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HYPERCONVERGED INFRASTRUCTURE (HCI) – WHAT IT REALLY MEANS FOR FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS (PART 2)

By: Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO, Scale Computing 

 

Hyperconverged – what do I get?

Read on if a “data center in a box” sounds appealing. Hyperconverged infrastructure is regularly referred to in this way, because after the preliminary cabling and minimal networking configuration, it has all of the features and functionality of the traditional 3-2-1 virtualisation architecture, except for the single point of failure.

 

Quick deployment

HCI systems can be deployed faster than other virtualisation solutions due to its appliance-based architecture. Racking and networking are usually the most time-consuming elements of the implementation. Deployment times differ by vendor, especially if there is a third party hypervisor to install and VSAs to configure. But with a native hypervisor pre-loaded, an entire cluster of appliances can be up and running in under an hour in your financial services environment.

 

Management streamlining

Alan Conboy

That sought-after single pane of glass management can be implemented with a hyperconverged infrastructure solution. This stands in stark contrast  to the multiple management consoles and interfaces necessary in 3-2-1 architectures. Of course, this is not automatically the case for hyperconverged infrastructure solutions using third-party hypervisors which typically end up using two interfaces. For hyperconverged infrastructures with a native hypervisor included, this single interface tactic dramatically decreases management time and effort and streamlines management tasks for the administrator.

 

Disaster recovery (DR) and backup

Backup and DR are often included at no extra cost in hyperconverged infrastructure solutions, something that eliminates yet another vendor from your IT environment. Unlike third-party solutions, native solutions are typically embedded in the storage layer and allow innate awareness of block changes for cleaner backup, replication and recovery options.

 

High availability clustering

Although HCI can be deployed as a single appliance for selected use cases, it is also commonly architected as a cluster of appliances for high availability. So, not only can an appliance absorb the loss of a disk drive, but the cluster can absorb the loss of an entire appliance. Pus, clustering enables the hyperconverged infrastructure system to scale seamlessly by adding additional appliances to the cluster. Some hyperconverged infrastructure solutions require clustering appliances of the same model and configuration, while others allow clustering of heterogeneous appliances.

 

Updating your hardware and software

HCI makes conducting regular system software and firmware updates easy. Owning the entire virtualisation, server, and storage stack, and operating in a highly available cluster, means updates can be performed automatically across the entire cluster. All software layers (hardware firmware, hypervisor, storage, and management) can be upgraded simultaneously as a single, fully tested system to eradicate component compatibility concerns. VMs can be automatically moved from appliance to appliance in the cluster as updates are made to keep all systems operational. HCI can eliminate downtime and headaches when performing updates.

 

Reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) 

Buying only what you need, when you need it, can lead to dramatic savings. In addition to capital savings, HCI provides considerable operational savings over time as well, by greatly reducing the costs of management and maintenance. Simplifying an IT environment with a hyperconverged infrastructure can save over 50 percent in the total cost of ownership over 3-2-1 solutions.

 

What’s in it for you?

The extreme simplicity of a hyperconverged infrastructure makes it highly beneficial in use cases where IT staff is limited, for instance smaller branch offices and building societies. For example, a small to mid-sized financial organisation where the entire IT staff may be as small as only one full-time or even part-time IT administrator, the complexity of a 3-2-1 architecture can be extremely troublesome.

The simplicity of a hyperconverged infrastructure, in turn, can allow it to be managed easily by a junior administrator. Or, it can mean that a more senior administrator can spend less time managing the infrastructure and more time delivering better applications and services that positively impact the bottom-line.

In a distributed financial services organisation, remote offices and branch locations seldom possess dedicated IT staff. These remote locations often require frequent visits from IT staff which can result in high travel costs and lower productivity. The simplicity of a hyperconverged infrastructure includes multiple redundancies for HA, failure handling, and self-healing. A failed drive at a remote site does not lead to an outage and does not require immediate replacement (nor the risk of business, legal and/or regulations non-compliance consequences). Greater uptime and accessible remote monitoring and management lead to lower travel costs of IT staff to these locations and significantly lower operating costs (OpEx)―not to mention the increase in productivity.

 

Take the leap into HCI

Virtually all financial institutions, are challenged with ensuring remote branch locations deliver the best quality services to their clients. Today’s customers expect instant access to data and on-demand IT services at every location. Infrastructure, including servers, storage, virtualisation, and DR can be both costly and complex using traditional methods.

