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IT leadership & innovation

DRILLING FOR DATA

customer insight

business intelligence

planning

product pricing

analytics conversion rates customer data biometrics DEC 2013/JAN 2014 VO L .2 NO. 2 PP100009359

user activity

Big data user stories The changing face of e-health Is DAS dead?


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I don’t generally like being a broken record.

d e c

portant enough that I’ll do it anyway. In this case, it’s the overlap of ethics and technology. This issue we’re shining a light on big data. And as far as emerging technologies in business go, I reckon big data is the one we have to be most careful with. That’s why we asked our panel in this month’s From the Frontline about the privacy implications of big data, and how they expect that debate to play out.

2 0 1 3 / j a n

2 0 1 4

INSIDE

But sometimes a topic is im-

10 | 22 | 24 | 29 |

There is no Internet of Things – yet The changing face of healthcare Avoiding pitfalls on the path to the cloud UTM appliance picks up the slack

Don’t get me wrong: big data is not evil. It’s an immensely powerful, morally neutral technique that can be used in all sorts of ways to improve the world around us. Think of how it could be applied to things like cancer treatment, poverty, economics and more. But I believe there are hard questions we must ask and answer as an industry before we go hog wild with it. We’ve already seen what can happen when big data is used unscrupulously and, according to one of our panellists, we’re going to see more cases in the near future. Let’s hope it isn’t your company that’s in the headlines. Andrew Collins, Editor

F E A T U R E S 06| Is DAS dead?

18 | All data great and small Big data means different things to different people, and the ethical considerations around the tech are complicated.

Will big data be another oil rush with a few winners and many losers, or will it enrich us all?

ALSO available in DIGITAL This magazine and a complete library of back issues are available in digital format at

www.technologydecisions.com.au/latest_issue This issue’s eMag is proudly sponsored by http://www.nowonoffice365.com

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w w w . t e c h n o l o g y d e c i s i o n s . c o m . a u

cover image: ©iStockphoto.com/filo

RIP DAS

14 | Drilling for data Emerging storage technologies could mean the resurgence of direct attached storage (DAS).


RIPS DA Is DAS dead? Stephen Withers

6

Several years ago, there was a concerted move from directattached storage (DAS) towards SAN (storage area network) and NAS (networked-attached storage). But emerging storage technologies could mean the resurgence of DAS within the next 10 years.

T

wo of the main drivers of the

When a new physical drive is required, it

move from DAS to SAN and

can usually be installed without shutting

NAS were availability and vir-

down the array.

tualisation. Another downside of DAS is that in the

With traditional DAS, systems managers who

event of a failure the data is not available

needed to increase the amount of storage

to other servers. Restoring service therefore

on say an Exchange server might shut down

involves fixing the server, transplanting its

the server, install an additional drive, copy

drives into another server or restoring the

files to the new drive as necessary and restart

most recent backup plus the subsequent

Exchange - a relatively time-consuming

transactions to a replacement server. Again,

process. (Yes, there are variations on the

it’s not a quick process. More sophisticated

theme, but that is just an illustration.)

organisations might continuously replicate the data to a second server (possibly at a

But with a storage array on a SAN, it be-

different location) to support rapid failover,

came possible to ‘dial up’ additional storage

but that is relatively expensive and may

for that server with little or no downtime.

lack flexibility.

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(input/output operations per second) at

tem including backup and replication,

a modest price is most easily met by DAS,

Marin said.

especially by using flash storage (speed) alongside spinning disks (economy). That

Marin suggested DAS is appropriate for

combination of requirements is particu-

small sites with up to three servers and also

larly relevant to VDI (virtualised desktops)

for large installations where 20 or more

and Hadoop (big data analysis), he said.

servers are running the same application, but shared storage makes more sense in

Otherwise, the move to SAN was driven

the middle ground, which accounts for

largely by the heterogeneity of hardware

most of the market.

and workloads, and the ability to create consolidated pools of storage independent

David Holmes, programme manager for

of the hardware and operating systems

enterprise storage at Dell Asia Pacific,

in use.

identified specific workloads where DAS

©iStockphoto.com/bennyb

fits the bill: high-performance computing “DAS isn’t going away at all,” said John

(a large number of DAS spindles provide

Marin, principal technologist at NetApp.

the required speed with low cost and com-

“DAS isn’t going away at all. It ’s seeing a resurgence for a variety of reasons.” - John Marin, NetApp.

One of the big attractions of virtualisation

“It’s seeing a resurgence for a variety of

plexity), non-virtualised Exchange servers

is that it provides a way to move workloads

reasons.”

and anything that needs ‘cheap and deep’

between physical servers, whether that is for

storage. The main benefit is that DAS is

availability or for operational convenience

Historically, the model was one application

(eg, if the utilisation of a physical server falls

per server and DAS. The marginal cost of

below a certain level, its virtual machines

storage was low and the administrators of

Adrian De Luca, chief technology officer

could be moved automatically so that server

those servers had control over their own

for Asia Pacific at Hitachi Data Systems

can be shut down).

storage. That changed with the advent of

(HDS), observed “trends seem to skip a

widespread virtualisation, which required

couple of decades before they come back

That only works if the data is accessible by

shared storage and triggered big growth in

again”, suggesting that is what is happen-

other servers. If the only non-backup copy is

the SAN and NAS markets - from which

ing with DAS.

on disks that are physically attached to one

NetApp benefited.

server, there is no point moving the virtual machine to another server.

more cost-effective in these situations.

