Tuesday, 26 February 2013

French High-Speed Internet to Get Big Boost

The French government recently announced a new initiative designed to give the country’s high-speed Internet a boost while the same time creating jobs and stimulating French economy. French president Fran├žois Hollande intends to spend €17 billion over the next 10 years to connect every French household to super-fast broadband.

Although Hollande's idea is seen as a new initiative, it really is just a larger version of a plan floated by previous president Nicolas Sarkozy. Ambition Numerique (Digital Ambition) is nearly 4 times the size of Sarkozy's earlier $4.5 billion plan and quite a bit more ambitious when you consider how rural some parts of France are.

Some observers believe the large area of French countryside as compared to her major cities is the thing that has prevented such development in the past. They say that is also why the price tag for Hollande's initiative is so high. Building the infrastructure and running the fibre out to the countryside is nothing if not extremely daunting.

According to Hollande and others, the need for nationwide connection to super-fast fibre is absolutely necessary if the nation's businesses are to compete with the rest of Europe. Given the pace at which cloud computing and demand-based networking is growing throughout Europe, such an argument is easy to make. The biggest question surrounding the plan is the funding.

To finance the initiative Hollande plans three sources of revenue. One third will be funded by private industry sources, one third through private/public partnerships, and the final third from the state and local governments. Most of the private and community money will be focused on major cities while the state money will be spent on rural communities.

The initiative has been structured this way specifically because of an unwillingness among private companies to invest in rural areas. That is the same reason why Sarkozy's plan never got off the ground.

Investing to Keep Up

The current state of IT services and fibre networking in Europe dictates that France really does not have a choice; they must invest to keep up. And due to the geographic and economic make-up of the country, it seems they would be unable to keep up without government participation. In the UK, things are a bit different...

The fewer rural areas here means the private sector is much more willing to invest in fibre networks because there is money to be made. That is one of the reasons why the UK IT sector is the strongest in Europe. The continued development of super-fast broadband is certainly helping business and injecting some much-needed life into the UK economy.

We hope, for the sake of the French economy, that Hollande's plan does indeed work. Nevertheless, in a country where drastic austerity measures have been needed to prevent a complete financial collapse, the question of whether or not the government will be able to meet its financial goals with Ambition Numerique will be a lingering one for the next 10 years. If they start and are unable to finish, things could end up being worse.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Guest blog by Enlogic: "Data Centre World: Watch, Listen, Act"

The data centre industry is rightly under fire for draining power and failing to properly monitor energy consumption – so this month’s Data Centre World exhibition will provide the perfect platform from which many data centre managers can debate this contentious issue. 

Energy bills have soared by 140 per cent in eight years, combine this with mounting pressure on data centre managers to reduce energy used by their IT facilities, and the sector is clearly reaching a critical crossroads. 

Yes, those responsible for data centre operations are exposed to a lot of information and yes, it can be complex, but that doesn’t mean they can ignore it. I am shocked that managers are failing to take the lead and not using the advice available to them on how to solve this energy problem.

Basic changes, such as increasing the temperature inside the data centre by a single degree, as advised by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), can make huge savings, both green and cost. So there is absolutely no excuse for industry professionals to bury their heads in the sand. 

Change is coming and the industry must be ready for it. I do not underestimate the complexities involved in raising your temperature by just one degree, however there are marginal gains that managers should not be by-passing to be had even at the PDU level that could be small but vital to datacentres energy costs. PDUs enable managers to monitor where the power is going and when it’s being wasted on idle servers or hotspots, so they can determine where savings can be made.

I hope those managers who attend Data Centre World will use the event as an opportunity to educate themselves on energy consumption, and then start to take responsibility for how much energy they’re using in the data centre before we have a crisis on our hands.

This post was written by Eddie Desouza, Global Marketing Director, UK office, Enlogic, http://www.enlogic.com/

Thursday, 21 February 2013

After a Full-Year G Cloud Not Living up to Potential

Last February the UK government launched G-Cloud, an ambitious new platform designed to consolidate all of the country's public sector IT services and hosting under a single cloud. And while the project has seen moderate success over the last year, G-Cloud has not lived up to its full potential.

According to sources, G-Cloud has seen only about £6 million worth of deals come its way, mostly from the government's largest departments and a few local governments. However, the focus of the project was to provide hosting and managed services to all government agencies through small and medium-sized vendors. As it stands, most traditional vendors are still working through individual government departments rather than steering clients to the cloud.

Both G-Cloud program director Denise McDonagh and Huddle CEO Alastair Mitchell believe the slower-than-hoped-for adoption of the cloud is the result of an old mind-set that needs to be changed. Even as the UK government works to consolidate its data centres and do away with duplicate services, clients need to start thinking about the benefits of cloud computing in terms of cost effectiveness, efficiency and accessibility.

