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UK tech spend grows at its third fastest rate in more than 15 years

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UK tech spend grows at its third fastest rate in more than 15 years

Despite 90% of digital leaders in the UK expecting an economic downturn, tech spend this year is set to grow at its third fastest rate in over 15 years,

More than half (52%) of digital leaders in the UK expect their technology budget to rise, and only around one in seven expect their budget to fall, according to the world’s largest and longest running survey of senior technology decision makers.

But the Nash Squared Digital Leadership Report, in collaboration with CIONET found that investment has slowed in emerging tech like AI, RPA and Big Data in the UK, threatening opportunities to innovate through global economic instability. Although investment remains strong in cloud (67% reporting large-scale usage in the UK), companies are cutting back their investment in Big Data and RPA that are key to innovation and to gaining a competitive advantage.

Almost half of large organisations in the UK hit by a cyber attack

Amidst the huge investment in the cloud, over a third (41%) of digital leaders in the UK are reporting that the cloud is creating security headaches due to the complexities it can create, especially for large distributed organisations. Almost half (44%) of the largest organisations in the UK (total IT budget >$250m), report a major cyber attack in the last two years. Meanwhile, global unrest and a growing awareness of the politicisation around cyber warfare has led to almost half of digital leaders in the UK (45%) fearing an attack from foreign powers – shooting up from just 12% in 2018.

The report also found:

  • Shortage of cyber talent continues to be a significant issue for digital leaders – Cyber continues to be one of the most sought after technology skills in the UK. A DCMS report in 2021[1] found that the UK’s cyber security recruitment pool has a shortfall of 10,000 people a year. This shortage and the increasing cyber threat has left only a third (32%) of digital leaders in the UK feeling confident they have all reasonable risks covered.
  • The war for talent, and keeping pay demands reasonable, emerges as a big challenge – 68% of digital leaders in the UK state that a skills shortage prevents them from keeping up with the pace of change; the largest proportion ever recorded. 57% think that UK organisations will never have enough technology staff and almost two thirds (63%) feel that the rising cost of living has made salary demands unsustainable.
  • Government policies aren’t working on tech skills – A staggering 78% of digital leaders in the UK feel that government’s policies are completely ineffective at tackling the tech skills shortage. This compares unfavourably to Asia where the figure is almost half, at 41%.
  • Robots, a way to plug the gap in the tech talent market – On average, digital leaders in the UK plan to use digital labour to automate around 1 in 7 (14%) of their workforce over the next five years.
  • Hybrid/Remote working boosts women in tech and access to global talent – Hybrid working is now commonplace in tech, with 2 to 3 days a week in the office the average requirement. This is starting to help have a positive impact on the number of women in the UK’s tech sector: female leaders are up to 15% in the UK (from 12% in 2021), almost a quarter (23%) of the tech team is now female, and 27% of new hires in the last two years have been women. The pipeline is slowly but surely improving. The report also found that a quarter (25%) of digital leaders say that remote working has enabled them to start recruiting talent from overseas.

Bev White, CEO of Nash Squared said: “Economic headwinds are gathering and indicators are turning negative – but despite or even because of this, UK businesses know that investment in technology remains crucial. Both to maximise the efficiency of what they already have and to become more agile and responsive in highly unpredictable conditions, technology is the key enabler.

“But while technology investment intentions stand at their third highest level in over 15 years, nevertheless there are signs that some businesses are reining back on investment in areas like AI and Big Data. The reasons for this are understandable, but organisations should be careful not to cut back too deeply – they run the risk of falling too far off the pace to catch up again, leaving a long-lasting dent to their competitive positioning.

“Meanwhile, another area that truly demands ongoing investment is cyber security. The threat environment is highly charged, and the rise in concerns about foreign power activity is striking. The world has become a more dangerous place in 2022. UK businesses must take robust defensive steps accordingly.”

With investment intentions remaining high and 56% of organisations in the UK expecting to increase their technology headcount in 2023 against a backdrop of widespread skills shortages, White added: “Businesses run on people – but the UK’s technology sector simply can’t find enough of them. While the skills shortages afflicting the sector are nothing new, it’s a concern that they’re worsening rather than getting better. However, what we see in our research is that organisations are taking innovative steps to ease the challenges – redesigning their employee offers to attract talent and, increasingly, looking beyond our own borders to access bright minds internationally, working remotely. They’ve also been increasing their efforts to attract more women into tech. I am heartened to see progress here: the industry is inching towards the better gender balance it so badly needs.”

Sustainability needs a reboot

Sustainability in tech was expected to play a greater role this year, but little has changed. A fifth of digital leaders in the UK (20%) think sustainability has only a negligible or no part to play in 2022, and only a similar number (22%) are using technology to measure their carbon footprint to any great extent. The report asks whether digital leaders have their heads firmly in the sand – or is the board not focusing them on this? Does the move to the cloud mean that organisations are viewing energy usage in running tech as somebody else’s (the cloud provider’s) problem?

