Your shout: IT's a job not a career, Skype pros and cons, blade cooling

Readers' views on the week's news

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Students view IT as just a job, not a career

Peter Robertshaw, Oracle DBA BT Consulting

With regard to your leader "One degree under" (Computer Weekly, 21 February), is Computer Weekly genuinely surprised at the fall in applicants for computer science degrees?

The generation looking to attend university are all too aware of the situation regarding outsourcing, giving way to the belief that programming, technical support, development, indeed IT as a whole, is a job performed by those from Third World or developing nations.

This perception has reinforced the attitude that working in IT is certainly viewed as a job, not a career.

Cutting through the hype to make most of Skype

Nigel Hawthorn, Blue Coat Systems

I enjoyed Jessica Twentyman's article "Is Skype really all blue sky for business?" (Computer Weekly, 21 February) exploring the ins and outs of using Skype in a business environment.

Skype's benefits are clear to any cost-conscious organisation requiring a large volume or intake of worldwide calls. The drawbacks, though, are similar to those of IM technologies. I wanted to elaborate on these and show that Skype's perceived disadvantages do not rest on the scare tactics that are employed so frequently in the IT industry.

With Skype there is no central log of calls from an organisation. The file transfer is peer-to-peer and therefore does not go through the organisation's e-mail service for virus-scanning, logging and content control, so viruses and spyware can enter and confidential information can leave the organisation. Critically, voice and video calls cannot be recorded because the encryption is proprietary, making it impossible to use Skype in an organisation that needs to follow financial regulations on communication logging.

My view is that Skype will follow the same paranoia curve as e-mail, web-browsing, IM and other technologies. As more organisations deploy Skype, perceptions will change and the advantages of putting appropriate controls in place will become evident.

What is clear is that management needs to establish whether the benefits overcome the drawbacks and then work to set appropriate policies within the organisation. If the decision is made to block Skype, then firewalls need to work in conjunction with proxies to provide a block. Firewalls on their own cannot provide a complete block. It may be decided that specific regions or groups of users are allowed access and fortunately the technology is now available to provide this level of control by user or group.

Skype is an exciting business tool that will dramatically change the way we work. It may have its disadvantages, but these can be handled decisively.

Water is not the only way to cool your blades

Matt Brown, Future-Tech

HP's new addition to the range of water-chilled enclosures available will doubtless be welcomed by those with the chilled water and sufficient power to run them ("HP water-cooled rack system aims to boost efficiency of blade farms", Computer Weekly, 7 February). Unfortunately, that excludes most small to mid-sized datacentres being sold blades in the UK today.

Happily, it is a misconception that only liquid cooling can handle pure blade racks. In fact, high-density HP racks operating at the lower end (10-12kW) can be, and are, cooled effectively using existing, less expensive design principles and practices.

Water and CO2 cooled racks allow a great deal of processing to be concentrated in one place. But that's also a great deal of potential business risk in a single space. Taking a holistic view of your datacentre will allow you to identify which racks offer available power. Combine this with thermal imaging, or even computational airflow modelling techniques, and the best locations for your blades will become apparent. And spreading your risk - and loading - will always be the best policy.

How local councils are going customer-centric

Paul Smith, Comino

Regarding the National Audit Office report on public sector efficiency savings ("Government efficiency claims questioned by watchdog", ComputerWeekly.com, 17 February), the argument seems to have missed the real point. There are no credible systems of measurement for the progress being made by local authorities because there is no benchmark.

Local authorities and housing associations are having to fundamentally change core processes and the way they deal with the public in order to meet government requirements. They are becoming more customer-centric, like many commercial companies, and are introducing a call-centre approach and one-stop shops for council services.

On a case-by-case basis, local councils are making massive long-term savings and efficiency gains with systems that will enable them to meet efficiency targets in the long run.

Business intelligence is more than a silver bullet

Martin Mackay, Vecta Software Corporation

In his letter "Business intelligence software is no cure-all" (Computer Weekly, 14 February), Mark Douglas expresses concern that businesses on the whole do not understand the value of business intelligence in relation to core business processes. I disagree.

The retail sector may have been slow to recognise the shortcomings of traditional BI, but elsewhere the ability of technology to push actionable, relevant and timely information down to front-line workers has been something of a "deal breaker" for a long time.

Take wholesale distribution, for example. In my experience, companies working in high-volume, low-margin industries such as office or IT distribution do not have the time or resources to make large-scale data warehousing investments on the vague promise of a "silver bullet". They demand software that can be deployed to front-line workers in days, not months, and which those workers will actually use.

Some in the IT industry have referred to this as "operational business intelligence", but whatever you call it, the trend is clear. Businesses across the board are waking up to the benefits of this technology, but the prospect of a "beer and nappies" style revelation is no longer enough. They need to know where to invest and what returns they can expect.

Business intelligence has come of age and its time to return the so-called silver bullet to the realm of myth and legend, where it belongs.

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