McDonagh said in an official statement that encouraging adoption of G-Cloud "requires a culture shift for the public sector that won't happen overnight." She asserts public sector IT managers need to embrace the idea of the cloud and set-aside the old paradigms.

In his remarks, Huddle pointed out two significant things. First, he mentioned the need to encourage public sector entities to purchase their IT services using the government's CloudStore. Second, Huddle fears a failure by the government to adopt a new mind-set will allow larger vendors to come in and push G-Cloud away from its foundational goals.

He acknowledges the G-Cloud's framework may not be enticing to larger, high-tech vendors because there isn't the same value as found in the private sector. Nevertheless, he believes the platform can thrive if the government adopts a top-down approach to pushing its use among the various departments.

The Public-Private Dilemma

While both McDonagh and Huddle have valid points, it would be beneficial to step back and look at the question from an economic perspective. The fact remains that the world of IT, cloud computing, and managed services is incredibly competitive. Perhaps part of the reason G-Cloud is struggling is an inability to recognise that competition.

It is great to have the idealistic goals set forth when G-Cloud was first conceived. Those goals should be pursued as much is possible. However, the competition provided by vendors is a good tool to trim platforms like G-Cloud to avoid unnecessary bloat. Rather than keep larger, tech-oriented vendors off the field, G-Cloud officials might do better to welcome them in and accept their input.

In the end, G-Cloud will only be as successful as the specialised services it provides the government agencies it is aimed at. If the platform cannot produce both results and value, officials will be hard-pressed to justify its widespread adoption.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bill Gates: Technology Visionary or Tired Philanthropist?

Bill Gates, founder and former CEO of Microsoft, recently sat down for a question-and-answer session with Reddit AMA. Among the questions fielded by readers were inquiries regarding Gates' use of a Mac, his position on an open Internet, and his relationship with the late Steve Jobs.

Perhaps the most intriguing question came from a reader who wanted to know where Gates thought personal computing will be heading in the future. Equally intriguing was the answer that flowed from the software wizard's keyboard. If Gates is correct, not only will personal computing be drastically different, so will networking and unified communications.

Smartphones and Tablets Temporary

In his answer, Gates all but conceded that smartphones and tablets rule the consumer computing world of today. He noted their convenience as one of the top reasons they are so well received. However, he also believes mobile computing in this way is only temporary.

Gates envisions a world where more universal devices providing multiple functionality will one day dominate the personal computing landscape. He also sees technologies like voice recognition, handwriting recognition, and bio security features becoming commonplace. Truth be told, he is probably not far off.

Just as an example, this author produces all his content using voice recognition software from Nuance. The popular Dragon Naturally Speaking package is capable of such accurate voice recognition it can be used to completely control the entire computing experience in the hands (or should we say "the mouth") of an experienced user.

Not only that, Toshiba and other companies have been working on software that can react to instructions given by a web cam following the eyes of a computer user. The new Windows 8 operating system is rumoured to have the capability of being controlled just by the eyes. Users allegedly navigate by looking in one direction or another and blinking to activate and deactivate applications.

The Future of Networking

The undercurrent of all this new technology is twofold: consumption-based networking and unified communications across unlimited platforms and geographic boundaries. But there is a catch. Personal computing technology is moving along faster than networking. To counter this, IT companies and data centre operators are pouring financial resources into new technologies like never before.

If the brave new world of computing Gates envisions is to come to pass, the world's network providers need to aggressively pursue fibre optics and other emerging technologies. And doing so requires more than just white papers and technology magazine blogs. It requires serious financial investments and quite a bit of risk taking.

In this, Bill Gates offers a valuable lesson as well. He did not build Microsoft into the giant it has become by being passive or cautious. He and his executive staff forged ahead over the course of several decades to define personal computing as we know it. Following his example is the blueprint for one technology company to become the leader of the IT and international networking world.

Is Bill Gates a technology visionary or a tired philanthropist? Only time will tell...

Friday, 15 February 2013

Guest blogger Terry Vergon's "Hiring a Facilities Manager"

Tradition may dictate that the best technician or the most senior person in your organization be promoted into supervisory or managerial positions, but this practice may not always be the best choice in reality.  Yes, the best technician or most senior person most likely demonstrates some of the technical knowledge and skill that would be required of anyone filling the role of facilities manager.  But the fact is that if you don’t look for these other important traits when you make the hire, your facilities manager will likely fail – or at least fail to be as successful as they need to be.

