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Follow OSHEAN's CEO, Dave Marble, as he discusses the trends and hot topics affecting OSHEAN's membership.

 

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Blockchain Impact

Posted By David Marble, Wednesday, October 12, 2016

As I write this blog, I already wonder how it will be received.  Will it will be taken as intended?  Will the reader say “Hmm, that’s interesting and I should look more into this…” or will it be “Duh, when did Marble wake up from his nap?”  The subject that has captured my interest lately is “blockchain” and its potential impact on the very fabric of our economy and beyond.  Much is being written about the technology these days and it has fascinated me enough to write about it here.  One of the reasons I follow developments in nuclear fusion is the potential it brings to completely revolutionize the energy industry and in turn, our lives.  I am beginning to believe blockchain technologies may have that same potential for impact.

 

As a matter of background, blockchain is the underlying technology used to develop Bitcoin, the digital currency used in many internet based financial trust applications.  Much like the internet itself, there is no real central authority in a blockchain.  Think of it as a series of trusted transactions with each link having a piece or “hash” of the previous link which binds the chain.  Running algorithms keep the history of the chain up to date at all times and also have the interesting characteristic of becoming more and more bulletproof as they get bigger.  Encryption is inherent so security is central to the architecture.  This is a completely decentralized model.  Think of a distributed ledger with no central or master database.  What sounds chaotic is massively elegant and revolutionary and its potential impact is staggering.  Consider just the idea of eliminating central banks for a moment, replaced by a completely distributed software-based digital trust model.  The trust model in many applications cuts out the middle man.  For instance, the blockchain between the consumer and say, a musician can be direct with no need for distribution labels or even on-line music stores.  Makes one wonder about the long term play for Amazon or the iTunes store.

 

The technology is one thing and there are tons of hurdles in an open and completely distributed software world.  I am fascinated though by the social impact and its implications.  One article used the analogy that very few people knew what TCP/IP is nor cared as the internet was evolving.  Blockchain may develop the very same way.  The cool thing to think about is the potential ability to deal with ideas of trust and identity in a very new way, something that is on the front burner for many of us.  As with any new technology, there are many naysayers and hype masters.  For me personally at this stage, I just think it is a tremendously interesting topic to explore from both the technical and social perspective.

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The Future….Really?

Posted By David Marble, Thursday, June 23, 2016

 

When we broached the topic of a theme for the upcoming annual Member Forum, I wanted to have it be forward looking.  The future of technology….hmmm….what in the world does that mean?  Given the breadth of the technology we all deal with and the pace of change, it’s a daunting subject.  Overlay the vast differences of our membership’s vertical markets (i.e. healthcare, higher-ed, K-12, govt., etc…) and the disparity of implementations within a given segment, it becomes presumptuous on our part to even try and present the future.  However, aren’t we all charged with painting that picture at some level?  I find strategic planning to be far more nebulous than it used to be but still fundamentally required.  In my humble opinion, anyone with a five-year plan in IT these days is fooling themselves, given the pace of change and the volatility of budgets alone.  Equipment depreciation schedules, once 10-15 years, now are 3-5!  That being said, if we don’t understand macro industry trends and develop some methodology for assessment we will quickly be devoured by either the market itself or the financial death knell of inefficiency.  Make a technology mistake and it can be like missing on the third pick in the NBA draft which we pray the Celtics do not do this week.  It just as important to grasp an important trend as it is to ignore or skip over the shiny new object.  The evolution of optical transport is a classic example.  OSHEAN is skipping entire generations of optical technology.  We will not implement 40G and may even skip 100G if the 200G price points hit what we need this coming year.  In keeping with this example, what is incumbent on OSHEAN engineering is not to be definitive about the 3-5 year milestones, price points and even the technology itself but to continuously evaluate the market and its associated technology evolution.  That continuous evaluation and judicious timing can save large sums of money.  The challenge that comes with continuous evaluation is the resource drain, discipline and time required, especially with the many technologies we deal with.

