Microsoft Azure Training Helps Fill Cloud Skills Gap

February 13, 2017

If your business isn’t using a cloud computing platform yet, chances are you will be soon. 2017 is set to bring cloud adoption to an all-time high among businesses and consumers and cloud platforms like Microsoft’s Azure are enabling businesses to “go digital” at an astonishing rate.

With this massive adoption of the public cloud, people from all industries face the challenge of preparing themselves with the proper skills and know-how to manage projects and run businesses more effectively within cloud platforms like Azure. In fact, 2016 seems to have highlighted a skills deficiency in this area, with many companies realizing the benefits of switching to the cloud, but not having the right personnel in place to implement new systems.

According to one 2016 report, proficiency in Azure is the most difficult Microsoft-based skillset to source among IT professionals and many Microsoft partners cited shortages of proper skills and maximizing use of talent as two of their biggest challenges. This puts businesses in a tough situation for cloud deployment but presents an incredible opportunity for IT pros seeking to build their personal value.

As cloud adoption continues to grow, so will the demand for cloud skills and properly-trained professionals will capitalize on this demand. Specifically, experts in migrating from on-premise computing to cloud solutions will be in high demand as businesses seek to make the transition to Azure and other cloud platforms. An article from CloudTech suggests that security, database management, programming knowledge and Linux expertise are all additional cloud skills that businesses find themselves needing.

Professionals who have mastered these skills and are ready to help their companies transition to the cloud are critical to ensuring industry growth. But what if you’re not among the small group of currently knowledgeable cloud pros? Fortunately, getting the right education is easier than you think.

To address this skills gap in the industry, we have launched a simple 3-step training program to help you gain these skills. From free online classes to expert level MCSE: Cloud Platform certification training, we offer a range of options that provide you with a deeper level of understanding and confidence. Whether you’re a developer, IT manager or other technical professional, the investment made in educating yourself is sure to be minimal when compared to the potential for growth and career benefits made possible by developing a highly in-demand new skillset.

Unfortunately, the current skills gap in the cloud space is a reality that many businesses have to face and fight their way through, but with a wealth of educational resources available, a new wave of skilled IT professionals is on the way. Will you be among them?

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Edge Computing and Analytics Will Fuel IoT Deployments in 2017

January 19, 2017

One of the most awe-inspiring aspects of the internet of things (IoT) is the sheer impact of billions of devices connecting to the cloud and uploading massive amounts of data for analysis and strategic use. But what happens when there are so many connected devices and so much data generated that the demands on the infrastructure are overwhelming? Enter edge computing.

Edge computing is a relatively new IoT advancement that moves data processing out of the cloud and down to the device level. By adding on-premise devices like programmable automation controllers (PACs) into your IoT stack, edge computing enables more processing to occur on a local level. The data are then analyzed on-site, and only the necessary data are uploaded to the cloud.

Running parallel to the development of edge computing is another similar solution: fog computing. Fog computing is a term that was coined by Cisco and describes a process for moving intelligence to the local level much like edge computing, but in a slightly different way. In edge computing, processors are added to the device level, with data sometimes being processed directly at your sensors and actuators. In fog computing, the data are still sent upstream from your devices, but instead of being uploaded to the cloud, the data are processed by an on-premise “fog node” or IoT gateway. The mass of data can then be used for analysis and monitoring at the local level with only the necessary or changed information being uploaded to the cloud.

There are pros and cons to both approaches, but the benefits of local processing in general could have huge implications for IoT deployments at the industrial and enterprise levels.

Let’s consider a quick example.

At any IoT-enabled manufacturing plant, the amount of data being collected and stored can be enormous. Every second, sensors are monitoring temperature levels, moisture levels, light levels, energy levels, machine performance diagnostics, and a huge amount of other data points that are critical to on-site performance. Without edge or fog computing, all of this information gets uploaded to the cloud and then pushed to programs that deliver analysis and monitoring to key decision makers within the enterprise.

As IoT deployments have grown, the amount of data being collected has multiplied, and large operations are now processing more and more of this kind of data every day. Uploading this amount of raw data can slow transfer speeds to a crawl, preventing decision makers from seeing mission-critical information in a timely fashion.

What happens if our example manufacturing plant includes a cleanroom that has been environmentally compromised? Perhaps moisture has begun to seep in from a leak the sensors in the cleanroom have detected this and tried to push an alarm to the cloud. If the network is overwhelmed by non-critical data transfer, this major development could take longer to get to an engineer, thus resulting in a longer contamination period in the cleanroom and a greater overall impact to the enterprise. This is and will be a very real and serious problem faced by many enterprises as IoT is deployed more in 2017.

With edge or fog computing, this leak would be caught almost immediately and pushed to on-premise software through the local area network, alerting responsible engineers in seconds – sometimes even less. The data are then uploaded to the cloud for future analysis, and a potential major crisis is averted.

The implications of this for IoT growth in 2017 are immense. IoT vendors are gearing up for the wave of enterprises that will turn to edge/fog computing to fuel their IoT systems, and many new products and services are being brought to market as a result.

