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Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

Take Control of Your Data Centre With Hyper-Converged Infrastructure


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It’s really hard to be part of an IT department these days. Having become the very lifeblood of an organisation, the loss of a work-reliant component of any kind can cause a revolt, scenes from the Apocalypse or even mass mutiny. Whether it’s a device, the network, internet access or email, the failure of just a single one can make your organisation grind to a halt. Let’s face it, no one wants to press something in the effort of fixing an existing issue just to get inundated in phone calls by grumpy users who can’t access anything. I’m sure that there are IT managers up and down the country nodding along, absentmindedly caressing their internal scars from the first ring of the phone and getting hit by flashbacks of an incident that frankly only an IT member can understand.

Finally, some IT genius somewhere in the world wanted to minimise the complexities and frustrations for the rest of the tech community by creating a system so simple, so easy to manage and so flexible that it would make sliced bread look like a stupid innovation. This amazing creation is called hyper-converged infrastructure and IT departments the world over are bowing down to whichever person designed it. HCI promises operational efficiency, reduced costs and manageable scaling that combines all of a data centre’s necessary components (think of your storage, networking backup and everything else) into a pre-packaged unit that can be controlled and managed by a single console. Frankly, I’d say the only reason that we don’t have a national holiday devoted to this mind-blowing achievement is the fact that cloud computing blew in, screaming for attention, and took over the hype. So, I thought it would only be fair to give HCI some of the spotlight and cheerleaders, by giving it the attention it deserves and listing its many benefits so you become Team HCI too.

Buy more to reduce cost
Obviously, anything that reduces cost becomes automatically more interesting to those who make the big decisions and have the Financial Department around their little fingers. When it comes to IT, the organisations that want to invest in any new hard- or software generally pump money into the sleekest, fastest and newest toy that’s on the market. In terms of HCI, you’ll be delighted to discover that the cost of entry of this whole new system is actually lower than you’d expect. That’s because hyper-convergence uses an economic model similar to that of public cloud providers, by using low-cost commodity hardware and scaling the data centre little by little. With this ‘Lego’ building-block approach, your IT can expand as and when you need it to.

Simplify your operations
A day in the life of your IT team involves a lot of admin and everyday tasks. Add in the complexity created by so much tech, and your IT department can quickly become overwhelmed by the little bits, rather than focusing their energy on the projects that really need their attention. Since hyper-converged infrastructure systems consolidate core storage, backup, deduplication and networking, goes without saying that hardware clutter and touchpoints get drastically reduced. All workloads fall under the same umbrella which makes it easier to migrate VMs between different appliances or data centres. With all of that previously pesky everyday admin duties taken care of, the IT department can either get smaller, or redistribute their focus into something more important. Legacy data centre hardware gets folded into HCI, which means that there’s no need to have several specialists in each resource area running around the office- IT staff only need a broad knowledge to apply infrastructure resources to meet individual application needs.

Make automation work for you
Legacy infrastructure has proven to be quite a hindrance in the face of the latest waves of tech modernisation. Because they can be so varied and complex, automation has been impossible to adopt. As hyper-converged infrastructure works on the principle of a software-defined data centre, automation of routine operations can be achieved with centralised management tools implemented. Everything is included in a unified environment, taking the headache of implementing hardware from various manufacturers or product lines. Adapting automation increases efficiency of the IT team, keeping the business as a whole agile and competitive.

Data protection
Organisations are looking for the Holy Trinity when it comes to their IT infrastructure; the ability to work remotely, having the most agile and up-to-date infrastructure, and keeping everything safe. With an organisation’s network no longer confined to the four brick walls of the building, protecting data, applications and workspaces from the evil lurking beyond the perimeter has become even more important, especially in the wake of Gen-V cyber attacks such as WannaCry. Hyper-converged infrastructure is a leader in cloud efficiency and storage, incorporating snapshotting, data deduplication and other data protection features which is exactly what you want in your corner when disaster strikes and you need to recover everything. It offers higher resiliency than traditional legacy systems, with the scale-out model relying on data being spread across multiple nodes throughout a single, or between several, data centres. If one appliance or rack goes down, you won’t have to worry about performance or availability suffering.

Feel the freedom of flexibility and scalability
Another step away from the archaic confines of a legacy system, HCI allows for greater flexibility for your data centre. Since it’s based in software, it takes a ‘Lego block’ approach to scalability, with each HCI appliance a self-contained unit that includes all of the hardware resource your data centre needs. This allows increased compatibility, and a quick expansion of data centre capacity by simply adding on an extra unit or two when needed. There’s no need for complex update plans each time you need to expand, nor do you need to plan years in the future by estimating what compute resource you might need and investing in costly data centres all in one go, just for it all to be old and out of date by the time you need it.

Simplified procurement and support
Since HCI is basically a plug-and-play unit that incorporates pretty much everything you would need in your data centre, it’s quite similar to the offerings of systems integrators. By getting one point of contact for the life of the system, your IT team can cut out a lot of unnecessary faffing about between different vendors and hardware models. This makes it more cost-effective than integrated systems, especially when it comes to upgrades. When the manufacturer makes any upgrades, the units gain the benefits automatically, without having to replace hardware.