James Forbes-May, vice president for data While companies such as Facebook and

management at CA Technologies, had a

Salesforce.com do a lot with generic hard-

similar perspective: “Things go in cycles

On the other hand, the input/output require-

ware including DAS by building resilience

… there are different priorities over time.”

ments of some demanding applications could

into their software, this level of data

only be met by DAS, so it never went away.

management is not a core competence of

Early tests and trials with new-style DAS

most organisations so a rich, centralised

architectures are just beginning, De Luca

What (currently) needs DAS?

data management system is compelling.

said; for example, in small-scale VDI roll-

Technologies such as those in NetApp’s

outs (as in hundreds rather than thousands

Kevin McIsaac, IT industry analyst at IBRS,

Data Ontap Edge combine the benefits

of seats) where PCIe flash storage can

said a requirement for very high IOPS

of DAS with those of a centralised sys-

deliver a significant benefit. Such scale-out

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7


© iStockphoto.com/Henrik Jonsson

architectures (where compute and storage are in the same box) are also suited to big data projects, he said. Giving DAS the features needed to enable rapid recovery in the event of a disaster requires a lot of software capabilities and integration, said De Luca. “I don’t think any vendor has quite answered that question.” HDS uses Fusion-io flash cards in some of its Unified Compute Platform products, with the addition of the ability to write data through to a SAN for protection. But De Luca said it is important to consider whether the application will tolerate the

terms of failover between DAS-equipped

Workloads identified by Steppat as suitable

greater latency that occurs in the event

servers, to the extent that it’s now rare to

for VSAN include test and development

of a failover resulting in it accessing data

see Exchange deployments using SAN, he

(to avoid having any impact on produc-

on remote storage. Another problem with

said), and has been further boosted by

tion systems, for example), big data

write-through technology is that “there’s

the emergence of software-defined storage

(eg, in conjunction with vSphere 5.5 or

always a degree of risk because it’s an

products such as VMware’s Virtual SAN

VMware’s virtualisation-specific version

asynchronous operation”, he said.

(VSAN) and the Nutanix Virtual Comput-

of Hadoop known as Project Serengeti),

ing Platform (which combines processing

situations where cost-effective disaster

and storage in a modular appliance).

recovery is required (it avoids the need

Forbes-May was more bullish about DAS, saying that tier one servers are increas-

for an expensive storage array at both

ingly being used with DAS as a way of

Aaron Steppat, product marketing man-

locations) and VDI. He noted that where

getting the required performance, with

ager at VMware, said one of the big

conventional storage arrays may struggle

a variety of technologies such as host-

drawbacks of SAN was that it could only

to cope with hundreds or thousands of

based replication applied to ensure high

be managed from the server it was con-

users logging in simultaneously (eg, at

availability. “Seconds to minutes of data

nected to. VSAN changes that by providing

the start of a contact centre shift), VSAN

loss” are acceptable to 95% of businesses,

a single point of management for DAS

plus direct-attached flash storage can deal

he observed, pointing out that if virtually

across multiple servers. It offers highly

with such a “boot storm”.

zero downtime is required then more

redundant distributed storage - copies

expensive approaches such as clustering

of the data are held on at least three

VDI is a good example of workloads

can be employed. (Forbes-May noted

nodes - while holding the data as close

suited to new-style DAS, said Hughes.

that CA’s Project Oolong - a unified data

as possible to the compute resource that

“It’s usually hard to put that sort of

protection system spanning conventional

uses it. VSAN also accommodates tiered

workload on a SAN,” he said, though he

disk or tape backup through to instant

storage so solid-state devices can be used

concedes Pure Storage’s all-flash approach

failover for critical servers - is currently

for cost-effective performance.

to shared storage is “interesting”. Ten years

in ‘customer validation’ with a release

8

ago, SAN controllers called for expensive

version expected sometime in the next

According to Hughes, the focus on making

technology, but now general-purpose

12 months.)

SAN storage more efficient through the use

CPUs offer the required performance at

of technologies such as deduplication has

much lower cost.

Geoff Hughes, data management practice

largely stemmed from the cost of storage

lead at Bridge Point Communications, said

arrays, but inexpensive flash and SATA

But contrary to Steppat’s observation,

there has been a recent resurgence in the

drives that can be used without complex

Hughes said SAN is still the order of the

use of DAS. This started with Exchange

controllers or proprietary software make

day in environments that require very

2010 (proven to be a huge success story in

DAS a cheaper proposition.

high availability, especially with cross-site

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failover: “There’s no answer for that

all getting faster, disks were not keeping

storage arrays) and applications get the

[using DAS and TCP/IP],” he said. SAN

pace and therefore storage was becom-

maximum performance from the storage

is also the way to go where mainframe

ing the bottleneck in large transaction

devices (especially high-performance yet

connectivity is needed, he added.

processing systems, said Thomas.

relatively low-cost PCIe flash storage).

Oracle’s Engineered Systems approach

That said, “It’s all about the workload,”

can be applied to ensure that certain

looks at storage in a different way. DAS

he observed. IT needs to provide users

workloads always run on a server that

is installed in the Exadata Database Ma-

with what they need, so if shared storage

holds a copy of the data they use - this

chine, and because the Oracle Database

provides the required price/performance

is diametrically opposed to the SAN

runs in that same box, it is in full control

ratio, it makes sense to use it. Voukenas

model, where the data is never resident

and can guarantee that no data is lost

pointed to Oracle’s ZS3 storage appli-

on the server that’s doing the process-

during the write process, explained Peter

ances that give world-record benchmark

ing (unless some sort of caching is

Thomas, senior director, Exadata and

results for shared storage.

built into the overall system). This is

To get that peak performance, policies

essentially similar to the Hadoop model

strategic solutions, Oracle Australia and New Zealand. The architecture places

But if an application calls for DAS,

of moving processing to wherever the

both the database servers and database

that’s fine too, said Voukenas, adding

data resides, but for a wider variety of

storage in the same machine and benefits

that there’s nothing wrong with using

workloads, he said.

from the low latency of DAS.

a combination of direct-attached and

In addition, the Exadata storage software filters out unwanted records only

shared storage within an organisation

Software-defined storage combines the

- in fact, using both can be beneficial.

