If there was a silver lining to the COVID pandemic, it exposed vulnerabilities in the way companies operate their business. As lockdowns and work-from-home orders spread across the country, companies scrambled for their employees to effectively work remotely.
MSA Professional Services, a 350-employee-owned civil engineering and environmental firm located across four states, was one such company. You might see their work as you drive past a park, a reservoir, or a public activity center. Satellites orbiting Earth record the environmental and community impact of their thoughtfully designed works from outer space.
MSA’s work requires real-time collaboration with project managers or contractors in the field. Management has known that conventional application delivery and desktop management technologies wouldn’t keep up with growing demands.
Months before anyone had even heard of COVID-19, the MSA leadership was looking at the best way for them to migrate their IT environment to the cloud. Like sculptors chiseling away at a block of marble, the process began to reveal what the right cloud design should look like. Leadership knew they needed control of their information. They needed their data to be secure, and, perhaps most importantly, their engineers needed to work on heavy-duty 2D and 3D files on resource-hungry applications from home.
IronOrbit solved the problems of end-user performance with GPU-Accelerated INFINITY Workspaces. Whether it’s fifty users or a thousand, engineers enjoy an even better and more highly responsive experience than they’d get from a high-end physical workstation. Since scalability is built into the design, MSA found that adding or subtracting users was not an issue.
SUPERIOR TECHNOLOGY RESULTS IN A SUPERIOR SERVICE
An essential aspect of IronOrbit’s delivery of high performance at scale is the use of NVIDIA RTX™ Technology, powering the most demanding design, rendering, and engineering workloads from the cloud . This technology delivers rapid deployments of virtual applications and workspaces. MSA engineers can view and work with large 2D and 3D models with efficiency and increased productivity.
“WE NEED MORE CONTROL & SECURITY” – MSA Leadership
As these specific requirements came into focus, it narrowed their field of view as they considered different cloud service providers. Because of the level of control they wanted, together with the necessity for tight security, they knew they were looking for a private cloud approach.
But not just any private cloud.
The delivery of services from the end user’s perspective had to be fast and seamless with no latency or drag of any kind. There’s nothing worse for a designer or engineer than working on a modern app like AutoCAD or Revit, being in the home stretch of finalizing a project, and having to deal with jumpy, erratic responses from a mouse or a stylus pen.
…AND ONE MORE THING
To make the challenge even more interesting, many engineers live in rural areas with sub-standard internet connections.
Senior Systems Engineer Mike Albitz led a series of proof-of-concept drills with IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces when the pandemic erupted. “When the pandemic broke out, it escalated the whole process,” said Albitz. “When COVID-19 started, we were able to provide latency-free desktops to our engineers with slow home Internet connections using IronOrbit. This was an invaluable option to keep our teams productive.”
CLOSE COLLABORATION WITH CLIENTS MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
During the process of moving to the cloud, there will be technical challenges that pop up from time to time. The key is to address them as quickly as possible. This requires close communication and transparency. Built on a genuine commitment to customer service, IronOrbit onboarding teams maintain a high-touch with clients throughout the process and beyond.
Good luck getting an actual person to answer a question if you’re using a public cloud. Close client support isn’t part of their “do-it-yourself on our platform” business model.
This may be true of other private cloud companies as well, but not with IronOrbit.
For us, the standard is one-on-one human contact availability 24/7.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG?
It’s important to know that public cloud providers do not come standard with recovery time objectives (RTO) or recovery point objectives (RPO). It’s an add-on cost. With public cloud services, many features will fall under the category of an add-on cost.
IronOrbit offers comprehensive packages for predictable monthly fees, including standard 48-hour RTO and 24-hour RPO.
STRATEGY LEADS TECHNOLOGY (CONCLUSION)
MSA leadership was ahead of the pack going into 2020, and they’re still leading the way in the industry. They knew that they wanted to move into the cloud, and they realized that it had to be a high-impact, custom cloud and hosted desktop solution designed with AEC processes in mind.
