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Apps demand more cloud

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F5 Networks’ Future of the Apps report, released at its recent EMEA conference in Barcelona revealed that the growing intelligence built into apps would make ever-greater demands on the cloud, writes SEAN BACHER.

“Nobody understands the cloud, it’s a f***ing mystery.” This quote from the Sex Tape movie staring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel may be true for some, but more and more more companies are beginning to understand the cloud and the benefits it offers.

This was made clear at F5 Network’s recent annual EMEA conference, where it presented its Future of the Apps report. The report revealed that apps are becoming more intelligent – thus requiring more resources and putting more of a strain on local networks, meaning that moving to the cloud is a logical step.

“As an app’s workload increases, or as it evolves and more people begin to use it, it can become unstable, often crashing and costing a company a fortune in downtime,” said Sangeeta Anand, senior vice president for product management and product marketing at F5 Networks

Moreover, many companies don’t have the resources to secure their apps properly and are leaving themselves open to vulnerabilities like ransomware, DDoS attacks and general hacking, which is continually evolving.

These are just a few reasons why moving to a public cloud environment or using a hybrid local/public cloud is beneficial.

“More than a fifth of the companies surveyed plan on running their applications and services in a cloud environment, with around 80 percent already using some sort of local/public hybrid cloud infrastructure,” said Anand.

New cloud services 

At the event, F5 Networks announced a range of new services to help companies make the cloud migration.

Until last week, said Anand, F5’s cloud services were limited to Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

“Many of our clients wanted more of a choice, so we have extended our service offerings to include Google Cloud, giving customers a good choice when deploying their apps to the public cloud.”

In addition to its Google Cloud integration, F5’s range of new cloud services make managing apps both locally and in a public cloud easy and secure.

Its Application Connector, for example, allows a company to deploy a locally hosted application to Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. It then allows one to load balance the app between the local app and the one in the cloud.

“Should a business’ local infrastructure start battling under the load, F5’s Application Connector creates a secure connection to the hosted version, balancing out the load and ensuring that the app continues to run, no matter how resource intensive it is,” said Anand.

The hybrid setup also ensures redundancy, and with the Application Connector in place, should changes to an app need to be made, they only need to be made in one place.

“Security is top of our checklist when helping clients deploy to the cloud, and we have noticed many businesses have disparate security systems protecting various parts of their network, making it difficult to stay on top of security.”

F5’s services offer a holistic overview on their apps – both locally and in the public, she said. “For instance, when the WannaCry campaign was discovered, it was imperative to find the vulnerability, patch it and stop it from spreading any further. Our services allowed clients to do this quickly and rest assured that the virus had not spread to any other services or products.”

Security is just one driver of cloud adoption

“We have noticed that many companies are not happy with a single cloud deployment any more,” she said. “They want to offer their services and application across multiple clouds which makes deployment very difficult as each public cloud provider runs a different framework.”

F5 Networks has launched cloud solution templates for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. The templates simplify and automate most of the deployment, ensuring that all security measures are met and that the application remains stable, regardless of which cloud hosts it.

“With these services and product offerings, we aim to take the mystery out of the cloud and make it easy and cost effective for companies of all sizes to make the move.”

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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