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Jon Collins

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Everything you ever wanted to know about private cloud

The idea of cloud computing usually suggests vast server and storage resources delivered by external providers. The benefits, we are told, are legion: you pay only for what you use, you scale up to what you need, procurement costs are minimal, operational overhead reduced, and so on. But many organisations remain concerned about …
Jon Collins, 08 Mar 2012

Seven lessons from the HP Touchpad fire sale

The unfolding saga surrounding the HP Touchpad contains a goldmine of salutary tales. So, just what can we learn from the last few days? Anyone who says they expected the fire sale of HP touchpads to turn into a global gadget grab is a liar. Fortunately nobody has yet, not publicly anyway – indeed, apart from a few bits of …
Jon Collins, 29 Aug 2011
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Pushing service delivery beyond the enterprise boundary

Workshop So far in this series we’ve been considering all things service delivery, with an emphasis on how the various elements of IT infrastructure can be managed as a single whole. IT infrastructure isn’t what it once was however, as demonstrated by the increasing range of ‘cloud-based’ options available from third parties. The word ‘ …
Jon Collins, 26 Nov 2010
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My lost Cobol years: Integrating legacy management

Workshop Nearly a quarter of a century ago, I went for a job interview with ICL. “What do you think of COBOL?” they asked. “It’s a dinosaur, won’t last, should be put out of its misery,” I remember saying. The two grey suits looked at each other and turned back to me. “We’re a COBOL shop,” said one, before the interview very swiftly …
Jon Collins, 24 Nov 2010
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Tools and technologies for service delivery

Workshop Certain things in life are true, such as exercise is good for you, common sense is not so common, and budget for IT management and operations tools is hard to come by. Browse around the websites of any number of software companies and you will find technologies to make IT operations more productive, reduce costs and risks, and …
Jon Collins, 23 Nov 2010
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Life beyond server consolidation

Workshop Virtualisation software vendors have in their marketing kit bags a very simple chart, which comprises three circles. The first, on the bottom left shows ‘simple’ server virtualisation, that is, use of virtual machines to consolidate multiple workloads onto a smaller set of servers. In the centre is ‘managed’ virtualisation, in …
Jon Collins, 22 Nov 2010

How von Neumann still controls the desktop

Workshop When John Von Neumann first wrote up his notes about the logical design of the EDVAC computer on a train journey to Los Alamos in 1946, it is unlikely that he fully appreciated the impact they would have. For all their complexity, cores and threads, their caches and bus architectures, modern computers still follow which is …
Jon Collins, 17 Nov 2010
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Squaring the service delivery circle

Workshop In the last article, we considered a number of perspectives on service delivery, top to bottom, left to right. In operational terms however, the relationship that matters the most is the one agreed between coal-face IT staff and the users they support. What’s at the heart of making this work? Things were simpler in the old days …
Jon Collins, 17 Nov 2010
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Making practice perfect in IT service delivery

Workshop The adage “Do as I say, not as I do” is nowhere more true than in delivering effective IT services. Bookshelves are full of guidance, and indeed, frameworks such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) go into considerable depth to explain the whys and wherefores of service delivery best practice. If it’s all so hard to do …
Jon Collins, 15 Nov 2010
server room

Interoperability: standards or proprietary?

Workshop ‘Choice’ is one of those words that gets bandied around in all kinds of ways, without anyone really thinking about if it is appropriate. We all want choice, so we are told, whether it’s to do with the schools where we send our kids, or the ever-increasing range of products on supermarket shelves. In IT we talk about ‘best of …
Jon Collins, 01 Nov 2010
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Monitoring for security effectiveness

Workshop In the last of this mini-poll series, we wanted to find out whether the security monitoring mechanisms you have in place are seen as effective. To kick off, we should introduce a couple of factors we thought might make a difference, namely whether you want to monitor, and whether you have to monitor against security breaches. …
Jon Collins, 05 Aug 2010
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Calling data center professionals everywhere

Reader Study How does the world look to you? We want to draw a picture of the world from the point of view of the data center professional - several pictures in fact, depending on the size of your business, the way your IT environment is organized and your role in the whole thing. As I was once told by a senior ops guy, many people "have no …
Jon Collins, 02 Aug 2010
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Managing change in the application portfolio

