did not meet the minimum system requirements had 52% more kernel mode crashes (blue screens) than those that did meet the requirements,” Microsoft said. “Additionally, app hangs are 17% more likely, and for first-party apps, we see 43% more crashes on unsupported hardware.”

Pace of government IT spending to slow in 2022


Keumars Afifi-Sabet

31 Aug, 2021

Investment in digital technologies will see global government IT expenditure rise by 6.5% between 2021 and 2022, with total spending expected to hit $557.3 billion (approximately £479 billion) next year.

IT infrastructure and applications modernisation, as well as digital government transformation, are the key areas that are set to fuel government IT spending in 2022, according to Gartner. 

COVID-19 funding packages, too, will drive further investment in digital enablement, including support for sustainable growth, social programmes, education, cyber security and digital inclusion.

“Governments will continue to accelerate investments in digital technologies to respond and recover from the continuing evolution of public health uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Irma Fabular,  research vice president at Gartner.

“The disruptions caused by the pandemic have also reinforced a key digital government tenet, which is public policy and technology are inseparable.”

Although the total amount of government IT spending will reach new highs, the 6.5% increase represents a slowing down in the pace of growth, given that government IT spending rise by 9.5% between 2020 and 2021.

The rise between this year and next will mostly be driven by a 12% rise in software spending, from $135.6 to $151.9 billion (roughly £98.4 to £110.2 billion). Even this, however, is a slowdown from the 14.9% rise between 2020 and 2021.

The area expected to benefit from the most expenditure is IT services, with $203.9 billion (approximately £147.9 billion) spent in this area in 2022. 

The only area in which the pace of change is set to be faster in 2022 than between 2020 and this year is internal services, which will increase in spending by 2.7% versus 0.3% last year. 

Spending on telecoms services and devices will actually fall by 0.8% and 1.6% respectively between 2021 and 2022. This represents a massive turnaround for spending on devices, in particular, which rose by 17.6% between 2020 and 2021.

Despite the pace of spending falling slightly overall, these overall levels of expenditure still represents a massive commitment from governments across the world to digital transformation and the revamping of IT infrastructure. 

The pandemic has served to boost the pace of digital transformation in the public sector, with Gartner estimating that by 2025, more than half of government agencies will have modernised critical core legacy applications.

Zoom reports first billion-dollar quarter despite slowing growth


Bobby Hellard

31 Aug, 2021

Zoom posted its first billion-dollar quarter on Monday but issued a cautious estimate for the rest of the year with demand for the platform expected to slow dramatically.

The company’s Q3 revenues brought in between $1.015 billion and $1.020 billion, a 31.2% rise year-on-year. 

Zoom was one of the biggest success stories of the pandemic, enjoying unparalleled growth and adoption in its business while consumers and companies were forced into multiple lockdowns. By the middle of 2020, the company had seen its daily active users grow by 355%.

However, there has long been a feeling that this would dissipate with the successful rollout of COVID vaccines and the return to the workplace.

“We had expected that (the slowdown) towards the end of the year, but it’s just happened a little bit more quickly than we expected,” chief financial officer Kelly Steckelberg said on an earnings call.

Zoom has also faced stiff competition from the likes of Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams, both of which have dented its efforts to win bigger contracts from businesses.

Zoom said it expects a decline in revenue from smaller businesses – those with 10 or fewer employees – that pay their subscriptions on a monthly basis. The company has adjusted its earnings for the third quarter, expecting between $1.07 and $1.08 per share, compared to previous estimates of $1.09 a share. 

The company has also pushed ahead with plans to expand its business, essentially moving from a service to a global platform like Google. It recently announced a buyout of call-centre software maker Five9 for $14.7 billion – its largest deal to date – and has also begun to invest in smaller firms to build products and services on its platform. 

NHSX guidance aims to improve NHS digital transformation efforts


Sabina Weston

31 Aug, 2021

NHSX has published a new set of guidelines that aims to help NHS trusts embrace technology to further their digital transformation efforts. 

The move follows a report from earlier this year which found that major technological innovations implemented in the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic need “further work” before they are locked in.

Known as What Good Looks Like (WGLL), the new framework provides NHS managers with instructions on how to use digital technology in medical services – as well as information about who should be paying for it.

NHSX hopes the WGLL guidelines will set a “common foundation that should be in place across the NHS”, from making it easier for patients to access online services to implementing the correct cyber security measures in order to avoid cyber attacks.

WGLL also calls for NHS trusts to make digital services, such as online access to care plans, test results, and electronic prescribing systems, easily accessible across the whole of the UK, and not just in select locations.

This would help to reduce health inequalities as well as make work easier for frontline workers, whom, according to NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould, were a key part of developing the guidelines.

“They have been produced following extensive consultations with the frontline, and will continue to change as we get more feedback. They are designed to be helpful, empowering and clear. They set out what they should be driving towards, and how they will need to pay for it,” he said.

The NHSX has also published a set of proposals on how to tackle the obstacles in digital technology investments. Known as Who Pays For What, it aims to solve issues such as the uncertainties over funding sources, digital transformation costs, and lack of understanding of the benefits of digital investment.

The NHSX is proposing changes in financial and payments policies in 2021 to 2022 as well as seeking to encourage the uptake of established technologies and promote the adoption of emerging innovations.

It also announced that it’s bringing together multiple existing funding pots into one national application process, in order to simplify the bidding process and make funds more equally distributed.

Commenting on today’s news, NHSX CIO Sonia Patel said that she hopes that “these resources are both empowering and enabling in terms of understanding the destination we commonly want to reach across the nation with digital transformation”.

“Talking to leaders across the NHS, there is a renewed belief and confidence in the digital and data agenda and increasing awareness of the importance it holds in supporting a modern NHS,” she added.