Reduce Test Times and Increase Coverage with AI & ML

Kevin Surace

Chairman & CTO, Appvance.ai

With the need for frequent builds—often many times in a day—QEs can only keep pace through AI-led testing. It is the modern approach that allows quality engineers to create scripts and run tests autonomously to find bugs and provide diagnostic data to get to the root cause.

AI-driven testing means different things to different QA engineers. Some see it as using AI for identifying objects or helping create script-less testing; some consider it as autonomous generation of scripts while others would think in terms of leveraging system data to create scripts which mimic real user activity.

Our research shows that teams who are able to implement what they can in scripts and manual testing have, on average, less than 15% code, page, action, and likely user flow coverage. In essence, even if you have 100% code coverage, you are likely testing less than 15% of what users will do. That in itself is a serious issue.

Starting in 2012, Appvance set out to rethink the concept of QA automation. Today our AIQ Technology combines tens of thousands of hours of test automation machine learning with the deep domain knowledge, the essential business rules, each QE specialist knows about their application. We create an autonomous expert system that spawns multiple instances of itself that swarm over the application testing at the UX and at the API-levels. Along the way these Intelligences write the scripts, hundreds, and thousands of them, that describes their individual journeys through the application.

And why would we need to generate so many tests fully autonomously. Because applications today are 10X the size they were just ten years ago. But your QE team doesn’t have 10X the number of test automation engineers. And because you have 10X less time to do the work than 10 years ago. Just to keep pace with the dev team requires each quality engineer to be 100X more productive than they were 10 years ago.

Something had to change; that something is AI.

AI-testing in two steps

We leveraged AI and witnessed over 90% reduction in human effort to find the same bugs. So how does this work?

It’s really a two-stage process.

First, leveraging key AI capabilities in TestDesigner, Appvance’s codeless test creation system, we make it possible to write scripts faster, identify more resilient accessors, and substantially reduce maintenance of scripts.

With AI alongside you as you implement an automated test case, you get a technology that suggests the most stable accessors and constantly improves and refines them. It also creates “fallback accessors” when tests run and hit an accessor change enabling the script to continue even though changes have been made to the application. And finally, the AI can self-heal scripts which must and update them with new accessors without human assistance. These AI-based, built-in technologies give you the most stable scripts every time with the most robust accessor methodologies and self-healing. Nothing else comes close.

The final two points above deal with autonomous generation of tests. To beat the queue and crush it, you have to get a heavy lift for finding bugs. And as we have learnt, go far beyond the use cases that a business analyst listed. Job one is to find bugs and prioritize them, leveraging AI to generate tests autonomously.

Appvance’s patented AI engine has already been trained with millions of actions. You will teach it the business rules of your application (machine learning). It will then create real user flows, take every possible action, discover every page, fill out every form, get to every state, and validate the most critical outcomes just as you trained it to do. It does all this without writing or recording a single script. We call this is ‘blueprinting’ an application. We do this at every new build. Multiple instances of the AI will spin up, each selecting a unique path through the application, typically finding 1000s or more flows in a matter of minutes. When complete, the AI hands you the results including bugs, all the diagnostic data to help find the root cause, and the reusable test-scripts to repeat the bug. A further turn of the crank can refine these scripts into exact replicas of what production users are doing and apply them to the new build. Any modern approach to continuous testing needs to leverage AI in both helping QA engineers create scripts as well as autonomously create tests so that both parts work together to find bugs and provide data to get to the root cause. That AI driven future is available today from Appvance.

About the Author –

Kevin Surace is a highly lauded entrepreneur and innovator. He’s been awarded 93 worldwide patents, and was Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year, CNBC Innovator of the Decade, a Davos World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer, and inducted into the RIT Innovation Hall of Fame. Kevin has held leadership roles with Serious Energy, Perfect Commerce, CommerceNet and General Magic and is credited with pioneering work on AI virtual assistants, smartphones, QuietRock and the Empire State Building windows energy retrofit.

Mentoring – a Win-Win Situation

Rama Vani Periasamy

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton

Did you know the English word ‘Mentor’ actually originated from the Greek epic ‘The Odyssey’?

When Odysseus had to leave his kingdom to lead his army in the Trojan war, his son Telemachus was left under the guidance of a friend ‘Mentor’. Mentor was supposed to guide and groom Telemachus during his developmental years and make him independent. The word ‘Mentor’ was thus incorporated in the English language. We use the word in the same context that existed in Greek Mythology – to guide a person, make him/her an independent thinker, and a doer.

In the age of technology, there may be tools and enormous amounts of data to get a competitive advantage, but they’re no match for a mentor. The business hall of fame is adorned with the names of people who discovered that finding a mentor made all the difference.

A lot of people have been able to achieve greater heights than they imagined because they were able to tap into their potential and that is the energy mentoring brings in.

In today’s world, a lot of corporate offices offer mentoring programs that cut across age groups (called the cross-gens), backgrounds, and experiences that benefit everyone. But sometimes the mechanisms and expectations of a mentoring program are not clear which makes the practice unsuccessful. Today’s young generation think they have the internet to quench the thirst of their knowledge. They do not see mentors as guiding beacons to success but only help them meet their learning needs. Citing it with an example, mentoring is equivalent to teaching a man to not just fish, but also share the experiences, tricks, and tips, so that he becomes an independent fisher.  More often, our current generation fails to understand that even geniuses like Aristotle and Bill Gates needed a mentor in their lives.