The IronOrbit team applauds the long-term vision of the MSA leadership. They anticipated their need for better application hosting solutions and embraced the future of AEC cloud computing – INFINITY Workspaces. MSA put the focus in the right place. They explored technology based on their business operations and growth objectives.
What about you?
How well are your designers and engineers doing with off-the-shelf work-from-home solutions?
Have you gotten into a cloud environment that hasn’t been architected specifically for GPU-heavy workloads?
Let us give you a virtual tour of the INFINITY Workstation and discover what go-anywhere design efficiency combined with granular control and security can do for your business.
Call us at 1-888-753-5060 for your free consultation today.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME: SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NEW – NEW NORMAL
It surprised me. The first time that I heard a news broadcaster use the words “the new normal” in reference to the post COVID time frame made me stop and think. Here was a term first used following the financial crisis of 2008 and it’s aftermath. Until then, I was expecting everything to go back to how we had always known it.
I thought about it. I realized that the newscaster was right. COVID-19 has changed the way we do business – and life – forever. In the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, many facets of the way we do business have shifted. Daily, we see our lives become more confined. The uncertainty of it all restricts us in many ways. It is too early to tell what all the permanent business ramifications will be. But there is change in the air. One thing is certain. This situation will expose corporate weaknesses and strengths. How the story unfolds for your business depends largely on how you navigate the waters ahead.
Look at the current impact of the virus on business operations. It’s clear that the shift toward the “new normal” has caused the adoption of certain technologies sooner and faster than ever expected. Here are 6 ways technology trends have changed for better or for worse.
What Has Coronavirus, and Our Reaction to it, Changed in Business Forever?
1. The way businesses view and handle remote workers has changed.
In this article from MarketWatch, we see some business benefits of allowing employees to work from home, such as taking advantage of a more diverse talent pool and flexibility in labor costs.
A great number of employees now working from home. They’ve been working from home for a prolonged period of time. Many companies will have to make adjustments and accept remote workers. Being able to transition to a home or remote office when problems arise will be the new normal. The bonus: the flexibility allows for a more productive and capable workforce.
Tool and technology that’s ready to go in either environment is a great way to support your team. It encourages autonomy and collaboration among teams. Get the job done, regardless of location. That’s the new normal.
· Zoom or Microsoft Teams are cloud-hosted communications tools that allow for adhoc web meetings among different groups.
· Trello is a great way for companies to work together on projects, allowing for integration into other subscription-based business apps like Google drive or Dropbox for sharing.
· Slack is an attractive alternative to email, allowing single or team-based conversations that are searchable.
2. The way businesses view and use artificial intelligence has changed.
Another trend that has been gaining more traction is the use of artificial intelligence (AI), specifically, machine learning. Being able to mine through the copious amounts of data we have on coronavirus is helping scientists and researchers find answers quicker than ever.
The use-case for machine learning (ML) is not limited to scientific research. Imagine being able to accurately forecast sales data. Or what if you could have a chatbot that could answer customer service inquiries 24/7 from your website?
ML has deep roots in cybersecurity. ML has the ability to analyze network traffic and detect anything seen as malicious. Many of the latest security tools incorporate AI/ML. They are able to learn the current cybersecurity posture of business systems. They can proactively combat malware threats.
The first step for a company is to vet, implement, and accept machine learning. This could be for a specific task or to provide general support to a department. Once this happens, the doors to advance technology swing open. The power of ML to benefit a company become apparent.
3. Acceptance of the public cloud infrastructure has changed.
With COVID-19 forcing businesses to rely on the cloud, company leaders that were once wary of public cloud infrastructure are now embracing it.
A recent CRN post reports cloud computing have enabled companies to scale business applications. And they’ve been able to do it reliably. Thanks to the minds behind Google, AWS, and Microsoft Azure, rapid scaling has been virtually trouble free.
Microsoft Azure alone has reported a 775% increase in usage of cloud services like Teams, PowerBI, and Windows Virtual Desktop.
Relying on a proven infrastructure is good. Doing it without managing physical server hardware is even better. It is more critical now than ever before.