At Cetus, we have a long-standing relationships with leading HCI vendors. Have a chat with one of our experts, and experience the benefits of HCI first-hand.

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Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Check Point, Cloud, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

Practice Safe Mobility – Protect Your Endpoints


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It’s not the naughties anymore – the age of consequence-free mobility is over I’m afraid. It’s time to start practicing safe mobility. It’s time to put some endpoint protection on your ‘device’. The result of not doing so exposes your business to risk from threats, data loss, and unauthorised access.

For decades now, endpoint security has been the domain of anti-virus software. This was because Windows endpoints were the primary target, and we all ‘knew’ that they were vulnerable. Many businesses installed AV software on endpoint and moved on to more important matters…

So, what’s changed? Well, I would suggest that things have changed from two perspectives: the ‘use case’ has changed, and the threat environment has changed.
Taking each in turn…

From a use case perspective:
• The age of the virtual desktop seemed to be upon us (at least from Cetus’ perspective) – and then came ‘the well-managed Windows 10 desktop’.

• We’ve been acting like consumers for years now – buying smart phones, tablets and phablets and then wanting to use them for work.

• We’ve also been liberating ‘our’ data – storing it in personal cloud stores like Dropbox and sending it via our personal email accounts in an effort to be more productive
So what’s changed from a threat perspective?

• The days of good ‘old-fashioned’ viruses seemed to disappear when the use of nation state cyber weapons ransomware became an everyday thing (think Wannacry).

• Threats are now specifically targeting mobile devices (think Man-in-the-Middle Attacks. Women-in-the-Middle attacks are also a threat).

• Public cloud services are now part of most corporate strategies (think OneDrive), extending network boundaries into ill-defined, global data centres.

• Increased legislation with regards to the protection of individuals and their personal data (think the GDPR and its somewhat over stated, but none the less terrifying €20m fine).

The above list is by no means exhaustive, and tries to give a flavour of the changing threat landscape. So where am I going with this? Well, the good news is that our friends at Check Point have a solution to your cyber woes. Our cyber security portfolio provides Check Point End Point Security and Security Gateway Appliances that allow us to provide end-to-end security that encompasses your data centre, end points and the Cloud.
Specifically, from an endpoint perspective – Check Point provides data security, network security, threat prevention and a remote access VPN for complete Windows, Mac OS X and mobile device security.

If you’ve been playing fast and loose with your endpoints then we’re here to help. Our free-of-charge Security Posture Review will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

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Blog, GDPR, News, Our Upcoming Events

GDPR – That ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ might just be a train coming!


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Having been asked to blog about GDPR; I decided to avoid the standard, attention-grabbing approach of stating the size of the fine for a breach of the upcoming GDPR regulation. If you’re not already aware – check your junk mail for GDPR workshop invites; it’ll be somewhere in the header or first paragraph.

I’ll start, instead, with a question: Are you struggling to get a handle on GDPR? Welcome to the club! As organisations of all sizes stand trapped in the headlights that are ‘the May 25th GDPR deadline’; who better to turn to than the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for some clarity. The ICO provide a helpful ‘What’s New’ section; so, I thought I’d take a look at February’s ‘news’. It included such helpful guidance as:
The term “right” in the provision does not mean that Article 22(1) applies only when actively invoked by the data subject. Article 22(1) establishes a general prohibition for decision-making based solely on automated processing.

And:
Article 35(3)(a) refers to evaluations including profiling and decisions that are ‘based’ on automated processing, rather than ‘solely’ automated processing. We take this to mean that Article 35(3) (a) will apply in the case of decision-making including profiling with legal or similarly significant effects that is not wholly automated, as well as solely automated decision-making defined in Article 22(1).

So that was helpful.

Seeking even greater clarity, I turned to Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner; who has been doing the rounds ahead of the May ‘deadline’. Ms Denham is clearly passionate about her mission, and speaks very clearly on the importance of GDPR; however, there is a degree of ambiguity in her messaging. In various blogs and speeches this year; she has provided the following guidance (which I’ve taken the liberty of categorising based on her perceived stance):

Very Hard: “Last year we issued more than one million pounds in fines for breaches of the Data Protection Act, so it’s not a power we’re afraid to use.”

Hard: “There will be no ‘grace’ period as organisations will have already have had two years to prepare.”

Vague: “Compliance should involve an ongoing effort in which organisations have to show they are putting the key building blocks in place”.

Soft: “While there will be no grace period – you’ve had two years to prepare – I know that when 25 May dawns, there will be many organisations that are less than 100% compliant.”

Very Soft: Ms Denham has said her organisation “is not planning to take a hard line on the 25 May implementation date for compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation”

I hope that makes things clearer for you? No? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Cetus has run a series of GDPR workshops over the last year and they’ve been attended by a wide range of people, with an equally wide range of opinions on GDPR. These range from “it’s a disaster about to happen” to “thought I’d pop along to see what all the fuss is about”. The funny thing is that they were all correct – it’s just a matter of how well your preparations are under way that defines the potential impact to your organisation come the 25th May.