Workshop Nothing stands still forever, particularly not in IT, and with good reason. When we researched the drivers that were having the most impact on how x86 server environments are architected, evolved and operated for example, we found that data growth was the number one driver, followed closely by new application requirements, and …
Jon Collins, 29 Jul 2010
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The basics of app management

Workshop IT may be complex, but from the perspective of the business, it is just a lot of technical gubbins that sits between the screen and the data. Users access applications and systems with no real clue about what goes on behind the scenes, nor any desire to understand more than how to change a toner cartridge. We can rail at their …
Jon Collins, 26 Jul 2010
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How effective is your security monitoring?

Workshop Poll For many organisations, the litmus test for IT security effectiveness is whether or not security breaches are reduced as a result. Security monitoring should help, but modern environments are complex and multi-faceted, and it can be difficult to determine how much is down to the tools, and how much is down to other factors such …
Jon Collins, 26 Jul 2010
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Collaboration, complexity and compliance

Workshop The trouble with some terms we use in IT is that they take on a life of their own and suggest an unrealistic simplicity. Take “collaboration” for example. To define it requires a decision: either to focus on a limited set of interactions between specific individuals, or more realistically, to recognise that collaboration refers …
Jon Collins, 22 Jul 2010
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Who cares about encryption?

Workshop Poll Results We're used to getting a hundred or so responses from the mini-polls we run, but the 383 responses to our recent encryption survey were indicative of just how important this area is to people. In it, we wanted to gauge the gap between aspiration and reality when it comes to encryption – what you think is necessary, versus what …
Jon Collins, 20 Jul 2010
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The terror beyond the firewall

Workshop “The office” is fast becoming, for many organisations, a thing of the past – at least in terms of the expectation that it is the only place people go to work. If Ricky Gervais remade the series now, he’d have characters on trains trying to conduct negotiations over dodgy mobile signals, and web conferencing between people …
Jon Collins, 19 Jul 2010
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Doing the right thing on ID management isn't enough...

Workshop In a previous article we looked at Identity Management and access provisioning as an end in itself, and from the perspective that there are benefits to be had from being on top of who’s using what. For many organisations, however, identity management is a necessity, imposed through the demands of regulatory compliance. …
Jon Collins, 16 Jul 2010
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Identity management is a pain in the backside

Workshop Identity management in the corporate environment is complex - not to mention, at the coalface, a pain in the backside. In the real world in which you work, password resets are one of the most commonly cited causes of help desk stress – and that’s an identity management problem. People leaving the company and still having access …
Jon Collins, 12 Jul 2010
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Are your project timescales shrinking?

Lab When did the two-year project lifecycle die? In my head, I put it at just over a decade ago, when I was involved in an accounting systems replacement exercise. Everything was so clearly mapped out – from requirements capture, to design, selection, integration, testing in a variety of flavours, and all kinds of user education …
Jon Collins, 02 Jul 2010
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Let’s hear it for service centricity

Lab An elderly lady attended a public lecture given by an astrophysicist on how the Earth goes around the Sun and how the Sun circles about with countless other stars in the Milky Way. During the question and answer session, the woman stood up and told the distinguished scientist that his lecture was nonsense, that the Earth is a …
Jon Collins, 29 Jun 2010
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Does business really care about security?

Workshop Poll Results I once read a book that said, among other things, “You can never truly give money away.” The point it was making was that the act of giving has a certain responsibility – if you hand a large wad of cash to a charity, for example, you will want to know that the money is being spent wisely. A good theory perhaps, but it doesn’t …
Jon Collins, 28 Jun 2010
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Getting on top of change management

Lab One of the first articles I ever had to write as an analyst was about change management. In it, I suggested that major IT programmes tend to follow a similar path as the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Of course, this was no great insight: many managers will be familiar with the team- …
Jon Collins, 22 Jun 2010
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Managing the dung heaps of data

Lab The question “What about the 'I' in 'IT'?” serves as an equally good reminder of the point of the ‘T’. But while information allegedly exists to support the business, from the information technology perspective it sometimes seems almost a by-product of all the communications we want to do, all the applications we want to run. …
Jon Collins, 16 Jun 2010
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Everything should be encrypted, right?

