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    SAS IT Newsletter Aug 17

    by Ian Hight
    Welcome to the SASIT August newsletter

    In this issue

    Why should you care about data privacy?
    Software expertise facilitates faster path to market - DTR customer story
    The next stage of virtualisation - Containers
    IBM Power systems support
    Co innovation and customer centricity
    Watson summit draws a large crowd

    Why should you care about data privacy? Interview with Sheila Fitzpatrick

    By Ian Hight

    Data privacy is probably a topic that you haven’t given much consideration to.  If that is the case then we suggest that now would be a good time to rethink. The consequences of getting data privacy wrong are becoming more severe and at the same time compliance is becoming more challenging as regulations change and cloud based operations create new liabilities.  

    Given the changing landscape we thought you might be interested in the expert analysis and opinions of Sheila Fitzpatrick who is one of the world leading authorities on the topic of data privacy.  Sheila visited New Zealand recently and presented at a number of forums.  We took the opportunity to interview her whilst she was here.

    Software expertise facilitates faster path to market - DTR customer story

    DTR - Proud SAS IT Customer

    DTR is a New Zealand business that has been serving Kiwis since 1962. The company has evolved significantly since then and today sells a wide range of products including whiteware, computers, furniture, gaming equipment and much more through 23 stores nationwide. At the core of the business the company offers finance products and cash loans.

    SASIT has a long standing relationship with DTR for the provision of software development and integration services.

    In recent years, the pace of change has accelerated and in order to stay competitive it has become essential to use technology in increasingly smarter and more sophisticated ways. 

    Whilst DTR have their own highly skilled IT resources, developing and bringing to market increasingly sophisticated financial products often calls for timely specialist skills and that’s where SASIT comes in as part of the team. SASIT’s involvement typically might include: architecture, systems design, user interface design, coding and integration. 

    Central DTR components to the development of new financial products are; the Sovereign Financial System, DTR’s core business application and an external interface to Equifax for the integration of individual's credit data. 

    During the last 12 months SASIT has worked closely with DTR and brought to market “Easicash” which involved integrating the cash loans system with a web based application to facilitate simple and efficient loan applications. Also developing a revolving credit account capability which involved a major overhaul of the DTR hire purchase system and provides an improved customer experience through more efficient processing. A further project involved developing a web based system to enable car dealers to use DTR to provide financing. 

    Lee Trigg – IT Manager at DTR commented: “The main reason we engage SASIT is that we have confidence in their ability to deliver.  SASIT helps us get products to market quickly which is increasingly important. We now see them as part of our team who can contribute as required with architecture, systems design, programming and so on. The fact that they are very easy to deal with is an added bonus.” 

    The next stage of virtualisation - Containers

    By Ivo Kohler 

    Containers - The next stage of virtualisationUp until a few years ago, the most common way for enterprise software to be developed, sold and deployed was as monolithic packaged applications requiring large computing platforms.  More recently, due to the growth of cloud computing, agile development processes, and the need for lightweight, virtualised applications and enterprise architecture flexibility, the market trend has been toward microservices and containerisation.

    The reason microservices and containerisation have become so popular is that they allow organisations to decouple software into smaller functional pieces and separate the software from the underlying hardware.  Doing both of these things, speeds up development, allows for faster and lower cost updating, increases resiliency and increases scalability.

    Containerisation is, in effect, OS-level virtualisation (as opposed to VMs, which run on hypervisors, each with a fully embedded OS). Containers are easily packaged, lightweight and designed to run anywhere. Multiple containers can be deployed in a single VM.  A microservice is an application with a single function, such as routing network traffic.

    The microservices architectural approach involves developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms. These services are built around business capabilities and independently deployable by fully automated deployment components.

    The concept of containers is not new; stringing microservices together into functional applications is an evolution of the service-oriented architecture (SOA), which was very popular a few years ago.  Also containers have been available in Linux for a very long time, however it was the Docker open-source project that has really accelerated the current uptake of containers.

    Docker provides an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating-system-level virtualization on Linux and Windows. Docker uses the resource isolation features of the Linux kernel such as cgroups and kernel namespaces.

    So now you may be wondering what the difference between containers and VMs is.  A simple analogy is that a VM is a house, it has its own foundation, plumbing, electric wiring etc. On the other hand we have a container.  Think of a container as an apartment in a block of flats. It is still very secure. It has its own doors, however many parts are shared with the other apartments (electric wiring, plumbing, etc).

    The advantage is fairly obvious, in order to provide secure access to certain applications (apache, ftps, even database) hefty VMs (i.e. RAM, CPU , HDD, management ) no longer need to be provided.

    Now it is possible to run many independent applications, which can be completely isolated from each other.

    Containers are very portable. A container application can be developed on a laptop and once completed it can be deployed on any Docker host as long as the architecture is the same. A Docker host can be run on a VMware farm or on any public cloud provider.

    At SASIT we have, or will have migrated to containers: apache webserver, reverse proxy, load balancers, mail relay and many other software functions. The general rule for us is: if we can containerise an application, we will.

    Running a container on a single Docker host comes with some challenges, when maintenance is needed or if the Docker host goes down, obviously the container will go down with it. Resilience is where container orchestration application comes in. Simply define what the application should look like (RAM, CPU allocation, what port should be listening on) and then pass this information to the orchestration layer.

