How to make sense of messy data? Google refine is an excellent solution….

March 2, 2011

Do you want to make sense of messy data? Google refine may prove to be the right tool!

It allows for cleaning up messy data, transforming it from one format into another, extending it with web services, and linking it to databases like Freebase or MySQL to name a few. Another great feature of this tool is of course the “no cost feature.”

 

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A Move to the Cloud will actually benefit cyber security protection

February 7, 2011

A recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies observed the fact that the use of cloud computing technology could actually benefit national cyber security and data protection practices.   The study, by Network World reports, explains how actual cloud computing can actually “aggregate and automate” cyber security, because it takes data protection responsibilities away from customers and businesses and gives them to service providers, which are generally more capable of dealing with cyber threats.

“The move to the cloud is not a silver bullet that will solve all cyber security problems, but it is part of a larger move to a more mature infrastructure that includes the automation of security practices and monitoring,” the report goes on to state

It goes on to say that security practices will be further enhanced if government agencies can find a way to work more effectively with cloud service providers.

Both cloud computing and Cyber security are expected to play larger roles in government in 2011. In December, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo to federal agencies urging them to adopt a “cloud-first approach” to IT solutions.

Server Virtualization will be the common trend for 2011

January 5, 2011

The adoption of server virtualization, otherwise know as the “Private Cloud,” started years ago, but we will definitely see it become more of a common trend in 2011 as companies look to drastically improve efficiency and availability of IT resources. The trend of having one server/one application is going away, making way for the adoption of virtualization technique that runs multiple operating systems/applications on a single hardware. With this technology in place, costs can be reduced 50 – 70% with respect to hardware and IT administration.

Benefits of virtualization include:

  1. Multiple operating systems/applications on a single system
  2. Improved utilization of power and hardware while reducing server administration costs
  3. Higher availability and improved performance of enterprise applications
  4. Business continuity through improved disaster recovery and higher availability in the data centre
  5. Improved enterprise desktop management and control

The virtualization market includes server virtualization infrastructure, hosted virtual desktops and server virtualization management. VMware, Microsoft and Citrix are the leading providers in server the virtualization infrastructure market. The server virtualization management market is currently wide open with more than 100 vendors supplying products that meet some of the requirements in the management stack. The big four management software vendors are BMC Software, CA, HP and IBM/Tivoli.  On the other hand, the hosted virtual desktop market is quite crowded and full of opportunities

Corporate America heading “To the Cloud”….as they say…with Skytap

January 4, 2011

Skytap, the leading provider of self-service cloud automation solutions, just announced an oversubscribed $10 million Series C round of funding led by OpenView Venture Partners with participation from existing investors Ignition Partners, Madrona Venture Group and Washington Research Foundation. The investment will be used to scale sales and marketing, and accelerate innovation of the company’s flagship cloud automation platform. Scott Maxwell, senior managing director of OpenView Venture Partners, will join Skytap’s board of directors.

Since its launch in 2006, Skytap has broadened its portfolio of cloud solutions and built a comprehensive cloud automation platform. Based on the breadth of its offerings and rapid customer adoption, Skytap has experienced both usage growth and year over year revenue growth of more than 300 percent.

Along with this funding and the company’s rapidly growing customer roster, Skytap has received numerous accolades based on the superiority of its cloud automation technology. Recent awards include: SD Times 100, Red Herring 100, AlwaysOn OnDemand Top 100, SearchCloudComputing Top 10 Cloud Computing Startups and the 2010 Best of VMworld finalist.

Skytap has built one of the strongest partner networks in the cloud industry enabling Fortune 1000 enterprise customers and government and defense agencies to accelerate their transition to the cloud. Earlier this year, Skytap was selected by Google as a cloud partner for the Google Apps Marketplace launch, and global IT leader CSC selected Skytap to power its prestigious CloudLab offering.

So you’ve been hacked–NOW WHAT?

November 9, 2010

Jill Liles of the Global Knowledge company has written a very good article that outlines the immediate steps required by Information Security Officers and CIOs  if they find that their systems have been hacked.  The essence of the article is below with a few additions.

First of all, don’t panic.  Obviously the plan that you had in place to prevent such an attack needs to be updated to reflect the current circumstances. But before you do that, you need to take the following  five steps in order to respond and defend against future attacks.

