By Neville Vincent >>

AUSTRALIAN businesses have been battered, bruised and besieged over recent months as a series of biological, natural, and social disturbances have taken their toll on the APAC region.

Domestically, the devastating countrywide bushfires, followed immediately by torrential rains and floods left the country and the population ravaged. But this has quickly been overshadowed by the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 outbreak as businesses brace for more disruption. 

The back-to-back disruption meant there has been no respite for beleaguered Australian businesses and the impact on staff, especially their inability to navigate hostile environments to get to work, has meant significant workplace challenges for their employers.

As a result, managing and maintaining productivity when staff are unable to get to the office has suddenly become a high priority for the country’s businesses.

ECONOMIC AND EMOTIONAL IMPACT

There is no hiding the scale of recent events. For Australia, the economic impact of the bushfires alone is already around $100 billion.

However, this figure excludes 'intangible' costs: the effect on the working population of injury and reduced lifespan due to smoke-related illness, damage to species and habitats, and the loss of livestock food supplies, and national and local parks.

It also omits the impact and ability (mental and physical) of the workforce to simply attend, or engage in work.

The much-welcomed rains that followed may have helped extinguish the fires, but the resulting flooding shocked the state, leaving thousands without power, roadways blocked and dozens of schools closed.

Once again, the conditions caused physical disruption and commuter chaos, with many unable to make it into the workplace.

MANAGING THE 'NEW NORM'

The back-to-back fires and floods and now the ongoing coronavirus outbreak are leading many businesses to accept a new norm – how to keep your business running with employees who are regularly, physically unable to make it to the office yet still required to be 'present' and productive?

An initial, and now second stimulus package have already been confirmed by the Federal Government, but it won’t solve the problem unless companies and staff can adapt to working remotely.

So, how can staff who have never done this maximise productivity while working in isolation at home or in some other safe environment?

The answer is technology, and it is playing a pivotal role in assisting Australian businesses transition and overcome the recent disruption and its effect on the region. The adoption of public, private and hybrid cloud services has meant that the access to, and availability of, critical data has been maintained.

At the same time, the transition from hardware-based to software-defined infrastructure has meant that physical access to datacentres is no longer required and central operations can be handled remotely or by a skeleton staff. And so, the heart of many organisations has continued pumping.

Thus, inundated businesses and isolated workers are rushing cloud services like VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) and DaaS (desktop-as-a-service).

CLOUDING THE ISSUE

VDI is a cloud-hosted desktop normally located in an on-site datacentre and operated and maintained by in-house IT personnel.

DaaS, on the other hand, is a fully outsourced system providing a virtual desktop. It neither relies on, nor consumes, any internal hardware. It provides the same flexibility, safety, security and access as VDI – but it is fully handled by a third party and hosted on their cloud.

VDI and DaaS are helping to keep Australian businesses running by providing virtual workspaces for teams, customers, or partners, and can usually be up and running in under an hour.

Isolated staff can then have safe and secure access to any application simply from their home web browser, with no software download or upgrade required. It’s almost as simple as point and click.

The user simplicity of these services, inspired by the consumerisation of technology available in smart phones for example, makes it simple for any staff member to use and continue to fulfil their roles from home or elsewhere.

However, the true benefit for the enterprise is that it provides mobility and flexibility for personnel without compromising business security, productivity or performance. It lets staff work from anywhere, on any device with secure and complete access to their work computer, files and network.

If disruption and mobility restrictions are set to continue, the sooner we embrace the modern tools required to keep our staff safe and productive, our businesses resilient, and our economies protected, the better we will be at mitigating future risks in turbulent times.

www.nutanix.com

 

Neville Vincent is the South Asia Pacific vice president for enterprise cloud and hyper-converged infrastructure company Nutanix.

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WHAT does the upcoming 5G telecommunications network really offer Australian business that is not available already? The answer is, a surprising amount according to new research by Samsung Electronics Australia, in partnership with Tech Research Asia (TRA).

The Samsung-TRA report and whitepaper, 5G for Business in Australia, spells out how the advent of 5G networks, devices and services can support the goals of Australian businesses.