In The Crucial Role Of The Facilities Manager In Mission Critical Environments, I discussed what to look for when hiring a facilities manager (or any member of the facilities management team, for that matter) but how do you know which candidates actually embrace these qualities? To answer this question, we must take an honest look at some of the most important traits for success in the position:
They have technical knowledge and education:  It almost goes without saying, but the candidate should have the ability to understand the engineering, physics, and chemistry behind the facilities processes of your organization to allow them to make critical decisions concerning safety and risk mitigation.
They are the example and not the exception:  Probe your candidate’s past behaviors in various situations to discover if they innately understand that they need to be the example of the behaviors they want to see in others.  These are the people who lead from the front, who show first and expect others to follow.  This trait may not be readily apparent, so look for occasions when the person was leading and explore their behavior during this period.  Ask about the times they were the example for their group.  See if you can find instances where they were in a leadership position but they nonetheless identified with their group as opposed to that they “led” the group.
They like a challenge:  The best managers like challenges.  Challenges become motivation for them.  But be careful not to confuse this with “firefighting.”  Some managers thrive on fighting fires, even to the point that they create situations where this behavior is needed.  The managers that are motivated by challenges see firefighting as a situation that needs to change and they will attempt to change it.  Lead your candidate in a discussion around whether they truly enjoy challenges or putting out fires.
They are naturally curious:  As with technicians in this field, the best managers are naturally curious.  To determine if this trait is truly part of your candidate’s makeup, delve into their experiences and stories to see if they learn things on their own.  See if they express an interest in how things work or seem to want to know more information about the science behind something and why it operated the way it did.  If the candidate explains that they tried to explore how to make it work better, it is a pretty clear sign that they are motivated by natural curiosity.  You can also identify the trait in their educational pursuits (the mere fact that they have some) and the questions they ask.
They are constantly learning:    Another trait that great managers have in common with the best technicians is a constant drive to learn.  This trait fits with their natural curiosity but is actually different.  They are always on the lookout for opportunities to increase their knowledge.  They may be working toward an industry-recognized certification or a degree in a particular field of interest.  They may also regularly attend seminars that relate to their profession or subscribe to industry publications.  Busy as they are, they still manage to devote time to this pursuit and it shows in their resumes and experiences.
They are natural communicators:  Evaluate how comfortable your candidate is when discussing their experiences.  Do they naturally like to talk to people?  Are they at ease in front of a group?  Are their messages easily understood?  What about their correspondence?  Do they write coherent, complete sentences or do they convey their thoughts with short, cryptic notations?  Natural communicators can paint vivid pictures in their listeners’ minds.
They are natural teachers:  If you have a candidate that is a natural communicator, odds are that they are also a natural teacher, because the two traits work together.  Great managers teach constantly.  They teach about the expectations of the company and they teach about new processes.  In fact, teaching just becomes their primary mode of communication.  Even during their interviews, they will teach you about themselves.  If you feel you’ve learned something during the interview, it’s a good sign your candidate is a natural teacher.
They genuinely want people to succeed:  Great leaders have a genuine desire to see their people succeed, and their attitude and behaviors express that they are willing to help others.  Inquire about the values that their stories convey to understand more about the attitudes that created their behavior.
They have business acumen:  The best facilities managers understand that they are part of a business.  Whether the organization is for profit or nonprofit, these managers recognize that they do not have unlimited resources and, consequently, they spend these resources to the maximum benefit of their organization.  They must understand and be able to work with concepts of return on investment, total cost of ownership, differences between capital, expenses and depreciation.
A great facilities manager can put a project like replacing older florescent lights with newer LED lights into terms that the CFO can understand.  They understand how their operations and decisions affect the business, and they easily translate actions and consequences into the language of engineering or business.  To assess your candidate’s ability in this regard, ask them to discuss their last successful project in terms the CFO would understand.
Their personal values match the organization’s values:  A facilities manager can actually possess all of the attributes listed above and still be unsuccessful.  In fact, if there is one determining factor for success as a facilities manager – indeed for anyone in an organization – it is whether their personal values match the organization’s values.  Particularly for managers that make decisions which materially affect an organization, as would be the case with a facilities manager in a mission critical environment, their decisions must align naturally with the goals and values of their organization – or they will ultimately quit or be forced out.  Assessing the personal values of a candidate is too complicated to quickly mention here, so we will tackle that subject in my next blog.
These are important qualities to look for as you go in search of a facilities manager, but there is one more when the facilities involved are mission critical.
They thoroughly understand risk mitigation:  When faced with mission critical facilities, the entire purpose for the facilities department is tied to the concept of risk mitigation.  The concept of risk mitigation is applied and considered in everything that the facilities manager does.  So with this trait, you should take a very direct line of inquiry and specifically ask them to describe their attitudes and understanding of risk mitigation and its importance to mission critical facilities.
The person that has control over some of your most valuable assets and resources should be chosen with great care, and your selection process should include techniques that quickly identify the presence or absence of each of these important attributes. While this blog is not meant to be an exhaustive list – in fact, I’m certain you can add to it – I have found that these specific traits are vital for any facilities manager.  Hiring a manager is always a daunting task, but I hope these suggestions will help you succeed in the effort.  

Many thanks to industry veteran Terry Vergon for allowing us to post this blog.  You can read Terry's other blogs by clicking here