Softcat Tech Update: May 2017

Posted on Wednesday, May 03, 2017
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Just when you thought it was safe to come back to Softcat News, another edition of the Tech Update rears its ugly head. A lot has happened in the time since the last edition, so let's crack on.

Acquisitions Corner

With venture capitalists (VCs) getting a little twitchy about certain investments in Enterprise IT, there's been a good amount of action in the M&A space over the last few months.

  • Those of you who attended Softcat's fireside chat with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) CEO, Meg Whitman, will recall her expressing that her moves to streamline the business and improve their cash position would result in acquisitions. One that surprised everyone was the purchase of Nimble Storage but reflects a big strategic play from HPE. More purchases are rumoured; one in the networks space and one in backup and DR being bandied about.
  • In networking news, Extreme networks have bought Brocade's datacentre networking business that has been spun off by Broadcom, adding to the assets they took from Avaya's chapter 11. Riverbed has taken on Xirrus for an undisclosed sum, looking to merge software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) all the way down to the Access Point level.
  • In unsubstantiated rumours news, Oracle is apparently considering the possibility of acquiring Accenture. Of course, we've heard this all before with Oracle having been a dead cert to buy Salesforce for years now. Oracle have issued strenuous denials, but it seems that the acquisition of NetSuite is not the end of Oracle looking for big buys.

Alexa, manage my life for me

If you've listened to a tech podcast or been anywhere near medium in the last year, you'll know that voice is the new interface. So, what's new in the world of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital assistants?

  • As part of the Galaxy S8 launch, Samsung has revealed Bixby, a smart assistant to rival Siri and Google Now, and a welcome upgrade to S-Voice.
  • Amazon has announced the Echo Look, a new version of their Echo digital assistant device which includes a camera. Echo look offers full Echo functionality and adds the ability to take selfies and videos, and using the power of machine learning, it can rate your outfits and tell you what to wear. If you're the sort of person that has to post your latest #OOTD, you'll love it.
  • Storage vendor Tintri has added their own skill to Alexa so you can manage your storage from your Amazon Echo. Ask it to take a snapshot, provision VMs, or query the storage analytics and Alexa will cheerily comply. We assume, "Alexa, ask Tintri to zero out all the disks" is disabled for obvious reasons.

Gone Phishing

It's the third segment, so it's time to get all think-piece-y. Security is an ever-present concern for organisations and as data protection regulations ramp up alongside the cost of breaches, security is more important than ever.

  • Anti-virus (AV) vendors were run through the ringer for providing virus samples for testing that may or may not be rigged to favour their own product. The main targets for ire were emerging 'Next-Gen AV' vendors but as one quote from Panda Security's Luis Corrons suggests, "There are many ways to poison a test or try to influence it." As in any field, never trust a canned demo!
  • New studies suggest what we all probably knew already - ransomware is the firm favourite when it comes to infections, and phishing is the most common attack vector. Financial gain was listed as the most common motivation for attackers, followed by espionage. Inadequate password security remains a problem with 2-factor authentication (2FA) and identity management still not widespread enough to mitigate these risks.
  • We recently marked the 30th anniversary of Alice, Bob and Eve, and all the wonderful benefits of public key cryptography they were created to explain. Our security hero, Adam Louca, wrote a brilliant article on this very topic and it's well worth a look even if, like me, you only understand half of the words.

AOB

  • AMD showed increased revenues this quarter, with a promising outlook following the launch of their Ryzen 7 desktop CPUs. With Vega GPU and Zen-powered server chips on the roadmap, AMD are making a serious bid to take on Intel and Nvidia.
  • Intel has remained fairly quiet this year on the CPU front, with both 7th generation Core I and next-generation 'Purley' Xeons set to break cover in the latter half of this year. The big advances look set to come in the datacentre, with Purley representing a change in philosophy and architecture. Exact SKUs are still closely guarded.
  • An interesting new website popped onto my radar recently. Crickytics.com is using machine learning to predict cricket matches, including next wicket, player scores and overall outcomes. Worth a look if you're interested in machine learning. Unfortunately, at time of writing, 10cc have not released a follow-up to Dreadlock Holiday, citing that 'they don't like machine learning'.
  • Venerable US academic institution, MIT, was in the news recently having agreed on a deal with AWS for the bookseller to run all of the university's IT. The price? For you sir? Just that tasty slab of /8 IPv4 space. This may be the last of the big blocks that is likely to be sold, so it might just be time to dust off that book on hexadecimal.
  • The first device to break cover was the new Surface Laptop which will ship running Windows 10 S and looks to be aimed squarely at the Macbook Pro. No indication as yet whether Windows 10 Pro will be supported.

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