Businesses that use a cloud infrastructure can scale back without incurring unneeded costs. If they are in a current downswing.
Remote work, SaaS applications, and Cloud Infrastructure are in high gear. The COVID-19 crisis will cause these trends to gain more traction and use. Companies will scale their services and solutions. Those that wing themselves from on-premises infrastructure will have the advantage. They may even elect to downsize physical office buildings. Or not. Having the choice is also an advantage.
The changes to business and technology brought on by COVID-19 are here to stay. There are significant business benefits from this course adjustment. The adoption of cloud-based technologies is one of them.
· The ability to work from wherever is convenient and productive.
· The capacity to deliver a solution that is always available – regardless of business demand or outside factors.
· The freedom for a company to better align with its employees and customer needs.
4. The competitive edge and viability of companies has changed forever.
People are forced to stay home more. They don’t want to risk exposure. They become reliant on delivery services like Door Dash, PostMate, and InstaGuard to get food and supplies. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are bigger than ever.
Who is losing out?
Restaurants by the thousands will struggle to climb out of the COVID-19 trauma. Some won’t make it. The franchise chains will. Cinema theaters across the country are currently closed, and some of them will not reopen. This will have an impact on how movies are exhibited. It will also impact what types of feature films are developed and financed. Fewer studios will be willing to take the risk of financing blockbuster movies. This is especially true of disaster movies. These are the movies that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and market.
One night in early April, the Governor of New York summed up the problem, “The simplicity of it is so what makes it so tragic. Because we don’t have a piece of equipment somebody is going to die? How did we get to this place? In this county. We have to buy all our supplies from China? I can’t get protective equipment because China is making it? China is making the ventilators?”
But it’s not just medical supply chains that are being reconsidered. The coronavirus pandemic will also have long term effects on the tech hardware industry.
Parts needed to assemble various hardware and electronic products come from a multitude of sources. Most of them are overseas. A factory that makes television monitors doesn’t necessarily make the screens. The processing chips are made at a different factory. The power supply might be made at yet another factory. It’s all interconnected. If one factory is shut down, it impacts all the others down the line.
The entire system can grind to a halt. Having a supply chain that involves multiple nations like the United States and China will most certainly be re-evaluated. It’s better to have all the needed components of a particular name brand product to build closer to home. This will kill some tech manufacturing firms and enrich others.
The use of AI automation is going to make it more attractive for manufacturing to come back to the USA. That will shorten the length of supply chains while ensuring their security.
Apple’s already indicated that it won’t be able to make a sufficient supply of its Smartphones for the year. That’ll be true of other smartphone makers…some won’t make it. It has already begun.
The is Irony is that a virus that originated in China is ultimately helping China’s economy to bounce back. China has the capacity to manufacture much of the equipment needed in other parts of the world, including our own. Long term, many companies are going to be looking at diversifying their supply chain. They’ll avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.
5. Everyone in the company working in and from one building – or any company-owned building – has changed forever.
In an April 20th Fast Company article, several enterprise CEOs and influencers, including Jared Spataro (corporate vice president, Microsoft 365), agree that working from home and increased video conferencing will become the new normal.
Jared Spataro is quoted as saying,“This time will go down as a turning point for the way people work and learn. We have a time machine as China navigates its return back to work—and we’re not seeing usage of Microsoft Teams dip. People are carrying what they learned and experienced from remote work back to their “new normal.” We’re learning so much about sustained remote work during this time.”
Business is not the only place where “from home” situations will continue well after COVID-19 has been conquered. Education is another sector that has changed forever. But what about all those families that don’t have basic access to the Internet at home? School shutdowns requiring students to take online courses widen the socio-education disparity in our society.
Sal Khan, founder and CEO of the educational nonprofit Khan Academy, said, “The need for online access and devices in every home is now so dire that it may finally mobilize society to treat internet connectivity as a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. We’re already seeing governments, school districts, philanthropists, and corporations step up to close the digital divide. If this continues to happen, we could get to a state of nearly universal online access at home.”