According to Danny Mandrides, the head of Enterprise and Government, IT and Mobile for Samsung Electronics Australia, the report also explores perceptions, awareness and levels of understanding that Australian businesses hold in relation to the availability and advent of 5G mobile technology.

“There is no doubt that 5G is both a trigger and an engine that will transform the way Australians live and work, but also how businesses operate in an increasingly mobile driven economy,” Mr Mandrides said.. “Now more than ever before Australian businesses are telling us that they demand the bandwidth, stability, and opportunities that 5G will bring. 

“At Samsung, we want to help ensure our customers and partners develop the best possible approach to adopting the latest in network and device services and this includes building our respective understanding for how innovations in 5G can help break barriers and solve real challenges for Australian organisations,” Mr Mandrides said.

5G for Business in Australia’s research methodology delved into the views of more than 800 technology decision makers from a cross-section of industries to help shape a view of how businesses are considering the implications of 5G and their readiness to adopt.

The report revealed that almost a quarter (24%) of businesses in Australia intend to adopt 5G services for business in the coming 18 months, with almost 80 percent of Australian businesses set to adopt 5G related mobility services within the next three years. These findings set the tone for the potential roadmap of adoption of 5G by Australian businesses.

RESPONDING TO CONCERNS

The report also explores the potential concerns and barriers that organisations are considering in relation to 5G, as well as the perceived benefits of the greater 5G connectivity, network availability, and device capability that it will offer workforces.

Key findings have also revealed a keen interest in the potential applications of 5G mobile devices, as well as Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).

About 37 percent of Australian businesses are taking a ‘considered’ approach to 5G adoption, while 24 percent are being either ‘aggressive’ (at 12%) or ‘opportunistic’ (at 12%) in terms of rapid or early adoption of 5G respectively.

About 18 percent of participants said that their adoption plans would be ‘gradual’ and in line with network deployments while 16 percent stated that they have no specific strategy until 5G is ‘ubiquitous’.

Just 4 percent of respondents classified their approach to 5G as in a ‘deliberation’ stage where they are needing to determine the actual benefits and availability of 5G. 

TRA founder and director Tim Dillon said, “Australian businesses are at the global forefront in terms of their position to be leaders in exploring new territories and capabilities associated with 5G powered products and services.

“We will see rapid change in the coming years for how people bolster their business operations and strategy with 5G powered services.

““There is naturally a degree of intrigue, interest, excitement, and keenness from businesses to understand how they should be thinking about what the future may bring, which is why it’s critical they build their understanding of 5G and develop a plan that can be actioned to deliver solid outcomes and avoid potential pitfalls or redundant investments,” Mr Dillon said.

MORE THAN SPEED

Australian businesses recognised that the benefit of 5G extends beyond speed, including other major capabilities such as edge computing, multi-device connectivity, low network latency and network slicing.

Organisations see 5G enhancing their current and future operations in areas including customer engagement, data access and management, supporting cloud services consumption and facilitation of intelligent workplaces.

“It’s incredibly important for Samsung to ensure that we understand the needs of Australian business and where our 5G enabled products, solutions, and partnerships can provide value and enrich their operations in next stage of our mobile economy,” Samsung’s Mr Mandrides said.

5G for Business in Australia includes a 5G readiness checklist designed to help businesses better understand the key factors involved in making decisions related to the next stage in network connectivity. 

The checklist considers the role and impact of devices, network deployment, existing and planned digital strategies, workplace environments, compliance and other key elements that businesses may wish to take into account. The report also highlighted key points for businesses to focus upon, leading up to 5G adoption: 

NEED FOR 5G RECOGNISED

About 68 percent of Australian businesses feel that their operations are constrained by current network performance, and 60 percent of businesses feel there is a need for 5G services to meet business needs above current 4G connectivity.

While early 5G solutions implemented by businesses will focus on bandwidth-centric approaches, the report has indicated that they will seek to quickly develop and integrate higher value-added solutions such as slicing and edge computing.

These solutions present the opportunity to implement IoT, AI-supported decision-making tools, predictive analytics and real-time data.