I am part of a CEO advisory group called Vistage.  We had been discussing the challenge of building strategic discipline into our work weeks as we often felt we were “working in the business instead of on the business”.  The solution many of us have found useful is the concept of building a Pain vs. Gain profile into one’s schedule.  The idea, popularized by author and entrepreneur Steve McClatchey, recognizes that we technically default to reactionary “have to” Pain tasks which maintain us but don’t necessarily help us move forward.  I now have a 2-hour block in my calendar every week for “Gain” time dedicated to strategic activities for OSHEAN.  This simple practice can set the stage for building the underlying methodology for assessment that is right for you.

So, this week we will have our annual Member Forum and publish our latest eCurrent, both dedicated to the concept of “future tech”, but my real observation is that we can’t presume to know the answer.  We can presume however, that we need to be dedicated to continuous learning.

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Student Privacy

Posted By David Marble, Tuesday, March 29, 2016

This past week I was alerted by our astute K12 member, Paul Barret of Smithfield, to a bill in the RI Senate (S 2171 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText16/SenateText16/S2171.pdf) titled “RELATING TO EDUCATION -- PROTECTING STUDENT PRIVACY ON SCHOOL-OWNED TECHNOLOGY”.  This bill was moving quickly through committee and Paul had alerted me that there was a hearing last Wednesday where public comment was to be heard.  I decided to research and go to the session.

What I found was a bill that raised a ton of questions both at a general policy and overall implementation level.  The ACLU, who testified in support, is making an overall case for student privacy and for parental opt out of take home technology programs.  These are the subjects of our times.  Make no mistake, their concern has merit https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/12/28/google-is-tracking-students-as-it-sells-more-products-to-schools-privacy-advocates-warn/  and should be discussed with great diligence.  My caution is not about the intent of bills like this, its about the necessity to have deep and thoughtful discussion with the right people on the right ways to handle the issue.

I have long been uneasy when legislation and technology meet.  Since I have found it difficult myself to keep up with the pace of technology change, I am dubious of legislation trying to do the same.  As I read this bill with my technical background filter, I see incongruous statements, lack of definition, conflicts with local and national policy and infeasible implementation requirements.  No one would argue that protecting a student’s privacy is first and foremost to any program where data is collected but the mere term “data” begs for definition in this regard.  An example of the bill’s language includes the right of a parent to demand the school unblock a website upon request.  While I would debate the policy in general, it is impossible to implement from a technical perspective as it would have to be unblocked for the whole school and would hamper the school’s ability to maintain cybersecurity practice.  There are many examples including restricting the school’s right to remote access even though it’s the schools property.

I also think the debate of the rights of parent’s to opt out is interesting.  I will state that take home tech programs need to ensure fairness and equitable access as table stakes but that being said, should opt out be allowed?  One would never think of opting out of take home books but now that they may be on a tablet, we can say no?

The intersection of privacy rights and technology are two speeding trains in the middle of a horrific crash.  It is a deep and fascinating subject, one which hits the center of our complex culture, politics, security, institutional practices and technological evolution.  In our opposition testimonies at the Senate this past week, we offered and were granted the ability to take a look at the current language and propose ways to come together on an agreement that properly balances the rights of the institution and the rights of the students in this most important arena.  Stay tuned or better yet, get involved! 

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Big Data and Supercomputing is Changing the World

Posted By David Marble, Tuesday, February 16, 2016

 

I am on my way back from the Quilt http://www.thequilt.net/ winter meetings in beautiful La Jolla CA.  While it was hard to ignore the fact that it was 85 degrees all week while back home was feeling the brunt of snowstorms and record breaking frigid temps, I was far more impacted by our visit to the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) www.calit2.org at UCSD.  Calit2 is home to some of more compelling applications of high bandwidth research in the world.  Its network, Pacific Wave, is the research backbone enabled by our friends at CENIC www.cenic.org and covers the west coast and the international Pacific Rim with a 100Gbps fiber infrastructure connecting many of the major research institutions in the region.  The platform presents an unprecedented research opportunity independent of location and, populated with supercomputing endpoints, enabling a profound new collaboration opportunity. 

 

Our CENIC hosts provided a program which covered three such examples.  The first was a visit to the “cave” a virtual reality experience at a level of quality I had never experienced.  The resolution was “above 8K” as I visited Florence and went on a tour of the Bapistery, much to the chagrin of my wife who has this on her bucket list.  Gone were the feelings of dizziness and nausea I had experienced with other VR environments.  This was truly a pleasure.

