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Tuesday, 14 December 2010 17:16

Clouds roll in for PC's big birthday bash


The personal computer as we know it turns 30 next year, but its position in the computing hierarchy has crumbled courtesy of the cloud and mobile devices.  And 2011 is promising more of the same.

Clouds, clouds and more clouds are the general forecast for the 12 months ahead with industry pundits unanimous in their enthusiasm for the computing approach which delivers access to elastic computing services and applications.

Instead of office workers being tethered to corporate applications on or via their PC, they can use pretty much any device to access cloud based applications or computer power.  Gartner has already predicted that by 2014, 90 percent of organisations will support corporate applications on personal devices and that by 2013 80 per cent of organisations will support workforces using tablets.

It also believes that besides using public clouds and developing internal clouds, enterprises outside the IT sector will start to sell excess capacity on their private clouds to third parties - radically reshaping the IT sector landscape.

Brenton Smith, vice president and general manager, ANZ at CA Technologies believes that; ''While 2010 may have been the year of cloud talk, 2011 is the year of cloud action.' He's not alone - on Thursday HP will release more detail from a report conducted on its behalf by Springboard Research which has found that 78 percent of Australian organisations now view cloud as relevant to their business, and 61 percent are either currently using or planning cloud initiatives.

The advent of smartphones and tablet devices will further spur demand for cloud based services. And for anyone who thinks the iPad is a passing fad; a study released in late November by Telsyte predicted that over 1 million tablet devices will be sold in Australia in 2011.

According to CA; 'The consumerisation of IT also means that smart mobile devices, like tablets and iPads, will start displacing laptops as the device of choice for employees. While many enterprises have tried to resist the deployment of these devices, user demand has been too strong to resist.

'As a result, technology and services will be delivered differently and there will be an array of new IT challenges, specifically security and authentication to be managed. '

Leading futurist Ross Dawson today released a swag of predictions for 2011, among them a suggestion that during the year there will be an; 'Explosive inflection point of almost everything we know shifting to mobile. The infinite resources of the web are used mainly on mobile devices, location-based services give us context whe'er (sic) we go, and printed newspapers and magazines are supplanted by the iPad. Our entire world will be wherever we are.'

This will impact the nature of work and bring about the death knell for classic 9-5 routines. According to Mr Dawson; 'Work has already moved far beyond the office. Organisations respond by offering flexibility to avoid traffic, pick up the kids, and manage personal affairs at work.

'The dramatic rise of global work means many have phone calls at odd hours or find their primary clients or suppliers in far-flung places. Work now transcends time.'

For some organisations work also transcends national boundaries. Traditional retail giants such as Harvey Norman have learned in the build up to Christmas 2010 that Australian shoppers are keen to take advantage of a strong dollar, and global purchasing opportunities offered via the internet.

Verizon Business believes that in 2011 purchasing will also go mobile, challenging retailers to develop mobile comer systems to satisfy growing demand. It also predicts that the retail sector will look to cloud based services in order to meet the cyclical nature of demand in the sector.

One of the real challenges for IT departments in 2011 will be to manage the security aspects of cloud computing and consumerisation. This will demand both education campaigns to remind the user about the risks they can expose themselves and the corporation to when accessing information from sources outside the corporate network, and the use of advanced security technology to offer as much protection as possible.

In an open letter released today Art Coviello, president of RSA, warned that threats facing computer networks would ratchet up a notch in 2011 as they became a potential terrorist target. 'By manipulating control systems in critical infrastructure facilities, Stuxnet was the first Trojan to cross the chasm from the digital realm into the physical world.  Stuxnet foreshadows what the future of cyber warfare or terrorism might hold and is the reason that next generation infrastructure initiatives like smart grid must have security embedded. 

'According to researchers from IEEE SmartGrid Comm2010, the smart grid will offer up to 440 million potential points to be hacked.  Stuxnet is a wake-up call to a very real and present danger and a stark reminder of the need for collaboration not only among businesses but between nations in an increasingly interdependent world.'

Leading analyst Gartner has also chillingly predicted that by 2015 a G20 nation's critical infrastructure will be disrupted and damaged by online sabotage.

In its 2011 predictions the organisation warned that; 'Online attacks can be multimodal, in the sense of targeting multiple systems for maximum impact, such as the financial system (the stock exchange), physical plant (the control systems of a chemical, nuclear or electric plant), or mobile communications (mobile phone message routers).

'Such a multimodal attack can have lasting effects beyond a temporary disruption, in the same manner that the September 11 attacks on the US had repercussions that have lasted for nearly a decade. If a national stock market was rendered unavailable for several weeks, there would be lasting effects even if there was no change in government, although it is also possible that such disruptive actions could eventually result in a change in leadership.'

Australians doubting how interlinked and interdependent computing networks have become were given a sharp reminder by the November failure of NAB's computer system which led to a domino effect across other banks, impacting many other sectors as money needed to complete transactions or pay bills failed to make its way through the financial system.

While the banks are all investing heavily in computing, they like most other sectors are also battling to find the right mix of IT skills and this is expected to continue throughout 2011. Earlier this month ICT recruitment firm Candle released its first skills index which showed a mild skills shortage of around 3,200 professionals in Australia.

Candle predicts ICT skills shortages will persist through to 2015, with the Federal government tipped to be one of the most affected especially as it competes for talent with organisations such as the banks. Richard Fischer, managing director of Greythorn has indicated that some Federal Government ICT projects - including potentially the NBN - scheduled for 2011 will be hindered by a lack of ICT skills.

So the year ahead poses significant challenges for enterprise CIOs as they wrestle with the cloud, consumerisation, security and skills.

Oh, and if that wasn't enough- remember that 2011 is the year when the world is tipped to run out of IPv4 internet addresses. You are ready, aren't you?


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