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Tech Interviews

Privacy protection can’t be attained only by technology

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The Integrator talks to Fadi Kanafani, Regional Director Middle East & Africa

Q1. What should be the data fabric of an organization to maximize the benefits that big data promises?

A1. Only recently, big data has been recognized by a number of companies across industries as an opportunity to get ahead of the market competition. It has become a key business driver, affording organizations with new insights and the power to better strategize their business direction to achieve sustainable growth. With the emerging artificial intelligence revolution, we expect to see the role of big data becoming even more critical in the near future.

The big data infrastructure and software requirements are understandably complex. Enterprises need a system capable of collecting information from hundreds and thousands of sources, storing it efficiently, transporting it to where it’s needed, working with it for analysis and pattern recognition purposes, to name a few, and keeping it safe in compliance with existing laws and regulations.

Recognizing this complexity, NetApp’s Data Fabric is a strategy and suite of solutions designed to help organizations tap into the benefits of big data. It provides the data management foundation for data collecting endpoints such as sensors. It offers smart functionalities for storing data on-premises and feeding powerful AI solutions. It integrates with the largest public clouds and ensures compliance with important legal frameworks such as the GDPR. In short, Data Fabric changes the data game.

Q2. With constantly evolving cyber threats, what are the must-have security measures that organizations must take?

A2. In our fight against cyberattacks, employees, first and foremost, are the first line of defence. It is thus important to give them critical training to empower and equip them with the right information and skills to combat costly online network breaches.

As part of proactive security measures, it also helps to combine relevant employee training programs with several cutting-edge, clever technologies designed to protect an enterprise’s information technology (IT) infrastructure from malicious attacks. Some of these include:

  • Backup (on-premises or in the cloud)
  • Snapshots for minimal RPO without production impact
  • Data encryption
  • GDPR compliance (or other local frameworks)
  • Multi-tenancy

It’s also noteworthy that cloud-like and software-defined service provisioning internally does away with many reasons for shadow IT. Therefore, HCI and public cloud integration are such a great proposition for CIOs as they deliver great value and lower risk exposure. Lastly, NetApp provides functionalities that are crucial for cloud service providers, for instance multi-tenant shared storage with encryption or SaaS Backup. Encryption allows cloud providers to meet disaster recovery and archival requirements without compromising clients’ data security.

Q3. How should organizations choose cloud environments to maximize performance while ensuring security of assets?

A3. The key is to choose a flexible solution that addresses enterprises’ unique data needs, while providing the option to move back and forth and not be stuck with one approach. For example, data can be stored on-premises in a cloud-like environment that can be highly performant (flash) or super simple and automated (HCI), or highly integrated with the public cloud of choice. With our cloud infrastructure, cloud data services solutions, and proven data management software, we address all these requirements with the option to constantly optimize the deployment and service model.

 

The bottom line is cloud is not always cheap and not always secure. Enterprises need to rely on a service such as the Cloud Value Management offering or tap into the expertise of a partner to find the best cloud strategy for them and then deploy the infrastructure and services to support it.

 

The answers can be, for example, a fully-managed, cloud-native file storage service in the public cloud such as NetApp Cloud Volumes. Or, maybe something like NetApp Private Storage, which allows enterprises to take advantage of the public cloud for computing power while the data itself never moves out of the controlled, co-located environment. Or, a powerful private cloud built on NetApp HCI, with the ease of consumption of the public cloud delivered on-premises.

 

Q4. In view of BYOD, what steps must businesses take to ensure endpoint security?

A4. In the light of the growing BYOD practices, companies must implement appropriate strategies and processes— including building a secure IT infrastructure for customer data and identity protection that effectively addresses concerns about endpoint security.

There are many steps that can be taken regarding this end.  Data encryption and investment in advanced technologies are among these measures, in addition to deployment of an awareness campaign program for employees and implementation of a mobile device management system for multiple mobile devices. It is really all about robust CIO strategy and processes.

