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The four facets of the digital revolution

Posted on 23 January 2012 by Pierre Picard

Matthew Foxton – Executive VP Stratégie & Marketing

Current technological trends show that business and public sector bodies alike are speeding up the transition to digital. And Bull is ideally placed to support them.

Since the end of 2010, more smartphones have been sold than PCs, and according to Gartner 900 million tablet computers will be in circulation by 2016. The explosive growth in these new devices is both symbolic of and driving the new, digital age. We are already feeling its impact: in economic terms, with the growing value of intangible assets; socially, as the barriers break down between private and public, business and personal life; and at a geo-strategic level, with issues of sovereignty and transparency. Of all the factors in this revolution, the maturity of technologies (consumerization) and users (the rise of Generation Y, who will make up 40% of the workforce by 2015) plays the leading role.

In the post-PC age, the information system has to comply with users’ expectations and their choice of hardware and ergonomics: not the other way round. For Gartner, this is a paradigm shift that marks the start of a whole new, second phase for information technology. Having been ‘pushed’ by technology since the 1970s, innovation is now being ‘pulled’ by usage. What counts now, are users’ needs; and technology’s role is to meet these in a simple, secure and effective way. This will have many, profound consequences for the information systems used by public and private sector organizations. Already, we can see four major trends emerging for 2012: evidence that the change is accelerating, they will also be the four key facets of the digital revolution in the coming years.

1. Explosion in processing needs

Between the origins of man and 2003, around five Exabytes of information were created. Today, we produce that in just two days. By 2013 at the latest, 1,000 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, and the resulting (already considerable) traffic will increase nine-fold. First and foremost, the figures relating to the digital revolution are staggering, and the hardware behind them, invisible yet essential, is subject to enormous pressure. Whether we are talking about transactional application servers, specialist appliances for applications such as Business Intelligence, or the supercomputers used for computer simulation, the machines that are needed today have to deliver colossal amounts of processing power, simply to deal with such huge volumes of data. What’s more, they have to prove their total reliability, because such systems are more and more critical, and offer optimum energy efficiency, given the growing weight of economic and environmental issues. These three requirements guide Bull’s developments today, epitomized by the success of Tera 100 (not only Europe’s first and only Petascale supercomputer, but also one of the most energy efficient in the world) and bullion™ (which has been specifically designed for virtualization, with the very latest Bull x86 server leaving its rivals far behind in the race for processing speed and energy efficiency).

2. The transition to ‘as a service’ delivery

According to IDC, cloud-related spend is growing five times faster than general expenditure on IT. Today, the cloud is the perfect expression of how technologies and users are maturing in step with each other. In a constantly evolving environment, what matters to the latter is the ability to access the most appropriate tools for their needs; not actually to own those tools. In other words, being able to subscribe to a made-to-measure, configurable service, instead of having to conform to the constraints of a nonflexible system. So the cloud is resulting in a dual trend: with users appropriating the ergonomic and functional aspects on the one hand; and, on the other, production and dissemination resources being increasingly concentrated in the hands of expert providers. This transition is now well under way, and we are seeing various new forms of cloud (public, private, specialized…) emerge and combine to create hybrid, enterprise clouds that are oriented in different ways depending on the particular requirements of each process being supported.

For IT Departments, this means being able to orchestrate these different solutions and offer them to users in the form of an aggregated, coherent and exhaustive services catalogue. Precisely in order to help its customers make the transition to this new model, Bull has developed Le cloud by Bull™, a structured and pragmatic methodology – combining both services and solutions – that works in stages and is designed to address the technological, security and governance issues specific to the cloud.

3. The growth of business computing

Now that users have much more to say in the choice of tools, functionality and ergonomy, they also have an expanded role in information systems governance. This is clearly shown by the prediction that by 2016 30% of IT spend will be controlled by the business, compared with just 5% in 2009. As industry analysts Forrester sum up, the challenge of new technologies will now be to create value for the business. Users will expect their computing tools to mimic their working habits and usage, and to deliver real operational added value. Mobility, Business Intelligence, paperless processes… are all seen as especially valuable. What’s more, solutions must be flexible enough to rapidly take on board new products, new organizational structures and new information. And users increasingly want to be able to make these kinds of changes themselves, without recourse to software development. We are also seeing the emergence of new kinds of modular, highly specialized, services-oriented platforms, such as the ‘process computerization factory’ that Bull has implemented for the French government or eXion, the multi-channel e-banking solution developed by Bull’s Polish subsidiary, AMG.net.

4. The need for security

If users are to fully adopt technology, it not only has to suit their needs, but also inspire their trust. Which is why security is now the number one concern when it comes to all digital solutions. The more value inherent in your information assets, the more they attract greed and envy, and the more costly any damage to them becomes. As attackers’ strategies become increasingly sophisticated, covert and patient, business and government are implementing new strategies, combining organizational measures and technical tools, especially to identify, qualify and deal with threats as early as possible. With greater mobility and the advent of the cloud, new risks are appearing, as well as new challenges such as sovereignty, and the aim is to secure infrastructures, terminals and interconnections without adversely affecting productivity and freedom of movement. As an expert in advanced security solutions (digital identity management, cryptography, critical systems, physical security…), Bull is in the forefront when it comes to providing the essential trust solutions needed for the development of the digital society.

For IT Departments, these four trends are resulting in a redefinition of their role and the scope of their interventions. What is tending to happen is that some of the tasks that have weighed them down up to now are being removed – either upstream, to suppliers of outsourcing or cloud services, or downstream to users – but they remain the indispensable guarantors of the security, coherence and sustainability of an information system that is more open and heterogeneous than ever before.

Now more of a services provider than a production unit, the IT Department oversees the changes to the information system, working very closely with all the stakeholders. At the heart of the enterprise, it is still the main source of new ideas when it comes to using emerging technologies to tackle the key challenges faced by the organization; business innovation, operational excellence, customer relationship and risk management, and regulatory compliance. But to do this, the IT Department has to be able to rely – more than ever – on partners who can support it with both the technological and business aspects. This change offers great opportunities for Bull, which has both the recognized technical expertise in IT infrastructures (interoperability, performance, security…) and an in-depth understanding of end users business challenges, in its chosen markets such as the public sector, finance and telecoms.

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