Better Business Technology

'Cloud-ed' thinking clears way for AI

By Neville Vincent >>

ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) has become the true topic du jour, not just in technology but in so many aspects of our lives.

Reactions are mixed but it’s fair to say the negative, often more headline-grabbing side to AI has formed the largest part of the conversation. We’re constantly reminded of the potential dangers it can bring, such as the loss of jobs and even the threat of killer robots.

But there are benefits to AI. Technology has long promised to free us up from the rigmarole of tedious tasks we have to do in our working and personal lives, and AI might be a real step in that taking shape.

I don’t think we’re under any illusion that robots will just do everything and we can retire to the beach, but they might at least do the things we don’t want to do, and that’s something to get behind. 

In fact, Nutanix conducted research recently that found almost three quarters of organisations in Australia welcomed AI technology, with only four percent reporting a negative impact.

Applications of AI in healthcare, such as mining patient data for more accurate diagnosis, stand to benefit our wellbeing and even save lives.


Whatever your opinion, AI will continue to develop and it’s something we all need to prepare for. The possibilities are virtually endless as we create machines that will be as intelligent as we are, and then considerably more intelligent over time.

The business-level benefits to AI are many – increased automation, reduced operational costs, efficiency, the ability to identify new revenue opportunities using data analytics, to name a few, and business leaders in Australia are taking notice.

A survey from Infosys earlier this year revealed that around 75 percent of organisations in Australia plan to build a dedicated team of AI professionals ‘soon’.

But AI isn’t just something you can just click and collect from an app store. Even if it was, it would still require a huge amount of power and resources to work and that is something most businesses in Australia are ill-prepared for.


With AI, we’re talking about replicating brain power, an area we don’t even fully understand yet.

To replicate and employ that power within a business, you need to find the right brain power to make it work – in technology terms that means compute, network and storage, the invisible IT environment layer that powers all digital services including AI.

Modern IT environments are made up of cloud in the forms of public and/or private ‘enterprise cloud’, and this is what’s needed for AI to work efficiently.

The pre-cloud era consisted of environments that ‘got the job done’. These were large, expensive investments that had to justify themselves over the period of around five years before an upgrade was due, by which time the technology had become obsolete.

Cloud has changed that, and none too soon. It can provide the brain power AI needs and be a base to add further capabilities over time.

The reason why – beyond the fact that it’s more concentrated, faster and easier to use – is that it’s based on software, not hardware.

That means you don’t invest in something that gets you to five years. You invest in something you need now, and add to it incrementally as your needs change. The hardware becomes a commodity and any software enhancements you add over time are built into your entire stack.


Say AI is on your radar, but you’re not in a position to really invest in it at this stage. With cloud you have something that is ready for that investment when you are.

Another reason why cloud is crucial for AI and other IT-intensive applications is that it is constant.

We all know what happens when there is an outage. It’s time and money well wasted – emails can’t be sent, programs we rely on day in and day out to deliver stop working and everyone sits around and waits for the lights to come back on.

AI involves real-time analysis of huge amounts of data, constant processing and most importantly, learning. That process is ruined in the event of an outage, or even by simple delays, and could potentially put us in danger – imagine an outage affecting a self-driving car in motion.

Business leaders who want to invest in AI need to get their cloud house in order first and work with their IT heads to make sure the right capabilities are in place to benefit, and ultimately profit from it.

Success in the fast-developing AI era will belong to those who apply the right brain power to gain a competitive advantage.


Neville Vincent is the vice president, Australia and New Zealand, ASEAN and India, for enterprise cloud company Nutanix.



ACS hackathon develops world-first prototype data sharing solution

A DIRECTED HACKATHON hosted and organised by ACS has produced a world-first prototype solution for safe data sharing.

The hackathon was an attempt to answer the question: how do we safely share data between organisations without compromising the privacy of individuals?

It follows a white paper released in November by ACS, Privacy in Data Sharing – A Guide for Business and Government, which posited a framework for safe data sharing.