NetApp provides the strongest storage security solutions available today to help prevent unauthorized modification or disclosure of data stored across the enterprise. NetApp solutions not only support key data security and compliance initiatives, but they also help businesses address data privacy requirements, regulatory compliance, secure storage consolidation and multi-tenant needs, intellectual property protection, and secure information sharing.

 

Q5. Given that the MEA region is a hotbed for cyberattacks, what must businesses do to ensure data privacy and integrity?

A5. Businesses should always bear in mind that privacy protection is not something to be solved by technology alone. It must be backed by strong privacy rules and processes. Businesses need a holistic data strategy and approach that includes both technological and non-technological aspects such as data privacy, employee sensitization, data integrity, cloud security, data protection, and CIO strategies, among others. Safety and security is paramount. Today we have the technology to deliver this without compromising on the business potential of data.

In NetApp’s case, the company helps organizations move on-premises applications that rely on files services to hybrid cloud and cloud-only models by collaborating with top hyperscale cloud providers to pioneer the delivery of enterprise network file system (NFS) services in the cloud. NetApp also provides Data Fabric to optimize the value of data in the cloud, whether customers run an on-premises IT environment that’s poised for cloud capabilities or are already using hybrid or public cloud infrastructures.

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Tech Interviews

Ericsson’s AI-Powered Troubleshooting and Future Technological Innovations

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Integrator Media had an exclusive interview with Majda Lahlou Kassi, Vice President and Head of Ericsson West Africa & Morocco.

With your background in technology, sales, strategy, and operations, how do you plan to drive Ericsson’s technological initiatives?

With my background spanning technology, sales, strategy, and operations at Ericsson, my focus is on driving the company’s technological initiatives in West Africa. Having travelled extensively to engage with customers directly, I have always prioritized understanding their needs and enhancing network performance to deliver impactful solutions. Believing in Africa’s immense potential, I am dedicated to driving forward Ericsson’s ‘Africa in Motion’ initiative. Through this initiative, we aim to leverage our best talent and expertise to empower sustainable growth, economic development, and connectivity across Africa. Drawing from experience, we are confident in identifying and seizing opportunities for success while navigating the current challenges. We aim to ensure widespread connectivity through strategic partnerships and innovative technologies like 4G, 5G and mobile financial services, especially in rural areas. By fostering digital literacy, promoting financial inclusion, and collaborating with stakeholders, we strive to empower communities, accelerate Africa’s digitalization efforts, and support its journey towards achieving technological and sustainable development goals.

How does Ericsson plan to support the digital transformation of networks in the region?

At Ericsson, we are committed to supporting the digital transformation of networks through 5G. Our global network platform connects developers to global capabilities, fostering the creation of new applications. With global 5G population coverage projected to increase from 45 percent to around 85 percent in 2029, we believe that 5G should go beyond the capabilities of 4G, and our approach is to make these capabilities accessible for others to integrate into various applications and devices. We also have opened a 5G Core Excellence Center in the Middle East and Africa, showcasing the real-world applications of 5G, including fixed wireless access, cloud gaming, and enterprise offerings. We are dedicated to addressing pressing global issues while also enhancing communication infrastructure’s accessibility and affordability for sustainable economic growth.

To meet Africa’s increasing broadband demands, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) emerges as a pivotal technology. While 4G FWA is an initial steppingstone, 5G’s potential is increasingly coming to the forefront due to its capability to deliver fiber-like speeds. This advancement complements traditional fixed broadband infrastructure within the region. Notably, several key African markets, including Angola, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, have already launched 5G FWA services. This shift can be attributed to its cost effectiveness, rapid deployment capabilities and inherent flexibility.