Despite the strong rates of expected adoption, the report identified that 1 in 2 (50%) of Australian businesses feel they require additional information to understand exactly why 5G is a better solution than current 4G. Businesses are also anticipating some challenges during the adoption of 5G services, specifically around pricing, device availability and network coverage.

In addition to research and insights, Samsung has announced that it is already collaborating with a number of Australian organisations in relation to trial mobility programs that involve 5G.

Samsung has found that 5G is already impacting Australian businesses, through its collaborative work with many organisations, and offered several examples in the report:

Improved customer service and engagement in the consumer banking sector: A major Australian bank is trialling 5G branch connectivity linked to smartphones and Samsung’s DeX solution, ensuring seamless connectivity and information access for its mobile customer service and banking employees.

Data management, information access, health and safety/asset protection for government and emergency services: An Australian AI company that has created 5G connected drones to undertake aerial surveillance of areas under bush fire threat equipped with AI to identify issues and assets on the ground in real-time to assist emergency service and fire crews.

Intelligent workstyles, costs reductions and efficiencies in the manufacturing sector: A production site connecting multiple device sensors combined with AI analytics to a smart device dashboard app that provides real-time information on manufacturing performance and quality to reduce defects and materials costs.

GETTING 5G-READY

According to the report, every organisation is different and will take a unique approach to adoption.

The 5G for Business in Australia report advises businesses to consider several factors to inform its approach to the adoption of 5G technology.

Businesses should:

  • Understand network deployment and handset availability
  • Determine unique device needs
  • Understand the service provider’s 5G strategy
  • Consider how 5G compliments the company’s overall digital strategy
  • Determine all possible business cases
  • Understand how future data needs may change

 

About the 5G for Business in Australia report

Tech Research Asia surveyed 813 IT and line-of-business decision-makers in Australian organisations in May 2019. To develop this report, TRA also interviewed CXO-level representatives from 25 Australian and international organisations to understand their view of 5G, goals, business focus and activities.

www.samsung.com

http://news.samsung.com

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By Luke McGoldrick >>

WHEN the open source movement began, there was plenty of scepticism about its viability both as a business model and a means for delivering valuable digital projects.

This stand-offish approach is understandable, particularly when we consider it in the wider field of technology.

New highly disruptive forces such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) bring varying degrees of concern, not just in terms of business viability, but deeper societal changes that might not be easily reversed.

Open source has encountered its share of challenges, but its success both in terms of the applications it can deliver and as a successful business model has proven its worth.

Outback Joe, a mannequin representing a bushwalker lost and in need of water has been a representative for open source development in Australia.

Every two years, teams from all over the world compete in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) challenge, a drone competition largely built on open source software developed in Australia to rescue Outback Joe from his woes. That software is now installed in the UAVs of leading manufacturers and keeps millions of drones up in the air worldwide. 

Across the ditch, open source technology is being used to help low-income homeowners in New Zealand understand their entitlements and apply for a rates rebate, reducing costs and complexity for people and councils in what had been a painstaking process.

Still, despite the applications and benefits we can attribute to open source, there are challenges and many people and businesses in Australia are hesitant, or even unclear, of how to get involved in the movement.

CHALLENGE OF MAINTENANCE

Open source projects require a lot of maintenance to become truly successful. This can leave projects in the hands of one or two coders maintaining a huge base of code.

Given coders are often across at least a few projects at once, with no guarantee of assistance, the gaps can form and projects can be left in limbo before any real value is gained.

While this can be a challenge, it’s easily alleviated by tapping the right community around projects.

Open lines of communication, the feeling of moving towards a common goal and everyone rolling up their sleeves can create the right environment for success and take the burden away from a small number of people.

This isn’t unlike any organisational or community-driven goal; buy-in and cooperation are essential.

SECURITY

The nature of open source and making code available to anyone can be a natural cause of concern. Some tend to view it as an honour system, inherently dependent on the honesty of all involved to ensure the project is not exploited.

However, this can also be an advantage – anyone in the community can track and flag potential exploits to project managers and get them fixed before they become real issues. Again, that community engagement is a major factor here, along with quality code and quick response to any issues that arise.