advantages of DAS with those of SANs, said Holmes, and is particularly use-

returning the required result set to the

Future

ful for storing very large amounts of

database server; something that is not

McIsaac predicted that by the end of

unstructured data where performance

possible if the database files are held on

the decade “people will move back to

and availability are important. It is also

a conventional storage array. This could

captive storage in the servers”, driven by

cheaper than SAN where large amounts

make the difference between transfer-

developments in software-defined storage.

of data must be retained for many years for compliance reasons, he said.

ring 200 KB or 200 GB of data across a network, he said. (In-memory databases

In such highly virtualised environments,

get around that problem, but you still

a conventional SAN has less value ac-

Marin went further, offering a personal

need to get all the data into memory

cording to McIsaac. Instead, DAS in each

opinion that in the 2017-2020 time

in the first place and to replicate it to

server is managed by hypervisor-level

frame, all active data will be held in

non-volatile storage.)

software so the data is available from

solid-state storage connected directly to

pools of storage available across the

servers. He said the future of enterprise

Using the Oracle DataGuard feature of

installation. “It does for storage what

computing in this regard can be seen in

the Oracle database, databases stored

VMware does for compute and memory,”

the current high-performance computing

on an Exadata can be replicated for

he said. This approach is especially rel-

and consumer IT markets.

high availability to another Exadata

evant to SMEs, but also makes sense for

or to an Oracle SuperCluster, or even

enterprise-scale organisations.

But for mid-tier companies - those running say 50 to 100 production virtual

conventional hardware, he said. Marin agreed, tipping “a massive resur-

machines - McIsaac said the real question

“We’re using DAS, but in a differ-

gence in DAS” due to technologies such

is “why shouldn’t I do this in the cloud?”

ent way,” said Sam Voukenas, storage

as VSAN and the Storage Spaces feature

Organisations of this size worrying about

product director, Oracle Australia and

of recent versions of Windows.

DAS or SAN are “probably focused on the wrong problem” as cloud can be very cost-

New Zealand. VSAN and similar approaches have

effective and also eliminates the need for

Oracle started moving in this direction

several benefits, McIsaac said. For

decisions about hardware configuration.

in the mid-2000s, realising that while

example, they make it simple to use

“Four years from now … it’s all going to

CPUs, memory and internal buses were

commodity hardware (vs specialised

be in the cloud,” he predicted.

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9


A N A LY S E

THIS

M

There is no Internet of Things - yet

ore than a decade ago -

Plus basketball shoes can tell you how

thanks to ubiquitous sensors - integrated

in May 2001 - Forrester

fast you’re running and how high you’re

into dynamic systems of engagement to

authored a report herald-

jumping. And the Under Armour Ar-

enable smart services like the ones we’ve

ing the coming of the X

mour39 shirt knows your heart rate and

described.

Internet, or extended Internet, defined as

lung capacity. But you could be using all

“Internet devices and applications that

three of these devices at the same time

Leading brands aren’t waiting for the Inter-

sense, analyse, and control the real world.”

and they wouldn’t even know they were

net of Things to perfect itself before they

We proclaimed that “the Web is fading fast

playing the same game. They are three

act - they’re already using sensor-connected

... smart devices will push the scale of the

products from three separate manufactur-

devices in unique ways to increase revenue,

internet far beyond today’s PC-based Net.”

ers, and the data they collect is siloed in

product engagement and product satisfac-

their own separate apps.

tion. The value comes not from the sensor

Turns out that the vision we laid out in

devices themselves but from the way in

2001 still hasn’t come to fruition. While

To stick with the basketball analogy,

which brands integrate the devices with

enterprises in health care, manufactur-

imagine that you’re sitting in the new

larger systems of engagement.

ing and utilities are well down the path

stadium for the San Francisco Warriors,

of the X Internet - better known today

which is scheduled to be finished by 2017.

Take, for example, Walt Disney Parks and

as the Internet of Things, the industrial

Now imagine that the players are using

Resorts. You may have heard of Mag-

internet or, in Cisco Systems’ parlance,

the devices we’ve described above and

icBands, the waterproof, RFID-enabled

the Internet of Everything - consumer

that you can vote on who needs a break

wristbands that Disney has developed for

adoption and general business adoption

based on players’ real-time biometrics

its theme park guests, starting with Walt

of sensor devices and services are just

via a ‘you be the coach’ mobile app. The

Disney World in Florida. MagicBands can

getting started.

stadium effects - lighting and sound - are

be used as hotel room keys, theme park

coordinated with the excitement of the

tickets, FastPasses for skipping lines, and

The sensor-laden consumer products that

game, as measured by collective heart

payment for concessions and gifts. Mag-

are starting to hit the market are ‘smart’

rate. Perhaps your own biometrics feed

icBands can store personal information

in sensing and relaying information about

into these effects via a wristband that also

so that, if you opt in, a character can

the physical bodies wearing them or the

serves as your non-scalpable ticket and

recognise you by name and know that

physical environments they inhabit - a

concessions payment device (the conces-

it’s your child’s birthday.

phenomenon we call “smart body, smart

sions come to you at your seat, like an

world”. But these smart products could

Uber app for hot dogs).

get a lot smarter. Today they are largely

10

The MagicBands are nifty, but what’s really impressive is the system behind it,

fragmented and not as useful as they

The sensor devices required to implement

called MyMagic+. MyMagic+ combines

could be.

