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Dell ups the ante for Data Centre

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At Dell Technologies World in Las Vegas this week, the focus fell heavily on advances in data storage and digital transformation.

Dell Technologies this week launched several new Dell EMC storage and server products designed to power up the Modern Data Centre, addressing a wide range of traditional and emerging data centre workloads to help customers drive better business outcomes.

The products were launched at Dell Technologies World in Las Vegas, at a time when organisations race to capitalise on the benefits of emerging technologies ahead of their competitors. According to a recent ESG global survey commissioned by Dell EMC and Intel of 4,000 IT decision-makers, 81% agree if they do not embrace IT Transformation, their organisations no longer will be competitive in their markets.

“The Modern Data Centre is the proving ground for our customers to gain a digital advantage over their competition and achieve better business outcomes,” said Jeff Clarke, Dell vice chairman for products and operations. “Dell EMC is delivering the Modern Data Centre innovations that our customers require, with new solutions that are engineered using future-proof technology to take on the data centre challenges of today and to support the next big thing that our customers are imagining for tomorrow.”

Dell provided the following information on new products and services:

Dell EMC PowerMax

Dell EMC’s PowerMax, the future of enterprise-class storage, is architected with end-to- end NVMe and a built-in, real-time machine learning engine. Building on the legendary architecture and capabilities of Dell EMC’s flagship storage system, PowerMax is the world’s fastest storage array, delivering up to 10M IOPS and 50% better response times – 2x faster than the nearest competitor.

Architected with end-to-end NVMe to support NVMe-over-Fabrics and high-speed, low- latency Storage Class Memory (SCM), PowerMax is not only fast, smart and efficient, but also engineered to handle the world’s most demanding application workloads.

In addition, the PowerMax OS includes a machine learning engine, which makes autonomous storage a reality, leveraging predictive analytics and pattern recognition to maximize performance with no management overhead. Built-in machine learning is the only cost-effective way to leverage SCM. Dell EMC is also the only company that can provide this level of storage software intelligence – currently analyzing 425 billion data sets in real time across its high-end All-Flash customer base.

PowerMax also includes inline deduplication and enhanced compression providing up to 5:1 data reduction, while delivering industry-leading security, protection and resiliency. It achieves greater than “six nines” availability to help ensure zero downtime of business-critical applications.

Storage solutions are increasingly being consumed within converged infrastructure, namely the Dell EMC VxBlock System 1000. As the industry’s leading provider of converged infrastructure systems, Dell EMC offers expanded options for VxBlock 1000 customers who can benefit from fast, smart and efficient storage with new support for PowerMax with end-to-end NVMe and XtremIO X2 All-Flash arrays. This means that the VxBlock system breaks the physical boundaries of traditional CI and offers enterprises even greater simplicity and flexibility to help accelerate their IT and digital transformation efforts.

To speed implementation of PowerMax or VxBlock in their environment, customers can take advantage of Dell EMC ProDeploy Plus services for up to 66% faster deployment and up to 49% fewer technical support calls. Customers can also choose ProSupport Plus for consistent best-in-class support delivered across their environment and up to 75% faster service request response time.

Dell EMC XtremIO Replication

XtremIO X2 All-Flash arrays gain major updates with the new XIOS 6.1 operating system, including delivering the industry’s most efficient replication across a wide area network (WAN). X2 metadata-aware native replication is highly efficient and provides an added level of data protection for application workloads. XtremIO replication sends only unique data to the remote site to minimize bandwidth requirements by 75% or more, enabling potential network cost savings. XtremIO replication requires up to 38% less storage space15 at disaster recovery sites and operates with predictable performance to achieve recovery point objectives of 30 seconds.

Dell Technologies also introduced a new Dell EMC X2 entry model for customers, at up to 55% lower cost than the previous generation. Designed with XtremIO’s unique metadata-centric architecture with full data services including inline data reduction (in-memory space-efficient copies, deduplication and compression), XtremIO can also achieve over “five nines” availability, offering customers enterprise-grade capabilities that start at midrange prices.

Dell EMC PowerEdge MX

Dell EMC will preview PowerEdge MX, a new modular infrastructure solution for the modern data centre. Designed with Dell EMC’s kinetic infrastructure, PowerEdge MX will enable customers to flexibly configure and optimise their IT infrastructure for new and emerging workloads.

Available in the second half of 2018, PowerEdge MX will bring new levels of flexibility to IT, ideal for dense virtualisation, software-defined storage and networking, network functions virtualisation (NFV) and big data analytic environments.

Availability

Dell EMC’s Modern Data Centre solutions PowerMax and XtremIO X2 with native replication, as well as VxBlock System 1000 with XtremIO X2, are available now. VxBlock System 1000 with PowerMax support will launch mid-year. Dell EMC PowerEdge MX has planned global availability for the second half of 2018.

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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