 

Next we were given an overview by cyber archeologist Tom Levy http://www.calit2.net/newsroom/article.php?id=2112 .  I had never heard of the term cyber archeology nor the term “cultural heritage engineering” but understood immediately the application.  The cyber archeologist uses a suite of digital tools and custom workflow programming involving high resolution laser scanning, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and multispectral imaging to capture and analyze massive amounts of data from historical sites.  They also utilize a fleet of drones and balloons to fly over and into spaces not easily accessible.  Cyber archeologists are racing to digitally archive the world’s most important historic treasures, many of which as we know from recent headlines from Palmyra, are threatened by destructive actions of militant forces.  The amount of data pouring from these sites is staggering.

 

Lastly and most impressive was a discussion by Dr. Larry Smarr, founder of Calit2 and resident guru.  Dr. Smarr is an astrophysicist turned data analytics scientist and enthusiast.  It was a timely event for him and us as the world awakened the next day to the announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves, an area of specific work by Dr. Smarr over the last 20 years.  Larry’s talk however, was not about physics but about the emerging world of microbiomes.  Turns out he has been categorizing the behavior of the microbial environment in his own body for the last 15 years.  This massive data collection technique of his microbial ecology requires high resolution genome sequencing feeding Big Data parallel supercomputers led to the discovery of his having Crohn’s disease long before traditional medicine ever would have.  Since that discovery, he has tracked the progression of the disease and the effects of attempted pharmaceutical combat in a way that will ultimately be the way we look at the body and medicine in general in the future.  The link I provide here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EMzInPwDDQ is a TEDtalk he gave in 2013 which gives you an overview of his work but know that he continues to make groundbreaking discoveries with this research as recent as the day before we met.  Larry believes that the evolution of the FitBit or like personal health devices in combination with non-invasive testing and web-based applications will transform the world’s health care practice from the reactionary sick care system it is today to a data-centric, preventative system tomorrow.

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IT at the Table

Posted By Gregory Silva, Tuesday, January 12, 2016

 

The concept that IT should be a strategic element of most any organization these days has been the talk of the town in recent years. Granted, we mostly hear advocacy for that position coming from the IT camp but slowly the “business” side of the house is catching on and we are all developing ways to bridge the language barrier between technical professionals and executive, financial, or practitioner functions of a business. For example, we are seeing researchers at Universities and in Healthcare become much more involved with IT to solve new application and collaboration requirements. We see teachers working with IT to marry the pedagogy of a classroom with new and innovative technological teaching tools. The idea that IT as a service bureau that “just has to work” is now well recognized as short sited. Still, the methodology of truly communicating IT value to an institution is still a work in progress. It takes the reality of a researcher who needs a download of a petabyte size file from Chicago and can’t sacrifice an entire day for it to complete. Or the abundance of data analytics now emerging to show measurable improvement in healthcare outcomes when HIE records are online and accessible. I would expect that most people reading this have a sense for how far their individual organization has come with this particular evolution.

 

But never before has the requirement for IT to be present at the highest levels of institutional management, policy and strategy been as apparent as it now is with the emergence of cybersecurity threats. Just when we thought we were getting good at figuring out how to justify an expense for a disaster recovery architecture, along comes the world of Denial of Service attacks and data breach. I am always intrigued by topics like this that have so much depth. Cybersecurity tentacles reach every corner of an organization and touch on deep subjects such as privacy, freedom, authority and responsibility. One cannot address the techniques for prevention without addressing the policies that need to be created which govern use. Who decides the level of restriction placed on a doctor or professor balanced against their need for open collaboration? IT departments alone cannot and should not be dictating these policies. It is yet another and probably the most compelling reason today for IT to be at the strategic level of collaboration at the highest levels of our member institutions.

This week OSHEAN and Bryant University are hosting a Cybersecurity day which was sold out almost 2 months ahead of time. Over 200 professionals will spend the day hearing from experts in cyber policy, threat analysis, forensics and prevention and mitigation technologies. We are also releasing a special Cybersecurity edition of the eCurrent, our digital magazine at oshean.org. Again, this is a very deep subject and one we expect will become part of the fabric of the OSHEAN member collaboration for years to come.

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