As the financial services industry and its associated compute requirements continue to evolve, hyperconverged infrastructure is the next logical step in on-premises and cloud-integrated virtualisation infrastructure. Remaining stagnant with the traditional virtualisation solutions like the 3-2-1 architecture could end up costing organisations far more in capital, manpower, and training, than moving on to the dramatically increased capabilities, simplicity and cost savings of HCI.

 

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Finance

WILL BLOCKCHAIN REVOLUTIONIZE FINANCE?

By Ken Timsit, ConsenSys

 

Over the last 10 years, researchers, software developers, start-ups, and large companies have been conducting experiments aimed at determining whether networks based on blockchain technology can ultimately – in whole or in part – replace the infrastructure on which financial institutions and capital markets are built.

 

In today’s electronic databases, any information can theoretically be replicated at will. This is why most governments allow only regulated actors to keep records of digitized assets (banks, depositories), to avoid pitfalls such as the execution of misleading transactions or the creation of artificial assets. With blockchain, these pitfalls can be avoided at the source code of the technology, which is available to all members of the network. The creation of Ethereum enabled a more robust blockchain network capable of “smart contracts”, which once programmed, can run automatically without the results being modified or manipulated.

 

Contrary to what some critics argue, the potential of the blockchain is not the creation of a free and unregulated space in which everyone can invent new financial instruments. Rather, the potential lies in creating a much more efficient and globalized commercial and financial infrastructure, in which many layers of control and intermediation are no longer needed as they are replaced by transparent and immutable IT rules that ensure the same risk management functions.

 

For example, bonds are essential financial instruments on which a large part of our economy and savings are based. The issue and exchange of a bond requires the intervention of several dozen financial institutions (issuers, intermediaries and investors). Some regulated players in this intermediary chain exist mainly to ensure that it is possible to know, at any time, who holds each bond, in order to guarantee their rights to its bearers.

 

It is theoretically possible to simplify these stacks of operators by linking them to a global blockchain network, open to all stakeholders in the industry. The blockchain network can thus ensure at any time that the number of outstanding bonds corresponds exactly to the number of bonds issued, and that each exchange transaction is carried out without the risk of default.

 

The blockchain revolution is first and foremost the reduction of costs and delays caused by the current financial infrastructure. The blockchain revolution also creates innovation opportunities for consumers, savers, and investors.

 

 

The Web3 revolution, often used to refer to the blockchain revolution, will be driven by the reduction in transaction costs, allowing the emergence of new peer-to-peer business models that we are not yet able to accurately predict, but which will probably participate in a rebalancing of the relationships between financial institutions and their clients. Some international peer-to-peer payment and loan-to-peer savings investment models are already attracting increasing interest from the most sophisticated consumers.

 

Where are we in 2020?

Today, the blockchain revolution is still in its infancy. Transaction volumes through blockchain networks, public and private, are low compared to those of existing systems. The fixed costs of the technology are still relatively high, and the user experience leaves something to be desired.

 

However, innovations abound. It is already possible for me, from my smartphone, to buy digital assets whose value is equal to about one US dollar, and to lend them in three clicks to other users who will pay me between 1% and 10% per year for this service, depending on the type of platform.

 

The number of large operational business projects is still small, but very promising. Numerous international commodity trading players have joined forces to create Vakt and komgo, two platforms that contribute to a significant simplification of trade and oil financing. Similar and competing projects, Voltron and Marco Polo, are being launched. On the corporate side, the Capbridge 1x platform (Singapore) already allows shares to be traded on an Ethereum blockchain network. Other important projects such as LiquidShare (France), SIX Digital Exchange (Switzerland), Daura (with Deutsche Borse and Swisscom in Switzerland), Synapse (Hong Kong Stock Exchange) are in preparation. The World Bank, Société Générale and Santander have issued bonds on an Ethereum blockchain network. These initiatives are still experimental but have attracted significant interest from financial institutions around the world.

 

And of course, many projects aim to revolutionize global payments by creating digital assets on blockchain networks that are fixed in Euros, U.S. Dollars or other currencies, such as those of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the South African Reserve Bank, and Union Bank of the Philippines. Since the announcement of the Facebook-initiated Libra project, many governments have expressed concern about the possibility of private companies controlling global payment flows, and have asked their domestic financial institutions to redouble their efforts to explore competing initiatives.

