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DevOps: new business wave

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DevOps, a new business approach has proven that it can benefit a company’s product lifecycle, competitive advantage and its ability to meet customer requirements, writes DAVE BLAKEY, CEO at Snapt.

DevOps is a new approach to business that is based on applying Agile and Lean philosophies to operations work. In the past, operations and development engineers worked in separate silos and it was a case of ‘never the twain shall meet’. DevOps has completely changed this idea, creating a situation where the two work closely together throughout the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support.

In effect, you could say that DevOps simply extends the standard Agile principles beyond the boundaries of the code written by developers, taking it across the entire delivered service instead.

While changing the mindset of how organisations function obviously takes time, the new cultural and professional approach that DevOps demands has already begun to have a significant impact across companies. This could be due to a range of reasons, including creating more stable operating environments, faster delivery of product features or continuous software delivery.

Either way DevOps has proven that it can benefit a company’s product lifecycle, competitive advantage and its ability to rapidly meet customer requirements. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the key DevOps trends that businesses have been adopting this year.

The first trend is the recognition by enterprises that DevOps is not simply a new market, but rather a philosophy and a cultural shift.

Gartner points out that an increasing number of organisations are coming to the realisation that DevOps goes beyond implementation and technology management, to the point where it becomes about people within the business developing a deeper focus on how to effect positive organisational change.

In my opinion the key to benefiting from the emerging DevOps market lies in understanding that it is ultimately about the people who are doing it and the culture that surrounds them, instead of being about the technology or the tools being used.

The second major trend has been an increase in modular approaches to system building and a move away from building monolithic products for customers. The DevOps approach focuses instead on employing small, nimble teams to take care of individual applications.

You could say that the crux of its success lies in breaking activities into bite-sized chunks. Recognition of this fact has led to applications being developed with a modular approach in mind.

A third noticeable trend in 2016 has been the fact that developers have begun taking increased ownership of the entire product lifecycle.

The proliferation of DevOps-ready tools has enabled a surge in adoption, which in turn has led to the logical breaking down of the traditional silos between developers and operations. As the focus becomes increasingly about continuous delivery and improvement, it is leading to greater accountability and ownership from the developer teams to build and run their solutions.

The growing focus on DevOps means that for developers, their job no longer ends once the application is delivered. Instead, they will now be expected to remain a part of the entire lifecycle, while also having complete visibility into its progress.

A fourth trend is that of programmable infrastructure. While automation itself is not a new thing, the ability to provision infrastructure easily and seamlessly, thanks to a DevOps approach, is. This means that teams can develop the software and operate its environment simultaneously, so rather than considering automation after the development is finished, businesses can now prioritise automation and integrate it as part of the initial development phase.

The last key trend is that of reduced deployment time, something that is increasing as more enterprises adopt the DevOps approach. A side-effect of this trend is the fact that systems will also become more risk tolerant, as any changes that are made will be less likely to have a negative impact on the entire system. This means that time to production will be continue to be reduced.

I believe that these trends demonstrate that DevOps is increasingly becoming the de facto standard for how teams operate.

As we head into 2017, I expect we will only see more organisations upending their traditional processes and focusing on the DevOps method instead. In other words, we will see businesses cultivating a culture that unites people, processes, workflows and technologies, in order to bring tangible returns to the business. Inevitably, some businesses will pass on adopting a DevOps methodology, but those that do will be running the risk of serious competitive disadvantage.

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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