Common amongst many of our workshop attendees was the fact that ours wasn’t the first (or even second) GDPR workshop they’d attended. However, the post-workshop feedback pretty much unanimously agreed that our approach to explaining GDPR was the most helpful they’d had; but why?

Unlike others; we described how a multi-partner approach needs to be taken. We combined deep subject knowledge from a GDPR practitioner; with a holistic security approach that looks to redefine an organisations digital boundary. At the end of the workshop we’d provided clear, practical next steps to allow the attendees to prepare for the deadline.

So, is GDPR just a legislative thing? Once again, I would like to quote Elizabeth Denham – “Only one in five people in the UK trust organisations to look after their data”. That’s a pretty miserable statistic. You might ask yourself – are you one-in-five, or are you one of the untrusted 80%? It could be more important to the future of your organisation than ‘mere’ legislation.

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Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, IT Solutions, Uncategorized

The Sheep with No Legs, a World of Many Clouds


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Industrial revolution? The next technology wave? The new age of computing? Just exactly where are we? Automation, augmented reality, big data (too much data), analytics, the drivers for DevOps, AI, machine learning and IoT all have commercial merit and compose strong business cases to deliver that USP or unique value to your business. Long gone are the days of a ‘steady as she goes’ business, the fight for supremacy, the competitive edge and more so survival, will never leave us.

My team and I here at Cetus have been presenting the merits of “The Journey to the Cloud” and building solutions on Cloud platforms since 2010, that seems an age considering the average age of a sheep is only ten years!  Does this mean we’ve not got long left for the Cloud?!

Today we live in a world of many Clouds. I presented this at our recent annual Cetus Summit to my team, I like it! Public, private, hybrid, even bespoke clouds are all too common platform choices alongside regular physical platforms. Many Clouds depicts choice, agility and flexibility. After all no two customers are the same and differentiating business outcomes define organisational stature, a mantra deep in the core of Cetus DNA.

As many organisations have started their cloud journeys and are embracing the utility base computing model, delivering computing like the flick of a light-switch analogy, what constraints are we starting to see?

One must be open and adaptable to the X-as a service model, utilising computing technology the same way your utilities at home are consumed.  I have the little house-spy that monitors consumption of ‘Gaz and Lekkie’ so like it or not, I’m used to a consumption model.  So, it’s actually very easy for us to embrace right?!

Public Cloud adoption whilst both worldwide and dominating, delivering new ways of service delivery is, believe it or not, still in its infancy and does carry constraints.  Let’s go back to the world of many Clouds. Hybrid Cloud platforms, designed and developed specifically for you, your business, your requirements and your desired business objectives, how does that sound? Indeed, much more flexible right?!

But, yes, there’s always a but! What we are starting to see is big data continuing to grow into ‘colossal data’ and it just keeps coming and, we’re really only at the start of the IoT revolution too.  Analytics is almost imperative for management of large volumes of data for organisations to gain the crucial value of their data. Interestingly for the first time in years, hardware vendors are reporting increased sales in high powered edge computing, powerful desktops and laptops. Why? What’s driving this? Simplicity, Data and Analytics. Data can be generated too fast and too large to transport efficiently to the cloud, no doubt costly too, analytics engines need efficient data access and fast processing to produce crucial and meaningful real-time results.

So, the tin-vendors are seeing increases in edge computing sales, meeting demands for high productivity and driving computing efficiency, organisations striving for speedy real-time information at source on a more common well managed Windows 10 device. It’s not unusual for analytics engines to be local to the data, factories, plants, branch offices etc. I recently had the pleasure of understanding how a leading F1 team handles valuable car data and analytics in a matter of seconds, incredible!

So, what next? If i could give you that answer id most likely be ‘up there’ with Elon Musk and some dude named Gates!

The world of many Clouds is upon us, allowing companies like Cetus to design and develop the most flexible, tailored, agile and powerful computing solutions in our heritage. Solutions which embrace on-premise, SaaS, public and hybrid cloud platforms, together in a single managed service or consumption model, this is realism, right now, exciting times!  The increase in edge computing power arguably further stretches the cloud to the desktop, I like the phrase ‘where digital and physical worlds meet’ and forms part of the hybrid or the many-clouds solution.

A further recent debate I had discussed that Cloud is the future’… yet edge / physical computing is on the increase.  Will we see cloud saturation? Will real-time demands and the all-crucial analytics overload bandwidth and public cloud platforms driving a return to local, on premise computing?  The tin-vendors remain buoyant, selling truck-loads of servers to the world of many clouds and now similarly increasing edge computing sales… perhaps a leading indicator?

Will we see a computing singularity? I’d suggest its right here, right now…

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Mike.pngMike English – Managing Director
Since forming Cetus in 2001, Mike drives change and development to ensure Cetus empower and deliver real value to our customers, enabling successful business outcomes.