Sal Khan’s prediction is already happening in Singapore where universal Internet connectivity is nearly 100%. Universal Internet connectivity in Singapore is part of their Intelligent Nation 2015 and Smart Nation initiative. In August 2018, Ookia’s speed tests determined that Singapore’s broadband speed of 181.47 Mbit/s is the highest in the world.
6. Our view of reliance on a single revenue stream – as a business and as individuals – has changed forever.
Will Lopez, head of accountant community at HR platform Gusto put it all into perspective when he said,
“This won’t be the end of brick-and-mortar store. Just as it won’t be the end of the digital cinema theater. These are important businesses. They help form the social fabric of our communities. But retail shops and restaurants will change the way they operate. The crisis has reminded people that they need to remain agile. It has reminded us to move with the times. Don’t be stuck with the old way of doing things.”
Where many of these shops have historically relied on foot traffic. These same shops will now develop ways to create alternative streams of revenue. For example, many restaurants will link up with delivery service platforms. They’ll expand their geographic reach. More boutiques will develop an online presence that reaches beyond their local neighborhoods.”
The “new normal” will mean most companies will stall. Many will go out of business. The ones that do survive must continue to optimize the way they operate. They will have to rethink their business models moving forward. Supply chains have been disrupted. For many this experience has been a painful lesson. Companies will respond. They’ll have to. They will strengthen whatever back-up plans they have in place. If there are none. They will have to build them from scratch. This includes expanded work-at-home capabilities for more employees. They’ll have to consider options. Then they must position themselves to take advantage of those options.
New resiliency metrics will be rolled into valuations along with climate-related risks. The whole concept of resiliency will have the same importance as cost and efficiency. Resiliency is no longer a nice to have, but a necessity.
Individuals, communities, businesses, and governments are learning new ways to connect. Business leaders are finding faster, cheaper ways to operate. Conferences and meetings happen on online. Everybody that can has been working from home. These are positive changes. Better management. A more flexible staff.
Can we create a next new normal? One that will be better than what it replaced? Can we become agile enough to move even as the situation moves? Can we learn to address the challenges positively. These will be a long-term questions for us all.
What innovations will there be to leverage?
What technologies will business leaders use to thrive in the “new normal?”
How many of us really know what the cloud is? Oh sure, we know that the cloud involves storing and accessing stuff via the Internet, but do we understand the powerful transformational nature of cloud computing technology. Do we appreciate how it has changed and continues to change, the way we live and work?
Not that long ago if you mentioned the cloud, most people thought you were talking about the weather. As recently as 2012, Wakefield Research discovered that 51% of the people surveyed, most of whom were Millennials, thought that storm conditions could interfere with cloud computing. Later that same year, Business Insider reported only 16% understood the cloud to be a network of Internet-connected devices to store, access, and share data. So if you don’t know that much about the cloud, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.
Most people, if they think of the cloud at all, know it simply as a place to keep iTunes, archive our favorite movies, or family pictures and videos. Consumers know the cloud as a storage service offered by Apple. Our knowledge of iCloud is usually associated with the company’s invitation to add more space. Then there’s Netflix. Millions of people access feature-length movie titles stored and delivered on-demand via cloud technology. Do you store and share large files via DropBox? Does your office use Microsoft Office 365?
This article won’t be describing the cloud per se. Nor will it attempt to explain the various types and configurations of clouds. But rather a high overview of how cloud technology transforms companies and whole industries. It will explore the way cloud technology changes the way we work with each other all over the world. Technology growth is accelerating at multiplying rates. This acceleration is due to all the technologies blending together into the cloud.
We use a soft fluffy metaphor like the cloud, but “the cloud” paints a misleading picture in our minds. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Thomas L. Friedman, in his book, THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE, prefers to call the cloud “the supernova.” A term originated by Mircosoft computer designer Craig Mundie. Why refer to it as “the supernova” and not “the cloud.” In the world of astronomy, a supernova is the explosion of a star. It’s a huge astrological event; in fact, the largest explosion that takes place in space.
