Softcat Tech Update: July 2016

Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2016
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By Craig Lodzinski
Chief Technologist for Emerging Technologies

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Welcome to our July Tech Update. This month's edition brings you the latest tech news from the world of IT including Microsoft's purchase of LinkedIn, Flash storage, the changing mobile market, and software defined networking. 

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Perhaps the biggest news of recent months is Microsoft's $26Bn acquisition of LinkedIn. This deal has raised eyebrows across the industry, especially given the high price, which is more than Facebook paid for WhatsApp, and roughly equal to what HPE paid for EDS and Autonomy combined. However it reflects two important truths when it comes to Microsoft: firstly, their best acquisitions are the ones with synergies for the enterprise and secondly, they are willing to pay whatever it takes to get into the mobile space. In the short term, this deal gives Redmond a foothold on millions of smartphones worldwide. In the long term, integrations with Skype for Business, Yammer and other Microsoft platforms are likely. This is of particular note when it comes to Microsoft's CRM offering, and the combination of Dynamics CRM and LinkedIn's graph. Combined with the amount of data that can be integrated and interrogated, there are huge possibilities for both LinkedIn and Dynamics CRM. It's now surely only a matter of time before you can ask, 'Hey Cortana, find me a new job'. At time of writing there is no word on whether Clippy will be available to help you write your profile.


Storage Roundup

Storage is the gift that keeps on giving, especially if you have column inches to fill. A huge raft of startups and a seismic shift in the form of Flash technologies is very disruptive and the market is consolidating and innovating at a huge pace. From a consolidation perspective, we're hearing rumours of acquisitions a plenty. Not only from the big boys, but the newer Flash and Hyperconverged startups are also starting to look acquisitive. Pernix Data's Frank Denneman spilled the beans on the long held rumour that Nutanix would acquire them, and it looks to be only a matter of time before the ink dries and Pernix are swallowed up. In a cramped market, vendors are looking to differentiate themselves by getting into caching, storing data in DRAM, and post-NAND technologies. There's plenty of VCs out there wanting to cash in on their investments, so keep an eye out for sales.

Object Storage specialists Scality have introduced an S3 server, opening up the ability to run Scality's clever code inside tiny containers. This forms the basis of Scality's S3 API, and offers interesting opportunities for developers and service providers. With growing interest in Object stores instead of more traditional scale-out filers, Scality is very much one to watch in the industry.

In other storage news, NVMe is seeing increasing adoption, with widespread support in servers, and increasing moves from storage vendors to NVMe fabrics. Datacore upset the apple cart somewhat with their SPC-1 benchmarks of 5M+IOPS at pennies per IOP. This was based on their Parallel server technology, holding all the data in DRAM. Array makers have naturally cried foul, but the most important message from this is, as ever, take benchmarks with a big heaping pinch of salt. 


Mobile World Progress

This is the bit of the tech update where it gets all a bit Thinkpiece-y. The mobility market is huge and growing, and is a battleground for the big companies. However, there are now only two big names.

Microsoft recently announced more changes in their mobile division, and the effective end of their Lumia project. The fire sale has begun, and in the US if you buy a Lumia 950XL, they will give you a Lumia 950 for free. BlackBerry have now also more or less killed off BlackBerry 10, with the withdrawal of the Classic, and a pivot in their devices line to Android based devices like the Priv. This leaves only two mobile OS options of any real penetration – iOS and Android. While the emergence of this duopoly has numerous factors, one constant is very clear – Applications. The shift towards Agile, DevOps and other such buzzwords, and the reluctance of mobile users to pay large sums for applications has left a vacuum of app support outside of iOS and Android. Given that the difference between smart and feature phones is apps, it was always going to be an uphill struggle to break the dominance of the big two.

What this means is unclear. Fundamentally though, there are now two companies in charge of mobile software – Google and Apple, and if you want in, you have to abide by their terms. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and Apple's walled garden in particular has reduced the attack surface for mobile malware. However, accusations of abuse of power abound, with Google refusing to allow play services to be used by non-full Android devices, and many run ins between Apple and its developers. The ongoing battle between Spotify and Apple is particularly interesting.

'But what does this mean for me, and my many fans?' I hear you cry. Well, MDM and MAM is a given, and there are a range of solutions out there (albeit a declining number as well, with consolidation ongoing in that market). But there is also a big push for optimisation of web content to run as HTML5 with responsive designs. 'Mobile First' is now the design philosophy of the moment. When deploying new software, do we consider if there is an app? A working web application? How will it look on a smartphone? How will it load on 3G? There are a whole range of new questions, as well as new opportunities to drive productivity and make life easier. The only certainty in all of it is that you'll have to be in bed with Apple or Google to use them.


The Mars Attacks! Three way handshake: Ack! – Ack! Ack! – Ack! Ack! Ack!

We've already baked a whole host of intelligence into our compute and storage, and now the big change area is in the Network. Speeds are now blistering (100Gbps is not common, but not all that uncommon either) and feature sets are becoming more complex, and offering new capabilities.

VMware have taken the form of an Australian plus sized tailor, and have made massive strides. The NSX product is now making big inroads, and with the acquisition of Arkin Net, they have bolstered an already impressive SDDC portfolio. Arkin's tech will help NSX customers to get more meaningful data from their deployment, and use natural language search to interrogate this data and make more targeted decisions as a result.

Cisco meanwhile have unveiled their 'Tetration' analytics platform. Currently a rack scale appliance, Tetration offers line-rate network telemetry on an individual packet level, collecting up to a million events per second. This data can then be used to influence the policy decisions for Cisco ACI, as well as to shape the datacentre resource strategy. This is some very cool technology, and the building blocks are being tightly integrated with Cisco's forthcoming products. Hat Tip to Jim Leach for explaining Tetration to me.

HPE have also been busy, launching their Edgeline 'Converged IoT Systems'. These dovetail with the Edgeline Gateways to give deep analytics of sensor data at the network edge. The products are interesting from a hardware perspective, merging details from Proliant, Moonshot, Apollo and Bladesystem hardware, and adding in PXI support too. This is very much an area to keep an eye on with lots of exciting integrations moving on as sensor data becomes more prolific.



  • Most major Linux distros are in agreement – no more 32-bit distributions. So wave bye-bye to the i386 distros, and prepare a VM or container if you have something super-niche that you need to run.
  • Free Windows 10 upgrades run out on the 29th of July, so if you've been meaning to get around to upgrading that old device, do it now! (Not sure why I'm writing this bit, it's not as if you can miss the notifications.)
  • Symantec acquired Blue Coat, a bid that is designed to get their enterprise security provision back on track following the Veritas spin off. This could well be followed by big changes on the Symantec board, not to mention that Blue Coat's MITM technology is now owned by a root CA.
  • Dell has announced its intention to sell its Sonicwall security business into private equity, and looks set to streamline further with disposals of more software assets as well.

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