this scenario exist today, but the systems

multiple systems of record - trip planning,

for managing the data flow need some

ticketing, CRM, asset management and

By and large, these devices don’t talk to

work. Today, data in a basketball stadium

payment - into a system of engagement

each other, and don’t integrate with larger

may reside in multiple systems of record,

that enhances the guest experience while

‘systems of engagement’ that deliver value

such as customer relationship manage-

improving efficiency and increasing rev-

for consumers and enterprises. 94Fifty’s

ment (CRM) for ticketing and inventory

enue for Disney. Because the bands can

Bluetooth basketball can sense dribble

systems for concessions. A smarter stadium

be preprogrammed by guests before they

force and shot angle. Nike Hyperdunk

would have this data - and lots more,

take their trips, Disney can better plan

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© stock.xchng/profile/RAWKU5

for staffing within the park and guests

hardware; we’ve talked with companies

are more likely to stay longer in the park

that went from concept to sellable device

(rather than go to a competitor park)

in less than six months. More than any

as they’ve planned their whole day. In

devices that have come before, connected

addition, guests can move through the

things are about the use case - the

park more easily, tapping their wrists

experience of using the device - and

rather than wrestling with cumbersome

brands that consumers know and love

turnstiles. Frictionless payment with the

are in the best position to define those

wristbands is easier for the guests and

experiences. The fragmented nature of

makes it more likely that they’ll spend

sensor-connected devices - the fact that

more money in the park.

sales of any individual device are likely to be small, ranging from the tens of

This kind of innovation doesn’t have to

thousands to low millions - makes them

happen in a closed system like Disney’s

unappealing to traditional consumer

- multiple products use open APIs and

electronics manufacturers, which make

common standards so that their smart

their money by shipping at scale of tens

products can get even smarter. Jawbone

of millions or hundreds of millions of

has opened up its APIs for the UP band

devices.

so that third-party developers can mash up their products and services with

These factors lead us to believe that the

Jawbone users’ activity and sleep data.

next great devices won’t come from Dell

Dropcam’s new product, the Dropcam

or HP or even Samsung: they’ll come from

Pro, acts as a hub for low-energy Blue-

consumer brands with extremely engaged

tooth Smart devices, so that you could

customers. Audi, Coca-Cola, Disney and

sync, say, your Fitbit Force with your

Nike are forging the way, but they won’t

Dropcam so that when you come home

be the only brands to take advantage

and are in proximity to the device, it

of the Internet of Things. While this

will stop recording.

innovation can come from anywhere in your enterprise, we see unique op-

In a recent Forrester report, we examined

portunity for marketers, with their deep

the implications of these trends in more

understanding of the customer, to define

depth and we believe that it’s the consumer

the engagement experience you want to

brands, not technology companies, which

enable with sensor-connected devices

should create the next great devices.

and systems. Next-generation marketers have a whole new tool set in front of

12

The bar for entry to the Internet of

them, and marketers who master these

Things is low. Sensors are inexpensive

new touchpoints will be able to engage

and getting cheaper. Thanks to maturing

with customers in new contexts, deliver

manufacturing supply chains, it’s easier

more value and deepen their customer

than ever to create consumer-ready

relationships.

This issue is sponsored by — Office 365 — www.nowonoffice365.com

Sarah Rotman Epps is a Senior Analyst at Forrester Research based in San Francisco. She studies the evolution of personal computing: how devices are changing, the new consumer behaviours they produce and the industries they disrupt. This article also contains excerpts from the Forrester report ‘There is no Internet of Things - yet’.


T E C H N I C A L LY

SPEAKING

Drilling for data Rob Sobers, technical strategist, Varonis Systems

14

The phenomenon of humangenerated big data encompasses the petabytes and exabytes of structured and unstructured data generated by today’s enterprises. The big question about big data remains: is this going to be another oil rush with a few winners and many losers, or will it enrich us all?

H

uman-generated content in-

Data avalanche

cludes all the files and emails

The problem is most large organisations are

we create every day. There are

not yet equipped with the tools to exploit

presentations, word processing

human-generated big data. A recent survey

documents, audio files and other documents

of more than 1000 internet experts and

we generate hour by hour. These are the

other internet users, published by the Pew

files that take up the vast majority of digital

Research Center and the Imagining the In-

storage space in most organisations. You

ternet Center at Elon University, concluded

have to keep them for significant amounts

the world might not be ready to properly

of time and they have huge amounts of

handle and understand big data.

metadata associated with them. These experts have come to the conclusion Human-generated content is enormous and

that the huge quantities of data - which

its metadata is even bigger. Metadata is the

they term “digital exhaust” - that will be

information about a file - who created the

created by the year 2020 could very well

file and when, what type of file it is, what

enhance productivity, improve organisational

folder it’s stored in, who has been reading

transparency and expand the frontier of the

it and who has access. The content and

‘knowable future’. However, they are also

metadata together make up the universe

concerned about who has access to this

of human-generated big data.

information, who controls that access and

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hurtful mistakes. Moreover, analysis of big

These are interesting arguments, and they

data will be misused by powerful people

do start to get to the heart of the matter.

and institutions with selfish agendas who

Our data sets have grown beyond our abil-

manipulate findings to make the case for

ity to analyse and process them without

what they want.”

sophisticated automation. We have to rely on technology to analyse and cope with this

One of the study’s participants was entre-

enormous wave of content and metadata.

preneur Bryan Trogdon. “Big data is the new oil,” he said. “The companies, governments

Analysing human-generated big data has

and organisations that are able to mine this

enormous potential. Furthermore, harness-

resource will have an enormous advantage

ing the power of metadata has become

over those that don’t. With speed, agility

essential to manage and protect human-

and innovation determining the winners

generated content.

and losers, big data lets us move from a mindset of ‘measure twice, cut once’ to one

Many businesses face real problems because

of ‘place small bets fast’.”

they can no longer answer questions they

©iStockphoto.com/PaulFleet

used to be able to answer 15 years ago Survey respondent, Jeff Jarvis, a professor

on smaller, static data sets. These types of

and blogger, said: “Media and regulators

questions include: Where does critical data

are demonising big data and its supposed

reside? Who has access? Who should have

threat to privacy. Such moral panics have

access to it? As a consequence, industry

occurred often thanks to changes in tech-

researcher IDC estimates that only half the

nology. But the moral of the story remains:

data that should be protected is protected.

there is value to be found in this data, value in our newfound ability to share.