  1. How does Ericsson align its technologies and solutions to support sustainable activities and goals in Africa?

Ericsson firmly believes that sustainability is at the foundation of our business success. Through ‘Africa in Motion’, we aim for a sustainably developed Africa. Achieving sustainable high-speed connectivity in Africa requires leveraging global collaboration and technological advancements such as 5G, AI, and IoT. These emerging technologies serve as critical means for decarbonization efforts. ICT solutions have the potential to reduce global carbon emissions by up to 15% by 2030.

When it comes to our solutions, the intelligent RAN energy-saving software as well as our triple-band, tri-sector 5G radio technology has shown significant energy reductions. We also promote waste reduction through smart product design and comprehensive take-back services, addressing e-waste.

Last year, Ericsson and Free Senegal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a proof-of-concept (PoC) project that provides a digital education ecosystem for schools in Senegal. As part of the PoC, a few schools will be connected with FWA technology, and also provided with laptops, learning content, and teacher training to support the development of the ecosystem. The project will demonstrate how FWA, by utilizing existing mobile radio networks, is an effective solution to connect schools and bridge the educational divide.

Another initiative is our collaboration with Smart Africa Digital Academy to enhance critical digital skills of senior public sector officials. 100 policy makers and regulators across 19 African countries attended virtual workshops in emerging technologies over a three-month period.

Ericsson’s goal is to achieve Net Zero in our own operations (fleet, facilities, business travel and commuting/teleworking) by 2030. We aim to generate value for the future and continue to develop innovative solutions that extend broadband access to over a billion people in Africa, all while addressing sustainability and energy and carbon emission challenges.

The extension of Ericsson Expert Analytics with advanced troubleshooting capabilities is interesting. Can you share more about how machine learning and AI tools will benefit telecom networks in the region?

The extension of Ericsson Expert Analytics, featuring advanced troubleshooting capabilities driven by machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) tools, marks a pivotal advancement for telecom networks in the region. This technology takes troubleshooting to the next level by integrating embedded intelligence and built-in domain knowledge, making incident identification and resolution more practically seamless. With ML-based anomaly detection, the system provides actionable insights, resulting in faster and more accurate issue resolution during network events. This enhances the reliability of telecom networks and ensures a proactive approach to addressing challenges in real-time.

The application of AI in network analytics is a transformative force in the regional telecommunications landscape. By leveraging AI’s unique automation capabilities, Ericsson contributes to the ongoing evolution of telecom networks. This includes managing and automating complex network data, predicting patterns and issues, and ultimately boosting network performance.

How does Ericsson plan to stay ahead in terms of technological innovation in the ever-evolving landscape of telecom services?

Our strategy to stay ahead in technological innovation involves a holistic approach focused on expanding our enterprise business, fostering cultural transformation, and fortifying our leadership in mobile networks. Leveraging our proven technology, we’re committed to broadening our portfolio and unlocking new avenues of growth. Public-private partnerships will continue to be instrumental in our sustainability and digital inclusion efforts. Our emphasis on the Global Network Platform (GNP) accelerates the development and availability of network services and APIs, enhancing accessibility for users and fostering collaboration with CSPs, application developers, and enterprises.

Additionally, our dedication to tackling global challenges such as climate change and inequality remains steadfast. The recent establishment of the 5G Core Excellence Center demonstrates our commitment to innovation, collaboration, and the advancement of 5G technology. As we have just concluded a transformative year, Ericsson remains focused on connecting communities, driving innovation, and leading the charge towards a sustainable and digitally inclusive future.

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Tech Interviews

Navigating the Cybersecurity Landscape in Hybrid Work Environments

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As hybrid work becomes the new norm, organizations face a dynamic cybersecurity landscape. Embracing remote and in-office work models, companies must prioritize cybersecurity measures to safeguard against evolving digital threats.


The Integrator recently conducted an exclusive interview with Emile Abou Saleh, Senior Director of Proofpoint Middle East, Turkey & Africa, and dwelled into key areas of focus, tools and technologies used to secure data, the importance of cybersecurity training, and unique risks associated with hybrid work.