    An orchestration application such as Kubernetes will take care of scheduling the application across the nodes. From this point on it is not necessary to worry about where the container (pod in Kubernetes terms ) runs. If any of the hosts that are part of the Kubernetes cluster go down, the Kubernetes itself takes care of re-scheduling the pod elsewhere. Bear in mind that the idea of most containers is that they can be destroyed at will, and a new one is started, instead and the whole process should take no more than a few seconds, yes that’s right, seconds.

    Where traditionally a business would run a single application per VM, with containers it’s easy to run many applications (depending on the specification of the VM itself) on a single host.

    In summary, microservices and containers are relatively easy to deploy and can bring major benefits to companies of any size.

    IBM Power systems support

    By Ian Hight

    For many years SASIT has been Australasia's largest provider of managed services for the IBM power systems platform with more systems under management than any other IBM Business Partner in this region. The market move to cloud particularly over the last five years has benefited SASIT in a number of ways, the most obvious being in the provision of public cloud services but also with the provision of private cloud services that include management of IBM i platforms. Managed services of IBM i systems ranges from the provision of cloud based infrastructure through to on demand 24 x7 support. We have IBM infrastructure spread across five data centres as well as providing support for customers with on premise equipment. A short overview is presented in this video.

    Co innovation and customer centricity

    By Tony Wilson

    Tony presents to customers.png

    Recently I decided to go out and talk to as many groups as I could about Co Innovation and Customer Centricity. The main reason I did this was because I was concerned that business leaders seeking improved customer engagement were becoming overly focused on the technology. The point I wanted to get out there and lead some thinking on, was it's actually about sound business strategy. And more to the point, we now have a huge amount of data on which to base good business strategy.

    There is an internet full of customers out there but how do you effectively engage with them? This is not a new question, the build it and they will come attitude was one of the primary reasons for failure in the dot-com era, something I witnessed first-hand. The difference today is we have some much more real time information about the digital world we are operating in which in turn enables solid real time decision making. The foundation of any digital engagement strategy is asking and answering for yourself the why question.

    • Why are we on Facebook?
    • Why have we invested in that mobile app?

    I'd like to emphasize that to be successful it is important to really understand, 'very well' the reasons that the business is 'online', what outcomes are expected, and under what conditions. The point I made in the workshops I ran was that it may be more effective to appear at a trade show with posters, balloons and a coffee machine; if the business doesn’t fully understand the answer to the why question this may be the best option.  The business could be wasting money on a sophisticated content delivery platform.

    So assuming the why question has been answered the next step is  to figure out what activities, campaign's and projects are going to be needed. Here is where Co Creation thinking starts as the what question comprises two key things, the market assets and the audience. This is a very deep subject, which is hard to cover in a short blog but...businesses must constantly evolve in order to remain relevant and aligned to the changing needs and expectations of their customers. Do nothing, and you risk leaving the door open for that disruptive competitor to come in and capture an un-serviced customer, potentially eroding your market share.

    So why focus on co-creation?

    Companies engage in co-creation projects because they want them to foster the discovery of customer interest and value, which they can turn into innovation and competitive advantage.

    Most co-creation objectives can be classified into one of three categories:

    1. Generation – In these cases, the company’s objective is to solicit ideas, suggestions or designs from customers and other stakeholders, through contests or open-ended appeals, for subsequent use in the design and development of products and services.
    2. Refinement – Here, collaborators work with company representatives to refine one or more features of a target product or service, to help improve its physical performance, leading to a better customer experience.
    3. Creating Things – Collaborators and the company professional's work together to develop a prototype of an entirely new product or service. In almost all cases the prototype needs additional refinement and improvement before it is ready for commercialization.

    Meeting co-creation objectives drives engagement with market assets. Engagement I must emphasise is a doing thing. This can be digital engagements with information content or services or real world physical stuff, back to the balloons and coffee machine!

    • Engagement turns contacts into interested customers whom the business will facilitate, invite and inspire.
    • Engagement converts to Interaction - Interaction usually happens within your organisation's building, website and social media presence and is successful when the audience proactively advocates your organisation and its assets
    • Empowering engaged people and providing them with timely feedback, if done well, might create enthusiasts. On an average, for every 1,000 contacts, you’ll get one enthusiast

    Focusing on co-creation then by necessity leads to becoming customer centric in your thinking. So hopefully I have provided a brief but useful overview into driving customer centricity through co-innovation.

    Watson Summit draws a large crowd

    Around 650 people packed into Shed 10 on Auckland’s waterfront on Wednesday afternoon.  As well as listening to a number of presentations, attendees had the opportunity to see demonstrations of business applications that incoroporated cognitive computing. The sheer size of the turnout highlights the current level of interest in artificial intelligence, and particularly Watson.

    Thirteen year old Canadian Tanmay Bakshi stole the show.  He was billed as “the world's youngest working algorithmist”, who even knew that was a job? But of course algorithms are essential to AI, neural networks, and machine learning. 

    Beyond being an algorithimist, Tanmay is an author, teacher, keynote speaker, IBM cloud advisor, coder (he started at 5 years old) and You Tuber with over 22,000 subscribers. Quite simply a genius kid who impressed the crowd.   A very short video of him on stage at the Summit is shown below. Also – if you want to listen to him talking about his favourite topics see the interview he did last year.   




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