May 2014 Archives

What went wrong with Ticketmaster for Glasgow 2014 online ticket sales?

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I have been following the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games ticketing website debacle. Last Tuesday the ticket site, run by Ticketmaster UK, went down after huge demand caused unacceptable waiting times for customers.

These days anything like that becomes the talk of Twitter very quickly and event organisers are quick to act on it, even if that just means taking the site down and apologising.

Well the good news is the site is back up again after loads of testing. But neither Ticketmaster or Glasgow 2014 have given any details of what the actual problem was.
I asked a coupe, of IT industry executives that know lots about the technology required to support ticketing at major events.

Both people I spoke to said it is a poor indictment on Ticketmaster. Let's not forget the Olympics 2012 tickets resale site went down for 11 days in January 2012.

LOCOG suspended the resale site just hours after it opened on Friday 6 January 2012, as hundreds-of-thousands of people logged on to purchase unwanted tickets. At one stage there 250,000 people chasing just a couple of tickets, which caused issues around notification.

My sources tell me the problem can only be related to the software used by Ticketmaster or the network access.

"When you are running ticketing for events of this size you have to make sure your infrastructure and software are aligned for peaks and troughs," said one source. He added that there are companies out there that are doing this well such as Amazon and Facebook.
He said in this case the problem "smells of software" because a network access problem would have manifest its way differently.

I suppose because there is such high demand for events like the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics it does not harm organisers financially because the tickets will be sold anyway. But it does serve as a good warning to businesses to ensure they plan their infrastructures and applications in conjunction when making offers. If you have competition the customers will head straight there.

Ukraine IT industry isolated from political tension and ready to fuel economic growth

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I had an interesting meeting with Torben Majgaard, CEO at Ukraine based IT services firm Ciklum. He is a central figure in a movement within the Ukrainian IT that wants the IT sector to support Ukraine's growth when all the current political troubles are over.

I should start by saying that he believes the situation in Ukraine is being blown out of proportion. He says the Ukrainian government in Kiev makes it sound worse than it is to help it secure foreign support, the Russian are doing the same to justify their actions, and the newspapers just want a good story (I will allow him that swipe). These are his views from the interview and not my comment on the situation.

He says that there are isolated incidents where people are making decisions to fight but that bystanders are safe.

Ciklum is an interesting company. It provides customers, including those in the UK, with services to help them recruit IT skills in Ukraine and get the most out of them.
The company has about 2,500 software engineers working for different corporate global customers.

Ciklum finds the staff its customers need from within Ukraine and Belarus. They then deliver software services to customers for Ciklum's bases in the two countries.

Interestingly is the fact that the customer pays the worker and Ciklum just gets a fixed fee for the worker. It is therefore in Ciklum's benefit the more staff it can connect with customers. Quality control is also in Ciklum's interest.

Central and Eastern Europe are becoming increasingly popular destination for IT outsourcing from the UK. The near proximity and cultural closeness of countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Moldova make the ever popular agile software development techniques more manageable than in India or China, according to many I speak to.

Torben said that in the Ukraine for example the software engineers will understand the business challenge the customer has ands address this with technology rather than the approach he says is in India where a worker expects to be told what to develop and does not challenge this.

Another interesting aspect of Ciklum's approach is its use of existing customers to help new customers get up and running. He says that if he has a new prospect they will link it with an existing customer with similar requirements to meet them and discuss what is required.
Ciklum also assists the customers in getting the most out of their IT staff through its productivity consultants. All this for a fixed fee.

The customer is responsible for the pay of the staff and taxes on the pay. He says a highly skilled software engineer in Ukraine will command a monthly salary of $4000 (£2355), before tax.

The other interesting story is Majgaard's role in the movement known as the Brain Basket. This Ukraine IT industry group  wants IT to be the fuel to grow the Ukraine once the troubles are over. Brain Basket wants to make IT a major driver in creating a strong economy. It will co-ordinate efforts to train 100,000 people and generate $10bn annual revenues by 2020. By boosting education and creating new jobs. Bread Basket was recently praised by Richard Branson.

