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Red Hat releases new Linux

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Red Hat has announced the general availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 with new automation capabilities designed to limit IT complexity while enhancing security.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 offers new automation capabilities designed to limit IT complexity while enhancing workload security and performance for traditional and cloud-native applications. This provides a powerful, flexible operating system backbone to address enterprise IT needs across physical servers, virtual machines and hybrid, public and multi-cloud footprints.

From traditional physical servers and virtual machines to next-generation cloud and container services, the operating system serves as a critical linchpin in connecting deployment footprints across the enterprise. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 acts as this keystone by pairing open source innovation with enterprise-grade stability, providing a foundation for digital transformation while still maintaining existing systems and workloads.

Security Features

As threats to IT infrastructure evolve, enterprises require more security innovation in their software stack to help prevent breaches and more proactively manage vulnerabilities. This innovation starts at the operating system level, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 brings to bear new and enhanced features designed to foster a more secure production environment for mission-critical workloads, both cloud-native and traditional. This includes:

  • Updated audit capabilities to help simplify how administrators filter the events logged by the audit system, gather more information from critical events and to interpret large numbers of records.
  • USB Guard, a feature that allows for greater control over how plug-and-play devices can be used by specific users to help limit both data leaks and data injection.
  • Enhanced container security functionality with full support for using SELinux with OverlayFS helps secure the underlying file system and provides the ability to use docker and use namespaces together for fine-grained access control.

Performance

Modern business applications require more bandwidth and increased storage, placing a performance strain on traditional operating systems and hardware. Engineered to meet the needs of organizations seeking to both modernize and optimize their enterprise IT infrastructure, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 offers new features designed to improve the performance of both networking and storage. New features include:

  • Support for NVMe Over Fabric helps to provide customers with increased flexibility and reduced overhead when accessing high performance NVMe storage devices located in the data center on both Ethernet or Infiniband fabric infrastructures.
  • General enhancements to Red Hat Enterprise Linux’s performance when deployed on the public cloud, highlighted by decreased boot times to better enable mission-critical applications to start sooner, and support for the Elastic Network Adapter (ENA) on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to enable new network capabilities.

Linux Containers and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host

Linux containers present an evolution in how businesses develop, deploy, and manage modern applications, helping enterprises scale to new levels of operational efficiency, speed application development and drive increased flexibility in managing application life cycles. Based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4, the latest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host further refines enterprise-grade Linux containers with enhancements that include:

  • Improved security without sacrificing performance, thanks to integrated support for SELinux and OverlayFS, as well as full support for the overlay2 storage graph driver.
  • Full support for package layering with rpm-ostree, providing a means of adding packages like monitoring agents and drivers to the host operating system.
  • The introduction of LiveFS as a Technology Preview, which enables users to install security updates and layer packages without a reboot.

Management and automation

With datacenter footprints that span from bare-metal to the cloud, the complexity associated with controlling IT environments continues to increase. Complementing the capabilities of Red Hat Satellite and automation via Ansible Tower, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 introduces Red Hat Enterprise Linux System Roles as a Technology Preview. System Roles provide a common management interface across all major versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, enabling an automated workflow via Ansible automation to be created once and used across large, heterogeneous Red Hat Enterprise Linux deployments without additional modifications.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux for multiple architectures

Red Hat remains committed to providing customer choice when it comes to datacenter infrastructure. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 maintains this commitment with availability across multiple architectures, including IBM Power, IBM z Systems and 64-bit ARM (as a Development Preview). For the IBM Power Little Endian architecture, this release enables support for the High Availability and Resilient Storage Add-Ons as well as the Open Container Initiative (OCI) runtime and image format.

 

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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