Cloud Applications & Using 3D on the Web – Newbury Summer Meetup 2016

Last month Exonar hosted the fourth event of ‘Silicon Canal, Newbury’ Meetup. The Meetups were started with the intent of connecting IT professionals and passionates with different backgrounds and to give them the opportunity to share knowledge and experience in building and deploying leading edge software applications and technological approaches. By documenting the Meetup sessions we hope to encourage more leading edge technical folk in our area to join the community and further all of our education and experiences.

This month focused on 2 core areas:

  • Utilising webgl and 3D on the web
  • Moving a legacy application to the cloud.
  • Insight was delivered by Exonar’s Nesh Thompson and Russell Foster.

Russ’s talk on ‘lessons being learnt from moving a legacy app to the cloud’ was given with the driver of discussing with others the peaks and pitfalls of putting the theory of application conversion into practice. When asked about its importance in industry Russ explained that ‘There is a ongoing move to the cloud and by taking the lessons we’ve learnt I hope to help other companies avoid some of the traps we fell into.’ The talk considered the whole process, giving attendees insight into what they should consider when doing this themselves by giving insight into the process that Exonar has undertaken.

There was focus on each step in the journey towards completing a move. As a start, he showed Exonar’s initial plan to move noting:

  • It’s not a ‘one time’ job
  • Understanding your stack complexity and business pressures is key
  • Utilising Java/Python portions that communicate over the network eases the process
  • Ensuring the business agrees with the plan and approach and is ‘bought in’ is a must
  • Understanding what your app can and can’t do is critical
  • Consider carefully a multi-tenancy backend versus deploying Physically separate
  • Calculate how many users
  • You must also understand your cost

All of these allowed attendees to consider the points and what that means for their own business. Following this the presentation took a step by step approach looking at what it takes to make the move including moving the app as a whole, splitting it up, getting it ready for the outside world and going live. This approach presented a realistic outlook on the time and effort it takes, as well as being honest about the new issues that can arise after the move.

Attendees appreciated the realism of the approach and were able to raise further insightful questions and engagement later in the evening.

Our second speaker, Nesh, discussed using 3D on the web. Nesh was responsible for deploying ‘Webgl and 3D on the web in our first prototype UI’ and following this he wanted to discuss the journey he’d had and what he’d learnt. His talk focused on a practical guide to Webgl and its uses within the industry. Nesh explained that for the past 3 years Exonar’s own app front end has featured heavy use of Webgl, a Javascript api that allows the browser to render 2D/3D graphics without plugins. By using this, Exonar is able to view complex data using an extra dimension which gives people the ability to see information trends in new ways. The big problem with Big Data is that it’s difficult to understand it all on a 2 dimensional screen!

Nesh also talked about reasons to use webgl and further resources adding that 3d on the web isn’t and shouldn’t be used for everything. Where appropriate, a third dimension can give the ability to view data in useful ways and give a greater understanding within an organisation. However, Nesh added that while 3D is obviously useful for things such as games and animations, not everyone can view 3D so the target audience is important to gauge and understand when it is appropriate to use 3D in the context of your audience and target market.

As per tradition, the evening closed with conversation, drinks and pizza between attendees and speakers. The talks inspired both conversation and questions throughout the evening, as well as eagerly anticipating our next meetup.

We’re keen to welcome as many people and ideas as possible at these events. If you would like to come along to our next event on the 3rd October, or if you would like to be one of our speakers then visit the website for more information about the event and fellow attendees.

We look forward to seeing you!


4 Questions, All The Answers. What You Need to Know About GDPR

GDPR seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment. While the regulation doesn’t come into force until 2018, preparation has already begun for many organisations. For some, however, GDPR still raises a number of questions and queries.

We asked the former Head of Fraud, Risk and Security for Vodafone UK and now Exonar’s Chief Operating Officer, Julie Evans, what GDPR means for Exonar, what we will be doing about it and what the potential implications for other UK businesses are.

What does GDPR Mean to Us and Our Clients?

GDPR significantly increases the level of proactive management of Personally Identifiable Information (PII). It increases the requirements on any organisation that deals with the personal information of EU citizen customers or employees. The fact is that no-one is clear on what the post-Brexit world of GDPR will look like in the UK but it will still impact most UK organisations.

The UK exit from the EU will not be complete before GDPR is implemented. There will be a significant period of overlap following the triggering of article 50 and, even after Brexit, there is a strong possibility that similar regulations will be sought by the ICO and demanded by international companies who will look for ‘adequacy’ in UK law to ensure that the UK can compete and operate seamlessly across Europe and the world. Further, GDPR requires adequate privacy protection in states outside the EU, if EU companies are to store their data there. In all, it seems nearly inconceivable that privacy of personal information will not be a significant factor in the coming years.

As well as increasing privacy requirements, GDPR introduces significant penalties for non-compliance and also broadens the scope of what is considered PII. Although somewhat lacking in absolute clarity, the Regulations define PII as being information that enables the identification of a person.

What does GDPR mean for Exonar?

As a relatively new company Exonar is not burdened by legacy of old IT infrastructure although we must ensure the way we hold data is compliant with GDPR. For us, this is primarily employee and shareholder data. In common with most organisations the first task is to find and create a register of the data. Even a relatively small organisation like Exonar uses multiple different platforms to store information; documents, spreadsheets, PDFs and presentations, located across file shares, email and in cloud drives. It’s not an insignificant issue, however, we do at least have our own Exonar software at our fingertips to enable us to map where this information is being stored.

As well as identifying where all of our PII is, we’ll also need to designate the role of Data Protection Officer (DPO), an individual within our organisation directly tasked with identifying and protecting individual’s information within our organisation, it does not need to be a full time role but there must be clarity of accountability and we are re-apportioning our job roles to accommodate this requirement.

How can We and Other Organisations get Ready for GDPR?

Understanding the key changes proposed by GDPR is the first step in understanding how to be compliant with the regulations. The table below (courtesy of consulting firm EY) highlights the key areas that need addressing:

Depending on the level of organisational maturity, the new regulations could therefore demand changes to resourcing, training, process definition, applications as well as how the data is handled. The requirements could be significant.

How Is Exonar Going About GDPR Compliance?

I am confident that the leadership team of any organisation would tell you that they would love to have the insight to their customer journey from a customer perspective. GDPR for us is a fantastic opportunity to use our own product and to experience the output. We have set up the ‘discover’ phase of the Exonar journey to crawl all of our data stores. Given that we only hold a couple of terabytes of data we achieved this in our first afternoon.

Our next phase is to ‘understand’ what we ‘discovered’, determining what PII was where, who put it there and why. We’re able to do this through the use of our software’s querying function, it’s “Find More Like This” capability for identifying all data relevant to a topic and the results graphs and charts that show me what information we have, in what format it’s in and in which application of filestore it’s been put.

Now I know what I’ve got I can act upon it so our next phase in GDPR readiness is to review our policy and process as well as our use of applications and communicate our recommendations clearly to the whole team. It does take time so it’s perhaps a good thing that we are not leaving compliance with GDPR until the last minute…