When mentoring is so powerful, why don’t we nurture the relationship? What stops us? Is time a factor? Not really. Any relationship needs some amount of time to be invested and so is the case with mentoring. Putting aside a few hours a month is an easily doable task, especially for something that is inspiring and energizing. Schedules can always be shuffled for priorities.

Now that we know that we have the time, why is it always hard to find a mentor? To begin with, how do you find a mentor? Well, it is not as difficult as we think. When you start looking for them, you will eventually find one. They are everywhere but may not necessarily be in your workplace.

We have the time, we have a mentor, so what are the guidelines in the mentoring relationship?

The guidelines can be extracted very much in the word ‘MENTOR’.

M=Mission: Any engagement works only if you have something to work on. Both the mentor and mentee must agree on the goals and share their mission statement. Creating a vision and a purpose for the mentoring relationship adds value to both sides and this keeps you going. Articulating the mission statement would be the first activity, to begin with in a mentor-mentee relationship.

 E=Engage: Agree on ways to engage that works with your personalities and schedules. Set ground rules on the modes of communications. Is that going to be a one-one conversation periodically or remote calls? Find out the level of flexibility. Is an impromptu meeting fine? Can Emails or text messages be sent? Decide on the communication medium and time.

 N=Network: Expanding your network with that of your mentor or mentee and cultivating productive relationships will be the key to success. While expanding your network will be productive, remember to tread carefully. Seek permissions, respect, and even ask for an introduction before you reach out to the other person’s contacts.

 T=Trust: Build and maintain trust with your mentoring partner by telling the truth, staying connected, and being dependable. And as the mentorship grows, clear communication and honesty will deepen the relationship. Building trust takes time so always keep the lines of communication open.

O=Opportunity: Create opportunities for your mentee or mentor to grow. Being in a mentor-mentee relationship is like a two-way lane, where you can come across opportunities from both sides, which may not be open for non-mentors/mentees. Bringing in such opportunities will only help the other person achieving his/her goal or the mission statement that was set at the beginning.

R=Review and Renew: Schedule a regular time to review progress and renew your mentoring partnership. This will help you keep your progress on track and it will also help you look for short goals to achieve. Reviewing is also going to help retrospect if a different strategy is to be laid out to achieve your goals.

Mentoring may sound irrelevant and unnecessary while we are surviving a pandemic and going through bouts of intense emotions. But I feel it is even more necessary during this most unusual situation we’re facing. Mentoring could be one of the ways to combat anxiety and depression caused by isolation and the inability to meet people face-to-face.

Mentoring can be done virtually through video calls, by setting up a time to track the progress of your goals and discuss challenges/accomplishments.  Mentoring also proves to be the place to ask difficult questions because it is a “No Judging” relationship and the absolute safe place to deal with work-related anxiety and fear. I still recall my early days as a campus graduate where I was assigned a ‘Buddy’, the go-to person. With them, I’d discussed a lot of my ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions of the work and the corporate world, which I had resisted opening up to my supervisors.

Mentoring takes time. Remember the first day you struggled to balance on your bicycle and may have fallen down hurting your knees? But once you learned to ride, you would have loved your time on the saddle. The same applies to mentoring. Investing the time and effort in mentoring will energize you even better than a few hours of Netflix or scrolling on Instagram. Let us create a culture that shares knowledge, guides & encourages nonstop, like how Socrates taught Plato, Plato taught Aristotle and Aristotle held the beacon for many. There is an adage that goes “when you are ready to become a teacher, the student appears”.

“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” — Oprah Winfrey

The article is based on the book “One Minute Mentoring” by Ken Blanchard & Claire Diaz Ortiz.

About the Author –

Rama is that everyday woman you see who juggles between family and a 9 hours work life. She loves reading history, fiction, attempting half marathons, and traveling.
To break the monotony of life and to share her interest in books & travel, she blogs and curates at www.kindleandkompass.com

Significance of CI CD Process in DevOps

Muraleedharan Vijayakumar

Developing and releasing software can be a complicated process, especially as applications, teams, and deployment infrastructure grow in complexity themselves. Often, challenges become more pronounced as projects grow. To develop, test, and release software quickly and consistently, developers and organizations have created distinct strategies to manage and automate these processes.

Did you know?  Amazon releases a new production code once every 11.6 seconds.

Why CI/CD/CD?

The era of digital transformations demands faster deployments into production. Faster deployments do not warrant defective releases, the solution – ‘DevOps’. The development team, operations team, and IT services team have to work in tandem and the magic circle that brings all of them together is DevOps.

To adopt a DevOps culture, implementing the right DevOps tools with the right DevOps process is essential. Continuous integration/continuous delivery/continuous deployment (CI/CD/CD) help us developers and testers ship the software faster and safer in a structured environment.

