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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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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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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MOBILE communications industry advocate group, GSMA, has launched a new global and industry-wide initiative called ‘The GSMA Cloud AR/VR Forum’ to focus on the development of cloud virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology.

The program, which was unveiled by GSMA at Huawei’s ninth Global Mobile Broadband Forum in London, is backed by mobile operators including China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT Corp., NTT DOCOMO, SK Telecom, Telefónica, Telenor, TIM, Turkcell and Vodafone, as well as other industry partners including Huawei and HTC. 

The program aims to encourage all parties to collaborate on accelerating the delivery and deployment of 5G cloud-based AR/VR services.

“Both VR and AR are disruptive forms of immersive multimedia that, combined with operator edge cloud and 5G connectivity, will transform the cost structures of the enterprise and entertainment fields,” GSMA chief technology officer Alex Sinclair said.

“Mobile operators will play a key role in its development, but without a common approach and industry-wide collaboration we risk fragmenting the market from the beginning. The establishment of this forum will overcome this hurdle and ensure we can scale compelling solutions faster.”

The new forum aims to encourage knowledge sharing between members, as well as discussion about new business models including the development of a service reference architecture to avoid cost fragmentation. It will also focus on technical development areas including research into ultra-low latency codec compression, graphics processing unit (GPU) rendering in the cloud and virtualisation technologies, as well as the development of simplified interfaces so that developers can easily deploy services.

“The convergence of 5G networks and clouds will enable mass market adoption of immersive experiences like AR and VR,” GSMA Future Networks Programme chairman and senior vice president for Group Technology innovation at Deutsche Telekom AG, Arash Ashouriha said.

“Utilising scalable computing power at the network edge allows for unprecedented immersive and pervasive customer experience while leveraging cloud economics. Hence, we need to work towards open ecosystems providing common interfaces across the end to end value chain in order to scale cloud AR/VR services fast across different markets. With this approach we will unleash the full potential of 5G,” he said.

“AR/VR headsets require a large amount of storage, power consumption and processing power that is currently provided by a PC or gaming device. This makes the headsets expensive and limits their portability, which in turn inhibits their potential as a mass market product,” he said.

“By moving these capabilities to an edge cloud platform away from the PC, it will mean that consumers will just need to purchase the headset making them cheaper and more widely available over time.

“Cloud AR/VR technology also requires an incredibly fast, low latency bandwidth data connection in order to deliver an ultra-high resolution 4K or 8K viewing experience. 5G will be able to deliver this via its new network capabilities as well as a more reliable experience through edge cloud, which opens up ultra-low latency services.”

www.gsma.com

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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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AUSTRALIAN accounting software provider Reckon has joined forces with the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), to launch a member first cloud accounting solution.

The partnership is aiming to accelerate businesses’ migration to the cloud and, in particular, boost small to medium sized enterprises (SME) productivity, according to IPA chief executive officer Andrew Conway. 

Mr Conway said the first-of-its-kind industry partnership would empower to deliver a greater customer experience by leveraging the cloud to bolster productivity and fuel growth. 

Launched as a result of in-depth feedback from IPA members, the strategic move will see the introduction of IPA Books+, a white labelled version of Reckon’s flagship cloud accounting solution Reckon One. Mr Conway said more than 35,000 members of IPA – who are mostly either servicing SMEs or small businesses in their own right – will now have access to simple and affordable online accounting software to make running their business easier.

 “Moving to the cloud is a key focus for many of our members and their clients over the coming year, as they look to tackle the next phase of business growth,” Mr Conway said.

“The partnership with Reckon is an exciting one. It will enable a myriad of benefits including remote working and the ability to access real-time business-critical data such as cash flow at anytime, anywhere.

“As recent reports from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has revealed, a staggering 45 percent of small businesses are yet to adopt online accounting solutions.  With the advent of Single Touch Payroll, the time has come for IPA Books+, a single, reliable, comprehensive solution,” Mr Conway said.

Reckon CEO Sam Allert said the he cloud accounting partnership was “an exciting industry first, as we align our business’ strategic priorities and continue to better support SMEs across Australia”.

“By taking the powerful technology of ReckonOne and partnering with a leading member focused organisation, we are delivering a unique solution that goes beyond technology to include training, development, events and support,” Mr Allert said.

“The transition to the cloud will enable IPA members to automate a great deal of administrative work. This frees them up to focus on higher value tasks such as advisory services, which will no doubt open new revenue streams and growth opportunities.”

Mr Allert said, as with all Reckon products, IPA Books+ was also enabled for the Australian Taxation Office’s Single Touch Payroll reporting requirement.

Mr Allert said with more than 600,000 small businesses with 19 or less employees looking to get compliant by July 1, 2019, this presented “a massive opportunity for both organisations”.

www.reckon.com

www.publicaccountants.org.au

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