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A new breed of storage

You’ve probably heard the one about 90% of the world’s data having been generated in the last two years alone. But the detail behind this data explosion is bordering on unbelievable, writes JIM HOLLAND, Country Head at Lenovo Data Centre Group (DCG) South Africa.

It’s midday in South Africa at the time of writing and 3 billion Google Searches have already been completed worldwide, at a rate of 69,949 searches per second. And in the time it took me to write the previous sentence, 2 million more searches had already been amassed.

Furthermore, every minute sees 16 million text messages sent, 176,220 Skype calls occurring and, more worryingly, 103.4 million spam emails hitting inboxes. While the rise of always-on entertainment and social media is seeing 2.1 million Snaps, 4.3 million YouTube video views, 473,400 tweets, 750,000 Spotify song streams and 1,111 Amazon packages shipped every minute.

This growth in data is intriguing and the numbers are fascinating, but it’s also creating major problems for businesses. They require innovative ways to manage the explosion and transformation of data as traditional storage no longer meets their needs.

However, this data explosion is taking place while their IT budgets tighten and IT teams are stretched covering new responsibilities. They somehow have to perform the Herculean task of storing, managing and gaining value from their data, while also guaranteeing uptime and scalability, keeping costs down and meeting demand for innovation.

These factors, combined with a wider business drive to achieve digital transformation goals, demand a modern approach to data storage. One that moves businesses away from the burdens of legacy technology yet can easily be integrated into existing systems, embrace emerging technologies and reduce costs.

Superior storage solutions

To overcome their data storage challenges, organisations will need technology that simplifies the deployment and management of data, future-proofs their infrastructure, and provides agility and speed around enterprise applications.

The key is flexibility, particularly having the choice to unify data management across on-premise or in the cloud, add capacity seamlessly across environments as they grow, and merge all-flash and hybrid flash storage nodes into a larger storage cluster and connect them to the cloud.

Not only does this ensure core IT requirements are met, at the same time organisations can keep pace with evolving models and applications that employees demand access to. For example, businesses can now have Oracle, SAP, Microsoft SQL Server, virtual desktop infrastructure and VMware workloads up and running in less than 10 minutes, transforming previously complex, laborious jobs into simple tasks.

An opportunity for the channel

The data deluge offers a real opportunity to channel vendors. They can help businesses meet the storage demands of the data-intensive digital age by stocking highly flexible and efficient storage solutions.

There’s now a broad range of industry-leading storage products available to businesses, ranging from the most basic block disc through to high-level software-defined offerings. Savvy channel players will see this as an additional revenue stream, a chance to leverage skills they already have and an opportunity to move into a new space.

The challenge is now for channel firms to hold best-in-class inventory and push the product into the classic SMB market where speed and velocity are just as vital as quality.

Our recently announced partnership with NetApp, for example, aims to address the major changes taking place across the storage market and solve businesses’ biggest data centre challenges. The partnership brings ONTAP enterprise data management software on top of Lenovo’s storage platform, hardware and disks through our ThinkSystem DM series.

This provides an exciting new opportunity for channel vendors to have an end-to-end Lenovo solution, from networking to computing to storage. They’ll now be able to play a central role in not only selling products but also the design and support of rapidly taking products to market.

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Time for smart energy

South Africa is experiencing an energy crisis that requires the public and private sectors, along with households to work together. Fundamental to this is embracing innovative technology that provides more efficient ways of managing the country’s energy.

Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa, said: “With the number of connected devices expected to top more than 75 billion worldwide by 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) can be considered an important tool in reaching this goal. Already, connected devices can be used to deliver smart energy that sees a more optimal use of resources.”

This approach relies on a smart grid of connected sensors pointing to areas where energy is wasted. In turn, the supply to these points can be allocated to higher priority areas resulting in a better use of resources.

Aiding this drive towards connected devices is government pushing towards the establishment of smart cities. These cities require a technological infrastructure built around various sensors connected to the internet to not only generate data, but control things as diverse as traffic lights, street lamps, and other electrical devices.

Graham said: “These smart cities enable lighting to be automatically switched off when not needed. Sensors on the connected devices will detect when people are on the street and turn it off or on accordingly. What might seem like a novelty, can make a massive difference in reducing energy waste.”

According to Kate Stubbs, director of business development and marketing at Interwaste, IoT is just part of how technology can be used to create a more efficient environment.