So too, the cloud is an incredible release of energy. The energy reshapes every man-made system that our society has built. And now, every single person on the planet who can access the Internet can tap into its power. The only difference, Mundie points out, is that a star’s supernova only happens once. The computer supernova keeps releasing energy at an accelerating rate. It’s interesting to note that the components that make up the cloud continue to drive down in cost. The cost goes down while performance keeps going up.
Just as the discovery of fire was a game-changer back in the Stone Age, and Electricity lit the way from one century to the next in the late 19th Century, the cloud has fundamentally changed the modern world. There are more mobile devices on the planet than there are people. Soon everyone on the planet will be connected.
Go with the Flow
The cloud has large amounts of digital information moving in every direction. The information travels up and down. The white-water rapid current moves fast and with equal energy. You have to learn to go with the flow if you’re going to thrive. Like maintaining constant homeostasis, you have to go with the flow to keep your balance. You’ll be better equipped to look ahead, predict trends, and respond to the ever-changing market.
In the past, the traditional idea was to go to college. Get an education. Find a job where you can apply that education. Show up. Do the work and you’d be fine. You’d be set for life. The focus was on one person having a stock of knowledge. Today, the focus has shifted to the flow of knowledge. As pointed out in the 2009 Harvard Business Review article “Abandon Stocks, Embrace Flows,” it’s no longer about having knowledge.
As the world accelerates knowledge tends to become outdated at a faster rate. The premium shifts to a focus on updating knowledge. Choice marketable characteristics will be a high level of curiosity, and staying in touch and maintaining the pulse on the latest advancements. As the world accelerates, stocks of knowledge depreciate at a faster rate. This is true for items you buy as well. Notice how quickly product life cycles have compressed. Even the most successful products fall by the wayside quicker than before. We have to continually learn by participating in relevant flows of new knowledge. And it’s not just a matter of diving into the flow when we feel like it. Participation and benefiting from this flow of knowledge requires that we must also contribute to it on an on-going basis.
This is the world of the cloud. This is where workspaces connect globally. Ideas and knowledge are exchanged freely. The so-called little guy can compete with the big guy. In the March 2016 study “Digital Globalization: The New Era of Global Flows” by the McKinsey Global Institute, we see in great detail how the world is more interconnected than ever.
Many enterprise companies are taking advantage of this interconnectivity. They’re leveraging the technology in order to take advantage of the knowledge flows moving around the planet. For example, Friedman describes in his book THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE, how General Electric supplements its internal resources of engineers to run global contests to see who can come up with the best design solutions. One such contest received 697 entries from companies and individuals all over the world.
It’s All About Interconnectivity
This interconnectivity is expanding “instantaneous exchanges of virtual goods.” The cloud enables digitized financial flows to happen at unfathomable rates. The science journal Nature published “Physics in Finance: Trading at the Speed of Light.” It presents an industry driven by ever-increasing speed and complexity. The article reports that more than 100,000 trades occur in less than a second. That’s for a single customer.
High-frequency trading relies on several things. It needs fast computer algorithms for deciding what and when to buy and sel. Live feeds of financial data are needed. And high-frequency trading also requires about $15,000 a month to rent fast links.
Moving faster also increases the likelihood of mistakes. In 2012, a flaw in the algorithms of KNIGHT CAPITAL – one of the largest U.S. high-frequency firms, caused a loss of $440 million in 45 minutes. The algorithm accidentally bought at a higher price than it sold.
Some trading firms established a way to keep the traffic from moving too fast. They introduced a kind of digital speed bump. Slowing down the flows of digital traffic by 350 microseconds. Apparently this was all time traders needed to benefit from faster feeds. The inclusion of a speed bump, all 350 microseconds worth, meant we’ve already surpassed the optimal speed for trading.
Speed & Complexity Are Free
Because information moves much faster now, global markets become more interdependent on each other. Remember when China made some financial missteps in 2015. It caused a ripple effect that stretched across the planet. Americans felt it immediately. On August 26, 2015, CNN.com reported:
“The American stock market has surrendered a stunning $2.1 trillion of value in just the last 6 days of market chaos. The enormous losses reflect deep fears gripping markets about how the world economy will fare amid a deepening economic downturn in China. The Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq have all tumbled into correction territory. It is their first 10% decline from a recent high since 2011. The dramatic retreat on Wall Street has been fueled by serious concerns about the fallout of China’s economic slowdown.”