Some organisations are even launching open source projects or proof-of-concepts (POCs) built on blockchain technology to further enhance security and accountability.

GETTING STARTED

People sometimes find challenges in where to actually start when it comes to an open source project. Fortunately, this is becoming less of an issue as new projects, communities and events spring up.

Those in pursuit will be better served by application programming interface (API)-first projects, an increasing trend in the world of open source.

APIs are valuable because they easily allow programs and platforms to communicate with each other. They can make it easier to solve complexity stemming from managing multiple applications across different environments.

APIs can also enable increased personalisation of the solutions developed. Projects are based on a variety of different coding languages so you can go with what you know and build your skills further.

Many even accept non-coding submissions. The combination of APIs and increased automation mean more people with varying – and not necessarily highly technical – skills can make a valuable contribution to a project.

One of the easiest ways to get started is to visit a project’s repo (repository) on open source development platforms such as GitHub.

You can see the issues tab as well as bug reports and enhancement requests. Some are even labelled for ‘first-timers’ to help them test the waters.

Some people commencing their maiden voyage into the world of open source are bold and brave enough to even launch their own project.

This, of course, means areas such as code of conduct and licensing fall to you, but the reward and freedom to build and create are well worth it.

www.rubrik.com

 

Luke McGoldrick is country manager, Australia and New Zealand, for multi-cloud data control company Rubrik.

By Leon Gettler >>

THE Australian Government needs to do more to deal with cybercrime, according to a security expert.

Daniel Lai, the CEO of cybersecurity firm archTIS, which has secured endorsement from the Digital Transformation Agency for its Kojensi Gov offering – which provides security for government networks – said Australia lost a minister responsible for cyber security in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent reshuffle. 

Under former PM Malcolm Turnbull, there had been a dedicated focus on cyber security strategy.

“The concern is, is it an indication they are taking it less seriously?” Mr Lai told Talking Business.

On the other hand, the government’s announcement of additional funding for cyber security would indicate this was not the case, he said, and frontline news stories about the hack on the Australian National University and companies like Canva, show this issue was not going away.

FUNDING MISFIRE?

Mr Lai said the government’s allocation of $570 million for the Australian Federal Police and ASIO did not actually address the entire problem.

“That’s great for them to be able to respond in terms of an intelligence program and the Australian hi-tech crime commission, but it really doesn’t address the security of the agencies outside of those two agencies,” Mr Lai said.

He said it needed to be broader and more holistic, taking into account that businesses needed it.

“So $570 million when you’ve got $1 billion annually of cyber breaches that affect the economy is nothing,’’ Mr Lai said.

He said a recent report by Gartner, the largest strategic company in the tech sector, put out a report showing that, for the first time, people were rating security higher than convenience. 

He said there was growing concern from industry and governments to tackle the problem of not only state actors but organised crime.

He said the hackers always seemed to be one step ahead of the government.

“When I was the director of IT security in customs, one of the things that was clearly apparent was that organised crime don’t get allocated budgets, or efficiency dividends,” Mr Lai said.

“So when you’re dealing with a competitor that has unlimited resources to make unlimited profit, you’re already behind the eight-ball when you’re in government and you’re set strict budgets with efficiency dividends.”

He said while the government generally realised it was a problem, politicians were yet to confront it with a special program that agencies and industry could call on to upgrade their security practices.

“Most cyber security budgets for agencies come out of their general budget and they come under that pressure,’’ Mr Lai said.

He said this needed some “out of the box thinking” to address the issue. It meant developing a plan and a strategy to build the industry and expertise to combat the problem.

“We’re never going to have the resources that organised crime or, for that matter, state actors are going to throw at attacking our critical national infrastructure and getting data,” Mr Lai said.

www.archtis.com

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

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A DIRECTED HACKATHON hosted and organised by ACS has produced a world-first prototype solution for safe data sharing.

The hackathon was an attempt to answer the question: how do we safely share data between organisations without compromising the privacy of individuals?

It follows a white paper released in November by ACS, Privacy in Data Sharing – A Guide for Business and Government, which posited a framework for safe data sharing.

“Data sharing is one of the hardest problems we have to solve today,” NSW Chief Data Scientist and primary author of the white paper, Ian Oppermann said.