“South Africa produces an average 108 million tonnes of waste annually,” said Stubbs. “Of this, only 10 percent is recycled. There is significant potential to use this waste and convert it to energy. This is more than just the traditional way of viewing recycling. Instead, it is using technology to extract value out of waste through initiatives like refuse and waste-derived fuel.”

The first South African Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) plant was launched in 2016 and not only aims to reduce landfill, but also the country’s carbon footprint. As the name suggests, the plant converts general, industrial, and municipal waste into an alternative fuel that is used in the cement industry.

Stubbs said: “Spin-off benefits of this plant includes the creation of additional employment opportunities and a reduction of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions. Waste management entails so much more than what many people think. But the key remains a combination of technology innovation and a willingness to use the resources generated by this.”

Graham agrees about the need to readily accept the innovation technology brings as the country is teetering on a significant energy disaster.

He said: “New technologies are critical in helping the countries and their cities of the future promote sustainable energy use. For example, Nairobi has introduced smart street lamps that use LED lighting saving money and resources on energy costs. These lamp poles also have Wi-Fi embedded in them that sees air quality probe sensors submitted vital data for city planners on where there are pollution hotspots.”

Stubbs feels these are good examples of how energy management approaches in the connected world need to be non-linear.

“The traditional ways of adopting technology, recycling, and managing energy must be seen as relics of the past,” she said. “Instead, we must all work together and readily embrace modern solutions or risk our country entering a new dark ages.”

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Girls4Tech aims to cut gender gap in AI and security

Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are two of the hottest technology fields today, with job opportunities continuing to grow across both. However, worldwide, women make up less than 15 percent of the professionals in these high-tech jobs[1], and only one in 20 girls opts for a career based in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)[2].

To help narrow the gender gap, Mastercard has been cultivating young technology enthusiasts as part of its signature education platform, Girls4Tech. Currently in its fifth year, this hands-on, inquiry-based STEM programme has reached more than 400,000 girls (ages 8-12) in 25 countries, more than doubling its established 2017 goal. Girls4Tech was first launched in the South Africa in 2017, and has seen numerous Mastercard employees acting as mentors to local students ever since. As Mastercard marks the fifth anniversary of the programme, the company builds on a successful track record of impact with an even more ambitious commitment to reach 1 million girls by 2025.

Mastercard created Girls4Tech in April 2014 to inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers through a fun, engaging curriculum built around global science and mathematics’ standards. The programme incorporates Mastercard’s deep expertise in payments technology and innovation, and includes topics such as encryption, fraud detection, data analysis and digital convergence.

“Driving inclusion, equal opportunity, and women’s empowerment are key priorities at Mastercard. Investing in a more inclusive future is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. Women are the driving force behind global economic growth, and their contributions will continue to elevate communities and society as a whole,” says Beatrice Cornacchia, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Middle East and Africa at Mastercard. “Through our Girls4Tech programme, we’re extending our commitment to the next generation of women leaders and developing a strong pipeline of talent by encouraging girls to embrace the subjects that will prepare them for the workforce of tomorrow.”

New Curriculum Unveiled

As technology skills continue to evolve, the Girls4Tech programme is launching a new curriculum to give girls deeper exposure to the growing fields of cybersecurity and AI.

Furthermore, to continue the engagement with girls who have already participated in the programme, Mastercard is launching Girls4Tech 2.0. Designed for older students, ages 13-16, the new programme aims to keep girls excited about STEM throughout the critical high school years and also emphasises important 21st century skills – such as collaboration, creativity and communication – as they work in teams to apply their technical knowledge to solve real-world challenges.

Impact Highlights from the First Five Years

  • To date, Girls4Tech has reached over 400,000 girls, with events in 25 countries and six continents.
  • The programme has engaged more than 3,800 employee mentors worldwide.
  • Mastercard has created partnerships with Scholastic, Be Better China, Singapore Committee for UN Women, Major League Baseball, R&A, and Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship to further scale the programme and offer STEM skills in unique ways to girls ages 8-12.
  • The programme has achieved global reach with the curriculum translated into 12 languages.

To learn more about the programme, please visit the Girls4Tech webpage.

[1] 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study:  Women in Cybersecurity

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Women in STEM 2017 Update; World Economic Forum, Gender Parity and Human Capital Report 2017

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