The problem is compounded with cloud-

whether government or corporate entities

Google’s founders have urged government

based file sharing. These services create yet

will use this information wisely.

regulators not to require them to quickly

another growing store of human-generated

delete searches because, in their patterns

content requiring management and protec-

According to the survey: “Human and

and anomalies, they’ve found the ability

tion. And cloud content lies outside corporate

machine analysis of big data could improve

to track the outbreak of the flu before

infrastructure with different controls and

social, political and economic intelligence by

health officials could and they believe that

management processes, adding additional

2020. The rise of what is known as big data

by similarly tracking a pandemic, millions

layers of complexity.

will facilitate things like real-time forecasting

of lives could be saved. Demonising data,

of events, the development of ‘inferential

big or small, is demonising knowledge, and

David Weinberger of Harvard University’s

software’ that assesses data patterns to project

that is never wise.”

Berkman Center said, “We’re just beginning to understand the range of problems

outcomes and the creation of algorithms for advanced correlations that enable new

Sean Mead is director of analytics at Mead,

big data can solve, even though it means

understanding of the world.”

Mead & Clark, Interbrand. “Large, publicly

acknowledging that we’re less unpredictable,

available data sets, easier tools, wider dis-

free, madcap creatures than we’d like to

Of those surveyed, 39% of the internet

tribution of analytics skills and early-stage

think. If harnessing the power of human-

experts agreed with the counter-argument

artificial intelligence software will lead to a

generated big data can make data protection

to the benefits of big data. This countering

burst of economic activity and increased

and management less unpredictable, free

viewpoint posits: “Human and machine

productivity comparable to that of the

and madcap, organisations will be grateful.”

analysis of big data will cause more prob-

internet and PC revolutions of the mid- to

lems than it solves by 2020. The existence

late-1990s,” Mead said. “Social movements

The concept of human-generated big data

of huge data sets for analysis will engender

will arise to free up access to large data

will certainly pose an equal measure of

false confidence in our predictive powers

repositories, to restrict the development and

challenges and opportunities for businesses

and will lead many to make significant and

use of AI, and to ‘liberate’ AI.”

over the next few years.

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15


FROM THE FRONTLINE All data great and small Andrew Collins

The meaning of the term ‘big data’ seems stupidly obvious at first glance: you assemble a bunch of data and presumably you then run some analytics to get some meaningful insight out of it. But like many terms in IT, big data means different things to different people, and the ethical considerations around the tech are complicated.

18

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What is big data to you?

which is mandated to look at infrastruc-

One such change was the introduction of

ture systems like water, transport and

a bartering system that allowed users to

Our panellists’ use of data

energy from an integrated perspective

negotiate the price for a given task, instead

covers a broad spectrum.

- is not (yet) in the big data category.

of having only static prices for tasks.

Evans said that RP Data - which offers

Instead, he labels it as “smart data”.

real estate market information services

“Overnight it increased our conversions

- analyses log files of 120,000 end users

Over the last two years his project has

on the company’s systems, including its

pooled “any kind of data we could grab”

web interfaces.

related to energy and water consump-

Perez’s unit at the University of Wol-

by 30%, and it sustained,” Lui said.

tion, solid waste or sewage pollution,

longong is not aiming so much to

“We track every piece of behavioural

transport network usage, electricity

glean insights of its own, but rather to

information that those users do,” Evans

distribution, road and railway usage -

provide big data tools to third parties in

says. Historically, the company could

and more. They’ve also mixed in data

Australia like local councils looking to

only house about two months’ - 30

from the Bureau of Meteorology and

plan for the future in their regions. To

GB - worth of this data, which Evans

the Bureau of Statistics.

this end they’ve incorporated business

says is insufficient to establish trends.

intelligence tools from vendor Yellowfin Airtasker is a small start-up whose

into their system.

Now, “by using big data technologies and

website aims to connect those with odd

custom big data solutions, we can put 18

jobs that need doing with those that

RP Data, which uses services from

months’ worth of data together and start

will do them for a fee. Lui says that for

Bridge Point, has used its analyses to

to really see some trends and patterns”.

Airtasker, big data is about “collecting as

help inform the pricing of its products.

much information as possible … from He describes big data as “data of a

our users and from our platform. We

“What we try and do through that

magnitude that cannot be handled by

use all our data sources and try to link

mining of user activity is to get a good

traditional database management tech-

them all together.”

understanding of … are we charging ap-

nologies and processes”.

propriately? Are our services presenting appropriate value for our customers?”

increasing volume (amounts of data),

What real-world insights have you gained from your analyses?

velocity (speed of data moving through

Airtasker examined the impact of several

better idea of what types of properties

a system) and variety (types of data, like

variables - including server performance

are seeing the most interest. A popular

text, images, audio, video and so on).

and specific website features - on con-

traditional method of assessing the

Specifically, he subscribes to the ‘three Vs’ idea of big data: data stores of

Evans says. Big data has also given the company a

market - examining auction clearance

some changes to get some interesting

rates - is limited, Evans says, as it relies

Facility project at Wollongong Uni -

improvements.

on a small sample set. ©iStockphoto.com/polygraphus

version rates on its website and made Perez said that the SMART Infrastructure

O U R PA N E L

Kyle Evans, Chief Data Officer, RP Data

Professor Pascal Perez, Research Director, SMART Infrastructure Facility, University of Wollongong

Jonathan Lui, COO and Co-founder, Airtasker

Ian Bertram, Asia Pacific Head of Research, Gartner

This issue is sponsored by — Office 365 — www.nowonoffice365.com

19


With big data, the company examines

it’s crossed a ‘creepy line’, only 50% said

protect their privacy - they need to

data on property sales and analyses

“yes”. Some people simply consider it an

educate themselves.

factors like discount rate (the differ-

extension of profile-based purchasing

ence between a property’s listing price

incentivisation that organisations have

He also says: “There’s a responsibility

and what actually sells for), time on

been trying to do for years, he says.

for people like myself, as custodians

market and the number of properties on the market.

of data, to use the data in a way that Bertram says that the public will be some-

a consumer would be happy with, and

what tolerant of governments that cross

accepting of. There’s always going to be

For example, in Sydney RP Data has seen

that line for security purposes, because

an opportunity to outpace the legislation.