Interestingly he said it is not just young students that the movement wants to get into the IT sector but older citizens that currently work in different sectors but could be moved to IT.

Majgaard said IT is perfect for Ukraine because it has the resources internally to grow IT. "Ukraine does not have many opportunities for the future but one it does have is in the IT business."

"There is a lack of infrastructure to support many industries and there is fear at the moment, but when the trouble is over everyone will be using the Ukraine again."

Read more about Ukraine and central European IT:
Agile software development demand could put nearshore IT in the spotlight
Report on Central and Eastern European nearshoring

Ten questions to ask a cloud supplier before moving your IT

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Cloud computing has been hijacked by the IT suppliers. Let's face it people have been accessing applications via web browsers for a long time.

OK strictly speaking the cloud is multitenant, pay as you go blah blah blah... But many of the services being sold as cloud services don't meet the strictly speaking criteria.

Last week I met up with Izak Oosthuizen, an IT consultant at  IT services company Exec Sys . It was interesting to hear some horror stories about clients he has had to help out following disastrous moves into the cloud.

He told me about companies ending up using software without licenses without realising and others finding out that their emails had not been archived.

I asked him to provide me of a list of questions businesses should ask customers before jumping into the cloud.

This is what he came up with.

10 key questions to ask a cloud provider, by Izak Oosthuizen

"UK organisations now face a vast number of cloud options - private, public and hybrid, which is great if you know what to look for, but can spell disaster if you don't.  These are the questions to ask a cloud provider to make the best choice - and avoid the pitfalls

1.    Data location - Where is my data stored, do I have access to it when a system is down and what application will be affected? It's also essential that your provider can prove it offers full UK data protection.

2.    Backups - Will I have a local copy of all data and insight into where it's stored? This knowledge will help avoid issues such as the Western Digital outage in April where users had no access to its personal cloud services for nearly a week.

3.    Cloud anti-spam - Will I have full transparency, with alerts, on incoming and outgoing emails spam filters / blocked / quarantined email data? Having this visibility is a must, to ensure that no important mail data is missed or lost.

4.    Speed - What is your expected internet speed, performance and latency expectations? A good provider will possess a fast and efficient internal network and plenty of capacity. Ensure that you understand how increased bandwidth usage will affect both the local ISP and cloud provider.

5.    Surprising cost increases - Will I be charged extra if my requirements change - if so, what for? This is important as you need IT flexibility and will undoubtedly have to tweak storage space, data backup retention policies, use more bandwidth, change users and add additional applications.

6.    Licensing agreement - Are you correctly licensed for all software I will use? You must establish your license rights and usage needs before using third-party software in the cloud, then effectively capture those in your contract with the cloud vendor.

7.    Data centre credibility -  Are your data centres certified to international standards including ISO 27001 for information security management, ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 14001 for environmental management. This will ensure the cloud provider's data centres are up to scratch and will provide a good insight into their operational qualities.

8.    Cloud suitability - Which is the best cloud option for me - public, private or hybrid  cloud? The key to a successful outcome is understanding what IT to place where. Most organisations currently want flexibility and access to additional services, combined with localised control and immediate usability. So, for the majority of organisations, the best solution tends to be a flexible, hybrid option of private on-premise cloud - bursting into the public cloud, for areas such as backup or disaster recovery, or as processing capacity increases. 

9.    Security - What encrypted, security technologies do you employ to enable user access?  Even though most cloud providers' security levels are far greater than most organisations' in-house measures, you should still ensure they offer SLAs of at least 99.8%, or guarantees for security provision and audits. If in doubt, you may be wise to keep your proprietary data and critical business applications in-house, at this stage.

10.    Continuity provision - What backup systems and disaster recovery plan do you employ?  Your business can't afford downtime in an outrage, so ensure that the provider has the infrastructure in place that offers quick, guaranteed recovery. The cost of exiting the cloud should be identified - as well as having an exit strategy."