The biggest obstacle that needs to be overcome in constructing a DevOps environment is scalability. There are no definite measures on the scalability of an application or product development, but DevOps environment should be ready to scale to meet business and technology needs. It lays a strong foundation for building an agile DevOps for the business.

Continuous Integration and Deployment has seen many benefits in the software delivery process. Initiating automated code builds once checks are completed, running automated test suites, flagging errors and breaking builds if not adhered to compliance have eased the way of deploying a stable release into staging or production environment and eliminating manual errors and human bias.

How is CI/CD/CD Set Up?

Version control tools play an important role in the success of our DevOps pipeline. And designing a good source stage is pivotal to our CI/CD success. It ensures that we can version code, digital assets, and binary files (and more) all in one spot. This enables teams to communicate and collaborate better — and deploy faster.

Our code branching strategy determines how and when developers branch and merge. When deciding on a strategy it is important to evaluate what makes sense for our team and product. Most version control systems will let you adopt and customize standard strategies like mainline, trunk-based, task/feature branching, etc.,

Typical Branching Model Followed

A basic workflow starts with code being checked out. When the work in the branch is committed, CI processes are triggered. This can be done with a merge or pull request. Then the CI/CD pipeline kicks into high gear.

The goal of CI/CD is to continuously integrate changes to find errors earlier in the process, as known as ‘Shift Left’.  The ultimate goal of having an automated CI/CD process in place to identify errors or flag non-compliance at an early stage of the development process. This increases the project’s velocity by avoiding late-stage defects and delays. It creates an environment where code is always ready for a release. With the right branching strategy, teams are equipped to deliver success.

Continuous Integration: Integrating newly developed code with the central repository is continuous integration. Automated CI results in automated builds that are triggered to merge the newly developed codes into the repository. As part of this process, plugins can be added to perform static code analysis, security compliance checks, etc., to identify if the newly added code would have any impact on the application. If there are compliance issues, the automated build breaks, and the same is reflected to the developer with insights. Automated CI helps in increasing the productivity of the developers and the team.

Continuous Delivery: At the end of a successful CI, Continuous Delivery is triggered. CD ensures to automate the software delivery process and commits to deliver the integrated code into the production stage without any bugs or delays. CD helps in merging the newly developed code into the main branch of the software so that a ready to production product is available with all the checks in place.CD also checks the quality of the code and performs tests to check whether it can release the functional build to the production environment.

Continuous Deployment: The final and most critical part of DevOps is Continuous Deployment. After the successful merging of certified code, the pipelines are triggered to deploy the code into the production environment. These pipelines are also triggered automatically. The pipelines are constructed to handle the target environment be it jar or container deployments. The most important aspect of this pipeline is to tag the releases that are also done in the production environment. If there are rollbacks these tags help the team to roll back to the right version of the build.

CI/CD/CD is an art that needs to be crafted in the right and most efficient way that will help the software development team achieve their success at a faster pace.

Different Stages & Complete DevOps Setup

What is the CI/CD/CD  Outcome?

Cyber Security Mdr Services

About the Author –

Murleedharan is a senior technical manager and has managed, developed, and launched cutting edge business intelligence and analytics platforms using big data technologies. He has experience in hosting the platform in Microsoft Azure by leveraging the MS PaaS. He is a product manager for zDesk – A Virtual Desktop offering from GAVS.
His passion is to get a friction-less DevOps operational in an environment to bring down the deployment time to a few seconds.

Center of Excellence – Security

The Security Center of Excellence was instituted to set standards in the practice and be the point of contact for technical solutions, problem solving, etc. The broad objectives of this CoE are as follows:

  • Develop and maintain technical assets that can be leveraged across GAVS.
  • Enable Quality Governance by providing support in gating of architecture and design related deliverables.
  • Enable Operational Governance by establishing cadence for tech review of projects.
  • Create domain-based SMEs within the practice.
  • Train and upskill members in the practice.
  • Improve customer satisfactory index by implementing new ideas and innovations across all engagements.
  • Create additional SOC services for market competency.
  • Automation – Detect, investigate and remediate cyberthreats with playbooks and response workflows.

COVID and the changing nature of threat landscape

For many industries, it has been challenging period ever since the COVID outbreak, more so for those in security. Clearly, the bad actors have lot of time at their disposal which is reflective in the innovative techniques being used to attack targets. The level of vigilance required in monitoring the alerts and application of threat hunting techniques is key to diagnosing problems at initial stages of compromise in the worst-case scenario.

Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider

Remote Infrastructure Monitoring Services
Source: IBM X-Force Research

For enterprises that have no clue about MDR (Managed Detection and Response), this is a good time for them to start. We have innovative, cost effective solutions – “Make Hay while the Sun shines”. Small and large corporations alike have lost business and money because of lapse in security controls and monitoring. Now is not the time to make headlines that you are the victim of a major breach.

Our team is developing a vulnerability alerting tool, which we intend to equip customers with to provide qualified bulletin alerts, i.e. alerts only on vulnerabilities that affect them. This is a first of a kind in the market. This will greatly benefit existing and new customers.