“Data sharing is one of the hardest problems we have to solve today,” NSW Chief Data Scientist and primary author of the white paper, Ian Oppermann said.

“How do we get those smart services, and how do we usefully share data with researchers, without compromising the privacy of individuals?”

The challenge of data sharing was highlighted in 2016, when the Federal Government released a de-identified set of medical data for use by researchers in tracking and developing solutions to medical problems. Although the records in the dataset had been anonymised by stripping identity information, researchers were able to cross reference data to reveal the owners of individual records. 

“Today we have hundreds of data sets being combined with each other,” Dr Oppermann said. “In that scenario, it can become easy for records to be re-identified. That’s why, over the course of two years, the ACS Data Sharing Committee has developed a theoretical test for the presence of personally identifying data.

“We wanted to put that theory to the test, which is what this hackathon was all about – developing a practical application for identifying the presence of personally identifying information in a data set. If you can do that, then you can reveal whether data is safe to share.”


The hackathon, staged at ACS’ Barangaroo offices in Sydney in late February, involved eight teams of three people competing against each other to develop a practical solution that would reveal the amount of personally identifying information in a dataset – and allow the data to be adjusted to obscure that information.

Through three rounds teams were eliminated from the competition and their ideas and team members incorporated into the winners of each round.

The winners of the competition were finally revealed as ‘Led Zeppelin’ – a team comprising Geof Heydon, Artem Kamnev, Dominic Guinane, Elliot Zhu, Oisin Fitzgerald, Stephen Katulka and Viki Ginoska.

The Led Zeppelin team produced a prototype application that allowed a data custodian to visualise and adjust the amount of personally identifying information in a dataset.

“We’re really excited to have had the chance to work on such an important project,” team member Mr Heydon said.

“It’s an incredibly valuable thing. As more and more smart city and digital economy things happen at the local and state government level, there needs to be much more of an understanding of how to handle data. 

“This kind of work is absolutely critical in the smart city context, in the internet of things context, in the artificial intelligence context, in the digital economy context.”

A cash prize was given to the winning team by ACS.

“This really is a world first,” ACS president Yohan Ramasundara said. “This is something that researchers and data scientists around the world have been working on for years, and cracking this is a huge step on the way to enabling government and businesses to share data safely without compromising the privacy of individuals.”

ACS is the professional association for Australia’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector. More than 40,000 ACS members work in business, education, government and the community.


Advantages of cloud cover unclear

MANY COMPANIES have recently discovered the consequences of how dangerously easy it is for employees to use cloud technology outside of company-sanctioned deployments.

Armed with nothing more than a credit card, employees can turn on cloud services without approval, oversight, guidance, or security. Often, the affected company’s IT department is completely unaware of all these rogue cloud deployments, any one of which could open the organisation up to security risks and integration issues. 

Often, organisations have multiple cloud subscriptions before any formal cloud computing policy or guidelines have been established.

To manage risk and costs appropriately, organisations need to establish a solid foundation in the cloud before integrating any business systems, according to cloud solutions group Intergen.

Intergen cloud solutions consultant, Daryl Green said, “The ease of utilisation is arguably a huge advantage of cloud technology. However, without clear policies or guidelines, this can lead to multiple user directories, inconsistent levels of security, duplication of licence expenses and administration stress as well as the proliferation of data.”

Recent research by IDC showed 85 percent of organisations in the Asia Pacific region were still in the early stages of cloud maturity, which means they’re not yet at the stage where their cloud offerings are managed, optimised or repeatable, according to Mr Green.

“When taking the first steps into cloud utilisation, business leaders need to ensure the action they are taking is setting the organisation up for a flexible and extensible solution,” Mr Green said.

“By assessing the organisation’s current on-premises landscape and existing cloud utilisation patterns, organisations can create a roadmap for their future cloud consumption and gather insights into their readiness for cloud. 

