Are modern trends in technological innovation really all that modern? Or are they merely age-old societal desires reiterated in response to modern technology? Dmitry Shimanskiy, chief information officer at Mandarin Solutions, dives into how our economy is trending towards all products being offered as a service.
Mandarin Solutions is a cloud services solutions provider and systems integrator based in Moscow, Russia. Its offering is in many ways in step with how the modern economy operates, as the world trends towards all product offerings being rendered as a service.
Here, Dmitry Shimanskiy, chief information officer at the company, dives into this trend, how modern technology requires distributed data solutions and more.
Tell me about your own role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy?
As CIO, I am responsible for ensuring that our products actually provide solutions to the challenges our customers have. It assumes understanding needs of the customers, analysis of the problems and making sure the whole development team shares the same vision of our products.
Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?
We’re currently developing a platform that includes different cloud services and solutions. For small teams and organisations, the platform replaces the need for an IT specialist. For bigger organisations, the platform takes care of routine operations and frees up the valuable time of qualified specialists, so they can focus on creative architecture tasks.
The platform combines tools for network analytics, traffic management, network security, data leak prevention, building and managing hybrid clouds, and much more. So, the product we create allows to build an all-embracing IT infrastructure and to gather all controls to this infrastructure in one convenient interface.
How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?
We’re around 20 people total, which includes a mix of software engineers, marketing, and sales. The team is growing quickly though. It turns out an old saying “the more you know, the more you understand you know nothing” relates to software development as well. So the more services and features we create, the more we understand there’s more to do. Outsourcing helps, but it’s still not a silver bullet.
What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?
The most important thing about digital transformation is that it’s an infinite process. There is no point at which we can stop and say, “Yes, that’s enough”. There always will be something more to do.
Taking business intelligence (BI) as an example, we may remember there was a time digital transformation was about collecting and processing data. Then just collecting wasn’t enough, and we began to build automatic analytics based on that data. Then simple analytics wasn’t enough and now we value insights that the technology provides to us using that analytics.
Some companies made one more step and instead of automatic insights, they get automatically calculated decisions to help the business. What awaits us in the future development in this direction? Who knows. Maybe soon we’ll face BI systems that not only provide decisions for business but also shape development strategies. Maybe we’ll be able to automate experimentation — automatic generating of hypotheses based on received insights, automatic AB-testing within the selected audience, collecting the results and making decisions at a higher level.
It would be oddly satisfying to wake up some morning and to see a message from your analytical system saying it has changed the position of the controls on the website of your product and that changing has increased conversion by two per cent. It’s strange, but today it already doesn’t sound like something impossible. And tomorrow, when new possibilities will become reality, we will definitely imagine something else. Discovering new tools and new ways to process information we also discover new ways to develop and there’s no end for this process.
What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?
The biggest trends we’re facing right now are not actually trends but more like historical general direction. We leave routine tasks to the technology for a couple of centuries already — I believe it lasts since the Industrial Revolution.
That colossal trend has modern manifestation too, such as using AI or finding new fields of application to already known technologies, such as smart house systems or automating common life tasks and so on.
It doesn’t surprise anyone by itself. But the more modern manifestation of the same optimisation — receiving everything as a service — brings the trend to yet another level.
Today we have more and more of our necessities covered as a service. We have applications for getting as a service such things as education, music and movies, food delivery, mobility, housing and basically whatever.
We don’t need a burden of property requiring constant maintenance, we just want the experience, the service. Broadly speaking, we’ve always wanted this, but it’s the last decade we’ve gathered enough technical tools to make it possible: GPS, high-speed mobile internet, cookies, AI, IoT and so on. And now we try to leave as many of our necessities to services as possible.
So, if such an approach is so widespread in our common life, we expect no less from IT. Software, computer resources, security, databases — people try to get all the technological infrastructure as a service. And of course, our task is not only to follow that trend but to bring something new into it.
In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?
Modern technological solutions demand distributed data structures. Today we have hybrid clouds with different virtual machines located in different data centres located all over the globe. At the same time, we have different devices which should have access to controls of such hybrid clouds.
It’s a lot. It’s way too much. To maintain security for such many information channels is just too expensive, if possible at all.
All this naturally leads to reducing the number of points requiring protection. We start to control hybrid clouds through using an interface and instead of multiple channels for every virtual machine, we have just one channel. Connecting different devices to that channel is a matter of solid multi-factor authentication. So instead of hundreds of different communication channels, we may create a single gateway which should solve all problems with different roles of access and give every user only the information that user is meant to have.
The general approach which I believe to be the most rational is — surprisingly — to put all eggs in one basket. But it should be the most protected and well-built basket, allowing to avoid any external and internal threats and giving any user access only to the eggs that we want him to have.
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