FLUENT: Perspectives from Softcat

TECHNOLOGY PERSPECTIVES.

FLUENT’S MONTHLY ROUND UP OF TECH NEWS, INSIGHTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

Each month, Softcat’s OCTO team will be providing its unique perspectives on the news stories from the previous month, affecting private and public sector organisations through the lens of technology. Our aim is to cast a light on some of the biggest news stories in this space, and the small (but still important) stories that may have slipped under your radar.

In this month’s feature looking back at the headlines published in April 2022, we look at how security is being prioritised in the boardroom, work-related stress affecting security professionals, the Metaverse Wild-West, and why both public cloud spend and wastage are on the up. Our OCTO contributors are:

ADAM LOUCA Chief Technologist for Security

SIMON TEAGUE Account Chief Technologist

ADAM HARDING Chief Technologist for Digital Workspace

SECURITY PRIORITISED IN THE BOARDROOM

With Adam Louca, Chief Technologist – Security

The UK Government has released its annual Cyber Security Breaches Survey, providing a snapshot of cyber resilience among organisations large and small.

The report is full of statistics that are worth a read, but what caught my attention the most was Figure 3.2 showing the percentage of organisations over time where cyber security is a high priority for directors, trustees and other senior managers.

Back in 2016, this figure stood at 69% and every year it has increased (except in 2021). Today, the figure is at an all-time high (82%), signalling the evolution and maturity of cyber security, keeping pace with the rate of digital transformation.

But what’s going through the heads of the 18% who don’t view cyber security as a top priority? It’s unlikely that security isn’t a high priority for them. Instead, it shows a lack of understanding about the importance of cyber security to business continuity and success at board and senior management level.

Similarly, when it comes to how often senior managers receive updates on cyber security, 16% said they never do, rising to 23% within charities. What’s more, 15% only get updated annually. If we replace security with sales or revenue in this instance, it would seem crazy.

We can also see a clear difference between large and small organisations here. 80% of large businesses have senior managers updated at least quarterly, falling to 68% within medium sized enterprises. This contrasts with the situation among micro and small businesses, within which just under half (49%) provide updates at least quarterly.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. At Softcat, we’d like to see organisations move to at least quarterly reporting of cyber security to boards and monthly to senior leadership to promote a continuous process of review and improvement. The key is for IT teams to communicate in a language senior execs understand, to provide them with a health and performance status of their investment in cyber security and what ongoing investment needs to be.

For smaller organisations who are struggling with internal resources and knowledge, leaning on third party support is essential.

HALF OF CYBERSECURITY PROFESSIONALS ARE CONSIDERING QUITTING

The skills gap in cyber security is something we’ve covered before on FLUENT and for good reason – it’s one of the biggest challenges facing businesses and IT teams.

So, reading a new report by Vectra that shows the prevalence of work-related stress among security professionals is a serious cause for concern and something we need to talk about more.

The survey found 94% of security leaders feel increased pressure to keep their company safe from cyber attacks compared to last year, with a shocking two out of five having to seek help due to the impact of work-related stress – including migraines, panic attacks and high blood pressure.

At Softcat, we’re 100% behind reversing this trend. Cyber security workers should be seen and treated like the emergency services of the IT environment, often on call, working unsociable hours and frequently experiencing high-

pressure and stressful situations. They also carry a huge amount of responsibility and accountability on their shoulders and are the first to be blamed for a breach or an attack.

The focus on addressing the skills gap must be balanced, attracting new talent into the industry as well as supporting and empowering the talented people who protect our organisations today.

As awareness grows around this issue, we can expect to see better and wider access to mental health support being offered to the workforce, and it being used as a perk to attract new hires.

We’re pleased to announce that Softcat is partnering with Tcup, to offer a free check-in service via their mental health focused platform. The aim is to help security professionals manage work-related stress and offer employers insights into their wellbeing and performance with real-time data insights.

THE METAVERSE IS EXCITING, BUT IT’S TIME FOR REGULATORS TO STEP IN

With Adam Harding, Chief Technologist – Digital Workspace

Image source: https://about.fb.com/news/2022/03/vr-parental-supervision-tools-on-quest/

The metaverse has been a long time coming. In 1839, Sir Charles Wheatstone outlined the concept of binocular vision, where you combine two images, one for each eye, to create the illusion of depth in 3D images - the same principle used in VR headsets to this day.

The term metaverse was coined in the 1992 science-fiction novel Snow Crash, where the characters interacted with each other as avatars in a three-dimensional virtual space. But now, the metaverse is much more than a fictional tale. Now it is a shared virtual environment that people access through the internet, using AI, VR, MR and blockchain technology which mimics the real world.

SO, WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT, AND HOW HAS IT EVOLVED?

A recent article published in Forbes discusses the positive and negative effects of the metaverse on society. And over the past 183 years, there have been many moments of evolution and innovation - although nothing compared to what we’ve seen recently.

HERE’S A BRIEF TIMELINE:

1956

The first VR machine was introduced, combining 3D video with audio, smells and vibration.

1960-1970

The military started using augmented reality in the headset for pilots.

1991

The introduction of VR arcade machines.

2007

Google introduced Street View, showing virtual panoramic views of locations.