“That’s not to say organisations shouldn’t work with employees to determine what workloads or applications could move to the cloud. On the contrary, business users are well-placed to provide direction on what cloud solutions could best serve the organisation,” he said.

“So, it’s important to get their input without giving them carte blanche to adopt cloud services without oversight.

“Once the investigation phase is complete, organisations can seek guidance on how to overcome any difficulties that may have been highlighted, or even to sidestep legacy systems altogether and use a cloud service in their organisation. Cloud technologies have evolved to the point where it is very desirable for many businesses to completely abandon their physical servers and bulky domains and exclusively use cloud offerings.”

By establishing solid cloud foundations, Mr Green said organisations can prepare to establish a powerful, borderless, modern workplace which lets employees securely access the organisation’s business systems whenever and wherever they need to.


GSMA launches initiative for mobile AR/VR

MOBILE communications industry advocate group, GSMA, has launched a new global and industry-wide initiative called ‘The GSMA Cloud AR/VR Forum’ to focus on the development of cloud virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology.

The program, which was unveiled by GSMA at Huawei’s ninth Global Mobile Broadband Forum in London, is backed by mobile operators including China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT Corp., NTT DOCOMO, SK Telecom, Telefónica, Telenor, TIM, Turkcell and Vodafone, as well as other industry partners including Huawei and HTC. 

The program aims to encourage all parties to collaborate on accelerating the delivery and deployment of 5G cloud-based AR/VR services.

“Both VR and AR are disruptive forms of immersive multimedia that, combined with operator edge cloud and 5G connectivity, will transform the cost structures of the enterprise and entertainment fields,” GSMA chief technology officer Alex Sinclair said.

“Mobile operators will play a key role in its development, but without a common approach and industry-wide collaboration we risk fragmenting the market from the beginning. The establishment of this forum will overcome this hurdle and ensure we can scale compelling solutions faster.”

The new forum aims to encourage knowledge sharing between members, as well as discussion about new business models including the development of a service reference architecture to avoid cost fragmentation. It will also focus on technical development areas including research into ultra-low latency codec compression, graphics processing unit (GPU) rendering in the cloud and virtualisation technologies, as well as the development of simplified interfaces so that developers can easily deploy services.

“The convergence of 5G networks and clouds will enable mass market adoption of immersive experiences like AR and VR,” GSMA Future Networks Programme chairman and senior vice president for Group Technology innovation at Deutsche Telekom AG, Arash Ashouriha said.

“Utilising scalable computing power at the network edge allows for unprecedented immersive and pervasive customer experience while leveraging cloud economics. Hence, we need to work towards open ecosystems providing common interfaces across the end to end value chain in order to scale cloud AR/VR services fast across different markets. With this approach we will unleash the full potential of 5G,” he said.

“AR/VR headsets require a large amount of storage, power consumption and processing power that is currently provided by a PC or gaming device. This makes the headsets expensive and limits their portability, which in turn inhibits their potential as a mass market product,” he said.

“By moving these capabilities to an edge cloud platform away from the PC, it will mean that consumers will just need to purchase the headset making them cheaper and more widely available over time.

“Cloud AR/VR technology also requires an incredibly fast, low latency bandwidth data connection in order to deliver an ultra-high resolution 4K or 8K viewing experience. 5G will be able to deliver this via its new network capabilities as well as a more reliable experience through edge cloud, which opens up ultra-low latency services.”


Reckon and IPA partner on ‘cloud’ accounting

AUSTRALIAN accounting software provider Reckon has joined forces with the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), to launch a member first cloud accounting solution.

The partnership is aiming to accelerate businesses’ migration to the cloud and, in particular, boost small to medium sized enterprises (SME) productivity, according to IPA chief executive officer Andrew Conway. 

Mr Conway said the first-of-its-kind industry partnership would empower to deliver a greater customer experience by leveraging the cloud to bolster productivity and fuel growth. 