Expanding into IAM and PAM

Security practice is expanding into Identity & Access Management (IAM) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) services. With new customers being onboarded into this focus areas for products such as Sailpoint, Thycotic, Ping, Cyberark, Okta and Azure PIM, we are expanding our talent pool through recruitment and through training and certification. This should largely benefit our existing customers and prospects who intend to leverage our security practice to fulfil their cyber security needs.

Expansion of our Red Team

Our Red Team within the practice has been expanded with many talented members, including some with bug bounty bragging rights. This has enormously helped in performing intensive tests on our internal product platforms, security assessments for customers. We have also extensively invested on tools for the Red Team to help them reduce assessment times.

Certification drive

With some more analysts having certified across AZ-500, Cyberark and trained on Darktrace. GAVS’ security analysts are taking full advantage to increase their knowledge thanks to the generosity of our alliances and training sites like Pluralsight. Even the mighty Microsoft opened their learning website for free, enabling young talent to equip themselves with critical DevOps and Cloud security skills.

As part of CoE initiatives, we have;

  • Aligned our security roadmap based on industry trends and to ensure solutions tailored for customer pain points.
  • Extended our SOC practice with IAM and PAM in 2020.
  • Identified domain-based SME and product-based SME for quick support.

We are currently in the process of creating security products, GVAS and GSMA, to help customer in proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities and self-maturity assessment of their cybersecurity posture. We are also underway to add Operational security to our Security practice.

If you have any questions about the CoE, you may reach out to them at COE_INFOSEC@gavstech.com

CoE Team Members

  • Venkatakrishnan A
  • Shivaram J
  • Alex Nepolian Lawrence
  • Ravindran Girikrishnan
  • Aravindah Sadhasivam Subramanian
  • Vijayakumar Veerapandiyan
  • Thubati Uday
  • Ganta Venkata Sandeep
  • Sundaramoorthy S
  • Sukanya Srinivasan

The Pandemic and Social Media

Prabhakar Mandal

The COVID-19 outbreak has established the importance of digital readiness during pandemics. Building the necessary infrastructure to support a digitized world is the current mandate.

Technology has advanced much in the past century since we were hit by the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, and it plays a crucial role in keeping our society functional. From remote working to distance learning, and from telehealth to robot deliveries, our world is set to witness a lasting change post this pandemic.

As with other major and minor events of the past few years, social media is playing a big role in shaping people’s perception of the ongoing pandemic. Not just that, the social media platforms have also contributed to spreading information/misinformation, helping people cope with the strange times, and raising awareness about some pressing issues.

Security Iam Management Tools

Social Media and the pandemic: The Good!

Social media is one of the most effective ways to share news nowadays (it may be the only way for some people), especially if you are trying to alert the masses quickly. First-hand accounts of those who were infected and recovered were available almost in real-time. Scenes of lockdowns from the countries that first imposed it gave us a heads-up on what was due to come. If only we’d paid more heed to it.

With most of the world stuck at home, our mobile devices have increasingly become the go-to option to connect with the outside world. Social media usage has surged during the lockdown, with various apps witnessing a manifold increase in their traffic.

From educating to entertaining, social media platforms have stepped up as well. Movie and video streaming apps have redefined movie/video watching behavior by introducing features that allow users to host long-distance movie nights with friends and family.

We also witnessed a surge in various ‘online challenges’ that people could do in their homes and upload online. While some may view them as naïve, experts claim these are part of the various coping mechanisms for people.

Social media surfing has gained a significant share in the pie of leisure activities. Be honest, how many of us living alone are doing anything but scrolling these apps in our free time? But thanks to the social media ‘influencers’, scores of us are being motivated to workout at home, eat healthily, pick up a book, or learn something new.

Posts from health workers and others on the frontline have also helped spread the word on the difficulties they’re facing and rallied efforts to help them.

Online solidarity has spilled over offline as well. People are taking to social media to offer support in any way they can, such as picking up groceries for those who are unable to leave home or sharing information on how to support local businesses who are struggling. Communities are rallying together to support organizations and individuals by opening fundraisers to a larger audience.

Social Media and COVID-19: The Bad

Unfortunately, the impact of social media has not been all good. News on social media spreads fast, fake news even faster. Misinformation can cause panic, and can even turn out to be fatal on health issues. As a practice, we should all do a bit of research and validate the information from ‘reputed sources’ before sharing it.

This next bit is more of a tip…Whether it’s a business or a personal profile, you should refrain from posting anything that makes fun of, ridicules, or trivializes the situation. Not only is that insensitive, but it could also spell trouble for you, especially as a business.

The ‘influencers’ have been found guilty of misusing their power and taking advantage of the situation. Various inauthentic posts had gone viral before being pulled down. Do social validation and fame know no limits?

It is true that people often turn to social media as a stress-buster, but experts say it is equally stress-inducing for some individuals. It is important to note here that we’re also in the midst of an ‘infodemic’ – an anxiety-triggering over-abundance of information.

It is easy to overlook, especially now, the devastation that mental health issues cause globally. Studies have reported an increase in mental health issues attributed to social media in recent years. Psychologists say the lockdown will only add to that. Needless to say, mental health has a bearing on physical health as well.

Anti-rich sentiments have also gained momentum in the past weeks, as the pandemic makes the class divides glaringly obvious.

