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Short shift to cloud

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Migrating to the cloud doesn’t have to be a complex task anymore. KABELO MAKWANE, MD of Accenture South Africa’s Cloud First business, explains the ‘Lift and shift approach’.

‘Lift-and-shift’ – the classic approach to cloud migration – means this: take all your existing IT structures, procedures and applications and transfer them to the cloud.

On paper, such an approach seems sensible. Yet, while cloud migration may mean the benefit of eliminating physical hardware infrastructure on the IaaS layer, transferring needless complexity elsewhere can in fact cause a business’s total cost of ownership on the cloud to escalate. More broadly, the speed and effectiveness of any cloud migration is highly ecosystem-dependent; the application landscape forms only one part.

The reason is the amplifying effect of the cloud. Poorly designed or inefficient IT operating models have their flaws emphasised by the as-a-service paradigm. On one hand, this means that if businesses haven’t designed an efficient service management model or built their application sets with an eye on leanness, they may end up spending more to maintain those functions in the cloud. Other ecosystem areas – including governance and management – also require an expert guiding hand when it comes to cloud pivots.

All businesses are likely to witness a degree of change in their IT operating models when undertaking a migration. For one, cloud changes the way people operate within an IT environment. Because of the high degree of automation within the cloud, for example, people are both freed up and required to work at a higher order, both in terms of IT ops and administration.

Given this consideration and others, enterprises need to assess how fast and to what extent they want to rotate to the cloud. Will it be full-on ERP in the cloud? Full CRM in the cloud with mobility? Partial? The growing impetus for enterprises to forward integrate using cloud services is a related consideration. Indeed, the trend is coming to demand increasing attention.

Consider the near-ubiquity of self-service banking apps. Today, we’d say that a financial services provider without one belongs in the stone age. And yet banking apps have been a relatively recent development. Healthcare is seeing similar developments with the rise of wearable tech. The industry is likely to witness the same level of forward integration, requiring consumers to take some degree of responsibility in terms of managing their own health and wellness.

When it comes to the application-level changes cloud-minded businesses undergo during migration, natively cloud apps will be those requiring the least remediation. Others will likely require more rationalisation and consolidation. Hearkening back to the concept of leanness, enterprises often have a large real estate of custom applications spun out by IT over time. Performing analysis and due diligence on the application landscape before a migration is key. Migrations present a good opportunity to do a little spring cleaning.

Integration layers – what we used to call ‘middleware’ – are key here, yet the area has also witnessed something of an overhaul. There are still middleware players – they haven’t gone away; they have just reinvented themselves. When it comes to modernising applications, containerisation allows for application migration without full reengineering. From a DevOps perspective, tools such as Kitkat and Cucumber can help with rewriting applications so that they become cloud ready.

Another key aspect of the migration ecosystem is governance. The sphere may be easy to overlook, yet business need to ask themselves key questions: ‘Do we have a governance model for operating in the cloud? Does it extend to security, risk and identity management?’ In this line, a concept known as shared responsibility is gaining traction. The approach means that enterprises cannot negate their responsibility to secure their applications and data, even if the cloud is more secure than their existing on-premise environment. It’s about a joint effort.

A final ecosystem component is that of cloud service brokerage. Businesses’ habits of consuming federated IT infrastructures and application environments haven’t gone away. Interest in engaging multiple providers is still driven, in some cases, by organisations shying away from vendor lock-in. Alternatively, enterprises may buy different applications for different purposes, informed by their strategy.

When it comes to consuming federated or disparate environments, businesses often require some level of service brokerage. So there is an emerged discipline – within hyperscale cloud particularly – wherein specific boutique outfits are now building brokerage capabilities. The result is that organisations can consume from multiple cloud types on their own terms.

At the broadest level, to be able to fully realise the promise of cloud in terms of speed, efficiency, cost effectiveness, scale and optimisation, capable oversight is required. The result is that cloud management platforms have emerged – many hyperscale cloud providers are now building management capabilities onto their offerings.

AWS’s EC2 platform for example has seen ongoing investment to natively embed functions around identity management and application integration in the cloud and Microsoft Azure Cloud also sees heavy investment in this area as well in order to build native capability. By embedding such tools, it becomes far easier for businesses to deploy cloud applications as extensive knowledge of middleware and integration tools are no longer required.

In sum, effective, cost-effective cloud migration depends on thoughtful deployment on a host of levels – applications, governance, management and brokerage among them. In short, it’s all about leveraging the ecosystem.

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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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