 

All of this is to say that adoption is happening, albeit gradually. The middlemen and intermediaries of the financial world will not be replaced overnight. Moreover, the exact formation or architecture of the new financial system is impossible to predict with accuracy. However, it’s safe to say that blockchain will enable a financial system that is more efficient and yields more value-add to consumers, users, and investors.

 

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Finance

RECOLLECTING 2019 CRYPTOCURRENCY TRENDS & LOOKING FORWARD TO 2020

Marie Tatibouet is the CMO at Gate.io

 

It has been a bold and progressive year for the digital asset market with exciting announcements flowing in from technology behemoths and government bodies around the world. However, Facebook’s launch announcement of Libra (though they are now facing regulatory issues) and China’s new cryptocurrency law caught all the attention, affecting the Bitcoin price, and the overall market sentiment.

In 2019, the global market saw several catalysts emerging for mainstream adoption despite increased scrutiny around several burning issues such as wash trading and security breaches. For over 400 cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, being able to constantly improve on aspects around user experience and fund security is the only way to be sustainable. However, only a handful have real trading volume and technical expertise to build strong trust in the community. For instance, global wash trading has been the hottest topic of discussion in 2019 but new rankings on CoinMarketCap clearly indicate that the industry is working towards eliminating market manipulation.

 

Looking back at 2019

In 2019, digital asset organisations have constantly innovated to attract users but at the same time, the trading process has become increasingly fragmented, spiking the time gap between new users becoming long-term users.

 

Marie Tatibouet

Holding & Lending Funds

Since 2014, the Bitcoin margin trading market has expanded from $10 million to $100 billion. Margin trading has been a great use case in the cryptocurrency space. Many exchanges launched the feature to provide diversity to the trading experience and attracting a huge amount of users to the platforms. It allows traders to multiply their profits on successful trades, providing a range of possibilities for both profits and losses.

Staking is a process where users can buy digital assets and earn interest by keeping (holding) them in a cryptocurrency wallet for a particular period of time. It has proved to be a strong use case for digital asset companies as it encourages user participation. In 2019, staking programs brought stable earnings for cryptocurrency investments made by the users. For instance, HODL & Earn launched by Gate.io in August 2019 has been bringing stable earnings for cryptocurrency investments made by its users. The competitive advantage for HODL & Earn is its annual interest rate, which is as high as 32%.

 

IEO

Crowdfunding as an approach to build and grow products has seen a lot of traction over the last decade or so. One of the highlights this year was the emergence of “Initial Exchanges Offerings”, more commonly termed as IEOs, an alternative to traditional IPOs where companies can raise funds by selling a quantity of digital assets to investors, supervised by cryptocurrency exchanges. With over 1.5 Billion funds raised, IEOs shook the entire cryptocurrency space in 2019.

Owing to the richness and variability that we have seen so far, there has been no one clear winner to pick, but there’s also no ignoring the leaders; Gate.io has the second best average IEO returns, raising over 80 million dollars in its first 5 projects and has similar offerings panned out for 2020.

 

Source: https://medium.com/@neironix.io/top-8-largest-ieo-whats-happening-to-them-now-f7e60a638dda

 

Deals and Discounts 

Discount deals are being increasingly leveraged by digital asset companies, encouraging users to maximize their capital. Holiday seasons such as Black Friday are packed with jaw-dropping discounts. However, as an industry, we should aim to integrate discounts in digital currencies into the mainstream world, which would bring price stability.

 

Dynamic User Relationship

Cryptocurrencies are being taken seriously and companies are designing consumer-specific strategies. It is a great indication of the fact that more and more people are interested in trading digital assets. However, we have a long way to go when it comes to tackling the industry challenges and unlocking value for the entire ecosystem.

 

Regulation, Security, and Mass Adoption 

Central banks of the US, Europe, China, and Ghana are looking at creating their own central bank digital currencies, putting a structure to the adoption of the blockchain technology across finance and other industry verticals. Japan’s recent regulation amendments, China’s new crypto law have laid the right frameworks for mainstream crypto adoption.

While we have major countries pushing for the mainstream adoption, security remains a major concern. Cryptocurrency thefts and frauds in Q3, 2019 annual stand at USD 4.4 billion and this will only increase if fund safety mechanisms aren’t strengthened. Therefore, the strongest will survive as far as digital asset security is concerned.

Nonetheless, blockchain technology is helping to create an innovative and accessible financial system around the world and its mainstream adoption is closer than we can fathom.

 

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