1. Execute your Emergency Plan

Every system should have some sort of disaster recovery plan associated with it before it goes into production. These plans usually cover such things as intruder scenarios and security breaches, natural disaster scenarios, man-made disaster scenarios and the steps required for remediation.

Like many first responders in critical situations the first step is to not make the situation worse than it is. Even though it will be difficult to stop your natural instincts to shut everything down and pull the plug on power or connectivity. You might be causing more issues than what the initial attack had caused.  Even though your efforts to protect the system or data have been compromised continue to evaluate the accuracy of your remediation plan as you learn more about the intrusion.

2.  Act Deliberately

Determine the extent of the intrusion by identifying which systems, routers, and data have been compromised.  Once this is done determine the amount of isolation that is required to limit the impact of the attack. Check inbound and outbound router logs to determine where the attack was initiated from.  Perform reverse IP lookups to see if the offending system can be easily located. Depending on the nature of the attack and the complexity of the attack

3.  Clean Up and Restore

Based on business priorities, bring systems back on-line and begin monitoring them regularly. Replace any hacked data with the most recent stable backup. Change the passwords for all affected devices, users, and applications, including the root password and default accounts.

4.  Prevent Other Attacks

Modify your security structure so this type of attack can be prevented in the future. Learn from this attack so remediation processes are updated accordingly. Some malware can lie dormant after being “removed,” waiting years for an opportunity to reactivate, so be sure you continually protect your network, including installing the latest software patches and performing a regular vulnerability assessment.

5.  Communicate

Depending on your industry, a security breach may require you to notify people outside the company, particularly if the incident affects your compliance with a regulation such as PCI, GLBA, or HIPAA.

If you want to pursue criminal charges or recover damages, you should contact your local law enforcement’s cybercrime unit or national law enforcement.

Can a remote employee work as security as one at Headquarters?

October 28, 2010

Cisco’s Jason Lackey certainly thinks so. In his blog post yesterday he has described a scenario where a mobile worker can work as securely as one at HQ.

Today, while we have seen that there is plenty of meat in Borderless Networks in the office, Borderless Networks has plenty of meat on the road as well. Bob, our enterprise worker, travels a lot, doing trade shows and customer visits and dispensing Kool-Aid of various types. When he knows he is going to have to do some heavy lifting with PowerPoint he is sure to take a laptop running AnyConnect, a secure VPN client that works with the Cisco ASA firewall back at HQ to give secure, encrypted remote access. Even if he is in a coffee shop using public Wi-Fi, he knows that his data is safe because everything is going back through that encrypted tunnel. But it is more than just connectivity that we are talking about here because traffic goes through a Cisco IronPort web security appliance, filtering spyware, trojans and the like. And, just like when he is in the office, TrustSec ensures that he has access to what he needs and can’t touch the things he doesn’t. Security is deeply integrated into the network itself, not just an afterthought or add-on appliance.

In today’s environment, security should be the number one priority of CIO’s, CSO’s, and CTO’s.  Mobile users are now one of the largest growing segments of the IT user groups. Mobile phones and more people working from home are necessitating the need for remote security solutions that are as robust as those at Head quarters.

My question to Microsoft (re a new competion with Google)

October 28, 2010

Microsoft–once again–finds itself at a crossroads with the departure of its Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie.

In his memorandum/post today, Ozzie predicts a “Post-PC” world where Cloud Computing and Continuous Services will drive the marketplace.

The question is will Microsoft be able to transform quickly enough to compete with Google?

CIO Movement from Cost to Profit and Social Media?

September 23, 2010

The concept of moving IT from a cost center to a profit center is still fairly new for most companies with the notable exceptions of Google, Facebook, Neilsen and the major telcos. But the role of the CIO is transcending its traditional function of automating and enabling other aspects of the business to driving profit utilizing the data that it is the steward of.

The CIO needs to possess strategic business smarts and superb operational ability. The ability to be able to work with the operational units in devising ways to look at the data that they have an monetize it effectively. Most business become aggregators of data, the ability to monetize those assets is becoming a crucial keeping a profitable business. The companies that understand this are looking at their CIOs and saying, “You own the data now help figure out how we can make money off this — or make more money off it.”

