Twin peaks: #MFSummit2017

Like scaling a mountain, sometimes it makes sense to stop and see how far you have come, and what lies ahead. #MFSummit2017 is your opportunity to check progress and assess the future challenges.

We called the first #MFSummit ‘meeting the challenges of change’ and it’s been another demanding 12 months for Micro Focus customers. Maintaining, or achieving, a competitive advantage in the IT marketplace isn’t getting any easier.

The technology of two recent acquisitions, the development, DevOps and IT management gurus Serena Software and multi-platform unified archive ninjas GWAVA puts exciting, achievable innovation within reach of all our customers. These diverse portfolios are also perfectly in tune with the theme of #MFSummit2017.

Build, Operate, and Secure (BOS)

BOS is the theme of #MFSummit2017 and our overarching ethos. Micro Focus products and solutions help our customers build, operate, and secure IT systems that unite current business logic and applications with emerging technologies to meet increasingly complex business demands and cost pressures.

Delegates to #MFSummit2017 can either focus on the most relevant specialism, the possibilities the other two may offer – or sample all three. This first blog of two focuses on Build.

DevOps – realise the potential

Following keynote addresses from Micro Focus CEO Stephen Murdoch and General Manager, Andy King, Director of Enterprise Solutions Gary Evans presents The Micro Focus Approach to DevOps.

Everyone knows what DevOps is, but what does it mean for those managing enterprise applications?

Gary’s 40-minute slot looks at the potential of DevOps to dramatically increase the delivery rate of new software updates. He explains the Micro Focus approach to DevOps, how it supports Continuous Delivery – and what it means to our customers.

Interested?

Want to know more about this session, or check out the line-up for the Operate and Secure modules – the subject of our next blog? Check out the full agenda here.

Use the same page to reserve your place at #MFSummit2017, a full day of formal presentations and face-to-face sessions, overviews and deep-dive Q&As, all dedicated to helping you understand the full potential of Micro Focus solutions to resolve your business challenges.

Our stylish venue is within easy reach of at least four Tube stations and three major rail stations. Attendance and lunch are free.

If you don’t go, you’ll never know.

Achieve peak performance at #MFSummit2016

The inaugural Micro Focus cross-portfolio summit opens this week. Andy King, General Manager for UK and Ireland offers his insights as to what to expect from the program.

This is a big week for myself and Micro Focus. On Wednesday, I raise the curtain on the future of our new company and our products for the customers who want us to take them into tomorrow.

Since the 2014 merger with the Attachmate Group, we have become one company operating two product portfolios across six solution areas. The single aim is to meet our customers’ mission-critical IT infrastructure needs with enterprise-grade, proprietary or open source solutions.

But what does that mean in reality? We are all about to find out.

#MFSummit2016: Current challenge, future success is our first cross-portfolio conference. The format mixes formal sessions and face-to-face opportunities, informative overviews with deep-dive, issue-specific questioning. It is a first chance to check out the roadmaps, and share experiences with our experts.

The focus is firmly on interaction; product specialists and fellow customers will be there to discuss your business and IT change issues. Set your itinerary to get maximum value from the day. The 12 sessions are split into three broad themes.

SUMMITT

Build. Operate. Secure.

Whether your IT issues span every area of build, operate and secure, or are confined to one or two, Micro Focus has it covered with a diverse range of products and solutions that will help to meet the challenges of change. I’ve selected three sessions to illustrate the point.

Secure

Dave Mount, UK Solutions Consulting Director presents an Introduction to Identity, Access and Security. Dave’s view is that understanding and managing identity enables better control of internal and external threats. He illustrates how our solutions can help our customers better understand and manage these threats. Find out how from 11 to 11.30pm.

Operate

From 1.30 to 2.20 pm David Shepherd, Solutions Consultant, Micro Focus and Stephen Mogg, Solutions Consultant SUSE discuss how Micro Focus and SUSE could help customers meet escalating storage requirements and costs with secure, scalable, highly-available and cost-effective file storage that works with your current infrastructure. If that would help you, then check out The Race for Space: File Storage Challenges and Solutions.

Build

Immediately after that, our COBOL guys, Scot Nielsen, Snr Product Manager and Alwyn Royall, Solutions Consultant, present Innovation and the Next Generation of COBOL Apps. It’s a demo-led look at the future that show the way forward for modernising COBOL application development and deployment in new architectures. So if you are ready for new innovation from older applications, get along to see that between  2.20 to 3.10 pm.

Networking opportunities?

Of course. Whether you are enjoying refreshments, post-event drinks – or your complementary lunch – alongside industry representatives, product experts and customers, visiting the pods for demos or roadmap walkthroughs, then the whole day is a refreshingly informal way to resolve your technical questions or business challenges. Alternatively, ask your question of the expert panel at the Q & A session at 3.45 to 4.15 pm.

PH House

In summary

Our promise to delegates is that after a visit to #MFSummit2016 they will be in a better position to navigate the challenges of business and IT change.

Wherever you are in your IT strategy, Micro Focus solutions enable our customers to innovate faster with less risk and embrace new business models. #MFSummit2016 is our opportunity to show you which solutions will work for you, where – and how.

Sounds attractive? You’ll really like our stylish venue, Prince Philip House. It is handy for Piccadilly, Charing Cross and St James’s Park Tube stations. Attendance is free, but book here first.