“How do we get those smart services, and how do we usefully share data with researchers, without compromising the privacy of individuals?”

The challenge of data sharing was highlighted in 2016, when the Federal Government released a de-identified set of medical data for use by researchers in tracking and developing solutions to medical problems. Although the records in the dataset had been anonymised by stripping identity information, researchers were able to cross reference data to reveal the owners of individual records. 

“Today we have hundreds of data sets being combined with each other,” Dr Oppermann said. “In that scenario, it can become easy for records to be re-identified. That’s why, over the course of two years, the ACS Data Sharing Committee has developed a theoretical test for the presence of personally identifying data.

“We wanted to put that theory to the test, which is what this hackathon was all about – developing a practical application for identifying the presence of personally identifying information in a data set. If you can do that, then you can reveal whether data is safe to share.”

HACKATHON CHALLENGE

The hackathon, staged at ACS’ Barangaroo offices in Sydney in late February, involved eight teams of three people competing against each other to develop a practical solution that would reveal the amount of personally identifying information in a dataset – and allow the data to be adjusted to obscure that information.

Through three rounds teams were eliminated from the competition and their ideas and team members incorporated into the winners of each round.

The winners of the competition were finally revealed as ‘Led Zeppelin’ – a team comprising Geof Heydon, Artem Kamnev, Dominic Guinane, Elliot Zhu, Oisin Fitzgerald, Stephen Katulka and Viki Ginoska.

The Led Zeppelin team produced a prototype application that allowed a data custodian to visualise and adjust the amount of personally identifying information in a dataset.

“We’re really excited to have had the chance to work on such an important project,” team member Mr Heydon said.

“It’s an incredibly valuable thing. As more and more smart city and digital economy things happen at the local and state government level, there needs to be much more of an understanding of how to handle data. 

“This kind of work is absolutely critical in the smart city context, in the internet of things context, in the artificial intelligence context, in the digital economy context.”

A cash prize was given to the winning team by ACS.

“This really is a world first,” ACS president Yohan Ramasundara said. “This is something that researchers and data scientists around the world have been working on for years, and cracking this is a huge step on the way to enabling government and businesses to share data safely without compromising the privacy of individuals.”

ACS is the professional association for Australia’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector. More than 40,000 ACS members work in business, education, government and the community.

www.acs.org.au

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By Neville Vincent >>

ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) has become the true topic du jour, not just in technology but in so many aspects of our lives.

Reactions are mixed but it’s fair to say the negative, often more headline-grabbing side to AI has formed the largest part of the conversation. We’re constantly reminded of the potential dangers it can bring, such as the loss of jobs and even the threat of killer robots.

But there are benefits to AI. Technology has long promised to free us up from the rigmarole of tedious tasks we have to do in our working and personal lives, and AI might be a real step in that taking shape.

I don’t think we’re under any illusion that robots will just do everything and we can retire to the beach, but they might at least do the things we don’t want to do, and that’s something to get behind. 

In fact, Nutanix conducted research recently that found almost three quarters of organisations in Australia welcomed AI technology, with only four percent reporting a negative impact.

Applications of AI in healthcare, such as mining patient data for more accurate diagnosis, stand to benefit our wellbeing and even save lives.

GET SMART ABOUT AI

Whatever your opinion, AI will continue to develop and it’s something we all need to prepare for. The possibilities are virtually endless as we create machines that will be as intelligent as we are, and then considerably more intelligent over time.

The business-level benefits to AI are many – increased automation, reduced operational costs, efficiency, the ability to identify new revenue opportunities using data analytics, to name a few, and business leaders in Australia are taking notice.

A survey from Infosys earlier this year revealed that around 75 percent of organisations in Australia plan to build a dedicated team of AI professionals ‘soon’.

But AI isn’t just something you can just click and collect from an app store. Even if it was, it would still require a huge amount of power and resources to work and that is something most businesses in Australia are ill-prepared for.

REPLICATING BRAIN POWER

With AI, we’re talking about replicating brain power, an area we don’t even fully understand yet.