In June of 2016, Cisco and IBM announced a partnership designed to couple IBM’s Watson IoT capabilities with the power of Cisco’s edge analytics. These two IoT giants intend to “target companies operating on the edge of computer networks such as oil rigs, factories, shipping companies and mines, where time is of the essence, but bandwidth is often lacking” (more on this in Cisco’s official announcement post). With this collaboration, key personnel at the enabled locations would have access to powerful, real-time insights that may not have been available in the past due to limited connectivity issues.

Intel and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are among the other tech giants leading the way at the edge. With new intelligent gateway products designed to push data and analytics from the cloud to the local level, these vendors are contributing to the ever-important technology that makes all this possible.

This all sets the stage for a huge year of growth in 2017 for both IoT as a whole and edge/fog computing specifically. At Fast Lane, we are gearing up for these changes to have a big impact and we think you should too. We offer classes, programs and services that can help get you and your employees up to speed on new developments in the world of IoT. As things continue to change and evolve, check out our IoT enablement services, and don’t let your business get left behind.

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Hack Your IoT Systems Before the Bad Guys Do

November 15, 2016

As you’re reading this, two very large and ever-growing worlds are on a dangerous collision course: the world of cybercrime and the internet of things.

Right now, in 2016, the estimated number of connected devices worldwide is around 15 billion, and according to Cisco, that number could rise to 50 billion by 2020. In an even less conservative estimate by Intel, that number could reach as high as 200 billion over the same timeframe. The IoT is ready to explode.

iot-under-attack-blog-imageCompare that with the also-rapidly-growing cybercrime problem, and we could be in for some serious issues. 2016 has brought us more cybercrime than we’ve ever seen, and according to web security firm Symantec, more than a million web attacks are now happening every single day. You can find that and many more alarming statistics in their annual Internet Security Threat Report.

This means that companies of all sizes are going to need to take IoT security very seriously and as we saw from the DDoS attacks on Dyn a few weeks ago, some still are not.

While a clear set of standards to support IoT security objectives has not yet been established, it is critical that enterprises, device/infrastructure manufacturers and owners of large IoT deployments have a strong foundational awareness of security best practices. And even more importantly, they need to put those best practices to work to keep devices safe.

These companies have a direct requirement to increase their awareness of IoT threats. The challenges are numerous here, but businesses can meet them head-on by educating security staff, auditors, pen testers and more on specific techniques and methodologies for deploying IoT solutions securely.

At Fast Lane, we have considered these challenges and the threats they pose to IoT solutions, and we’ve come up with a working list of best practices to help keep networks and devices safe:

1. Know the security posture and commitments of your IoT product/system provider. You can never know too much about how secure your IoT systems are.
2. Investigate the underlying security of your IoT components. Are they leveraging hardware-based security solutions such as the ones provided by Intel?
3. Ensure that the network and security professionals are well educated about the particulars of IoT-specific security requirements. In many cases, connectivity protocols for IoT devices may be foreign to IT professionals and basic education about this is crucial.
4. Simplify security. Look for hardware and platforms with integrated security capabilities to leverage and reduce security vendors in your architecture. Software-defined networking (SDN) and artificial intelligence (AI) are playing a role in reducing the complexity of security from the security team’s perspective. Build a security architecture that allows for smart automation wherever possible.

Finally, we highly recommend hacking your own systems. Simulate the very likely scenarios that your IoT devices will eventually face a hack. Is your network easy to bring down? Is your data easily infiltrated? If you can hack your systems without much trouble, the bad guys probably can too. These checks need to be performed regularly to account for changing environments and new technologies. Be prepared. If vulnerabilities are discovered, they need to be addressed immediately.

If you or your staff are unfamiliar with these methods or just lack the education to engage them, getting yourself up to speed as quickly as possible is important. Fast Lane offers courses that teach developers and programmers how to hack their own IoT infrastructure and devices, and build more secure IoT networks and systems.

Getting this education and beefing up your IoT security is critically important. As IoT adoption grows, all companies will need to take the appropriate steps to ensure a safe and secure IoT deployment.

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Fast Lane Makes TrainingIndustry.com Top 20 IT Training List 2016

November 10, 2016

ti_top-20-badges_ittraining2016_smallThis marks the 8th year in a row for Fast Lane!

Fast Lane is proud to announce that for the eighth year in a row, they have been included in TrainingIndustry.com’s list of Top 20 IT Training Companies.

The list encompasses a group of companies recognized for their ongoing mission to be one of the best providers of training services. Presented in several key areas of the workforce development industry, TrainingIndustry.com’s Top Companies Lists help organizations connect with the right training partner to increase productivity and potential.

Selection of this year’s Top 20 IT Training Companies list was based on the following criteria:

  • Leadership and innovation in IT training
  • Breadth of IT training and delivery methods offered
  • Quality and number of clients/users
  • Geographic reach
  • Awards, recognition and competitive differentiation

“The 2016 Top IT Training Companies List recognizes the most prominent names in IT training,” said Ken Taylor, President, Training Industry, Inc. “We found that these companies provide some of the highest quality corporate training available, often adapting their offerings to meet the specific training needs of their customers.”
“The IT training market is one of the largest and most constantly evolving segments within the training industry,” said Doug Harward, Chief Executive Officer, Training Industry, Inc. “These organizations are the key players in this space in part because they have demonstrated the ability to innovate and respond to market needs.”

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