Conclusion

From the transparency that we have gained through this current COVID-19 situation, we now understand that we were not prepared to handle it. Many developed countries have had their health systems overwhelmed, those on the frontlines are being overworked and even the most advanced nations are stumbling to get their economies back up. The next pandemic is not a matter of “if it happens”, but “when it happens”.We need to be prepared at an individual and collective level. Indeed, technology has advanced and will continue to advance exponentially, but institutions and societies need to accelerate in adapting to it and continue investing in building the technology systems for the preparedness.

About the Author –

Prabhakar is a recruiter by profession and cricketer by passion. His focus is on hiring for the infra verticle. He hails from a small town in Bihar was brought up in Pondicherry. Prabhakar has represented Pondicherry in the U-19 cricket (National School Games). In his free time, he enjoys reading, working on his health and fitness, and spending time with his family and friends.

Assess Your Organization’s Maturity in Adopting AIOps

IT operations analytics

Anoop Aravindakshan

Artificial Intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) is adopted by organizations to deliver tangible Business Outcomes. These business outcomes have a direct impact on companies’ revenue and customer satisfaction.

A survey from AIOps Exchange 2019, reports that 84% of business owners who attended the survey, confirmed that they are actively evaluating AIOps to be adopted in their organizations.

So, is AIOps just automation? Absolutely NOT!

Artificial Intelligence for IT operations implies the implementation of true Autonomous Artificial Intelligence in ITOps, which needs to be adopted as an organization-wide strategy. Organizations will have to assess their existing landscape, processes, and decide where to start. That is the only way to achieve the true implementation of AIOps.

Every organization trying to evaluate AIOps as a strategy should read through this article to understand their current maturity, and then move forward to reach the pinnacle of Artificial Intelligence in IT Operations.

The primary success factor in adopting AIOps is derived from the Business Outcomes the organization is trying to achieve by implementing AIOps – that is the only way to calculate ROI.

There are 4 levels of Maturity in AIOps adoption. Based on our experience in developing an AIOps platform and implementing the platform across multiple industries, we have arrived at these 4 levels. Assessing an organization against each of these levels, helps in achieving the goal of TRUE Artificial Intelligence in IT Operations.

Level 1: Knee-jerk

Events, logs are generated in silos and collected from various applications and devices in the infrastructure. These are used to generate alerts that are commissioned to command centres to escalate as per the SOPs (standard operating procedures) defined. The engineering teams work in silos, not aware of the business impact that these alerts could potentially create. Here, operations are very reactive which could cost the organization millions of dollars.

Level 2: Unified

All events, logs, and alerts are integrated into one central locale. ITSM processes are unified. This helps in breaking silos and engineering teams are better prepared to tackle business impacts. SOPs have been adjusted since the process is unified, but this is still reactive incident management.

Level 3: Intelligent

Machine Learning algorithms (either supervised or unsupervised) have been implemented on the unified data to derive insights. There are baseline metrics that are calibrated and will be used as a reference for future events. With more data, the metrics get richer. IT operations team can correlate incidents / events with business impacts by leveraging AI & ML. If Mean-Time-To-Resolve (MTTR) an incident has been reduced by automated identification of the root cause, then the organization has attained level 3 maturity in AIOps.

Level 4: Predictive & Autonomous

The pinnacle of AIOps is level 4. If incidents and performance degradation of applications can be predicted by leveraging Artificial Intelligence, it implies improved application availability. Autonomous remediation bots can be triggered spontaneously based on the predictive insights, to fix incidents that are prone to happen in the enterprise. Level 4 is a paradigm shift in IT operations – moving operations entirely from being reactive, to becoming proactive.

Conclusion

As IT operations teams move up each level, the essential goal to keep in mind is the long-term strategy that needs to be attained by adopting AIOps. Artificial Intelligence has matured over the past few decades, and it is up to AIOps platforms to embrace it effectively. While choosing an AIOps platform, measure the maturity of the platform’s artificial intelligent coefficient.

About the Author:

An evangelist of Zero Incident FrameworkTM, Anoop has been a part of the product engineering team for long and has recently forayed into product marketing. He has over 14 years of experience in Information Technology across various verticals, which include Banking, Healthcare, Aerospace, Manufacturing, CRM, Gaming and Mobile.

Resilience

Machine learning service provider

Bindu Vijayan

Even as the world is grappling to understand the full extent of the economic impact of this pandemic,  I read that the pandemic is minting brand new billionaires, with the need for testing kits, vaccines, and medical supplies being so high. Companies who are able to meet the demand surge for these products enjoy boosted shares and have their stocks surging. That’s how things go with technology, it liberates and it enslaves, but it has most certainly helped build resilience and aided us through the unexpected in our response and recovery. Though labor-intensive businesses like food, manufacturing, logistics and some others are badly hit, our societies are still kept functional by technology in many ways.

Technology has raised our resilience as a community, the pandemic has thrown us into situations we have never been through before –  a paralyzed public transportation, no malls, no restaurants, no beaches, no tourism, no visiting our friends, family, and relatives, almost everything that we have taken for granted has been curbed, but technology has enabled us to continue in spite of the crisis.  We still are able to work, have essential supplies and deliveries reach us, get medical assistance, almost everything has been made available, and possible for us to live in the comforts of our home as we comply with the virus curbs.