Workshop Poll Here's the perfect plan to solve all those pesky security problems. Confidentiality and data leakage, secure backups, individual privacy, data integrity, identity and access management - all can be dealt with in some way by encryption. So why don't we all just use it then, and be done? Of course encryption is out there, embedded …
Jon Collins, 04 Jun 2010
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The software licensing minefield

Lab Software vendors make their money from licensing software for individual and corporate use. From the buying perspective, you’d think it could be a simple question of asking how much you need, and working out a price for that. But nothing in IT is ever so straightforward. In France they have an expression – “why do something …
Jon Collins, 02 Jun 2010
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The emerging cloud alternative

Poll Results If there’s one thing about the current furore about Cloud Computing that really gets our goats, it’s to do with the amount of unnecessary confusion that’s being generated. It's unnecessary because, behind it all, there’s actually a number of quite good things happening. Sure, it’s a tricky area as it cuts across so many things …
Jon Collins, 02 Jun 2010
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Understanding your information assets

Lab Information is power, right? Well, just how powerful must most organisations feel today, given the amount of information they are packing? The immediate irony is that the opposite is generally true – we create data with gay abandon, but our ability to keep tabs on everything that we create is showing itself to be increasingly …
Jon Collins, 24 May 2010
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Delivering a secure information infrastructure

Lab I recently had the task of writing an explanatory paper about Good Practice Guide (GPG) 13, a UK-government sponsored piece of guidance around "protective monitoring" – that is, being able to keep an eye on what's going on in your IT environment in order to spot when security breaches happen. Now, before you get all big brother …
Jon Collins, 18 May 2010
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The IT security blame game

Workshop Poll The word “governance” is one that tends to make most peoples’ eyes glaze over. But whether we are talking about running a corporation, managing an IT department or dealing with IT security, there has to be a mechanism in place for making sure that the right things are taken care of in an acceptable manner. And cutting through …
Jon Collins, 17 May 2010
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Standards and interoperability: Are you backing the right horse?

Lab IT can sometimes seem like a long, drawn-out process of making things work with each other. Whether it’s getting back-end systems to exchange information, or trying to open a file that has been sent in an unexpected format, most who work with technology will be familiar with the challenge. But surely standards are supposed to …
Jon Collins, 10 May 2010
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The evolving role of the IT security manager

Workshop Poll Results Security has long been the poor cousin of IT. As any security professional knows, the way we have traditionally implemented security is tantamount to a technological afterthought. Through the years we have attempted to block holes, protect the periphery and lock down access rights for running systems, in the knowledge that IT …
Jon Collins, 10 May 2010
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Building high availability into IT

Lab What does ‘high availability’ actually mean in the context of IT today? We’ve written elsewhere about more general availability and good systems design, but what if you want to assure availability when things go unexpectedly wrong? From a systems perspective this is where we start adding to the number of nines we talk about, for …
Jon Collins, 04 May 2010
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What's impacting IT security today?

Mini Poll Okay, we've banged on often enough about how security shouldn't be about products - it should be about making sure our data is adequately protected and all such good ideas. But the question is just how practical is this? We know a whole load of change is coming to IT today, some internal and some external. We also know that the …
Jon Collins, 29 Apr 2010
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Organisational change and IT

Lab It is great to theorise about all the good things IT can bring. Indeed, a fortunate few have that as their jobs. Just imagine what life would be like, for example, if it were possible to provision virtual servers on the fly, or provide real-time business intelligence tools to everyone who needed them, or implement management …
Jon Collins, 28 Apr 2010
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Architecting for IT service delivery

Lab A few years back I was involved in a project that turned out far more interesting than I expected. The plan was to write a training course about a software development methodology. As you see, it did start from a reasonably low point in terms of interest – but it quickly evolved into a much more worthwhile exercise. The course …
Jon Collins, 22 Apr 2010

Should all hard drives be encrypted?

Workshop Given the origins of computing in the coding and decoding of messages, it’s fair to say that the heritage of encryption is as noteworthy as what we now call IT. Indeed the principles of algorithmic codification of data, and the maths behind them, go back way beyond the illustrious efforts of Alan Turing and his ilk in the Second …
Jon Collins, 19 Apr 2010
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What does YOUR IT crystal ball say?

