Automation, Orchestration and IoT

Providing digital transformation through DevOps

2017 in Review and a Look Ahead

Richard Stubbs

Richard Stubbs

Richard is a consultant at The Network Factory, He's an expert in automation technologies, security and the Internet of Things. Whisky / Black Coffee / Green Tea

2017 at The Network Factory

As we come to that funny little time between Christmas and New Year when many companies are on hiatus, all my obscure outstanding support tickets have been closed and I have reached inbox nirvana, it gives me time to reflect on the last twelve months.

One of our most exciting projects for the year has been delivering for a client our first end-to-end containerisation platform, 'Bedrock'. This time last year Bedrock was just a mind-map on a white board, but in September this year we signed off on the fully-featured containerisation platform with a one-click deployment and an exciting road map for 2018.

It was also the year that we moved to our new, larger office, allowing us to house our entire operation under one roof, as we were previously running from a number of smaller separate locations. Not only is this beneficial for productivity but it has also developed the family feel of our team – Slack is great, but it doesn't beat a discussion over a cup of our finest Aeropress'ed coffee!

So what happened with technology in 2017?


Of course Kubernetes (one of the building blocks of our Bedrock platform) was crowned the undisputed king of container orchestration, with over 30 certified platforms and distributions this year alone, and with other competing platforms such as DC/OS announcing they are supporting it (and rightly so). It is the core foundation of all new projects that we have undertaken over the last two years. We value it for its sheer flexibility in managing an application's life-cycle, from discovery and scaling to enabling easy rolling updates and ensuring that the application is running how it should every time all the time.

Microsoft fully embraced Docker and containers as part of their core strategy as if it were a long-lost child, not only supporting the core Docker functionality, but building tools around managing and running Docker containers within a Windows environment, reinforcing the general move to the 'holy grail' of, wait for it, an "immutable self-contained microservices-based architecture" or, simply put, you really can now build your technology stack like Lego.

Data breaches, security flaws and ransomware.

2017, in my opinion, was the year where it seemed like it was the trend for big businesses to be hacked – and some may not yet know they were hacked.

First, let's discuss data breaches. The number of breaches is staggering, however there are three particular examples that stick in my mind:

In September, Equifax provided an early Christmas present for would-be identity thieves, with the personal data of over 145 million people, including all of their financial history and personal details, being compromised.

In October, Yahoo's parent company Verizon admitted that possibly every one of Yahoo's 3 billion accounts had been compromised back in 2013.

And this November, we discovered that Uber had covered up a 2016 attack where hackers stole the data of 57 million customers and were paid $100,000 by Uber to keep this under wraps.

Now onto security flaws. Things used to be simple; the chip inside your electrical device used to do one job, couldn't be updated and the firmware that shipped with it was the only one necessary. But now, a single, tiny chip can be an entire ecosystem of interconnected roles, functions and jobs, and in fact have its own operating system and worse still, it's now connected to the internet. A critical flaw in the Intel Management Engine was recently exposed, which affects the majority of desktops and servers sold in the last ten years. This flaw could in theory allow the system's low level administrative features to be compromised, and worryingly it could be done in a way that makes it hard to detect by the device's main operating system.

Which then brings us to ransomware. May saw the infamous WannaCry, which managed to cripple the NHS, with some hospitals severely disrupted for several days. 88 of the 236 English trusts were affected and the NHS identified that 6,912 patient appointments were cancelled, with an estimated 19,000 appointments in total being affected, costing the NHS around at least £180,000. This situation could have been avoided entirely had they simply updated their systems when updates became available several weeks previously.

So what does this tell us? It tells us that security measures, technology and people are fallible. There are multiple ways that your data can be compromised and, worryingly, technology is becoming more prevalent in our daily lives but seemingly easier to compromise. But putting the correct procedures and technology in place greatly reduces the risk of being compromised by internal and external threats.

This is an integral part of what we do – we build mechanisms and procedures into your work flow that minimise your risk of exposure. Let us give you a demonstration of centralised key rotation, encryption and user isolation and of how this will help secure your business.

What's likely to become more prevalent in 2018?

The big battleground of 2018 is undoubtedly going to be the smart speaker and home automation space, as companies will battle it out to develop meaningful and useful applications. Certainly the first hardware vendor that brings out cross-platform agnostic support, for not only the voice assistant but also the music service, will solidify themselves as an essential building block in the ecosystem. Prepare to see battle lines drawn between existing audio tech companies as they try to differentiate themselves in the market.

Also look forward to the 'Big Three' (Amazon, Apple and Google) experimenting with you through subtle tweaks and features, as they look to monetise the platform. Think 'targeted paid-for ads', which I can foresee alienating lots of people. I recently noticed my podcasts now have ads in them; it's one thing having ads included on your browser but it's quite another having them invading your own home.

Our clients are now seeing, and better still are able to measure, the benefits of implementing DevOps and dealing with their legacy sunset applications, moving these to containers and/or developing new greenfield applications using DevOps tooling. We expect to be helping a lot more businesses to achieve this in 2018, especially now with their understanding of requirements such as GDPR and how this affects their business. Having had this drilled into them during 2017, it is now starting to be addressed, albeit due to the impending deadline!

And as the marketing teams at the cloud vendors have got their heads around 'Serverless', regardless of its merit as another viable technology (think of it as your app that doesn't exist until its called and you only pay when its being used, then it silently disappears again so you're not paying for idle resources), you will see this term bannered about and pushed more as the latest magic bullet. But something to keep an eye on is a subset of this technology, also under the Severless banner, is "Function as a Service" (FaaS) and, more to the point, the OpenFaaS Project that allows you to package up your code/app as a serverless function on Kubernetes-orchestrated infrastructure.

I could not end the year without mentioning the meteoric rise in the value of Bitcoin, however the real story here for me is its underlying blockchain technology and the potential to fundamentally change how we build digital services and apps to take advantage of this technology.

Finally, expect more hardware/chip/IOT-based vulnerabilities that will not be so easily mitigated by a simple patch - the only safe fix may be to put it in the bin.

It's time for me to log off

I'd like end by wishing you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year from all the team. We haven't been very vocal on our blog during 2017 (however we promise to rectify that in the year to come).

We will be recruiting throughout 2018, so anyone wanting to work with an awesome team, with unique benefits should look here for available roles.

To learn more about our services and what we can do for you, call us on +44(0)207 100 666 8 or email us at and we'll find a dependable, cost-effective solution that works for you.