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Hybrid WAN boosts agility

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85% of IT leaders feel that they have a timeframe of just two years to adopt new technologies, or risk falling behind. However many can stay agile should they adopt a hybrid WAN, writes TAJ ELKHAYAT, Regional Vice President, Middle East and Africa at Riverbed Technology.

In the past, most applications were housed on-premises and the WAN was a well-defined and predictable environment. This is no longer the case, as nowadays, the WAN is continually changing and both the applications and architecture that it supports are becoming increasingly challenging to maintain. With more and more applications transitioning to the cloud – public, private or SaaS – the cloud has become an essential element of enterprise architecture as many organisations embark on a digital transformation strategy. Today, 85% of IT leaders feel that they have a timeframe of just two years to adopt new technologies, or risk falling behind.

Consequently, IT now has to manage an increasing number of on-premises and cloud-based applications. The growing number of apps combined with the escalating demand for video and rich-media means that the public Internet is now often used along with MPLS to address enterprises’ rapidly increasing needs for bandwidth. This certainly has cost benefits. However, it can impact IT’s ability to have visibility or understanding of application performance. Changes to the WAN have a negative impact on app performance and businesses must find new approaches to tackle this and optimize app performance and reliability.

As a result, the WAN is evolving toward a hybrid mix that combines the performance of on-premises hardware with the agility and elasticity of cloud based network functions. As enterprises are becoming hybrid, the shape of the network itself is seeing significant changes. The underlying networks are getting more diverse in terms of performance and security.

Controlling the edge of the network

Business now takes place at the edge of the network perimeter – at the branch, at home, from remote locations or on the road. Availability and speed are the biggest priority and keeping business applications running in remote and branch office locations can address this. However, it’s important to note that in the new hybrid WAN, direct Internet access can actually put businesses’ sensitive data at risk from cyber-attacks. Whilst the cloud offers agility and cost-efficiency, the performance is often less than ideal for the end-user and is more difficult for IT to control and optimise. Enterprises can tackle this by looking for solutions which allow them to unify IT management from one central location, such as the data centre or the cloud, all the way to the edge. Regardless of where applications are hosted, IT must be able to ensure optimal performance and secure availability.

Agility and application performance are key WAN requirements

In today’s increasingly digital world, application performance is at the heart of business productivity. Applications can help facilitate business functions, ranging from manufacturing, to processing sales. They also help us communicate and collaborate. However, as we rely on applications more and more, this means that the end-user has high expectations around performance levels.

IT must be able to make these applications available to users and respond to business needs as quickly as possible. Whether this requires setting up a new branch office or making a new SaaS application available to employees, agility is key. IT must be able to deploy sites, rollout applications and handle change management, all whilst ensuring that application performance runs seamlessly.

Tackling application complexity with operational development

Applications are now becoming richer and more complex as the majority become encrypted. Delivered from the data centre, the cloud and the edge, users are accessing them from everywhere. The edge is fast becoming the centre of communication for enterprise and IT must now consider solutions that automate application delivery over the WAN and facilitate intelligence, performance and security requirements as well as abstracting communication resources. This requires automated systems and orchestration which can support these abstractions and align IT with the wider business needs.

Maximise productivity by optimize application performance

Poor application performance can have significant negative impact on a business, affecting not only employee productivity, but also customer satisfaction. Today’s hybrid WAN has introduced new challenges. As bandwidth is now more cost-effective and readily available, the rapid adoption of SaaS and cloud applications means that it can be difficult for IT to keep up with who is using what apps. This in turn leads to poor visibility of end-user experience and an inability to manage infrastructure and application performance.

Encryption can hide application traffic and further obscure the distinction between applications. This means that IT now requires visibility beyond encryption to understand the specific applications accessed by various users. Once this is achieved, they can prioritise and direct application traffic. This can reduce the number of transactions across the WAN for faster application performance and less burden on communication lines.

Harnessing unification and simplification

In order to meet the changing agility requirements of the enterprise, IT will need solutions which will simplify operations across their hybrid network from the data centre or cloud to the LAN or across the hybrid WAN to users across multiple locations. Therefore, to uphold future agility requirements, it will become critical for enterprises to have the ability to abstract and virtualise communication resources between users and data, no matter where they are.

Whilst software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions are being developed to satisfy these requirements, holistic solutions will unify control across networks, the cloud and mobile workers. SD-WAN, when coupled with WAN optimisation, will significantly improve performance and infrastructure efficiencies.

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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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