Launched as a result of in-depth feedback from IPA members, the strategic move will see the introduction of IPA Books+, a white labelled version of Reckon’s flagship cloud accounting solution Reckon One. Mr Conway said more than 35,000 members of IPA – who are mostly either servicing SMEs or small businesses in their own right – will now have access to simple and affordable online accounting software to make running their business easier.

 “Moving to the cloud is a key focus for many of our members and their clients over the coming year, as they look to tackle the next phase of business growth,” Mr Conway said.

“The partnership with Reckon is an exciting one. It will enable a myriad of benefits including remote working and the ability to access real-time business-critical data such as cash flow at anytime, anywhere.

“As recent reports from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has revealed, a staggering 45 percent of small businesses are yet to adopt online accounting solutions.  With the advent of Single Touch Payroll, the time has come for IPA Books+, a single, reliable, comprehensive solution,” Mr Conway said.

Reckon CEO Sam Allert said the he cloud accounting partnership was “an exciting industry first, as we align our business’ strategic priorities and continue to better support SMEs across Australia”.

“By taking the powerful technology of ReckonOne and partnering with a leading member focused organisation, we are delivering a unique solution that goes beyond technology to include training, development, events and support,” Mr Allert said.

“The transition to the cloud will enable IPA members to automate a great deal of administrative work. This frees them up to focus on higher value tasks such as advisory services, which will no doubt open new revenue streams and growth opportunities.”

Mr Allert said, as with all Reckon products, IPA Books+ was also enabled for the Australian Taxation Office’s Single Touch Payroll reporting requirement.

Mr Allert said with more than 600,000 small businesses with 19 or less employees looking to get compliant by July 1, 2019, this presented “a massive opportunity for both organisations”.


Tech. skill shortages holding back Australian business

AUSTRALIAN businesses are struggling to retain top information technology (IT) talent at a time when it is paramount that they understand how to integrate new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.

According to new research by enterprise cloud computing specialists Nutanix, almost two-thirds of Australian businesses surveyed were struggling to retain IT staff to keep up with the new digital technologies.

Even so, most Australian organisations surveyed said the experience of AI so far was having a positive effect on their businesses and, while gains were being made from gravitating to the public ‘cloud’, controlling costs is a major issue.

Nutanix’s first annual Enterprise Cloud Index showed 63 percent of Australian respondents have trouble retaining IT.  The research carried out among IT decision makers in medium-to-large enterprises in Australia by Vanson Bourne, revealed that almost 90 percent of Australian respondents were racing to reskill IT teams to keep pace with emerging technologies, and that AI and machine learning was the top skill IT departments were currently lacking, followed closely by blockchain. 

The survey also found that, despite widespread concern over AI’s impact on jobs – recently highlighted by a Frost & Sullivan report that indicated 40 percent of high-routine and low-skilled tasks would be replaced by 2025-2030 – respondents welcomed the technology with almost three quarters reporting it was having a positive impact on their organisations. Only 4 percent reported a negative impact.

“The positive reaction towards the likes of AI and blockchain is testament to Australia’s propensity to react well to emerging technologies,” Nutanix vice president for Australia, New Zealand, ASEAN  and India said.

“But the skills gap in successfully using these technologies is a major concern and could prevent Australia from capitalising on the boom markets they will bring. AI and automation alone are tipped to be worth potential trillions of dollars to the Australian economy over the next 15 years.

“While initiatives such as the Federal Government’s Inspiring All Australians in Digital Literacy and STEM measures show promise to normalise coding and digital skills among the workforce, they will take time to reap rewards, so the fact that organisations are embracing these technologies and training their workforce to get up to speed is reassuring,” Mr Vincent said.


The Nutanix survey also revealed that Australian organisations were behind global peers in terms of cloud adoption but were moving faster in that direction.

In the next two years, more than 80 percent public cloud adoption is expected, compared with just over 50 percent now.