Lab Here’s a question for you. Is change really afoot in the way your organisation ‘does’ IT? I know, dumb question, of course it is – but not in the way that some might think. For a start, business and IT are constantly about change, for better or worse. My corporate days used to be full of meetings, initiatives, reorganisations, …
Jon Collins, 19 Apr 2010
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What’s new and improving about IT today?

Lab For anyone who has been in IT for a while, all that new and improved stuff can quite quickly feel like the same-old-same-old, repackaged for the latest generation of supposedly tech-literate masses. Still, the “I’ve seen it all before” game can be a dangerous one to play. It is too easy (for example) to look at social media and …
Jon Collins, 09 Apr 2010

Administrator access: Right or privilege?

Workshop Here’s a story, which may or may not be true. A long, long time ago, a UNIX sys admin was having a problem with some of his users, who thought it was really funny to download explicit photos from the then still-fledgling Internet and pop them up on other people’s screens. It wasn’t funny of course, but when the administrator …
Jon Collins, 08 Apr 2010

The IT management impact of home working

Workshop We’re pretty familiar with the kinds of issues that cause hassle for help, support and service desks the world over. Indeed, few requests for Reg reader feedback have engendered such a response as desktop support. User support is never easy, but at least in the old days when most IT equipment was contained in the same set of …
Jon Collins, 01 Apr 2010
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Virtualisation and sorcery: We’re all apprentices now

Lab It’s funny to think what might be made of this virtualisation lab in a few years’ time. When we kicked it off back in December last year, we wanted to gauge where organisations large and small were really at – and after a barrage of questions and a solid level of feedback, we think we now know. Whatever the evangelists and early …
Jon Collins, 29 Mar 2010

Office IT: One size doesn't fit all?

Workshop “We are all individuals” – Brian “I’m not” – computer user 'One size fits all' might be preferable for IT departments, but from an end-user perspective, everybody thinks they have different needs. But choice can be a two-edged sword. I remember way back when, having been put in charge of IT, I was surprised that desktop …
Jon Collins, 22 Mar 2010
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Potholes on the road to server virtualisation

Lab While the broader question of what’s going to prevent server virtualisation going mainstream might be interesting, it's far more pertinent to find out what’s going to prevent virtualisation working in your own organisation. According to your feedback, virtualisation itself doesn’t seem to require that great a skill set to get …
Jon Collins, 17 Mar 2010
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Growing up with virtualisation

On Demand As many organisations are discovering as they move beyond server virtualisation pilot projects, there's more to it than just consolidating servers and dealing with workloads. In this on-demand webcast, Jon Collins of analyst firm Freeform Dynamics talks to Zane Adam, general manager of virtualisation and systems management at …
Jon Collins, 08 Mar 2010
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Will we stop talking about virtualisation?

Lab Well, it’s been fun, but we’re starting to draw this virtualisation lab series to a close. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be wrapping things up, tying things down and otherwise leaving things neatly parcelled. While of course it is a free society, so you don’t have to pay any attention to the stream of editorial on this …
Jon Collins, 04 Mar 2010
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Assessing your server virtualisation needs

Lab One of the appealing things about server virtualisation is that the “table stakes” are quite low. To virtualise a server, it really is just a case of configure the server, install the appropriate software, log in and off you go – or at least, it was last time I tried. From there it is possible to create VMs with relative ease, …
Jon Collins, 23 Feb 2010
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Desktop evolution offers alternative admin options

Lab Love them or loathe them, desktops are integral to IT service delivery. They are the most common point of access for users, and their performance has a disproportionately high bearing on user satisfaction and the perception of IT generally. Beyond this, we know from research that allowing the desktop environment to drift and …
Jon Collins, 19 Feb 2010
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Virtualisation and packaged applications

Lab To the outsider, suggesting that such workloads as SAP, Siebel and so on should be candidates for virtualisation feels like a bit of an anathema. Such packaged apps have a reputation for being monolithic and siloed, and perhaps inappropriate for running on a VM. Or indeed, if these are the flagship applications on which an …
Jon Collins, 16 Feb 2010