Monday, February 07, 2011

Welcome To 2011, Year Of The Rabbit

This year our normal New Year message to clients and partners comes exactly one month late. Another way to look at it (with the Chinese New Year starting February 3rd) is that we are bang on time.

一个好年头 (Another Good Year)
2010 was another year of growth for 360is with more clients in new sectors and a formalised datacenter performance practice. We deepened our profile in Private Equity with more virtualization projects (VMware and XenServer), and in mainstream Investment Banking with more VDI (VMware View and XenDesktop) assignments. Our Security practice continued with steady growth, and included new business from UK-based online gaming and "dotcom" sectors. 360is now counts among it's clients several of the UK's fastest growing and "best to work for" companies. While the UK Economy may have disappointed in December (particularly retail), through 2010 we saw our Financial Services, Mining/Metals, and Hi-tech Manufacturing clients rebound.

年更强 (Stronger In 2011)
The outlook for Q1 2011 is better than many thought. For the services sector at least, it looks like the December 2010 disappointment really was snow related, or was everyone at home with flu? This year promises more investment activity, increasing demand for raw materials (China again), and growing orders for our UK Hi-tech manufacturers.

We expect the trends of 2009-2010 to continue for 360is:
  • Increasing average project size
  • Steady rate of new client acquisition
  • Increasing number of projects per client
  • Steady geographical focus on UK, South East
  • Increasing client diversity beyond historic finance/telecoms base
  • Steady ratio of bookings to billings to backlog, no credit risk
  • Conservative recruitment strategy focused on "talent" not "resource"

科技是一个礼物 (The Gift Of Technology)
What technological gifts did 2010 bring our clients, and how can we best use them to increase their prosperity in 2011?

Multi-Core Systems
Multi-core systems have been around since at least 2005. One fact of which you may not be aware is that x86-64 CPU manufacturers have long since given up on making CPU cores go faster. Faster cores require more exotic materials, more expensive cooling apparatus, more complex micro-architectures with only marginal performance gains, and present all sorts of problems with manufacturing yield. That last point frightens shareholders to death. Instead, today, Intel and AMD devote most of their efforts to making more cores per square millimeter of silicon. More cores means more processing capability. Problem solved, right? Not really.
While increasing the numbers of cores (made possible as transistors get smaller) does increase theoretical performance, in practice this must be balanced with the right amount of memory bandwidth and core-to-core interconnect design. Even then, our problems have only just begun. The fact is most software does not take great advantage of multiple cores, more serious still is the fact that most programmers lack parallel programming skills. Finally, there are many classes of computational problem which are serial in nature, and are never going to gain much from running on a multi-core CPU.
Wont Microsoft/Oracle/IBM/VMware sort all this out for me? Not really.
While technologies like virtualization (whole-system or zone-based) allow you to run many workloads on a single CPU (keeping many cores occupied at once) they do nothing to speed up the execution of any one task or thread of activity. In order to speed up your IT from the end-user's perspective you may have to resort to more carefully considered system performance tuning, and that may require a deeper understanding of systems hardware and application software than your staff posses. The really big gains in performance can't be had by simply adding a product here and a patch there.
360is consultants have extensive experience in squeezing the maximum performance out of an infrastructure. Using a toolkit of repeatable intellectual property we are often able to increase performance even for serial, single threaded processing through our formal methods approach. Find out more about our performance practice.

Non x86-64 Servers And Other Novel Hardware
If like most of our clients, you are in the UK, then IBM Power CPUs calculate your insurance premiums, Oracle SPARC processors compute your taxes, and Intel Itaniums keeps your commuter train running on time (mostly). If you are out of work, then it's an IBM z10 CPU that you have to thank for paying your benefits. While Intel or AMD x86-64 systems dominate in the front office, the back office is more mixed, and with good reason. No, these particular systems do not run Windows, or Linux.
This year x86-64 front-office systems will be joined by new servers based upon ARM, Loonsong, Atom, and SPARC-T3 CPUs. So the next time you visit your hosted/colocated systems in a shared datacenter, keep an eye out for them. If you want to know how these systems might provide a competitive advantage to your business, get in touch. 360is has a record of working with novel hardware platforms that increase the profitability of our clients.

The Inevitable Spread Of Productivity Services
Technology vendor's continue to channel hundreds of millions of pounds a year from their marketing budgets into rebranding products and services "for the cloud". At 360is we call this "cloudwashing", it's much like the "greenwashing" that the same vendors underwent a few years ago. However, through the fog of cloudwashing there is value and real adoption happening in the world of cloud services. At 360is we are users of cloud-based productivity tools like Evernote, Dropbox, ManyEyes, and Google Chrome (as a tool to access other Google services). These productivity services offer an inbuilt ability to work anywhere, on any device, over any network. Whether or not they conform to your security policy, your users will soon be using services like these. If they make life easier then they will spread in the same way that instant messaging spread a decade ago.
360is can help you select and standardise upon productivity tools and provide secure remote access to your confidential information.  

VDI - Virtual Desktops - Desktop As A Service
Virtual Desktop deployments continue to grow in number as both large and small clients display increasing acceptance of this method of desktop delivery to end users. The primary drivers for VDI deployment remain:
- Avoidance of desktop hardware refresh 
- Ease of migration to Windows 7 from XP
- Stronger Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity
- Ability to manage/maintain more desktops with fewer/static IT staff
360is have executed a number of virtual desktop projects using all the major vendor products for large and small organisations in the public and private sector, using a variety of endpoints including thin clients, tablets, and mobile devices. Find out how.

If you would like to discuss any of what you have read about with one of our consultants then we would be happy to meet with you at your offices or at our London or Wokingham sites. Simply get in touch.

All that remains is for us to say is Happy New Year and finally"gung hay fat choy"(*)
(*)"may you become prosperous"

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