2014

Facebook bought Oculus. Sony, Samsung and Google developed their own devices.

2020

The introduction of Lidar into iPhones and iPads, so they can detect depth effectively and augmented reality is more realistic.

1960

The first headset was made available.

1978

MIT created the Aspen Movie Map – a computer-generated tour of Aspen - the first time VR was used to transport people to another place.

1998

Sports Vision broadcast the first live NFL game.

2010

The prototype of Oculus Rift was developed, introducing a 90-degree field of view using computing processing power to revolutionise the headset market.

2016

Microsoft introduced a mixed reality solution that overlays 3D graphics and models into the real world that can be manipulated. The release of Pokémon GO and IKEA’s Place App – the first app to use augmented reality to place furniture in your home.

2021

Facebook changed its name to Meta to signal its intent and possibly indicate the almost infinite amount of targeted advertising space within an immersive metaverse. Headsets are made much smaller, e.g. the HDC Vive Flow – a portable VR headset that looks like sunglasses and Ray-Ban creates Stories Smart Glasses.

By design, the metaverse creates entirely new worlds ready to be flooded with goods, services and advertisements. Companies and the public are already cashing in on this, with Fortnight making $1.8billion in in-app purchases solely based on outfits to express individualism and NFTs becoming increasingly popular, with sales in their billions.

Yet, while it’s had an extraordinary revolution, the metaverse is very much the Wild West, full of opportunity but full of threat. It’s a lawless place where accountability is trumped by anonymity, and the hard lessons taught by Web 1.0 and 2.0 are yet to be acknowledged as technological evolution once again outpaces any type of regulatory control.

Augmented and Mixed Reality already play a subtle role in many of our lives. From the graphics overlayed onto every court, pitch and course during sporting events, to the apps that now allow us to visualise new furniture in our homes via our smartphones and tablets.

But the metaverse is different. AR and MR focus on enhancing our experience of the real world. The metaverse is about immersing us into entirely new worlds, separate from reality, as an escape or at least an extension of this one.

The metaverse lends itself to significant developments in education, healthcare, design, accessibility, retail and more since we’re not constrained by the laws of physics. But without accountability, where Avatars are linked to real world identities, it’s difficult to see how any metaverse will be a safe place to have fun or do business.

Find out more about the metaverse in our Explain IT podcast episode here:

Image source: https://about.fb.com/news/2022/04/testing-creator-monetization-horizon-worlds/

PUBLIC CLOUD SPEND IS ON THE UP, BUT SO TOO IS WASTAGE

With Simon Teague, Account Chief Technologist – Cloud Computing

In April, a report by IDC forecasted strong demand for shared (public) cloud infrastructure will see the level of spending overtake that of non-cloud infrastructure this year - as discussed in The Register.

The article discusses how the demand for public cloud could grow by 25.5 percent this year to $65.5billion, while spending on private cloud will decline by 0.3 percent.

I always read these figures and predictions with interest, as typically, year-on-year public cloud spending is growing. There is no denying that public cloud services are transforming how businesses can achieve agility at a scale that's virtually impossible to mirror with an on-premise platform.

But does a large spending increase in public cloud mean it's the right thing to do? The answer quite unhelpfully is - it depends!

Interestingly, an article published by TechRadar reveals how Gartner predicts end-user spending on public cloud computing will reach nearly $600 billion, which they claim is due to a rise in hybrid working.

The pandemic has, of course, played its part. After all, hybrid/remote working is now normal. Offices are commonly being repurposed as ‘meeting hubs’, reducing the need for a data centre presence close to or in an office building. Remote desktop services in the cloud are a fantastic example of reducing on-premise hardware – traditional VDI environments are typically expensive resources that generally sit idle outside of working hours.

The pandemic has also reduced the availability of hardware significantly, with manufacturers struggling to keep up with a backlog of orders - accelerating cloud adoption programmes.

However, some businesses may look to extend on-premise support to sweat assets longer, meaning a lull in traditional hardware renewal spends.

Although, it’s time to revisit that enterprise architecture, as cloud cost wastage is still high. The operational shift and a continued lack of cloud skills present many challenges to businesses. Without a clearly defined road map that covers the technology and the people and process, you'll never realise the true value of the cloud.

By adopting a modern and dynamic enterprise architecture framework that demonstrates the 'What' you'll do to deliver on and the ‘Why’ you as a business provide a service, you’ll be able to establish ‘How’ to deliver cloud services successfully.

At this point, it's best not to focus too much on the predictions that cloud spending will increase.

Cloud services are fantastic once you know why they work for your business. Hyperscaler providers release services based on client feedback and demand. The vast number of services available is incredible, and they are typically mature and easy to consume. Client demand has progressed way beyond 'novelty' and 'innovation' – cloud is the norm.

Before investing in more cloud services and adding to the statistics of wasted cloud spend or 'accidental hybrid cloud adoption', define your road map based on your service requirements and choose from a mature set of cloud services that will allow you to deliver additional value to your IT value chain.

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TECHNOLOGY PERSPECTIVES.

In this month’s feature looking at the headlines published in January 2022, we help you make sense of the new UK Government strategy for cybersecurity, discuss what work could be like in the metaverse, get the latest on the office vs hybrid debate and much more.

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