So another year passes and with a myriad of interviews under our belts later, we broadcast live at the Cloud Expo Europe 2017. We had a great line up of guests including ITV, Google, LinkedIn, IBM, Fujitsu, as well as many others. However, this article is not about name-dropping who was on the show but more so for the general trend and theme. To note as a main topic of discussion was the IT concept “Blockchain”.
To the uninitiated of you, let me explain Blockchain as a concept in simple terms as there are many spin-offs, improvements and acronyms already appearing such as; Hyperledger, BaaS – Blockchain as a service, that can confuse you.
“A simple way to consider what Blockchain technology could provide is to think of a ledger (e.g. an Excel spreadsheet) that can only be updated when a majority of trusted participants, (known as ‘miners’ connected via ‘nodes’) have simultaneously agreed that the proposed transactions are valid and will not permit a situation whereby any erroneous “double-billing” could take place. Furthermore, the Blockchain-style ledger maintains a full and potentially transparent Audit-Trail of all of the transactions ever made via that particular ledger.”
With this said the use cases for a “Blockchain” are not limited to financial transactions, you can use this method across most industries where you would require asset control, verification, the state change of devices or even history validity (authenticity). One example of a non-financial sector use case is the company Everledger, showcased at many events and also one of the winners of The Barclays Accelerator Techstar programs in 2015. Everledger uses the Blockchain technology method to create a digital ledger, a database if you will, that stores information regarding Diamonds and can quite literately replace the paper based certificate of authenticity issued today. Not only this, it can store information such as location – history of where it was mined from to where it has been sold. Also, If the diamond has been stolen, and it has been part of the process within the Everledger system, it will flag up and show this with the digital authenticity key attached to it! This simply put is an insurance company’s dream come true and will save millions!
Anyway, this article is not specifically about Blockchain but the tech trends discussed at the Cloud Expo Europe 2017 event. In my opinion, there were four main themes throughout the Expo that were demonstrated/reinforced by guests on our live show www.Cloudexpo.tv
- Blockchain – as mentioned earlier this is a hot topic and offers to solve a host of business challenges with a distributed shared ledger system where historic entries cannot be changed. (see above for example use cases)
- Digital Transformation – A lot of buzz has been made over digital transformation initiatives for the last 2 years now, but over the last 12 months the large consultancy houses have upped their game to deliver this to organisations as a lead in engagement to consult. However, the tech houses/vendors have now caught up by applying business needs to digitalisation with technology that encompasses mobile, agile, bigdata and IoT initiatives that rely on the correct tech to underpin them. Flynet, a UK based company came onto our show and explained how they provide digital transformations to mainframe technology. Imagine legacy architecture you may have present that simply just works? Flynet provide the makeover and compatibility for the digital age and apply omnichannel front end services that take away the need for legacy skills and code for your application/service and provide a new interface that works while making it Cloud compatible.
- Multi-Cloud – I think if you ask five people what this means you will get 5 different answers. From the people, we spoke to, and also including my opinion, multi-cloud as a definition is a multi-hybrid approach. Simply put inter-connectivity/operability between the different types of cloud. Whether it’s through API’s, services or shared services from one type of cloud to another. Iomart explained this well on the show and got my vote for the best explanation (next to mine) with their offerings. However, there were many others boasting a “Multi-Cloud” approach too!
- Security – Off the back of a major public cloud outage the week before and, let’s be honest, it’s a very hot topic anyway, security is paramount to any visible piece/element of technology across the internet. A buzz was created when Miku Hoppenden came on to our show and discussed current and future trends. Ransomware is a security hot sub topic at the moment and doesn’t seem to want to go away anytime soon. The general consensus is that companies would rather take the risk of lax security than investing in good information security, due to the many options available as well as high price tags. This seems crazy to me, as good security should be part of the foundations of Cloud technology.
These were the four trends I saw that were very popular at the event, however, there were a lot more topics that were presented across the two days.
I can nearly see your eyes roll back as you read the next paragraph. What technology can underpin, be used for, or be best suited for one or all of the five above points? Mainframe Technologies!
Mainframe technologies may have had the resurgence of late for a few reasons.
- The technology has had a face-lift insomuch that OpenSource software can now be run and is certified to run on the architecture. It’s already prebuilt in most circumstances and can be just a matter of lift and shift. The tech caters for all the major versions of Linux, as well as container based software, is constantly being redeveloped to tick even more OpenSource boxes! Also, there is a dedicated user forum called; “The Open Mainframe Project” that services the OpenSource community and the adoption on mainframe tech!
- With regards to Security, mainframes are about as secure as you can get with built-in encryption at the hardware level as well as ultra fault tolerant hardware, it’s a piece of tech that just runs! OK I understand it can also be expensive but like for like with required outputs/running services it’s cheaper than x86 tech (yes you heard that right). With the major advances in security for this technology (even have a branded ultra secure versions of the product range), mainframes are still one of the most secure computing environments on the planet. Look up DataKinetics and see what amazing things they are doing in the tech space for Mainframes. One case study from suggests quite literately 1,000,000’s of dollars of savings just for one client by using their mainframe optimisation toolset. DataKinetics have been around for as nearly as long as mainframes and if you have one I bet you have used their software at some stage as it clearly squeezes the tech configuration to the max allowing you to save a lot of money, I mean a lot!
- Once seen as legacy technology or a “must have” elephant in the comms room, this perception has changed and now you can have a hybrid cloud approach utilising your existing mainframe to bolster workload shifts, burst out to public cloud provisioning or even run Linux environments that do not require specialist O/S skills with the help of companies such as Flynet (mentioned previously) that bring digital transformation to the mainframe.
- Blockchain is definitely here to stay and is rapidly increasing in adoption as a technical concept of service delivery. IBM has a purpose built blockchain service (BaaS) that you can adopt to a mainframe environment that will enable you to have ALL of the ticks in the right boxes for R&D and deployment as well as continuing to develop the service to accommodate even more advances in this area – Hyperledger as an example – that secure their dominance other of players in the Blockchain race for leadership.
As you can see there is a revival for the tech, there are amazing advancements in the supporting services around the tech, and it’s affordable not only to the large corporates that once had to have it. Now you can utilise the technology at a price you can afford because you need it and it just makes sense to.
Are we looking at a new dawn, era if you will, where mainframe technology will be method for cloud in its right, who knows but all I can say is that centralised technology that can cater for humongous workloads, provide a digital transformation you need with a cost you can afford has to be taken seriously as a major player in the tech industry!
Neil’s focus is on developing cloud technology and big data. You can often find him advising CxOs on cloud strategy.