Category Archives: Enterprise IT

Black Hat Europe takes centre stage as security spending rises

It was Black Hat Europe time again this week. For anyone in any doubt about the scale of the cybersecurity challenge facing organisations today, I’d encourage them to read up on the latest insights into forward-looking threats. What you will find out may be rather unnerving.

The good news for the channel, however, is that organisations appear to be responding to these challenges, in part thanks to the regulatory drivers of GDPR and NIS Directive compliance. CONTEXT data reveals that enterprise security revenues for IT distributors in the first ten months of 2018 were up 10.1% year-on-year.

Safety first
As the name implies, Black Hat Europe is unremittingly tech-centric: a show by and for cybersecurity professionals. But the very fact that it’s able to fill out a large part of the cavernous ExCel every year, and hold sold-out events in the US and Asia, is testament to how far the security industry has come since the show’s inception in 1997. In their opening keynotes, Black Hat founder, Jeff Moss, and Marina Kaljurand, chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, echoed these sentiments. No-one was talking about cybersecurity in 2004, she said, but 14 years later it’s very much at the centre of governments’ national security plans and corporate risk management.

This has been driven in part thanks to a steady stream of major cyber-attacks and breaches over the years: originating from both nation state operatives and financially motivated cybercrime gangs. Most recently, incidents affecting half a billion Marriott International customers and 100 million Quora users have hit the headlines. The former could be on the receiving end of a major GDPR fine.

As CONTEXT noted a fortnight ago, the data protection legislation will continue to be the biggest single driver for increased security spending in the months to come. We can also expect a bump in spending after the first major fines are issued. So far, just one regulator has imposed a financial penalty, when €20,000 was levied against German chat app operator Knuddels. This is likely to change soon. Although it has garnered less publicity, the NIS Directive is also important: maximum possible fines levied under the regime go as high as the GDPR. We can therefore also expect to see firms in certain critical infrastructure sectors like water, healthcare, and transport to increase spending.

Where is spending targeted?
In the meantime, we noted growth in IT distribution revenues across all major cybersecurity categories. The biggest came in data protection and recovery products (62%), albeit from a much smaller base. Endpoint security (11%) and enterprise network security (6%) spending accounted for most sales. These are likely to continue to increase going forward as organisations look to get ahead of current threats and stay compliant.

The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) will help to drive this spending, as security teams look to gain visibility and control over an expanding number of smart endpoints. Research from Trend Micro at Black Hat highlighted serious vulnerabilities and security shortcomings associated with two of the most common M2M protocols, MQTT and CoAP. Over just a fourth-month period the researchers claim these channels exposed over 219 million messages globally, putting firms at risk from targeted attacks, industrial espionage and DoS.

To manage this kind of risk effectively going forward, security bosses will need to make the right investment decisions to support a comprehensive security strategy fit for the new regulatory regime.

by AS

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Blockchain – Real-world applications springing from the ashes of recent hype

In recent years the Middle-Eastern nations have been at the forefront of new technology adoption. An early indicator of the visionary adoption of new ‘smart’ technologies was announced in 2014, as Dubai’s leader and local government announced the Smart Dubai strategy. The aim is to “provide seamless services to the public” over 6 key pillars: Transport, Communications, Infrastructure, Electricity, Economic Services and Urban Planning. Hundreds of individual initiatives are now underway, many of which are seeing great success and rapid implementation, such as electric car charging stations, free public WiFi and monitoring stations for weather and pollution. Such huge successes in the project over the last 4 years have been repeated in other cities globally, and now many of these technologies are becoming common-place in the world’s technology capitals.

One initiative in particular, however, truly is ground-breaking and, once fully operational, will allow Dubai to call itself the world’s Blockchain capital. Through collaboration with tech giant IBM, the Smart Dubai team recently announced the Dubai Blockchain Platform – the enabler for many of the paperless, frictionless initiatives that form part of the 6-pillar strategy. IBM will build and manage the platform, which will be hosted locally in the UAE, based on their latest LinuxONE technology. This infrastructure will allow for super-high bandwidth performance and will pave the way to make the city’s systems centrally managed though a “united portal” in the coming years. As an early win, the Smart Dubai team announced that the ‘Dubai Pay Blockchain Settlement and Reconciliation System’ has already been embedded onto the platform, with the target of being the first applied initiative which will reduce friction in inter-department payments and automate many of the existing settlement processes.