“a trend towards much less discounting

most citizens are willing to make some

But you have a moral obligation to do

- so vendors are getting pretty much

concessions where their personal safety is

what’s right for consumers.”

what they’re asking for the property -

concerned. But they won’t be so forgiving

and the time on market has dropped

with commercial organisations.

dramatically”.

Evans’s company has a data review board that examines any proposed new ways of

“In a commercial world your brand

using data and judges if it’s appropri-

Evans says that with the assembly of that

is your livelihood. If you cross that

ate or not. Along similar lines, Bertram

sort of information, “we can actually see

creepy line to a point where you will

says that “organisations need their own

how the market is trending. What we’re

get consumer backlash, then your brand

policies and guidelines” and that “more

seeing in Sydney at the moment is that

and your products go down the toilet,”

companies will put more ethical policies

it’s had a great run, but it’s starting to

Bertram says.

and guidelines in place”.

He says that we’ll see more examples of

Looking outside of the organisation, Ev-

creepy behaviour from organisations.

ans says, “there needs to be best practice

show a little bit of tiredness in that run.”

How will the ethical and privacy concerns around big data play out?

standards and [industry] bodies that In fact, he predicts that a major brand

encourage appropriate behaviour”. Then,

will cross that line so savagely that the

consumers should demand companies

public rejects them outright.

associate with those bodies and follow

One concern around big data is that

the standards.

it may harm personal privacy. There’s

“I don’t know which brand, but some-

one particular example that gets trotted

one’s going to step over that line and

Despite these concerns, Bertram, Evans

out pretty frequently to illustrate this

that brand is going to crumble.”

and Lui all emphasise that good can

worry (including in Technology Decisions

come out of these big data techniques.

Feb/Mar - so it may sound familiar to

Perez says he and his cohorts have “tried

regular readers).

to avoid the issue from the start”, deciding

Bertram hypothesises about a truck

early on to stay within safe boundaries

driver that wears a medical tattoo

According to a 2012 New York Times

by focusing data at the ABS’s Statistical

monitoring his vitals.

article, retailer Target, using big data

Area Level 1 (SA1) - some level of ab-

techniques designed to discover which

straction away from person-specific data,

“If I’m am employer,” he says, “should I

of its customers was actually a pregnant

with one ‘SA1’ covering 200-800 people.

monitor that person so that if his vital

woman, accidentally revealed to the

signs show that he’s about to have a

parents of a teenage girl in the US that

Evans points to the impending changes

heart attack, I can do something about

the teen was pregnant - before the girl

to the Privacy Act, due next year, but

it, so I can stop him from having an

told her folks.

says by the time they are made law, they

accident and killing a family driving up

will be out of date. The law simply can’t

the Pacific Highway?

But while this example concerns some,

keep up with the technology, he says.

Bertram says that when the last four

20

“Or am I crossing the creepy line in

times he’s presented that story to a

Given this legal lethargy, Evans says,

that case, because I’m collecting his vital

room full of people and asked them if

consumers can’t rely on legislation to

signs?” Bertram asks.

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B O D Y The changing face T A L K of health care Data storage has an exciting role to play in the all-important healthcare industr y, which is becoming increasingly reliant on IT.

G

overnments in developed

of healthcare costs. Increasingly, they

economies face some

are turning to information technology

fundamental challenges

to help streamline access to patient

when they consider their

information, bring greater levels of

strategies for healthcare delivery today

efficiency in hospitals and clinics, and

and into the future.

leverage lower-cost technology to improve preventative health and research.

Australia is not immune from these challenges and we are starting to see

We have already seen major IT projects

the federal and state governments react

like the Personally Controlled Electronic

with caps on budgets and healthcare

Healthcare Record (PCEHR) to help

provider services.

boost patient safety, improve healthcare delivery, and cut waste and duplication.

Australia’s age demographic is changing and causing the Australian government

Health care is in transition from its

to rethink their strategy.

current state of a patient getting sick, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment to

Today, 13% of the Australian popula-

a future state of preventative health.

tion is 65 years of age or older and it is predicted that this will rise to 23%

Technology advances like the Next

by 2050.

Generation Genome Sequencing can reveal predispositions to conditions

People who are 65 years of age or older

and diseases.

are three times more likely to use healthcare services and, as 65 is the current

With the dramatic reduction in cost over

retirement age in Australia, they are less

recent years (almost less than $1000) of

likely to be contributing as much tax.

a genome sequence, it becomes more feasible to conduct more of them across

This is one problem, but there are other

the population. Each genome produces

issues which have the cost of health

multiple gigabytes of raw data.

care on an unsustainable upward trend, Warren Pasque, SNIA ANZ Contributor and Hitachi Data Systems’ Industry Manager, APAC Healthcare, Industry and Alliance Solutions

which according to the Australian Bu-

Next Generation Genome Sequencing,

reau of Statistics has seen annual health

along with other advances in health-

expenditure increase by 45% from 1997

care technologies, is leading to large

to 2007 to reach $4507 per individual.

increases in machine-generated data. Some examples include:

Federal and state governments in Aus-

22

SNIA ANZ

tralia are looking at how we can pos-

• Medical imaging - A 64-slice CT can

sibly reverse the current upward trend

produce up to 200 MBps of scanning.