Satisfaction among public cloud users is high, with expectations either fully or partially being met among all respondents, with performance, data security and compliance the top benefits. However, Nutanix drew the conclusion that almost 30 percent of organisations using cloud were breaking their budgets to get these benefits.

“All the signs point towards continued public cloud adoption among Australian enterprises, with other research predicting it will hit $5.6 billion by 2019,” Mr Vincent said. “But there is a danger in costs spinning out of control.

“Australian organisations are already paying a lot to enjoy the benefits of public cloud, and we can see from other regions ahead in the cloud race that this problem tends to worsen. With the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, and a host of other IT-intensive, cloud-reliant digital innovation underway, organisations need to watch their step and not take a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude to cloud investment” Mr Vincent said.

The research highlighted that while public cloud was the current trend, businesses would actually favour hybrid cloud. This is a system which describes the combined use of at least one private cloud and at least one public cloud service, with some degree of integration between the two cloud environments.

Nutanix is well versed to comment on this trend as its Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS software is used to bring organisations one-click application management and mobility across public, private and distributed edge clouds, allowing them to run any application at any scale with a dramatically lower total cost of ownership.

Flexibility in choosing the right cloud for each application and the consolidation of cloud management and operations were the main reasons for Australian companies’ moves to hybrid cloud operations.

“This supports what we’re seeing in Australia and around the world,” Mr Vincent said.

“Local enterprises know hybrid cloud is the best mix, but while there is a gap in linking public and private cloud, organisations are favouring public and willing to pay over the odds for it.

“The research shows that a lack of IT skills will continue to be an issue for Australian organisations, and so the underlying infrastructure needs to be kept simple to reduce that pressure and enable the businesses to be able to benefit from new technologies.

“The IT industry needs to make sure true hybrid cloud is available for businesses to maximise these benefits,” Mr Vincent said.


TechnologyOne helps Britain’s Science Museum Group curate digital transformation

THE UK’s world-leading group of science museums, The Science Museum Group (SMG) which attracts five million visitors a year, selected Australia’s largest enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) company TechnologyOne to modernise and transform its existing financial business system.

“The Science Museum Group stands among several new world-leading customers that have chosen TechnologyOne’s SaaS offering to transform their business,” TechnologyOne chief operating officer, Stuart MacDonald said.

“The Science Museum Group’s new SaaS solution from TechnologyOne has now gone live, empowering the group to streamline their financial operations to support their growth,” he said. 

The Science Museum Group transacts an average of five million visitors each year. With around 1,000 employees and over 500 volunteers, Mr MacDonald said the group required a robust and intuitive solution that would enable the finance team and other users, to access real-time information quickly and efficiently anywhere – on any device.

Science Museum Group corporate services director, Jane Ellis said, “As an organisation in the cultural sector we recognise the importance of actively responding to the challenges that lie ahead.

“With an increased requirement to generate income and make more efficient use of resources, we felt that our existing finance system no longer met our needs. We knew that multiple workarounds were being used in order to deliver financial outputs and all too often these were manual and time-consuming processes. 

“Furthermore, we wanted a user-friendly system, accessible from any device, with real-time reporting for our end users,” Ms Ellis said.

The new solution has gone live and provides the Science Museum Group with an intuitive system, that allows both finance and non-finance users to easily interrogate real-time data, quickly produce reports and efficiently make strategic decisions.

“TechnologyOne demonstrated their ability to meet all of our requirements and provide a solution on time and to budget which delivers against our long-term goals of innovation and transformation,” Ms Ellis said.

“The new solution goes some way to enabling the group to realise its digital first vision, as well as being adaptable and complying with current legislation.”

Anwen Robinson, TechnologyOne’s UK operating officer said, “The public sector is an increasingly challenging environment to operate in so implementing the right SaaS technologies that are both flexible and enable the organisation to future-proof is vital.

“As the most significant group of science and innovation museums worldwide, it stands to reason that the Science Museum Group is embracing financial transformation to ensure it inspires interactive science for decades to come.”


Contact Us


PO Box 2144