By Trevor Dolan, Segment Director at Kollective
It’s a great time to work in IT. In 2018, the role of IT is now seen as a key business function rather than a cost cutting one. IT is helping businesses progress in the current digital climate, managing processes so employees can be more productive, and helping innovation thrive. While IT may be at the forefront of all of these processes, one area where it is still falling behind is in the speed at which IT teams can download, test and install software upgrades.
Windows 10 can be both a blessing and a curse for today’s IT managers. On the one hand, it represents a much more stable, secure and easy-to manage platform than its predecessors. On the other, its plan for near continuous ‘as a service’ updates poses a potential threat to those IT managers that are unwilling – or unable – to entrust their systems to untested and unregistered updates.
Traditionally, prior to rolling out a new operating system (OS) update, IT managers would spend weeks or even months reviewing the updates in a secure testing environment – often purposefully queuing a backlog of updates to ensure that they were all safe and would not ‘break’ the current IT ecosystem. With Windows as a Service (WaaS) however, major OS updates will be rolled out on a near weekly basis, making it much more difficult for IT managers to keep up (particularly if updates need to be rolled out globally).
With recent research finding IT to already be falling behind in software update delivery, it doesn’t look good for 2020 when Microsoft will discontinue updates and support for Windows 7, leaving businesses with only one option; to upgrade to Windows 10.
This issue is even more of a problem for large enterprises with thousands, or even tens of thousands of individual terminals and devices. For many of these businesses, a lack of bandwidth and infrastructure means that the rolling out of updates must be a carefully planned and timed operation, leaving little room for errors or rollbacks.
The result is a potential security minefield, with IT departments unwilling to update instantly and, as such, being left with a queue of vital security patches and bug fixes. Without these updates, their systems will be left open to potential cyber-attack.
2017 was a big year in terms of high profile victims falling foul of cyber-attacks, just take the WannaCry ransomware attack, for example. Both private and public organisations were undone by this attack, many losing out financially, and all because of outdated software. Not only did companies suffer from breached security, reputations were also tarnished with a huge media spotlight surrounding WannaCry.
With cyber-crime on the rise and the political world becoming more unstable, businesses within both the public and private sectors need to avoid becoming a victim. Otherwise, 2018 will be no different and vulnerabilities will continue to be targeted. But, of course, all of this is easier said than done and CIOs are still unsure how to fix such issues in the long term.
A proposed solution stems from video streaming. While video technologies may not seem relevant on the surface, the application of enterprise content delivery networks (ECDN) could provide a potential answer. ECDNs have been used for over a decade now to deliver and stream high quality video content en masse over legacy networks – but there is no reason why the exact same peer-to-peer technology couldn’t be used to distribute software updates in the same way. In fact, companies such as Kollective are already doing just that.
These cloud based content delivery networks allow businesses that are still relying on legacy network infrastructures to share large files at high speeds. Kollective has now adapted the existing video sharing software to distribute Windows 10 updates at scale. By leveraging peer to peeer network architecture software defined ECDNs decrease the bandwidth load on an organisation’s network. The greater the number of peers across a complex distributed enterprise, the more efficient content delivery becomes compared to legacy hardware-based WAN optimisation solutions.
While companies will still have to manage their rollouts according to Microsoft’s schedule and their existing, strict SLAs, the use of an ECDN reduces many of the fears that IT managers have around timings and workload when it comes to software updates. This in turn can help large organisations keep thousands of computers up to date without putting a strain on their own networks. The result is a system which can provide continuous updates, at high speeds, all around the globe – ideal for the new, Windows as a Service environment.