Realising the potential of data

One of the other challenges highlighted by the report is realising the potential from data. Although two-thirds (67%) of digital leaders in the UK think that big data and analytics will be in the top two technologies to deliver competitive advantage in the next year, only a fifth (22%) feel that they are ’very’ or ‘extremely’ effective at using data insights to generate more revenue. Both figures are down compared to last year’s report, suggesting that ‘Big Data’ is getting bigger in all senses of the word, including its complexity. Another challenge is getting the right skills, with 42% of digital leaders in the UK hampered by a skills shortage in this area.

Making remote and hybrid working work

Remote and hybrid working models rapidly deployed during the pandemic are here to stay, and although a much-improved work/life balance for the tech team is the biggest gain from hybrid working (68% of digital leaders in the UK reporting an improvement), it seems that the good news story around hybrid working has become more complicated:

  • Productivity down – While four in ten report an increase in productivity from hybrid working, this is in decline from last year’s results where half of digital leaders saw a boost.
  • Mental wellness rises – Already considered to have been made worse by hybrid working, mental wellness remains an issue, but digital leaders report that it has marginally improved in the UK compared to last year.

White concluded: “Amidst so much change, it will inevitably take time for UK organisations to find the optimal model for their people proposition and talent strategies. Remote and hybrid working are delivering some real benefits but there are signs that these may be moderating as time passes. The mental wellbeing challenge also remains very real. This all means that employers must continue to really think hard about their working models, to find the right balance between the flexibility of remote working and the in-person creativity and engagement of asking people to be in the office. Many organisations are redesigning their offers including enhanced benefits packages and even unlimited holiday policies – the businesses that are truly open-minded about what’s needed are most likely to find solutions that work both for them and the talent they rely on.”

Tags: budget, diversity, research, spending


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TECHNOLOGY

Next-gen chips, Amazon Q, and speedy S3

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AWS re:Invent, which has been taking place from November 27 and runs to December 1, has had its usual plethora of announcements: a total of 21 at time of print.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the huge potential impact of generative AI – ChatGPT officially turns one year old today – a lot of focus has been on the AI side for AWS’ announcements, including a major partnership inked with NVIDIA across infrastructure, software, and services.

Yet there has been plenty more announced at the Las Vegas jamboree besides. Here, CloudTech rounds up the best of the rest:

Next-generation chips

This was the other major AI-focused announcement at re:Invent: the launch of two new chips, AWS Graviton4 and AWS Trainium2, for training and running AI and machine learning (ML) models, among other customer workloads. Graviton4 shapes up against its predecessor with 30% better compute performance, 50% more cores and 75% more memory bandwidth, while Trainium2 delivers up to four times faster training than before and will be able to be deployed in EC2 UltraClusters of up to 100,000 chips.

The EC2 UltraClusters are designed to ‘deliver the highest performance, most energy efficient AI model training infrastructure in the cloud’, as AWS puts it. With it, customers will be able to train large language models in ‘a fraction of the time’, as well as double energy efficiency.

As ever, AWS offers customers who are already utilising these tools. Databricks, Epic and SAP are among the companies cited as using the new AWS-designed chips.

Zero-ETL integrations

AWS announced new Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Relational Database Services (Amazon RDS) for MySQL integrations with Amazon Redshift, AWS’ cloud data warehouse. The zero-ETL integrations – eliminating the need to build ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines – make it easier to connect and analyse transactional data across various relational and non-relational databases in Amazon Redshift.

A simple example of how zero-ETL functions can be seen is in a hypothetical company which stores transactional data – time of transaction, items bought, where the transaction occurred – in a relational database, but use another analytics tool to analyse data in a non-relational database. To connect it all up, companies would previously have to construct ETL data pipelines which are a time and money sink.

The latest integrations “build on AWS’s zero-ETL foundation… so customers can quickly and easily connect all of their data, no matter where it lives,” the company said.

Amazon S3 Express One Zone

AWS announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Express One Zone, a new storage class purpose-built for customers’ most frequently-accessed data. Data access speed is up to 10 times faster and request costs up to 50% lower than standard S3. Companies can also opt to collocate their Amazon S3 Express One Zone data in the same availability zone as their compute resources.  

Companies and partners who are using Amazon S3 Express One Zone include ChaosSearch, Cloudera, and Pinterest.

Amazon Q

A new product, and an interesting pivot, again with generative AI at its core. Amazon Q was announced as a ‘new type of generative AI-powered assistant’ which can be tailored to a customer’s business. “Customers can get fast, relevant answers to pressing questions, generate content, and take actions – all informed by a customer’s information repositories, code, and enterprise systems,” AWS added. The service also can assist companies building on AWS, as well as companies using AWS applications for business intelligence, contact centres, and supply chain management.