This issue is sponsored by — Office 365 — www.nowonoffice365.com


• Digital pathology - Using JPEG com-

waste and prevention, ultimately leading

retention requirements of patient re-

pression, the average image size will

to better health outcomes for a lower cost.

cords (up to 15 years in some states)

be approximately 250 MB per cm 2.

as well as protect against the scenario The opportunity for data storage practi-

of changing or deprecated applications,

• Scanned medical records - Scanning of

tioners is not only to build architectures

archiving infrequently accessed records

all paper forms associated with a patient

that support the most efficient deploy-

to an object store not only is the most

that enters the healthcare practice.

ment of healthcare applications today to

cost-efficient consumption of storage

diagnose and treat patients, but enable

but it also can enable the search and

• Patient monitoring solutions - Now

the future applications which will focus

recovery of information independent

producing digital data that can be

preventative health ie, predicting a pa-

of application.

stored and analysed.

tient’s predisposition to a condition and treating it before it becomes an issue.

• Big data - To cope with the ever-increasing volume of machine generated

As healthcare technologies continue to advance and produce more information,

Three key storage initiatives that should

data, big data solutions that support

it will become difficult or even impos-

be considered:

multipetabyte storage and scale out file systems will reduce silos as data

sible for clinicians to personally analyse all the information produced.

• Capacity optimisation - To make efficient use of storage for today’s grow-

grows and ensure the environment stays manageable.

It will require various tools to analyse

ing number of healthcare applications,

the information and aid clinicians on

technologies like single instancing,

Although storage practitioners are not

diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.

deduplication and compression reduce

likely to be driving healthcare work-

consumption and waste.

flows, they have the opportunity to be

The future of health care will be focused

AD_TecDes_LCBP_AUS_Layout 1 7/22/13 8:46 AM Page 1

on increased productivity, reduction in

• Object storage - To support the long

the enabling platform for the healthcare applications today and in the future.

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T E C H N I C A L LY

SPEAKING

Avoiding pitfalls on the path to the cloud Matt Ramsay, Asia-Pacific Regional Director, Centrify

U

sers or business units can

Few companies gain significant competitive

have their required capabili-

advantage by having a “really well set up mail

ties ‘now’ rather than wait for

server” - they’re a dime a dozen, yet expen-

months for IT to design the

sive to maintain internally. So why burden

answer to their wishes. You also receive

your IT staff with mundane tasks when they

fault tolerance, disaster recovery and uni-

could be designing business-specific process

form access from many device types - all

improvements and extracting business in-

productivity contributors that help your

telligence that will help your bottom line?

staff get their jobs done, whenever and wherever they are.

24

Cloud providers can offer more flexible ser vices at a cheaper price than most enterprises can achieve because they amortise their equipment and maintenance costs over a large number of customers.

Security Yet a principal argument against moving

Cloud services can also improve productiv-

to the cloud is that it is less secure than

ity in the IT department by freeing up IT

current on-premise infrastructure models.

staff to focus on solving company-specific

To answer this, we should first take a fresh

problems rather than looking after consum-

look at the core problems bedevilling on-

erised infrastructure such as mail servers,

premise enterprise security. Do we only

file repositories, CRM systems and the like.

need to guard against the bad guys trying to

This issue is sponsored by — Office 365 — www.nowonoffice365.com


face: to allocate and maintain finely grained

- created by easy-to-use tools that can

user privileges with standard tools such as

quickly configure and maintain fine-

group policies. As a result, admins get into

grained security policies. Rather than rely

the bad habit of only deploying coarse-

on guru-like admins or super-awareness,

grained privileges in practice.

we need tools that can grant and manage fine-grained rights that are as simple to use

This creates the situation where sites are

as making computers and users members

either overly permissive, and thus insecure,

of appropriate groups.

or so restrictive that users are annoyed by the need to petition IT to make even a

Thus a move to the cloud could be the cata-

tiny change. Although a permissive set-up

lyst you need to address the ‘least privilege’

means that, while your users are by and

problem once and for all while giving you

large happy, any ‘unhappy’ user now likely

an opportunity to leverage your existing

has domain admin rights - thus creating

identity infrastructure for your cloud. In this

another problem.

sense, your identity infrastructure should be your ‘on-premise secret sauce’. Everything

The same problem exists in Unix-like en-

else can go to the cloud.

©iStockphoto.com/Jesussanz

vironments. Unix administrators employ the same bad habit of coarse-grained

Cloud pitfalls

privilege allocation. In addition, Unix sites

While moving to the cloud offers clear

frequently resort to the unsecure practice

productivity benefits, there are also pitfalls

of shared accounts to deal with the lack

to avoid in order to fully reap the benefits.

of sophistication of enterprise-grade Unix privilege management.

As we demand access to information no matter what device, location or time, our

hack our infrastructure? Or do we need to

Managing privileges

on-demand mentality, epitomised by cloud

defend ourselves from the bad habits of the

Now map this all to the cloud. What has

services, exposes the enterprise to new

good guys who manage that infrastructure?

changed?

challenges that are more often overlooked

The answer is: both.

Bad guys need to find only one flaw. A

than understood. permissive set-up gives them a huge op-

The additional convenience of anytime-

The bad guys are a given: their hack attempts

portunity for phishing. These problems are

anywhere access could create risk associated

are driven by every motivation from greed

compounded when an over-privileged user

with Australian privacy legislation or risk

to ego. Moving to the cloud doesn’t change

leaves your organisation and the over-worked

via government-mandated access such as

this. It may arguably improve your security

IT department has no idea what to turn off

the US PATRIOT Act. Other risks are as-

as now your cloud provider employs and

- they may not even know that a risk exists.

sociated with questions of data ownership and short- and long-term service disruption.

updates the necessary security and network infrastructure. As they do this for many

On the other hand, the restrictive access

other clients, they deploy state-of-the-art

scenario is onerous and expensive for ad-

While these legal dimensions are important,

firewall and other security equipment. As

ministrators - who are forced to deal with

the bottom line is that the cloud is here

part of their core service offering, you would

many petty requests - and annoying for the

to stay. Not embracing these on-demand

rightfully expect their network administra-

user. There’s also a real chance that it will

services could prove fatal from a motivation

tors to be better than your own!

encourage users to find alternate ways of

and productivity standpoint, so the legal

getting things done - such as a SaaS portal

risks need to be understood and mitigated.

to sidestep IT altogether.