What are the key areas of focus for enhancing the hybrid work environment within your organization?

After approximately four years of embracing the remote work model accelerated by the pandemic, companies in the Middle East and across the globe have accepted hybrid work as a regular feature of modern business.

The shift to this working model has continued to drive a human-centric approach from cyber criminals, focusing their efforts on individuals rather than the technological infrastructure. With employees now forming a defensive perimeter wherever they work, whether in the office or outside, our recent research shows that email-based threats, such as Business Email Compromise (BEC), ransomware, credential phishing, compromised cloud accounts, and social media hijacking attacks, are being employed by cybercriminals to steal credentials, siphon sensitive data, and fraudulently transfer funds.

As a result, organizations must secure their hybrid work environment by prioritizing compliance risk management, advancing secure collaboration, and strengthening IT and security infrastructures.

Recognizing the shift towards hybrid work, organizations must implement technology that facilitates seamless communication and collaboration so employees can work wherever they are, minimising operational downtime.

When using collaboration tools, we must ensure they are secure, and such tools may raise compliance issues.

To address these compliance risks, organizations must implement tools and applications that meet regulatory standards to enable teams to stay connected efficiently. This involves a careful balance of enabling productivity tools while managing the risk-cost-benefit ratio effectively.

Lastly, IT and security are paramount. Providing corporate hardware equipped with robust antivirus software and enforcing IT-approved security protocols is key. Our goal is to minimize shadow IT by offering authorized, secure apps that enable our employees to work effectively from anywhere.

  • What tools and technologies are you using to secure data in a hybrid work environment?

To secure data within a hybrid work environment, we leverage a host of innovations across our Threat Protection, Identity Threat Defense, and Information Protection platforms. These innovations are designed to stop malicious email attacks, detect and prevent identity-based threats, and defend sensitive data from theft, loss, and insider threats.

Our approach includes advanced email security measures to block phishing and BEC attempts, identity protection to guard against unauthorized access and account compromise, and data loss prevention strategies to secure data across our network.

Our Identity Threat Defense platform offers enhanced protection for productivity tools like Microsoft 365, ensuring that our employees can work safely from anywhere.

  • In hybrid work environments, how critical is targeted cybersecurity training in safeguarding against emerging digital threats?

In today’s hybrid work environment, targeted cybersecurity training is essential for combating sophisticated digital threats. The evolving threat landscape in the Middle East demands a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes both technology and education to make employees proactive defenders.

A security awareness program that educates employees on cybercriminal tactics is therefore crucial. It helps them recognize and respond to threats, improving the organization’s security posture. However, a recent Proofpoint study reveals that not all employees receive such training. The UAE stands out positively, with 64% of organizations training their workforce and 52% targeting those most at risk. Additionally, 74% of UAE organizations provide customized security training, the highest among the 14 countries surveyed.

This approach reiterates that cybersecurity is more than an IT issue; it is vital for organizational resilience. Targeted cybersecurity training in hybrid work environments is, therefore, key for safeguarding against emerging threats.

  • Could you elaborate on some unique cybersecurity risks associated with hybrid work?

The move to hybrid work has introduced several cybersecurity challenges, requiring organizations to navigate a new threat landscape. One significant threat is the increased risk of insider attacks. As workplaces become more dispersed, controlling and monitoring access to sensitive information has become more complex, and widening cybercriminal attacks surface. A Proofpoint study highlights this concern, with data showing that 32 % of CISOs in the UAE agreed that they had seen an increase in targeted attacks on their organization in 2022 as a result of long-term hybrid work, which made protecting data a top challenge.

Furthermore, employees demonstrated risky behaviors outside of the office – more than half (51 percent) of employees in the UAE and 44 percent of employees in KSA have connected to home or public Wi-Fi networks without knowing if they are secure – an increased occurrence with the hybrid working model.

