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vCloud Air targets disasters

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VMware has announced enhanced disaster recovery and advanced networking services for VMware vCloud Air.

VMware also announced the general availability of vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand, which provides customers a quick online sign-up to pay for only those resources that are used. As part of the general availability of vCloud Air OnDemand, VMware introduced a new program to make it easier for customers to have the predictable billing of a subscription, but only pay for cloud resources consumed with a new Subscription Purchasing Program.

“Public cloud is a part of every VMware client’s view of the future because it helps them move faster and get far greater value for money from their IT Infrastructure,” said Bill Fathers, executive vice president and general manager, Cloud Services Business Unit, VMware. “VMware vCloud Air provides our clients with these benefits for both new and existing applications. The service enhancements announced today reflect strong client interest in a public cloud platform compatible with existing vSphere environments.”

Simple, affordable cloud disaster recovery
One of the most compelling use cases for hybrid cloud is a simpler model for disaster recovery and business continuity. IT has become the lifeblood of most businesses, and any disruption to IT systems can lead to lost revenue, missed opportunity, and competitive disadvantage. VMware vCloud Air Disaster Recovery delivers cost-effective, flexible and simple disaster recovery for business continuity planning.

VMware vCloud Air Disaster Recovery can be implemented in less than an hour and replicates virtual machines and data to vCloud Air, providing a warm-standby virtual data centre in the event of a disaster. Customers choose vCloud Air for disaster recovery because it requires zero changes to the existing virtualised environment, and because vCloud Air supports all the operating systems and applications they run today – without conversions. The new capabilities include:

·         Native failback support – Customers will now have an easier way to resume normal data centre operations in their primary data centre following a failover to vCloud Air. Customers will be able to replicate workloads back from vCloud Air to the primary customer environment over the network to resume normal operations.

·         Multiple recovery points – Customers will have the option to roll back to multiple earlier snapshots of their data centre environment. This is vital to recover from outages caused by data corruption, viruses or hacking attacks that compromise the most recent recovery point.

·         Self-service automation – Customers will be able to define and deploy recovery playbooks to streamline failover operations using a new vRealize Orchestrator DR plug-in, open source DR Command Line Interface (CLI) and an expanded REST API.

New VMware vCloud advanced networking services
VMware vCloud Air advanced networking services, powered by the VMware NSX network virtualisation platform, will enable customers to achieve unprecedented security and isolation in a public cloud. VMware will deliver the following benefits to customers:

·         Fine-grained network security groups and isolation – Customers can define security groups that provide stateful network traffic isolation without requiring multiple virtual networks. Unique to the public cloud market, this enables a “zero trust” security model designed to prevent insiders and intruders from gaining full network access if an application or virtual machine is compromised. It also dramatically simplifies network configuration and is implemented as a distributed firewall, so there is no network traffic bottleneck.

·         Dynamic Routing – VMware vCloud Air will support both Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) based routing to simplify network integration between on-premises and cloud-based environments, allowing for redundancy and continuity in cloud-hosted application deployment. It drives down networking and administration costs.

·         Additional vCloud Advanced Networking Services – Expanded network scalability up to 200 endpoints, enhanced VPN support for point to site connectivity and enhanced load balancing with support for HTTPS.

Instant access to vCloud Air
VMware vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand allows customers to sign up online for immediate access, and pay-as-you-go with a credit card or purchase agreement. Individuals get $300 of free service when they sign up, making tests, proof-of-concepts and application deployments risk free. There is no upfront resource commitment and no upfront cost. Charges will be incurred as the resources are consumed (metered by the minute) and billed on a monthly basis.

“VMware vCloud Air OnDemand allows us a cost effective way of ramping up our development efforts outside of our vCloud Air production environment,” says Jeff Wilson, Director IT at Nevro.

Subscription purchasing program
The VMware Subscription Purchasing Program (SPP) will combine regular, predictable billing for cloud service with the complete flexibility for customers to use any cloud service and only pay for what they use. Customers will be able to create an SPP fund with either a single pre-payment today, or regular monthly installments starting in the second half of 2015. Customers gain a volume discount based on the amount committed. They then spend their fund by consuming cloud services, just paying for what they need and topping up the fund as necessary. Initially, SPP supports all vCloud Air services, including vCloud Air OnDemand, as well as Horizon Air.

Pricing and availability
·         VMware vCloud Virtual Private Cloud Air OnDemand is available immediately. Pricing starts at $0.17/hour for a VM with 8 GB of RAM and 2 vCPU.

·         The new capabilities for VMware vCloud Air Disaster Recovery are expected to be available in Q1 2015.

·         Advanced networking services will be available in vCloud Air in the first half of 2015.

 

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Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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