PayPal has become one of the most important drivers of digital finance. The company set out to democratize financial services by enabling every citizen to move and manage money. The explosion of smartphones gave users all the power of a bank branch at their fingertips. The incremental cost of adding a customer is nearly zero. What is common-place for Americans to do, send money to someone, pay a bill, or get a loan, was now simple, easy, and nearly free for 3 billion people around the world. These were the people who would have to stand in hours to change their currency and stand in another line for hours to pay a bill. PayPal doesn’t rely on FICO scores the way a traditional bank or credit card company does. Instead, they use their own big data analytics based on your actual transaction activity on their site. This gives them a more accurate picture of your creditworthiness. The result: instant loans to more people around the world with a higher rate of payback. PayPal is one of the companies eliminating the need for cash. PayPal is also experimenting with “blockchain” for validating and relaying global transactions through multiple computers.
Cloud technology has brought with it a period of adjustment. We need time to absorb, learn, and get used to the idea of working differently. The cloud will make economies measurably more productive. Because of it Individuals, groups, and organizations are now on a level playing field. These individuals, groups, and organizations can shape the world around them in unprecedented ways. And they can do it with less effort.
Leverage & Synergy
There has never been a better time to become a maker, an inventor, a start-upper or an innovator. It’s leverage and synergy in action as never before.
Consider some of these examples:
The world’s largest taxi company owns no taxis
The most popular media owner creates no media
The world’s most valuable retailer has no inventory
The largest accommodation provider owns no real estate
THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
Technology has always been an amplifier of the best and worst of humanity. It tends to magnify our psychological and spiritual condition both good and bad. Cloud technology is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it empowers the individual, groups, and organizations as never before. Companies communicate faster and more fluidly. Small boutique shops can become multi-national enterprises in a short amount of time. More brains are connected globally. The smallest voices can be heard everywhere for the first time.
Alternately, technology can be used to belittle and disempower. Just as the cloud enables builders and makers, it also gives power to breakers. One person can do more damage more cheaply and more easily. Take Navinder Singh Sarao for example. Sarao, operating from one computer on a network connection out of his parent’s house in West London, single-handedly manipulated the U.S. Stock Market into losing a trillion dollars in less than a half-hour. He “spoofed” the Chicago Mercantile Exchange into setting off a terrible chain reaction. Spoofing is an illegal technique of flooding the market with bogus buy and sell orders so that other traders, both human and machine, are fooled into helping the perpetrator buy low or sell high. He had developed his algorithms to alter how his orders would be perceived by other computers.
Big forces can come out of nowhere and crush your business. You’ll never see them coming. The mobile broadband-supernova is a double-edged sword. How it’s used depends on the values and tools we want to put into place.
WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD
In summation, the cloud, our technological broadband-supernova, is here to stay. It won’t be the same cloud a few months from now, but it’s here to stay. And things will continue to accelerate. It’s going to be difficult for many to keep up. Keeping up may be one of the great challenges facing society in the decades to come.
In answering the question, “Why is the world changing so fast?” Dr. Eric C. Leuthardt states in his “Brains and Machines” blog:
The reason for accelerating change is similar to why networked computers are so powerful. The more processing cores you add, the faster any given function occurs. Similarly, the more integrated that humans are able to exchange ideas the more rapidly they’ll be able to accomplish novel insights.
Different from Moore’s Law, which involves the compiling of logic units to perform more rapid analytic functions, increased communication is the compiling of creative units (i.e. humans) to perform every more creative task.
A great primer for anyone interested in understanding the transformational power of cloud technology is Thomas L. Freidman’s 2016 book THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE: AN OPTIMIST’S GUIDE TO THRIVING IN THE AGE OF ACCELERATIONS.