Additionally, the platform will be opened up to businesses who wish to adopt Blockchain services and solutions. Until today the barriers to entry have been vast, from lack of knowledge and data science skills to the upfront cost of hardware and software required to develop a specialised system. IBM plan to create options for using the platform under a blockchain-as-a-service model, reducing those barriers and allowing for wider-spread experimentation and application. In the case of the IT channel in the region, the platform could be used as a testbed for a number of business initiatives, such as:

  • Partner Programme Management – Centralising the process of tracking purchases between a distributor and their resellers, and enabling them to rebate effectively through their loyalty programmes.
  • Through-Partner Marketing – Understanding the successfulness of marketing campaigns, through direct tracking of response rates, click-through and location information.
  • MDF Optimisation – Managed via smart contracts to ensure that funds are used appropriately, with an added bonus of tracking the ROI more efficiently.
  • … and many more

Therefore, Smart Dubai and IBM are opening up a centralised, relatively barrier-free and cost-effective method for testing the true potential of the Blockchain, beyond the hype which followed the spectacular rise and fall of cryptocurrencies in 2017/18. It goes to show that sticking with an initiative and quietly executing on it, whilst the rest of the world rides the wave of hype, really can pay off.

by TP

 

 

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Trump’s tariff war – the challenge for IT procurement departments

As the tech world prepares to take on the threat of an increase in US tariffs from 1st January 2019, we look at how the procurement function deals with macro-economic events which impact the cost of IT products. 7 years ago it was the Thai floods which caused a worldwide shortage of hard drives. The Thai market was the second largest producer of hard drives after China, and the floods impacted the supply of 30% of global production. The result was a large hike in prices, and delays in the production of PC’s. It was not all necessarily bad news for the manufacturers who were able to reset expectations and raise prices in a competitive market. But how do procurement departments navigate in a time of increasing IT product costs and how they can assess how real and long-lasting these changes are?

There is no shortage of such issues. Currently there is a shortage of Intel processors due to unexpected growth in the PC industry, according to Intel CEO, Bob Swann. For the earlier part of this year, (as can be seen on the graph showing ASP’s) the cost of RAM has increased significantly due to shortage of supply only stabilising in recent months.

RAM

Source: CONTEXT SalesWatch Distribution – Europe + Russia + Turkey

And last year there was a large increase in the price of graphic cards due to the increase in gaming PC sales and the use of graphics cards in bitcoin mining in Russia.

ASP

Source: CONTEXT SalesWatch Distribution – Europe + Russia + Turkey

In each of these cases the root of the price increase was a shortage of components. So the parallel with the threat of tariffs is very relevant, as the major impact of the currently announced tariffs is on components and raw materials – leather (the new HP Spectre Folio), glass envelopes and fans used in computers, screws, stainless steel, printed circuit assemblies, certain monitors, and, the item which has caused Cisco and Juniper to increase their prices, switching and routing apparatus. What no procurement department wants to hear the IT vendor say is “Sorry, the tariffs are causing increases in the cost of components which means we have to put the price up by 10%”.

So, we expect that there will be standoffs and all parties will try to work round these issues.

  • IT manufacturers will get creative in the coming months to plan as effectively as possible for the next round of tariffs and return to practices from another age which in an era of ever increasing free-trade may have been forgotten. Tariff engineering is one such term – the “adapting of an item [being imported] so that [the importer doesn’t] have to pay any levy.” Is this the time to engineer out the need for fans in a computer and to find another way of achieving the same goal?
  • Switching the place where a product is manufactured may also be a choice, but this needs long-term planning, and in all likelihood, the endgame of President Trump is not to create a long-term trade war but to get a new deal with China on their level of imports from the US, and with Mexico and Europe for revised car trading deals. Apple is one of the companies potentially under threat as 100% of their smartphone production is based in China. So far, through successful lobbying they managed to get the Apple Watch out of the first wave of tariffs. But will they be as successful with the second wave in January 2019 or will they have to consider relocating smartphone production?
  • IT procurement departments will be pushing for more and more visibility into underlying component costs. This will involve both open book cost visibility of vendors sharing their own procurement data, as well as recourse to 3rd parties who provide independent verification of price indices.
  • IT procurement will also want to track closely the impact of price movements over time – increases do not flow through the supply chain immediately whilst there is inventory at the old prices. Visibility into the supply chain is vital from sell-in to distribution (for those products which go through the channel) and then to end-user. When new prices flow through, the impact should be clearly identifiable at each stage. Then in the case of tariffs, which are likely to be short-lived, transparency about the removal of the price constraint is necessary for procurement.

One of the unintended consequences of the Trump tariff war, may be a greater collaboration and transparency between procurement departments and the manufacturers of IT products, and a consequent increase in efficiency.

by MK

For more insights, please join our webinar on the 6th December, titled Technology and the trade war – navigating your way through the tariffs

webinar

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Filed under analytics, Enterprise IT, IT Pricing, Market Analysis, Uncategorized

Why using the right type of Analytics is the most important factor in gaining true insight

Everyone in the market research industry knows that we’re drowning in data. But the mere fact that there is lots of it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more useful than back in 2013 when there was only about 1/8th of today’s total available amount [1]. The key is whether that data is A. ‘analysable’ (i.e. databased, processed, categorised and readily available), and B. analysed well. Continue reading

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35 Years and counting… stories from the IT frontline

In this latest post, CEO and co-founder Jeremy Davies reflects on the IT infrastructure challenges during the first few years at CONTEXT.

One of the reasons why working at CONTEXT in the early days was exciting, was that our work combined the business side with deep interest in emerging PC technologies. Balancing budgets and wanting to keep ahead of the curve was both challenging and fun. Continue reading

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Thoughts from DISTREE EMEA

This year there were 500+ participants in the flagship event, and the buzz was back. The focus was on new technology, and everyone attending the conference can feel good about where we are. No, it is no longer the A brands – that has been the case for a number of years. But we have to get over this – HP, Intel, Acer, Microsoft and others no longer support conferences as they did before – they focus more on the big international events.