Working remotely – Reducing human density and following social distancing are key to combatting this virus, and working from home is seeing a lot of success.  Virtual meetings and collaborations have become the ‘now normal’, with added comfort factors like virtual backgrounds to protect the privacy of one’s home. We are all suddenly seeing the relief from not having to navigate those long commute hours, and this transition has actually dropped a few emotional barriers; suddenly it is more visible (and alright) how we are at home, away from the office, and it is humanizing corporate life a little.  We are alright to see (and for others to see us) children being home-schooled, parents dealing with their fuss and outbursts in the background of a meeting, and pets walking around vying for screen space. We are sharing more human aspects of ourselves, there is this shared vulnerability in this situation which is increasing the engagement and connection between co-workers. Though security issues are a concern, there are many advantages in remote working that are emerging for companies.  If this does become the new way of working, organisations can save a great deal on leases, cafeteria, and other maintenance expenses.

Online / Distance Education – Just like offices and businesses having to function largely from home, the student community as well have learnt to rely on online learning.  About 1.57 billion students are reported to have been impacted by this pandemic, and they are currently doing online programs, thanks to great immersive experiences through technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and others.

Online purchasing – Today undoubtedly, online shopping is a boon, and has come to everyone’s rescue. With such strict lockdowns especially in severely affected areas, people have had to stay in, strictly monitored by the authorities and online shopping is the need of the hour. Grocery e-commerce has soared with shoppers turning online to purchase. Research from Ipsos reports that the largest increase in e-commerce shopping is in Vietnam (57% consumers purchasing online), India (55%), China (50%), and Italy (31%).

Contactless delivery, Drones and Robots – Companies have started ‘contactless delivery’ services with packages being picked up and dropped off at designated locations as this makes it less risky though not entirely virus-proof. Deliveries are also being done by Drones and robots. Drones are even used to walk dogs during these times, disinfect areas,

Entertainment – Be it concerts, be it parties, gaming, physical workouts, it’s all online now, and it’s such a hit with everyone! It’s no more about watching movies at home, technology brings the parties, museums, churches, and ceremonies into our homes now.

Health – Wearable IoT devices to track one’s vitals are proving its worth with each day into the pandemic.  It captures patient information early and allows for faster and more effective treatment. Telehealth is another important aspect of healthcare today.  Today, it is proving particularly helpful for mental health support, given the travel restrictions.

As we operate our businesses away from the office, employees will have to be kept engaged.  Enabled with technology, grave as the pandemic is, employees are empowered to work from home.  Behaviours need to strengthen organizations’ culture, and it is important that the culture is based on trust, transparency and honesty.  It is not easy to make things error-free, but the current scenario demands that expectations are managed well, and the foundation works on mutual loyalty. 

It is not just the employees who are going through anxieties and fears, the same is happening to our customers as well.  Lower productivity, logistics, and other restrictions of lockdowns can disrupt relationships and engagements. Special attention to reinforcing trust and transparency through openness and willingness to engage is imperative. And, through it all,  protect your employees, they are the best ambassadors for your organisation, and employee behaviour and attitude is a very significant driver of customer satisfaction.

“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”Doug Conant

References;

Combating a health crisis with digital health technologies

Bindu Vijayan

The current pandemic has exposed yawning gaps in the systems of the best of developed countries to be able to respond to virulent pathogens.  The world has seen SARS and Ebola in fairly recent times, and with the COVID 19 pandemic, it is becoming clear that technology can help combat and overcome future epidemics if we plan and strategize with these technologies.  They bring efficiency to our response times, and we are currently learning the importance of using these technologies for prevention as well.  A small example – Canadian AI health monitoring platform BlueDot’s outbreak risk software is said to have predicted the outbreak of the pandemic a whole week before America (who announced on Jan 8), and the WHO (on Jan 9) did. BlueDot predicted the spread of COVID 19 from Wuhan to other countries like Bangkok and Seoul by parsing through huge volumes of international news (in local languages).  It further was able to predict where the infection would spread by accessing global airline data to trace and track where the infected people were headed.

Contrary to earlier times, today it only takes a few hours to sequence a virus, thanks of course, to technology.  The scientists don’t have to cultivate a sufficient batch of viruses any longer in order to examine them, today, its DNA can be got from an infected person’s blood sample or saliva.  India’s National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB), Hyderabad, has developed a biosensor that can detect the novel coronavirus in saliva samples. The new portable device called ‘eCovSens’, can detect coronavirus antigens in human saliva within 30 seconds using just 20 microlitres of sample.  Startups like Canadian GenMarkDx, US-based Aperiomics & XCR Diagnostics, Singapore based MiRXES, and Polish company’s SensDx have introduced top notch diagnostic solutions.  Identifying infected people to provide strict medical care will be made a lot faster with these diagnostic kits. 