Wireless carriers are starting to realize they can monetize all matter of data collected from mobile users — specifically data that highlights their movement habits. According to MIT Technology Review, researchers and marketers are finding plenty of new uses for call detail records, or CDRs — which allow them to study a mountain of user behavior data. That data can be used by researchers or city planners to study travel behavior — but it’s likely going to be a gold mine on the marketing behavioral front.

The digitization of business assets– in concert with the rise of social media and networking as the vehicles of choice for reaching customers — increasingly puts IT at the center of the business’ marketing effort. It is now becoming very difficult in some organizations to tell the difference between the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Information Officer.

Offshoring: DO NOT Stop Sending IT Jobs Overseas

September 16, 2010

My response (and this is also posted in comments section of  George Tillmann‘s article/post on www.cio.com):

Offshoring: it’s Time to Stop Sending IT Jobs Overseas

The answer: DO NOT place a moratorium on offshoring!

Henry Ford drove the “Buggy Whip” and “Horse Cart” manufacturers out of business due to his invention of the assembly line and developing a product that could be purchased by the masses. The people who were designing and manufacturing “Buggy Whips” needed to retool their skill sets in order to be successful in a new market/economy.

I am sure that the owners of the Horse Cart and Buggy Whip manufacturers hoped that Henry Ford’s automobile would not succeed so they could continue on the status-quo. Unfortunately, similar to Henry Ford, offshoring is here to stay.

In order for US companies to be competitive in the world economy what we will need to do is retool our IT department’s skill sets!

Cost saving idea for “overbloated” telecommunications costs

September 3, 2010

In North America, Enterprises spend upwards of 6% of an enterprise’s gross revenues on telecommunications expenses.  This is a sizable chunk of money especially when you consider that is anywhere on average between 15%-30% of the entire IT budget.

Many enterprises have begun to get on board to the Voice Over IP (VOIP) bandwagon along with Unified Communications as a way to reduce their telecommunications cost.

With globalization in full swing, multinational companies now have offices all around the world. Consequently, a significant amount of calling traffic exists between these offices as employees collaborate on projects together. This leads to high long distance call charges. Even though International calling rates have significantly come down in the recent years, they are still a significant source of expenses for multinational companies. With VOIP and least cost routing, these costs are significantly reduced. In addition, VOIP opens up new avenues for conferencing and collaboration.

1. Reduced Capital Expenditure (CapEx)

Moving to a single platform that handles both voice and data traffic reduces capital expenditure by a huge margin, both initially and for the long-term. VOIP allows the enterprise to consolidate separate voice and data infrastructures into a single converged network. In addition, by implementing IP-based services, branch offices can preserve their investments in legacy infrastructure and extend its useful life, while leveraging the IP-based services hosted at headquarters.

2. Lower Operational Expenditures (OpEx)

VOIP allows one converged network to transport data and voice services simultaneously. This convergence reduces the overhead required to operate and maintain two disparate systems. Moves, adds, and changes (MACs) are much easier and cheaper on an IP-based PBX and telephony platform. With legacy platforms, difficult configuration changes can be cumbersome and costly third-party consulting often comes into picture.

3. Enhanced Employee Productivity

Initially, enterprises began adopting VoIP technology applications as a means of reducing long distance bills. However, these technologies have evolved into a platform that enables such rich featured applications as Unified Communications, conferencing, and worker collaboration. With teams working across the globe, VOIP enables multimedia conferencing, which can be easily setup and operated independently from the service provider. In addition, VOIP presence features allow users to be notified when the other party is online, ready and available for interaction. It also supports such file sharing and business applications as Microsoft Office Suite on a single platform, enabling still higher levels of collaboration.

4. Reduced mobile phone bills

With to remote voice connectivity via VOIP, road warriors no longer need to mount their monthly expenses by using their mobile phones when they are globetrotting. With Internet access universally available, road warriors can use VOIP to be connected to all their phone numbers remotely. Furthermore, by using presence, VOIP allows a single number to be registered to a variety of devices, making staff members available to their customers even when they are traveling.

Overall VOIP solutions can save an enterprise anywhere between 40-70% on their office to office telecommunications costs. Obviously existing infrastructure and communications lines have to be taken into consideration when developing a successful VOIP solution.