3 years of digital transformation in the first 3 months of lockdown
We are now coming to the end of the enterprise technology events season which has been a very different one this year. Whilst the venues of home offices and living rooms shared with home schooling children and pets competing for our attention has been a very different experience to the bright lights of Las Vegas and San Francisco, the messaging from the technology vendors has been very focused on driving productivity for such a workplace. The new digital workspace is not just being talked about anymore, it’s here, and we have effectively been through 3 years of digital transformation in the first 3 months of lockdown.
The Dell Technologies 2020 Live event was the latest big tech event to be held online and whilst there was a strong enterprise infrastructure element which I will discuss later on, it had a very clear focus on end user and client technology. The event acknowledged the new ways of working whilst indicating that we are not quite there yet and that we need to make the experience more manageable and secure.
The Digital Workspace
One session by VMware resonated with me and identified 3 key phases in creating the Future Workforce which I would like to explore a little deeper.
At the start of the pandemic, we absolutely responded with a massive push towards getting people working from home effectively, with offices being shutdown overnight. As somebody who works in IT, work has always been an activity not a location, however I do understand that this is a very different way of working for the majority of the UK workforce.
During the first couple of weeks in lockdown, remote working was largely achieved by businesses buying more remote access VPN licenses for their firewalls, running to PC World, buying any laptop they had available and leaning very heavily on their IT departments or external support organisation to ‘just get it working’. This was pretty much achieved, but not ideal. We are now very much in the adapt phase and there are several reasons why this continues to be a headache for us:
-The firewalls or remote access gateways we had in place weren’t necessarily designed or sized to cope with the number of users and network traffic we are now putting through them.
-The applications used within the organisation were normally architected around the needs of the many i.e. the local users whereby there was always fast local network access to the servers. Working remotely introduces additional latency and response times for application traffic.
-Lack of configuration consistency in that we may have been forced to piece together our remote worker solution from whatever we could get our hands on rather than having standard builds and laptop images that we know work.
Not only do all these issues lead to a poor user experience, but it also causes us major headaches trying to secure our applications and data, to support our existing end users and onboard new employees effectively. None of these are new problems, however the whole lockdown situation has brought them very much to the forefront. For those companies who had already invested in remote workforce solution such as VMware Horizon VDI (Virtual desktop) the scaling up was relatively straightforward by adding more resources to the VDI back end.
But how about those companies that still rely heavily on physical desktop and laptops for end users? Moving these to home worker environments presents a whole new set of challenges when it comes to keeping them patched, secured and supported. This is where mobile device management solutions such as VMware Workspace One and Microsoft Intune come into it. These solutions have evolved from MDM (Mobile Device Management) to UEM (Unified Endpoint Management) applications by expanding their capabilities to cover not just management of mobile phones and tablets based on IOS or Android but also Windows devices.
These tools allow us to accelerate this type of remote working by making it easier to remotely provision, support and secure the remote devices wherever they are.
This can also provide additional benefits in this new way of working whereby we can very easily provision workspaces for short-term contractors and transient employees ensuring the time taken to get them productive is as low as possible and allowing them to work from anywhere.
The Data Decade
In addition to end-user computing, storage was also a big topic at the event. With 59ZB (that’s a billion TB) of data written so far in 2020 and the fact that data is doubling every 4 years means that the 2020’s are very much becoming the data decade.
It is vitally important that the data is processed efficiently, is leveraged to provide real business benefits, and is protected effectively. Several new and enhanced solutions from Dell Technologies are looking to address these needs.
Powerstore: is the new high-performance, low latency, mid-range storage platform from Dell Technologies that allows seamless scale up and scale out to meet the needs of today’s demanding on-premises applications. But why is this important? When it comes to business-critical applications, faster is always better. People never complain that their storage is too fast. With faster performance, we can do more in less time or make quicker decisions. The Powerstore achieves this in several ways:
Active-Active architecture: both storage controllers work together to provide access to the storage – think of this like 2 trains pulling a heavy load which is more efficient, and you get better performance.
End-to-end NVME: NVMe or Non-Volatile Memory Extension Express is more than just a new type of disk or interface, it is a complete new protocol design from the ground up that in its simplest terms shortens the data path (the speed of light being our ultimate enemy) and reduces complexity (fewer resources required to perform a storage task).
More Lanes: NVMe provides many more paths for data locks – think about a motorway compared to the road outside your house. Not only is it faster but it also has more lanes allowing much more traffic to pass through.
This all leads to dramatically faster storage where our current SSD storage becomes the bottleneck with its latency (time to carry out a storage IO) measured in relatively lethargic milliseconds and NVMe measure in spritely microseconds, an order of magnitude faster.
NVMe also allows us to introduce SCM or Storage Class Memory which is another game changer when it comes to storage performance. This is a completely new type of storage that is much faster than flash storage. But, as with any newer faster technology, this is also ‘reassuringly expensive’ right now and will initially be seen as a higher tier layer for storage systems in very much the same way that flash storage is used now in hybrid arrays containing spinning disks. Additional technologies were also covered showing the full breadth and depth of the Dell Technologies storage solution set:
Powerscale: built on the class-leading Isilon, a highly scalable NAS solution for storage of unstructured data.
PowerMax: extreme performance storage providing five nines availability.
DataIQ: an unstructured dataset management and storage monitoring software used to identify, classify, and move data between heterogeneous storage systems and the cloud.
These were just some of the topics covered in a packed day of sessions, however the standout highlight for me was the introduction session by astronaut Tim Peak where he discussed how space technology has changed over the years. He talks expertly and passionately about how real-world digital transformation is not only driving advances in land-based technology such as agriculture but how technology is helping prepare for and drive space exploration to the moon and beyond. I would highly recommend watching the session here.
If you’d like to talk to our team, please get in touch today or book a meeting at your convenience.