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Virtual desktops keep the movies coming

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When a company is operating at the cutting edge of entertainment, it also needs cutting edge technology to keep the business running. Ster-Kinekor showed us how it was able to update its infrastructure without breaking the bank.

But Ster-Kinekor, South Africa’s main movie distributor, was labouring with an IT ecosystem comprising dated infrastructure, characterised by a poor end user experience, no workload mobility, and abysmal support times. How, then, to achieve digital transformation?

“The situation was bleak and when quotes began coming in to replace 150 high-end laptops, update infrastructure, backup and recovery, and expedite product update deployments and refresh cycles – it seemed insurmountable,” said Andre Potgieter, IT Executive at Ster-Kinekor Entertainment. “We couldn’t afford the solutions being proffered and were unwilling to sign-up for 15-years of technical debt.”

Yet the need remained pressing to transform this environment, in which it took IT on average two weeks to load Windows onto a machine, and the mere mention of IT evoked emotions ranging from anger to loathing among end-users. So the embattled IT department, with its partner VMXperts, turned to suppliers Dell and VMware to look at leveraging their desktop virtualisation strategies.

Key among the challenges facing Ster-Kinekor were: lengthy IT support times; a costly mobile environment; and no visibility and control. To surmount these, the team employed a staged approach to deploy a wall-to-wall VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) environment – rolling out Workspace on Dell thin clients – to address its EUC (end user computing) needs; upgraded the backend to vSphere 6 on Tintri; and deployed VMware Mirage with Commvault to assist with backups, product migrations and refreshes.

“Mobility was a problem – everyone had a laptop in the past and made extensive use of (costly) mobile data, there was also a problem with theft and loss of machines with corporate data on them,” said Potgieter. “With Workspace we can ensure users only access corporate data by logging in through their virtual machine.”

The secure access offered by the VMware VDI solution also meant that Ster-Kinekor could abandon its VPN. End users now connect to mail publicly and access business applications, including SAP, by connecting securely to the virtual machine – improving performance and security. In addition, using Mirage has enabled faster, cheaper backing up of endpoints; rapid reinjection of data onto new machines; and the ability to securely access information from multiple devices, dramatically improving the mobility of users.

As a media company, Ster-Kinekor also requires the ability to broadcast and process HD audio and video amid densities of between 30 and 70 virtual machines per host, without any impact on the desktop environment. Notably, with its new solution, the team is able to achieve precisely this.

Other achievements include the near elimination of downtime in the company’s warehouse, where four production lines work on specific SAP configurations and where the team had previously set up three to four desktops to mitigate the effects of downtime which could result in the loss of a million rand per day. According to Potgieter, since deploying VMware in the backend and on the desktops, if the warehouse has had one hour of downtime, it’s a lot.

All told, Ster-Kinekor has achieved a significant reduction in its IT support numbers; desktop deployments of just a few minutes; and has virtualised 50-percent of its applications.

IT support times have shrunk from weeks to minutes, productivity has increased across the organisation, and it now has a robust failover environment, and is positioned to react quickly to the digital changes occurring in the fast-paced media industry.

Perhaps the most significant result, however, has been the manner in which the sentiment around IT has completely changed within the company.

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New iPhone pricing for SA

The iStore has announced that the latest iPhones, the Xs and Xs Max, can now be pre-ordered at www.myistore.co.za , and will be available in stores starting 28 September 2018.

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iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max feature 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch Super Retina displays that offer remarkable brightness and true blacks while showing 60 percent greater dynamic range in HDR photos. iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max have an improved dual camera system that offers breakthrough photo and video features, A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine, faster Face ID, wider stereo sound, longer battery life, splash and water resistance,

Pre-orders will be open for cash purchases and on iStore’s revised payment plan in partnership with FNB Credit Card, allowing customers to pay off their iPhone at a reduced interest rate. However, the contract period is 37 months rather than the usual 24 months.
*FNB Credit Card Payment Plan, price per month over 37 months, a 40% trade-in value after 24 months

How to pre-order – Pre-ordering online for either cash or the FNB payment plan gives customers the benefit of reserving their purchase without having to queue and the added convenience of having purchases delivered directly to their door. Pre-orders of iPhone Xs and Xs Max are completed online by visiting www.myistore.co.za.
FREE iCare Plus – Exclusive to iStore, all customers can get its 2-year extended warranty, which includes one Apple Certified screen repair, that normally sells for R1 999, for FREE. To qualify, customers should secure a voucher online now at www.myistore.co.za , and subsequently redeem it when they upgrade their contract or purchase any new iPhone at iStore (iPhone 8 and newer) between now and 31 December 2018. Offer is limited, secure your voucher now.

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Accenture opens Fjord design centre in Johannesburg

Accenture has launched its first design and innovation studio on African soil, Fjord Johannesburg.

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The company says the move significantly expands its design capabilities and demonstrates its commitment to unlocking Africa’s innovation potential through the creation of experiences that redefine industries in our constantly evolving digital era.

The new studio, opening in November, will be located at Accenture’s new 3875m² offices in Waterfall. It will be led by Marcel Rossouw, design director and studio lead for Fjord Johannesburg.

Said Rossouw, “Brands are constantly asking, ’how does one take a business need or problem, build that out into a definition of a service experience, and then bring it to market?’ It’s about re-engineering existing service experiences, identifying customer needs, prototyping rapidly, iterating often and proving or disproving assumptions. But it’s also about getting feedback from customers. The combination of these factors helps companies advance towards the ultimate service experience.”

Fjord is the design and innovation consultancy of Accenture Interactive. The Johannesburg location marks its 28th design studio globally, solidifying its position as the world’s leading design powerhouse.

Working in the same location as Accenture Interactive will allow Fjord to fuse its core design strategy DNA with the digital agency’s expertise in marketing, content and commerce to create and deliver the best customer experiences for the world’s leading brands. Accenture Interactive Africa‘s blend of intelligent design and creative use of technology has already been used by some of South Africa’s largest and most prominent brands, including Alexander Forbes, Discovery, MultiChoice and Nedbank. The digital agency has also earned industry accolades for its innovative and compelling business results, most notably two gold awards in the Service Design category at the 2017 and 2018 Loeries awards.

“Great design tells great stories,” says Wayne Hull, managing director of Accenture Digital and Accenture Interactive lead in Africa. “It unifies a brand, drives innovation and makes the brand or service distinctive and hyper-relevant in both the digital and physical worlds. This is critical to achieving results. Having Fjord Johannesburg as part of Accenture Interactive, and collaborating with all of Accenture Africa, will provide unique experiences and forward-thinking capabilities for our clients.”

“Businesses in South Africa are becoming more design-aware and are looking to take greater advantage of design skills to compete with the rest of the world,” said Thomas Müller, head of Europe, Africa and Latin America at Fjord. “We’re excited to open our first design studio on the continent and to be part of an emerging market that is ripe for design and innovation, and open for business. Developing markets like South Africa are challenging assumptions and norms about what digital services and products are meant to be, and we’ll strive to put design at the heart of the innovation being produced there.”

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