Genome sequencing is also vital to fight the pandemic.  The genome of this virus was completely sequenced by the Chinese scientists in under a month from detection of the first case, and then on the biotech companies created synthetic copies of the virus for research.  Today creating a synthetic copy of a single nucleotide costs under 10 cents (in comparison to the earlier $ 10), so these days it is far quicker and cheaper, which means the chances of finding appropriate / adequate medication are much faster which will help save more lives.

Healthcare workers are having to pay a huge price, they run the risk of getting infected, there is often paucity of PPE, and in some countries, they even have to face assault from crowds that are angry and confused at the situation.  Medical workers are targetted by mobs, there are instances where communities don’t allow them to come back to their homes after duty, shops don’t sell them necessities, etc.  Medical robots can be the real game-changers in such situations.  Deploying robots in such scenarios to do the rescue is becoming a much sought after option, wherever possible.   Robots become the answer to such difficult situations as they are impervious to infections.  They allow physicians to treat/communicate through a screen. The patient’s vitals are also recorded by the robot.  Patients can be very efficiently monitored this way.

Drones for deliveries, especially medical deliveries can also be used to reach isolation zones or quarantined zones.  Italy made a big success out of this. Italy’s coronavirus epicenter, Bergamo, in Lombardy region, had to resort to people’s temperature being read by drones.  ‘The Star’ reported that “once a person’s temperature is read by the drone, you must still stop that person and measure their temperature with a normal thermometer,” said Matteo Copia, a police commander in Treviolo, near Bergamo. Drones are being used for surveillance – In areas where people were not complying with social distancing and lockdown restrictions, authorities are using drones to monitor people’s movement and break up social gatherings that could be a potential risk to the society. Drones are also being used for Disinfectant spraying, broadcasting messages, medicine and grocery deliveries and so on.

Interactive maps give us the data on the pandemic on real time, and monitoring a pandemic this wide and dangerous is very crucial to stopping/controlling its spread. These maps are made available to everybody, and the truth and transparency in the situation of such epic proportion is necessary in order to avoid panic within communities.  We now have apps for tracking the virus spread, fatalities and recovery rates, and apps would be developed for the future that will warn us about impending outbreaks, the geographies and flight routes that we must avoid

Implementing these technologies will enable us to manage and conquer situations like the current pandemic we are going through. As Bernardo Mariano Junior, Director of WHO’s Department of Digital Health and Innovation, rightly said “The world needs to be well prepared and united in the spirit of shared responsibility, to digitally detect, protect, respond, and prepare the recovery for COVID 19. No single entity or single country initiative will be sufficient. We need everyone.”

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VDI for Remote Working

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Padmapriya Sridhar

The modern workforce is constantly evolving. Flexible work hours, remote working, anytime, anywhere access to corporate data, applications & resources from any device, are fast becoming baseline employee expectations. Organizations are also adapting and exploring better ways to work and collaborate, to boost employee productivity. While providing secure employee mobility is one goal, ensuring 24*7 support for always-on businesses, business continuity with minimal disruption in the event of natural calamities, or pandemics like Covid-19, are other drivers that are escalating the need for secure remote access for employees. 

While providing employees with laptops or mobile devices is one option to enable remote working, it can incur heavy capital expenditure and more importantly, it can quickly spiral into a management and security nightmare for the IT team. With thousands of endpoint devices, disparate applications and data, and sophistication of cyber attacks, supporting secure and compliant workplace mobility can become overwhelming, if even effectively doable. With this said, let’s look at Desktop Virtualization as a viable alternative.

Desktop Virtualization

Desktop Virtualization is a technology that completely untethers a physical device from the desktop environment. Desktop components such as the hardware, operating system, applications, data, and user persona are moved into the data center, where they are centrally managed as individual components. When a user accesses his desktop from a remote device through the network, a dynamically assembled set of these components is presented to the user as a personalized view of his desktop, called a virtual desktop. The decoupling of the user’s device from his desktop environment enables desktop access from any of his computing devices.  

Benefits of Desktop Virtualization

Simplified IT Management: Centrally located & managed computing and data environment simplifies IT management, and enables tighter control over endpoint devices, easier enforcement of security and regulatory compliance, and hence a lesser number of IT incidents. This process efficiency reduces operational overheads and drastically reduces costs.

Cost-Effective: Desktop Virtualization shifts organizational expenditure from CapEx to OpEx. When virtual desktops are hosted in the cloud as in Desktop as a Service (DaaS), costs are based on usage, making it very cost-effective.

Enhanced Employee Productivity: Employee mobility through secure access to the desktop, applications, and other corporate resources anytime & anywhere, fuels productivity.

Faster Disaster Recovery: This is achievable with minimal downtime since recovery does not involve rebuilding the physical infrastructure environment.

Rapidly Deployable and Highly Scalable: Virtual Desktops are provisioned based on role-specific preconfigured templates, and so can be spun up quickly depending on the demand curve. They can also be destroyed just as fast when not required, saving a lot of time, effort, and costs in anticipatory provisioning. Similarly, applications can also be quickly served, since they are centrally installed and controlled, lending agility to IT operations.