But in a world where new technology is exploding with fast growth rates and boundless innovation, more than ever there is the need to bring people together so that people can sit down and meet the latest innovative brands. And that is where the DISTREE model works well, because of the scheduling of meetings which means that vendors know that, if they pay to come, they will get a minimum number of meetings. And we had many of the big players here this year – Tech Data, Ingram Micro, Also, Exertis, Cool Blue and Amazon, as well as dozens of other smaller distributors.

DISTREE

But it is not just about meetings, and that is where the interest of the event comes in. As Ilona Weiss, CEO of ABC Data put it in her blog after the event, it is the time to “pick up the rhythm of global markets and predict accurately the direction in which things are changing so that I can buy enough time for ABC Data to adjust its course.” This comes from the informal discussions with other tech leaders, and also the rich thought leadership on offer, with keynotes and workshops which illuminate and stretch people’s imagination.

This year CONTEXT organised an invitation only event for C Suite executives from selected distributors and other invited guests. The content was rich, and the tone was set by Patrice Arzillier, Managing Director of Exertis Continental Europe, and board member of Exertis plc. He opened up to a series of questions about Board investment decisions, their approach to acquisitions and the challenges they face.

The meeting was done under Chatham house rules in order to create the right ambiance for senior executive sharing, but with Patrice there was no need, as he launched into a frank and open dialogue with the other participants in the room. These times of exchange are vital for the health of the industry, and to give each other the chance to “adjust your course if necessary”. This discussion was enriched by the input from Peter Van den Berg, the head of the GTDC in Europe and a presentation from Michael White of Quadmark, showing the new financial drivers of distribution, emphasising the need to have different measures for different types of revenue stream, and to take into account all investments, not just working capital.

The other theme we covered was strategic collaboration, and the level of congruence between the presentations was remarkable – old style confrontational negotiations are out, and the smart money is on those who find strategic ways of collaborating. One of the speakers, Marcos Garcia Esteban, until recently Purchasing Director of Worten (the Portuguese/Spanish tech retailer), spoke of high-level contacts between retailer and brand to find innovative ways of delivering product. Distributors are the “midfield” players, he said, and can bring everyone together in the new technology ecosystem.

Adam Williams, who has spent the last 6 months bringing a smart home product to market, laid out the complexity of the new emerging technology market and echoed Marcos, saying that distributors are the best placed to act as brokers between the various parties. Lastly Alan Clayton, a mentor at the Investment fund SOSV, one of the largest providers of seed capital to technology start-ups, spoke of the role he saw distributors playing in bringing products to market. “I need someone who, as a one-stop shop, can broker space in the top retailers in Europe.” His final call to action was memorable, for distributors to become “Co-creators of global brands.” A great and positive thought to keep distributors going forward in the right direction.

by AS

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Filed under Enterprise IT, IT Distribution, Market Analysis, PCs, Retail, Supply Chain

35 Years and counting… stories from the IT frontline

To mark CONTEXT’s 35th year anniversary, co-founder and CEO Jeremy Davies reflects on the early days of the IT industry and the beginnings of CONTEXT.

It’s now 35 years since CONTEXT began tracking the IT business. That’s quite a thought in itself. The fact that we have been able to create a business from scratch and – despite all odds – still be here, thriving, 35 years later.

But what’s even more stunning is to have been a witness to the changes that have taken place since those pioneer PC days. And what has kept us in business has been that change: not only have we watched it but we lived it, taking an active part as a small and growing business, embracing the latest technology as it unfurled and integrating the new as we built the platforms and processes needed to track the burgeoning IT industry.

So, a few facts to illustrate. In the 1980’s, magazines were king. Vendors advertised in Magazinemagazines, prices, specifications and even dealer lists. To track prices, one had to track magazines. This intensely manual job resulted in output that every month saw huge physical printed files sent out to subscribing customers. If you wanted to know specs and pricing, you opened a folder and leafed through pages of printed text. A huge step forward was achieved when data files began to accompany the printed “books”.

Surveying dealers was another challenge. To create our master dealer list in the UK, we got hold of the Yellow Pages directory, and telephoned every entry that had the word “computer” in it. We asked three simple questions: Do you sell microcomputers? Which ones do you sell? Which ones are you authorised to sell?The calls were done by a dedicated in-house team who, after building the list, started contacting resellers every two months, asking for sales figures. These were manually entered into paper spreadsheets, and the calculations done – you got it, manually. Printed reports then appeared every two months detailing these aggregated and projected sales of PCs, Printers and Software.

This is not to say there were no computers involved from the beginning. There was one. It was an Osborne 1 portable computer, running CP/M on a 4.0 MHz Zilog Z80 processor and 64 KB of RAM. Twin 5.25” floppies and a 5” screen completed the picture. As work volumes grew, we invested in our first IBM twin floppy PC. And then came hard disk drives… but that’s another story!

CONTEXTKensingtonoffice

CONTEXT’s first office was at 9-11 Kensington High Street, which is now a hotel

 

 

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