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F5 project helps business embrace automation

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F5 Networks has announced a project to help businesses and the wider IT industry more effectively embrace automation, unlock new levels of performance and address lingering IT skills gaps.

F5’s global Super-NetOps initiative is an industry first in EMEA. Its ongoing intention is to shake up the network operations (NetOps) community to facilitate stronger collaboration with developers (DevOps) and fuel a shift from manual task-based practices to achieve unprecedented levels of automation, continuous improvement and business return on investment. The goal of the programme is to develop skills necessary to standardise critical application services and provide automated toolchains.

“There is a gap when it comes to work practices and collaboration between NetOps and DevOps teams. We want to inspire a new workforce of Super-NetOps professionals that are able to proactively support enterprise needs for rapid, automated application development and delivery,” said Martin Walshaw, senior systems engineer at F5 Networks.

“Evolving threat landscapes and multi-cloud deployment environments are changing the game. Developers are increasingly demanding application services that deliver performance, scalability and security in a more automated way. The pressure is now on traditional IT teams to enable the orchestration and agility needed to succeed in a digital economy by embracing programmability. F5’s Super-NetOps initiative is all about meeting this challenge head-on.”

F5’s Super-NetOps initiative starts with a free, on-demand e-learning course already trialled with hundreds of F5 customers. The inaugural course covers DevOps methodologies, automation concepts, orchestration, and infrastructure-as-code. It has been specifically structured to break down operational silos and reduce time-to-service from days to minutes – all while ensuring applications meet necessary compliance, policy and performance standards.

In the coming months, F5 will roll out an expanded curriculum, including security-focused automated deployment methodologies for the burgeoning DevSecOps role. Other topics set to feature include application language frameworks and third-party automation toolchain enablement.

“Network operations are more important than ever. Decades of experience deploying, managing, maintaining and securing applications is invaluable. What’s now needed is a way to bridge the divide between traditional, manual IT practices and the rapid, automation-fuelled pace of application development and deployment,” added Walshaw.

“Developers, for the most part, want to access operations services on demand. As a result, network operations professionals urgently need to learn how to define and deliver the services their applications teams need in a service model. This leaves developers free to focus on developing the applications that drive revenue.”

F5’s Super-NetOps initiative comes as the region’s appetite for automation continues to grow.

According to F5’s 2018 State of Application Delivery report (SOAD), three in four (75%) of surveyed EMEA customers declare the use of automation in the operation of IT infrastructure to be “somewhat” or “very” important. The majority (72%) are using automation to realise leaner IT with the goal of reducing OpEx, while nearly half (48%) are looking to scale to meet demand. 6% said they use automation for all production deployments, 49% partially used automation and 28% are running pilot programmes.

Supporting quote

“Automation-focused DevOps is an integral part of modernising network infrastructure, and through a series of F5 integrations with Red Hat Ansible Automation, F5 users can more simply automate and orchestrate their networks. The Super-NetOps programme will help provide F5 customers with the tools they need to get started on their network automation journey.”

Justin Nemmers, General Manager, Ansible, Red Hat

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read about Netflix’s international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement,” he adds. “To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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