The abstraction and isolation of the desktop computing layers open new possibilities of workspace delivery. Different desktop virtualization technologies address different layers of the computing environment. Some of them over the years have been:

Application Virtualization, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), Service-Based Computing (SBC), Client-Hosted Virtual Desktops (CHVDs), User Personalization Management (UPM), Workspace Aggregators, Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and many more. Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a cloud-based service offering powered by one or more of these technologies.

VDI & DaaS have had the most innovation in recent times. VDI is a preferred choice since it remotely delivers the image of the desktop environment that users are comfortable with. VDI provides the highest levels of abstraction & security, among the technologies. In VDI, each user gets a dedicated thick client user environment run as a virtual machine (VM), and hosted on a server in the data center. The user works on the desktop image that is sent over the network and can then interact with the files, applications, and the OS, as he would in a physical desktop. The flip side to VDI is that the implementation and management need specialized technical expertise, so it would help to use a VDI vendor who offers end-to-end service as well.

In DaaS, the virtual machines are hosted on the cloud, and so it automatically comes with all the cloud computing benefits like flexibility, faster deployment, scalability, and affordable cost structure due to usage-based pricing, & the shift towards operating expenses.   

GAVS’ VDI Solution

zDesk, is our end-to-end integrated solution for a fully functional VDI. zDesk combines the benefits of VDI and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) and can be hosted either on-premise or on the cloud. The simplicity of the single-vendor solution enabled by hyper-converged and software-defined infrastructure technologies defies the rapid deployability, scalability and robust security of the virtual desktops. For more information on our VDI solution, please reach out to us at inquiry@gavstech.com.

Creating Purposeful Corporations, In pursuit of Conscious Capitalism

Gavs technologies ceo

Sumit Ganguli

More than 8 million metric tons of plastic leak into the ocean every year, so building infrastructure that stops plastic before it gets into the ocean is key to solving this issue,” said H. Fisk Johnson, Chairman, and CEO of SC Johnson. SC Johnson, an industry-leading manufacturer of household consumer brands, has launched a global partnership to stop plastic waste from entering the ocean and fight poverty.

In August 2019, after 42 years of its inception, Business Roundtable,  that has periodically issued Principles of Corporate Governance, with emphasis on serving shareholders, has released a new statement of Purpose of a Corporation. This new statement was signed by 181 CEOs who have committed to lead their companies to benefit all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.  Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., is the Chairman of Business Roundtable. He went on to say, “The American dream is alive, but fraying,” “Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.

Today the definition of corporate purpose seems to be changing. Companies are now focused on the environment and all the stakeholders.  There is a growing ambivalence about Capitalism that only promoted the pursuit of wealth, according to a Harvard Business School survey.

But this is a far cry from when we were growing up in India as youths, in the 1980s. Our definition of personal success was to expeditiously acquire wealth. Most of us who were studying Engineering, Medicine or pursuing other professional degrees, were all looking for a job that would sustain us and support our immediate family. The other option was to emigrate to America or other developed countries, for further studies and make a life here – to celebrate Capitalism in all its glory. 

In India, we were quite steeped in religious festivals and rituals. We attended Baal Mandir and had moral science in school, but the concept of Service, Altruism,  Seva, Sharing were largely platitudes and they were not a part of our daily lives.  There was an inbuilt cynicism about charity and we never felt that when we grow up, we need to think about the greater good of the society. 

And that is where Conscious Capitalism comes in. Instead of espousing Ayn Rand’s version of scorched earth capitalism, “ Selfishness is a Virtue”, or blindly following  Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good”,  the media, parents, teachers, influence makers could promote and ingrain in all of the youth, students and people at large that there is merit in wealth creation, but it could be infused with altruism. We could celebrate the successful who also share. This could dispel the notion that charity and sharing of wealth is only for the rich and the famous.  

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America gets criticized for many things around the world, but often the world overlooks that the largest amount of charity and donations have been from the USA.  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Warren Buffet, Larry Elison of Oracle who has pledged a significant portion of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and many others have absolutely embraced the concept of Conscious Capitalism for their corporations. But what would really broaden the pyramid, would be when early entrepreneurs and upcoming executives are also engaged in sharing and giving, and not wait till they reach the pinnacle of success. We cannot expect only governmental initiatives to support the underprivileged. We need to celebrate Conscious Capitalism and entrepreneurs and business leaders who are pursuing their dreams and are also sharing some portion of their wealth with the society.

At GAVS and through the Private Equity firm Basil Partners we are privileged to have been involved in an initiative to nurture and support a small isolated village named Ramanwadi in Maharashtra, through a project named Venu Madhuri (www.venumadhuri.org).  The volunteers involved in supporting this small village have brought success in several areas of rural development and the small hamlet is inching towards self-sufficiency.

Basil Partners along with Apar Industries seed-funded the Midday meal program, (www.annamrita.org)  that feeds almost 1.26 Million school students per day in Mumbai; and have promoted the Bhakti Vedanta Hospital in Mumbai.

These are all very humble efforts compared to some of the massive projects undertaken by the largest of groups and individuals. However, they all make a difference. I truly believe that we need to internalize some of the credo and values that have been espoused by H Fisk Johnson & the work companies like SC Johnson is doing, emulate Azim Premji, Satya Nadella and many others. They are the true ambassadors of Conscious Capitalism and are creating purposeful corporations.