As traditional working models evolve, the old ways of protecting data no longer suffice. Data loss for organizations is more than just an IT problem, and employees must understand that they play a critical role in preventing data breaches.

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Tech Interviews

Red Hat on Open Source Innovation and Market Expansion in Saudi Arabia

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Integrator Media had an exclusive interview with Martin Lentle, VP, Northern Europe, Middle East & Africa, Red Hat

How do we all keep up with the fast pace of change of open source?

As the centre of innovation, open source represents the future of IT and is revolutionising software development methodologies. Moreover, the collaborative nature of open source greatly fosters innovation. As for Red Hat, we proactively participate in upstream communities to embrace this transition. Owing to its exposure to the newest technologies, our engineers are actively involved in this field, further providing us with insights into new trends and interests. This is significant as several businesses may find the landscape intimidating, given that managing a business requires a high degree of predictability, stability, and security. This is the point where Red Hat’s expertise comes into play. We engage in upstream activities while providing customers with clear commitments related to lifecycle, security, and stability. Red Hat therefore strives to be the bridge that facilitates the seamless integration of open-source solutions into enterprise settings.

What customer needs do you see at the moment in the IT Industry?

It is imperative for all IT leaders to find a balance between embracing and managing change. The primary concern with this revolves around figuring out the ideal pace for each customer, particularly with regard to containerisation and orchestrating containers. Red Hat is firmly committed to giving customers the freedom to take charge of this journey and the choices they make along the way. Giving customers the tools to learn how to containerise apps is a key component of this strategy. This philosophy is reflected in our product offerings where we integrate automation and containerisation tools into Red Hat Enterprise Linux, to help customers get started with container building and deployment. Recognising the growing significance of automation skills, we have also improved training opportunities for Red Hat certified engineers. Simply put, we carefully evaluate and empower our customers with the right solutions based on their own needs and preferences, rather than forcing a predetermined course of action upon them.

LEAP will be back for the third year to bring together the global technology ecosystem. What is the significance of the LEAP conference for Red Hat?

The LEAP conference plays a major role in driving KSA’s digital economy forward, attracting foreign investment, advancing women’s empowerment in the tech industry, and preparing Saudi youth for success. Over the years, the event has grown into a major platform for promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging sectors. This holds particular significance as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries swiftly progress towards sustainability, with an increasing focus on economic diversification and a reduced reliance on oil. Consequently, technology will surely have a much bigger influence on innovation and growth in the coming years. Significant investments have also been made by the Saudi Arabian government to boost the nation’s technology market, either directly or through venture capital programs. Over 100 startups have been founded over the last few years in accordance with Saudi Vision 2030, and numerous venture capital firms have been established with the goal of empowering young people and steering further growth in the Saudi market.

How does Red Hat plan to grow and expand its market presence in Saudi Arabia?

Red Hat is committed to developing strategic partnerships with Saudi Arabian businesses, technology firms, or government agencies to expand its market reach and establish a stronger regional presence. By tailoring its offerings to the specific needs and demands of prominent industries, the company is better positioned to attract more customers in the region. As part of its long-term goals, Red Hat also collaborates with the Saudi Arabian open-source community and attends industry conferences, seminars, and events to increase awareness of its offerings and demonstrate its commitment to supporting the market. Providing localised support, training, and consulting services in Arabic, as well as catering to the specific cultural and business requirements of Saudi Arabian organisations, also serves as an important step towards the growth of Red Hat’s regional customer base. Furthermore, ensuring compliance with Saudi Arabian laws and regulations, particularly those pertaining to data privacy and security, as well as funding workshops and certifications to equip local IT personnel with the skills needed to effectively use Red Hat’s technologies, are all revolutionary steps that can support the company’s long-term success in Saudi Arabia. With this, Red Hat aims to establish itself as a reliable advisor and partner for digital transformation projects in the region by exhibiting thought leadership, delivering innovative solutions, adopting best practices, and maximising value.

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