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Short shift to cloud

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Migrating to the cloud doesn’t have to be a complex task anymore. KABELO MAKWANE, MD of Accenture South Africa’s Cloud First business, explains the ‘Lift and shift approach’.

‘Lift-and-shift’ – the classic approach to cloud migration – means this: take all your existing IT structures, procedures and applications and transfer them to the cloud.

On paper, such an approach seems sensible. Yet, while cloud migration may mean the benefit of eliminating physical hardware infrastructure on the IaaS layer, transferring needless complexity elsewhere can in fact cause a business’s total cost of ownership on the cloud to escalate. More broadly, the speed and effectiveness of any cloud migration is highly ecosystem-dependent; the application landscape forms only one part.

The reason is the amplifying effect of the cloud. Poorly designed or inefficient IT operating models have their flaws emphasised by the as-a-service paradigm. On one hand, this means that if businesses haven’t designed an efficient service management model or built their application sets with an eye on leanness, they may end up spending more to maintain those functions in the cloud. Other ecosystem areas – including governance and management – also require an expert guiding hand when it comes to cloud pivots.

All businesses are likely to witness a degree of change in their IT operating models when undertaking a migration. For one, cloud changes the way people operate within an IT environment. Because of the high degree of automation within the cloud, for example, people are both freed up and required to work at a higher order, both in terms of IT ops and administration.

Given this consideration and others, enterprises need to assess how fast and to what extent they want to rotate to the cloud. Will it be full-on ERP in the cloud? Full CRM in the cloud with mobility? Partial? The growing impetus for enterprises to forward integrate using cloud services is a related consideration. Indeed, the trend is coming to demand increasing attention.

Consider the near-ubiquity of self-service banking apps. Today, we’d say that a financial services provider without one belongs in the stone age. And yet banking apps have been a relatively recent development. Healthcare is seeing similar developments with the rise of wearable tech. The industry is likely to witness the same level of forward integration, requiring consumers to take some degree of responsibility in terms of managing their own health and wellness.

When it comes to the application-level changes cloud-minded businesses undergo during migration, natively cloud apps will be those requiring the least remediation. Others will likely require more rationalisation and consolidation. Hearkening back to the concept of leanness, enterprises often have a large real estate of custom applications spun out by IT over time. Performing analysis and due diligence on the application landscape before a migration is key. Migrations present a good opportunity to do a little spring cleaning.

Integration layers – what we used to call ‘middleware’ – are key here, yet the area has also witnessed something of an overhaul. There are still middleware players – they haven’t gone away; they have just reinvented themselves. When it comes to modernising applications, containerisation allows for application migration without full reengineering. From a DevOps perspective, tools such as Kitkat and Cucumber can help with rewriting applications so that they become cloud ready.

Another key aspect of the migration ecosystem is governance. The sphere may be easy to overlook, yet business need to ask themselves key questions: ‘Do we have a governance model for operating in the cloud? Does it extend to security, risk and identity management?’ In this line, a concept known as shared responsibility is gaining traction. The approach means that enterprises cannot negate their responsibility to secure their applications and data, even if the cloud is more secure than their existing on-premise environment. It’s about a joint effort.

A final ecosystem component is that of cloud service brokerage. Businesses’ habits of consuming federated IT infrastructures and application environments haven’t gone away. Interest in engaging multiple providers is still driven, in some cases, by organisations shying away from vendor lock-in. Alternatively, enterprises may buy different applications for different purposes, informed by their strategy.

When it comes to consuming federated or disparate environments, businesses often require some level of service brokerage. So there is an emerged discipline – within hyperscale cloud particularly – wherein specific boutique outfits are now building brokerage capabilities. The result is that organisations can consume from multiple cloud types on their own terms.

At the broadest level, to be able to fully realise the promise of cloud in terms of speed, efficiency, cost effectiveness, scale and optimisation, capable oversight is required. The result is that cloud management platforms have emerged – many hyperscale cloud providers are now building management capabilities onto their offerings.

AWS’s EC2 platform for example has seen ongoing investment to natively embed functions around identity management and application integration in the cloud and Microsoft Azure Cloud also sees heavy investment in this area as well in order to build native capability. By embedding such tools, it becomes far easier for businesses to deploy cloud applications as extensive knowledge of middleware and integration tools are no longer required.

In sum, effective, cost-effective cloud migration depends on thoughtful deployment on a host of levels – applications, governance, management and brokerage among them. In short, it’s all about leveraging the ecosystem.

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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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