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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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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 on about Hastings’ views on 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. 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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