I’ll be speaking from 9.30. See you there?

When is a glitch not a glitch?

Micro Focus CGM Andy King looks at some high-profile problems with the Obamacare website and at the Co-operative Bank. Most readers will recall recent issues with the NATS computer that grounded dozens of flights and hundreds of passengers

How a harmless word can disguise dangerously inadequate core system funding

A recent Financial Conduct Authority press release announced stringent £42m fines for the RBS group of banks. These penalties related to the service outages that denied more than 6.5 million customers access to their funds for a number of weeks in 2012.

There are many more recent stories. These include high-profile problems with the Obamacare website and at the Co-operative Bank. Most readers will recall recent issues with the NATS computer that grounded dozens of flights and hundreds of passengers.

The common denominator among all of them is that in each case, fundamental IT system failures were dismissed as a ‘glitch’. It is my view that they are nothing of the sort. Without launching an etymological crusade, in my world a glitch is a minor technical aberration, a skip in a downloaded music track, for example. It is not something that paralyses international transport or banking systems. This is no ‘glitch’ and in some cases those responsible for maintaining supposedly robust IT infrastructures have admitted as much. But while we continue to use such benign terminology we risk letting them off the hook. Let’s review two of these cases in more depth.

In 2012, NatWest staff tried to install an update on the RBS payment processing system, known as CA-7. This is a job scheduling and workflow automation software package commonly used by banks and other large enterprises using IBM mainframes. A large number of NatWest’s 7.5 million personal banking customers and more than 100,000 Ulster Bank customers were affected.

Outsource the problem

So why did it happen? BBC business correspondent Robert Peston wondered if outsourcing might be behind the problem, while an RBS spokesperson blamed  RBS’ own systems. The fact that no-one can be sure who is looking after what cannot fill RBS customers with a great deal of confidence. Fast forward to 2013 and another so-called glitch means that  RBS customers to go to bed with healthy current accounts and wake up apparently in debt. Once again, people were left high and dry by decades of underinvestment in their bank’s IT. Which, coming as it did on Cyber Monday, showed that RBS’ sense of timing was no better than their customer service.

Quoted in the MailOnline, RBS Chief executive Ross McEwann claimed the bank was now investing heavily in building “reliable” IT systems just  as Iain Chidgey of data management company Delphix, noted that the increasing frequency of software glitches in the banking industry are often  caused by insufficient testing. So, not really a glitch at all, then?

Meanwhile, a fourth NatWest ‘glitch’ has been attributed to a Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. Difficult to predict but, with rigorous testing, straightforward enough to prepare for, cyber attacks are not new and customers must  wonder how many glitches equal poor IT planning and management.

Flight delayed

You will recall the technical fault that caused widespread flight disruption when a single line of computer code at the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) control centre at Swanwick failed.

NATS Chief Executive Richard Deakin explained that this glitch was “buried” among four million lines of code spread across 50 different systems. He said NATS was spending an extra £575 million to avoid a repeat, but Business Secretary Vince Cable accused the company of “skimping on large-scale investment”. Deakin went on to warn that updating some “elderly” systems posed a “challenge”.

And there is the problem. These core systems have evolved over time and discovering the root of the issue is a significant challenge in itself. New applications have been layered on the original functionality to become huge, sprawling webs of interconnectivity. However, the underlying systems are sound. Many of the mainframes used by finance houses were built on COBOL, which has been proven over many decades to be sufficiently robust to provide ‘glitch-free’ service, and flexible enough to be modernized to adapt to meet the demands of 21st century consumers. What might be lacking is the resourcing, tooling and underlying investment required to nurture and evolve these systems to support business in 2015.

Take the RBS case. Much of their technology was never designed for a 24 hour, always-on world. When the original application was built, banking was more straightforward. Transactions happened during opening hours and records were updated during an overnight batch run. Maintenance and upgrade work could take place out of hours. Now, there is no ‘out of hours’ and failed upgrades or similar maintenance tasks have an immediate, and significant impact. As NATS’ Richard Deakin noted, improvements must be made “while the engine was still running”.

It doesn’t have to be like this

But blaming “elderly” systems is disingenuous. Investment simply needs to catch up with the business demands being placed on IT today. With support, these core applications can be ‘retuned’ to handle the increasing demands.

The reasons for the ‘glitches’ outlined above are as many and varied as the industries they represent and there is no simple ‘just do this’ panacea.

My point is that banks and other financial houses owe it to their customers to achieve a better understanding of their application landscape and improve how they undertake remedial and innovative work.

Micro Focus and Borland help organizations bring more stability to their mission-critical mainframe systems and so avoid the need for colourful phraseology. Our customers include many high-profile finance and insurance houses with profiles very similar to, for example, NatWest.

The Micro Focus Mainframe Solution, for example, offers mainframe owners end-to-end visibility of the application portfolio. Tools such as Enterprise Developer and Test Server can bring modern efficiencies, more transparent quality controls and improved delivery cycles to trusted, business-critical mainframe environments.

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Our support means that our customers avoid having to hope that people will continue to see poor IT housekeeping and a lack of foresight as unavoidable ‘computer quirks’. But as the body of evidence grows, this seems like wishful thinking. The bottom line is surely to either invest in better tooling, or a bigger dictionary.

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Andy King

UK, Ireland and South Africa Country Manager