To replicate and employ that power within a business, you need to find the right brain power to make it work – in technology terms that means compute, network and storage, the invisible IT environment layer that powers all digital services including AI.

Modern IT environments are made up of cloud in the forms of public and/or private ‘enterprise cloud’, and this is what’s needed for AI to work efficiently.

The pre-cloud era consisted of environments that ‘got the job done’. These were large, expensive investments that had to justify themselves over the period of around five years before an upgrade was due, by which time the technology had become obsolete.

Cloud has changed that, and none too soon. It can provide the brain power AI needs and be a base to add further capabilities over time.

The reason why – beyond the fact that it’s more concentrated, faster and easier to use – is that it’s based on software, not hardware.

That means you don’t invest in something that gets you to five years. You invest in something you need now, and add to it incrementally as your needs change. The hardware becomes a commodity and any software enhancements you add over time are built into your entire stack.

CLOUD CRUCIAL FOR AI

Say AI is on your radar, but you’re not in a position to really invest in it at this stage. With cloud you have something that is ready for that investment when you are.

Another reason why cloud is crucial for AI and other IT-intensive applications is that it is constant.

We all know what happens when there is an outage. It’s time and money well wasted – emails can’t be sent, programs we rely on day in and day out to deliver stop working and everyone sits around and waits for the lights to come back on.

AI involves real-time analysis of huge amounts of data, constant processing and most importantly, learning. That process is ruined in the event of an outage, or even by simple delays, and could potentially put us in danger – imagine an outage affecting a self-driving car in motion.

Business leaders who want to invest in AI need to get their cloud house in order first and work with their IT heads to make sure the right capabilities are in place to benefit, and ultimately profit from it.

Success in the fast-developing AI era will belong to those who apply the right brain power to gain a competitive advantage.

www,nutanix.com

Neville Vincent is the vice president, Australia and New Zealand, ASEAN and India, for enterprise cloud company Nutanix.

 

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MANY COMPANIES have recently discovered the consequences of how dangerously easy it is for employees to use cloud technology outside of company-sanctioned deployments.

Armed with nothing more than a credit card, employees can turn on cloud services without approval, oversight, guidance, or security. Often, the affected company’s IT department is completely unaware of all these rogue cloud deployments, any one of which could open the organisation up to security risks and integration issues. 

Often, organisations have multiple cloud subscriptions before any formal cloud computing policy or guidelines have been established.

To manage risk and costs appropriately, organisations need to establish a solid foundation in the cloud before integrating any business systems, according to cloud solutions group Intergen.

Intergen cloud solutions consultant, Daryl Green said, “The ease of utilisation is arguably a huge advantage of cloud technology. However, without clear policies or guidelines, this can lead to multiple user directories, inconsistent levels of security, duplication of licence expenses and administration stress as well as the proliferation of data.”

Recent research by IDC showed 85 percent of organisations in the Asia Pacific region were still in the early stages of cloud maturity, which means they’re not yet at the stage where their cloud offerings are managed, optimised or repeatable, according to Mr Green.

“When taking the first steps into cloud utilisation, business leaders need to ensure the action they are taking is setting the organisation up for a flexible and extensible solution,” Mr Green said.

“By assessing the organisation’s current on-premises landscape and existing cloud utilisation patterns, organisations can create a roadmap for their future cloud consumption and gather insights into their readiness for cloud. 

“That’s not to say organisations shouldn’t work with employees to determine what workloads or applications could move to the cloud. On the contrary, business users are well-placed to provide direction on what cloud solutions could best serve the organisation,” he said.

“So, it’s important to get their input without giving them carte blanche to adopt cloud services without oversight.

“Once the investigation phase is complete, organisations can seek guidance on how to overcome any difficulties that may have been highlighted, or even to sidestep legacy systems altogether and use a cloud service in their organisation. Cloud technologies have evolved to the point where it is very desirable for many businesses to completely abandon their physical servers and bulky domains and exclusively use cloud offerings.”

By establishing solid cloud foundations, Mr Green said organisations can prepare to establish a powerful, borderless, modern workplace which lets employees securely access the organisation’s business systems whenever and wherever they need to.

www.intergen.com

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