Of greater concern is the technology risk

But the bad habits of the good guys - your

that arises from password and identity

beloved systems administrators - are another matter. One example arises from the dif-

The compromise between restrictive and

store proliferation, which can present a real

ficulty that many Windows administrators

permissive access is called ‘least privilege’

productivity problem for the enterprise.

This issue is sponsored by — Office 365 — www.nowonoffice365.com

25


Password proliferation

passwords or choose the same bad password

Active Directory. With a good SSO solution,

In the age of the cloud, one big question is:

for everything.

de-provisioning becomes a straightforward

how do you meet the significant challenge

‘disable-user’ operation for staff on the help

of managing and maintaining logins for all

There’s also the problem of entering pass-

desk: trivial, quick and almost impossible

of your users on all of their services?

words on mobile devices, which is both

to screw up.

tricky and annoying - and a security hazard Using a range of cloud services - including

if your member of staff enters their password

This avoids IT staff needing to track down

email, online apps, CRM and accounting

in a public place.

all accounts for manual disabling, a tedi-

services - requires users to remember many

ous, time-consuming and error-prone task

passwords. While password protection is

One answer to both these productivity and

that requires a highly privileged - that is,

essential, their proliferation is bad for both

security questions is having single sign-on

expensive - operator.

productivity and for security.

(SSO) authentication, which means your

The productivity problem posed by password

staff no longer need to remember usernames

After initial SSO roles are set up, day-to-day

and passwords.

maintenance is eased, requiring virtually

proliferation is that people may avoid using

no extra training. This eliminates the need

an app due to complex login logistics - or

SSO is not just a productivity win for the

to train or retain application specialists to:

even worse, they may ‘build’ a simpler, less-

people who use your IT infrastructure. It

“add, move, change, delete,” etc.

secure alternative to do the job.

can also boost the productivity of your IT administrators.

In addition, complex passwords generate

It’s time to recognise that data breaches are a matter of when, not if. This has nothing

many ‘forgotten password’ calls to the help

For instance, de-provisioning cloud apps is

to do with cloud or on-premise. Bounda-

desk, wasting time all round. Security flaws

simplified with an SSO solution that ties all

ries don’t matter anymore. The border is

abound when many users write down their

logons back to a single identity store such as

already eroded.

26

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UTM appliance picks up slack when domain work controller fails

A

CS Aviation Solutions has deployed a unified threat

replicated in Melbourne in real time, and so that all Melbourne

management appliance in its Australian and Ireland

activity would be replicated in Dublin.

offices, creating a sure site-to-site connection and VPN tunnel between the two.

The result is a secure network that hosts the company intranet and provides disaster recovery capability.

ACS provides auditing, training, consulting and other

“It allows people to view our infrastructure as one single

services to organisations in the aviation industry. It is one of

network. If anything happens to users in one site, they can still

only eight companies worldwide - and the only organisation in

securely access their files from the other,” Silveira said.

the Southern Hemisphere - authorised by the International Air

The infrastructure was tested earlier this year when the

Transport Association (IATA) to conduct safety audits on airlines.

domain controller in Dublin went down due to a hardware

IT Administrator Jorge Silveira described the organisation as

interruption. Because the server was not available, Dublin traffic

a small business with a considerably large network management

was rerouted through Melbourne, enabling all staff to log on

requirement. “We run an enterprise-grade infrastructure with

and operate as normal.

virtual machines, thin clients, physical computers, redundant

In the next few months, Silveira plans to begin using the

controllers, two different print servers, Windows services, backups

appliance to manage VPN connections for remote users. This

and more,” Silveira said.

will ensure validation of connections occurs at the firewall, rather

The company maintains offices in Melbourne and Dublin. From an IT perspective, ACS has approximately 20 power users working across the two offices, plus another 50 auditors and field workers who require remote access. Given the nature of the ACS’s work, all data is highly confidential and security is paramount. To protect the network, Silveira has deployed a WatchGuard XTM 330 unified threat management (UTM) appliance in the Melbourne office. The device combines firewall functionality with networking features including management and reporting tools. Silveira said that with the new device, “In terms of traffic monitoring, I can log into the system and monitor what comes in and out of the network. I can see what traffic has been blocked and can determine whether a packet should be allowed or not.” Shortly after deploying the appliance, ACS upgraded its internet to fibre. “With that we got a range of IP addresses and WatchGuard has been able to handle all those addresses correctly, exactly the way I want them handled within the network. For example, one address is used for remote users, another is for internet traffic and another is for telephony traffic.” When ACS relocated its Dublin office, Silveira used the

than in the server. Silveira likens the approach to a doorman who

opportunity to deploy a second XTM 330, which he then

asks visitors to wait outside while he checks their credentials,

connected to the one deployed in Melbourne, creating a secure

rather than first inviting the stranger in. The result is that traffic

site-to-site connection and a VPN tunnel. Next, using the tunnel

is validated between the firewall and the server, rather than

and Windows 2012 Server replication capabilities, Silveira set

between the server and the user, therefore providing another

the system up so that all activity on the Dublin server would be

layer of protection for the network.

This issue is sponsored by — Office 365 — www.nowonoffice365.com

29


Technology Decisions Dec 2013/Jan 2014  

Published bi-monthly, Technology Decisions keeps senior IT professionals abreast of the latest trends, technology advances and application s...