Customers cited as early adopters include Accenture, BMW and Wunderkind.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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HCLTech and Cisco create collaborative hybrid workplaces

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Digital comms specialist Cisco and global tech firm HCLTech have teamed up to launch Meeting-Rooms-as-a-Service (MRaaS).

Available on a subscription model, this solution modernises legacy meeting rooms and enables users to join meetings from any meeting solution provider using Webex devices.

The MRaaS solution helps enterprises simplify the design, implementation and maintenance of integrated meeting rooms, enabling seamless collaboration for their globally distributed hybrid workforces.

Rakshit Ghura, senior VP and Global head of digital workplace services, HCLTech, said: “MRaaS combines our consulting and managed services expertise with Cisco’s proficiency in Webex devices to change the way employees conceptualise, organise and interact in a collaborative environment for a modern hybrid work model.

“The common vision of our partnership is to elevate the collaboration experience at work and drive productivity through modern meeting rooms.”

Alexandra Zagury, VP of partner managed and as-a-Service Sales at Cisco, said: “Our partnership with HCLTech helps our clients transform their offices through cost-effective managed services that support the ongoing evolution of workspaces.

“As we reimagine the modern office, we are making it easier to support collaboration and productivity among workers, whether they are in the office or elsewhere.”

Cisco’s Webex collaboration devices harness the power of artificial intelligence to offer intuitive, seamless collaboration experiences, enabling meeting rooms with smart features such as meeting zones, intelligent people framing, optimised attendee audio and background noise removal, among others.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: Cisco, collaboration, HCLTech, Hybrid, meetings

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TECHNOLOGY

Canonical releases low-touch private cloud MicroCloud

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Canonical has announced the general availability of MicroCloud, a low-touch, open source cloud solution. MicroCloud is part of Canonical’s growing cloud infrastructure portfolio.

It is purpose-built for scalable clusters and edge deployments for all types of enterprises. It is designed with simplicity, security and automation in mind, minimising the time and effort to both deploy and maintain it. Conveniently, enterprise support for MicroCloud is offered as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro subscription, with several support tiers available, and priced per node.

MicroClouds are optimised for repeatable and reliable remote deployments. A single command initiates the orchestration and clustering of various components with minimal involvement by the user, resulting in a fully functional cloud within minutes. This simplified deployment process significantly reduces the barrier to entry, putting a production-grade cloud at everyone’s fingertips.

Juan Manuel Ventura, head of architectures & technologies at Spindox, said: “Cloud computing is not only about technology, it’s the beating heart of any modern industrial transformation, driving agility and innovation. Our mission is to provide our customers with the most effective ways to innovate and bring value; having a complexity-free cloud infrastructure is one important piece of that puzzle. With MicroCloud, the focus shifts away from struggling with cloud operations to solving real business challenges” says

In addition to seamless deployment, MicroCloud prioritises security and ease of maintenance. All MicroCloud components are built with strict confinement for increased security, with over-the-air transactional updates that preserve data and roll back on errors automatically. Upgrades to newer versions are handled automatically and without downtime, with the mechanisms to hold or schedule them as needed.

With this approach, MicroCloud caters to both on-premise clouds but also edge deployments at remote locations, allowing organisations to use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.

Cedric Gegout, VP of product at Canonical, said: “As data becomes more distributed, the infrastructure has to follow. Cloud computing is now distributed, spanning across data centres, far and near edge computing appliances. MicroCloud is our answer to that.

“By packaging known infrastructure primitives in a portable and unattended way, we are delivering a simpler, more prescriptive cloud experience that makes zero-ops a reality for many Industries.“

MicroCloud’s lightweight architecture makes it usable on both commodity and high-end hardware, with several ways to further reduce its footprint depending on your workload needs. In addition to the standard Ubuntu Server or Desktop, MicroClouds can be run on Ubuntu Core – a lightweight OS optimised for the edge. With Ubuntu Core, MicroClouds are a perfect solution for far-edge locations with limited computing capabilities. Users can choose to run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers. System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.

Coupled with Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro + Support subscription, MicroCloud users can benefit from an enterprise-grade open source cloud solution that is fully supported and with better economics. An Ubuntu Pro subscription offers security maintenance for the broadest collection of open-source software available from a single vendor today. It covers over 30k packages with a consistent security maintenance commitment, and additional features such as kernel livepatch, systems management at scale, certified compliance and hardening profiles enabling easy adoption for enterprises. With per-node pricing and no hidden fees, customers can rest assured that their environment is secure and supported without the expensive price tag typically associated with cloud solutions.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: automation, Canonical, MicroCloud, private cloud

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