So, my world is changing in interesting ways and I thought I would take to the airwaves to let you know what’s up.
Firstly, I have been appointed Director, Business to Business (B2B) for Intellect, the UK Technology Trade Association. This is a welcome move bringing me properly into the Intellect fold, after more than 7.5 years of being an employee on contract to the Government’s Innovation Programme for Knowledge Transfer Network projects. The good news is that I have brought the agenda from the KTNs into the mainstream and will now get the chance to operate at an Industry level on Cloud, Big Data, IoT and their application into vertical sectors. I’ll retain my interest in Government too, as the Intellect representative to the G-Cloud Programme Delivery Board.
What does this mean for my work in the ICT KTN? Well, half my time will remain targeted at the Cloud and Government IT programme there too, this has morphed into three key areas: Open Data; Software Engineering and Cloud Standards. I have also maintained a key interest in promoting the G-Cloud supply side too, we’re doing work with leading suppliers aimed at raising visibility of the G-Cloud programme and capabilities on offer. My involvement in Open Data stems from the paper, wot I wrote with Jonathan Raper, Placr in August. This has provided a foundation and agenda for KTN work in this area. The paper is available now on request from me, but should shortly be on the ICT KTN website. We’re planning to work with Hadley Beeman at LinkedGov, and our colleagues in the Open Data Institute, via our Technology Strategy Board connections.
I’m also working on a Software Engineering agenda within the KTN, addressing the soon to be published TSB ICT Strategy and its Software Engineering objectives. We’ve established a Software Engineering Working Group to look at the key areas of interest of the TSB. More on that later. This interest extends to the Multicore KTP programme, a TSB investment in knowledge transfer in the small; and the Energy Efficient Computing Special Interest Group and Competition which we was announced in October, for which we have now run 3 collaboration events. There’s £1.25M available for some imaginative proposals in the area of software engineering and hardware/software integration. See here for more details.
What I am leaving behind, is the KTN work on Multicore itself. We have had a stonking year with an excellent webinar series and a large event in Bristol in September. This investment served to identify the major choices for those incorporating multicore in products, either focus on System on Chip for high performance, e.g. mobile devices with multiple use requirements (comms, graphics, processing, etc.); or on Homogeneous many core chips for specific use requirements, e.g. x86 in servers, GPU in graphics devices. In both cases the industry is developing common sense strategies to optimise performance (e.g. a single thread per cpu) for larger applications much of this is being done in the operating system. There are risks ahead, e.g. memory contention; challenges in testing and verification; but there are not many areas in which the KTN can practically help, now that awareness has been raised and sources of genuine inspiration identified. E.g. XMOS, University of Bristol’s Engineering Programme and TVS, network of experts no embedded systems testing. We may yet invest some more in Multicore in 2013, but it is early days to decide this, the KTN priorities will not be agreed till February/March. And, by the way, the ICT KTN will now run until March 2014 at the same resourcing levels as 2012/13. Either way, additional investment in this area will be decided by the ICT KTN Software Engineering Working Group in partnership with the TSB.
Another interesting development which may well have longer term consequences is the European Commission’s recent announcement of an European Cloud Strategy. This is a three pronged approach to bringing Cloud computing into the mainstream of EC activity. The prongs include chartering ETSI to build a roadmap towards recommended technical standards, they major today in Telecoms and equipment interoperability – plug tests. Also chartering ENISA the European Standards Assurance governing agency, to look at voluntary certification requirements for improving trust in cloud services on offer. Together these proposal are quite a controversial offer, see the concerns of Liam Maxwell, the Deputy Government CIO here. Some careful oversight will be required to avoid strangling the market through over zealous controls. I will be maintaining my involvement in the ISO SC38 Cloud Standards community for both the ICT KTN and the Cloud Industry Forum, which is a small industry group committed to improving the quality and transparency of cloud service provision. I intend to get involved in the ETSI review of standards too. Note too the publication last week of the UK Government’s Open Standards Principles a policy to be applied across Government procurement.
The second area of interest is in the nature of Cloud Service Contracts. Specifically the terms and conditions and service level agreements on offer. This is a complex area currently more akin to the Wild West than a business to customer relationship. The Cloud Industry Forum is working on some model contracts to help out, but there are concerns all the way from contracts which at least balance the rights of the consumer, all the way to major concerns about privacy which are being addressed in the forthcoming Data Protection Regulation. Either way, we have a long list of challenges in the establishment of fair contracts, agreed definitions (e.g. how do you define multi-tenanted?), and privacy concerns.
The third area of interest lies in the worthy idea of sharing services between public sector organisations across the European Union. This is called the European Cloud Partnership and I have to say, it is ambitious in an area where we can’t agree how to share information or services between departments in one nation, let alone streamline a procurement process to purchase services from beyond that nation. Nevertheless, it is a worthy objective. Perhaps the Commission itself could set an example in its own procurement processes?
Finally, I took the opportunity of an invite to lecture Engineering Doctorate students at York in May, to reflect on my 40 years in the ICT industry. A potted version was published in Techweek Europe in September. Enjoy here!