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The ABC of DevOps

SIMON MCCULLOUGH, major channel account manager at F5 Networks, simplifies one of the industry’s most intriguing and influential IT trends.

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What do you think about when you hear the term “DevOps”? Abstruse, impenetrable concept or conduit to a brave new world? Something in between? Maybe you haven’t even heard about DevOps? Don’t worry, you soon will.  

Back in the day

In the past, software delivery was relatively straightforward. All requirements were defined with the customer before handover to coding and Quality and Assurance (Q&A) testing. The Ops team then stepped in to deploy everything. So far, so neat and tidy.  

Today, the pressure is mounting for businesses to launch new features and services as and when they are needed. If speed and efficiency are not a concern, the old model still works fine. However, the status quo is becoming increasingly incompatible with modern ambitions.  

Imagine a situation where multiple teams of developers are contributing in parallel. This happens all the time. After everything is coded – or even the entire application finalised – they discover that certain components are incompatible. A huge amount of time is wasted if all teams wait to finish their tasks before merging the code into a single application. Developmental dynamism goes out the window, and it can become a torturous clean-up and/or retrofitting exercise.  

Now, let’s imagine a second scenario where code integration is successful, and the Q&A team requests a specific environment from Ops to test their application. Without automation, Ops may take days to provide the required environment. Meanwhile, developers are likely to keep coding away. If a bug is found is found during the tests, it is possible that developers were coding on top of an existing bug or bugs. This would potentially require a major coding overhaul.  

Another common issue is the pace at which Ops can provide the right environment to test the code.  In larger organisations, such delays may take weeks and can involve more than one department. For example, Ops may deploy a new environment that requires special permission from security team (i.e. another siloed department). 

So, how do we stop these frustrations from occurring and keep delivery on track? 

DevOps to the rescue! 

DevOps work differently. Here’s how: 

  • Continuous Integration. The DevOps approach uses an agile methodology where, typically, smaller functional chunks of code (e.g. a new feature) are regularly and seamlessly integrated into the application’s main development branch. Errors are spotted and swiftly corrected. This is known as Continuous Integration (CI). 

The small chunks of code in play here are created within their own isolated (containerised) environment where each (component) typically have a point of communication to ‘talk’ to other components known as Application Programming Interfaces (API). This gives the developer enough flexibility to add or remove components without affecting others. This is known as a microservices architecture, wherein each component basically has a plug-and-play capability.  

  • Continuous DeliveryFollowing CI, integrated code is automatically tested via several environments, all the way to pre-production where it is either deployable or ready to be deployed. Some companies do not automate further than that and prefer manual deployment. CI and CD interaction is termed as CI/CD. 
  • Continuous DeploymentThe ultimate DevOps goal: Continuous Integration followed by Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD²). As a result, applications are automatically deployed to production.  
  • Cloud-centricity. DevOps thrive in the cloud, as it natively supports their tools and unleashes the speed and automation needed for game-changing innovation. 
  • Infrastructure as a CodeA heavily automated infrastructure is ideal for the Dev team to automatically deploy code at every juncture, from test to deployment environment. Otherwise known as Infrastructure as a Code (IaaS), it is a potent antidote to potential Dev and Ops bottlenecks. A proper IaaS should encompass infrastructure provisioning tools, which build and deploy infrastructure via a click of a button or by quickly filling out a template. Cloud services are a good example. It should also include configuration management tools (e.g. the facility to upgrade, say, 10,000 serves with a single command). 
  • Collaboration. More than most IT disciplines, DevOps-related success is heavily reliant on intensive, intricately coordinated collaboration between customers, developers and IT operations. Developers need to focus on coding. IT operations need to focus on managing automated infrastructure. Both need to talk to each other to uncover new ways to innovate and improve both process and deliverables. Siloed working is yesterday’s news. 

Fundamentally, DevOps is a practice that can eliminate sources of waste from the application delivery pipeline. It drives efficiency by optimising processes, removing silos, using automation tools, standardising platforms and establishing a strong culture of collaboration. It is a powerful way to bypass the bottlenecks of traditional software development and infrastructure norms, and an unstoppable force for innovation. It is all this and so much more. DevOps’ true influence is only just being felt; stay curious, stay open-minded, keep all development teams connected and, whatever you do, don’t get left behind.

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ASUS puts more screen into gaming

While others battle over the thinnest bezel for maximizing screen space, ASUS released a dual screen laptop that uses the space where one’s palms would usually rest, writes BRYAN TURNER

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When one imagines dual screen, it’s usually two screens side-by-side on a desk, providing a horizontally long desktop experience. There have been clunky dual screen laptops in the past, some that folded out horizontally, but these never really caught the attention of the consumer.  

Enter Asus with the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15. Like the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, the ROG Zephyrus Duo features two screens – the main screen on the top panel (as we’re all used to) and another screen just below that, where the top of the keyboard would usually be. The main difference is the secondary screen pops out at a 13-degree angle to bridge the gap between the two screens, and to give better viewing angles.  

That ZenBook Pro Duo is also a pretty good machine for gaming, because it features Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics, but it doesn’t have the latest graphics. With the new machine, Asus is one of the first manufacturers to release a laptop featuring Nvidia’s latest RTX 2080 Super Max Q GPU for mobile devices. This is a momentous feat, considering that not only are the external features  cutting edge, but also the internals. 

The main panel is configured to be either 4K 60Hz or 1080p 300Hz. The former is most likely going to be picked up by video editors and photoshop gurus, because it covers 100% of the Adobe RBG colour space, and the latter will appeal to gamers who want to see their high frame rates in action. Both panels are Pantone Colour Calibrated for high colour accuracy. 

The secondary panel features a 32:9 resolution, which is equal to putting two standard 16:9 widescreen panels together. The touchscreen panel outputs a 3840 x 1100 resolution at 60Hz.  

The combination of these panels will be ideal for portable gamers. The main game can be on the main panel, while Discord and game streaming software can be on the secondary panel, all at a glance. Not to mention the game developers that have support for two screens, where the second screen highlights stats and other components that had to be crammed into the main screen’s space.   

On the inside, the laptop features liquid metal cooling, which lowers the temperatures by 8°C and allows the computer to function with less fan noise. Asus has also slipped some very interesting cooling tech behind the secondary panel, when it pops open, to maximise airflow into the computer from both the bottom and the top of the device. 

The laptop features the biggest battery Asus has yet put in a computer, at 90Wh. This is incredibly close to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA’s) limit of 100Wh batteries being allowed on flights to the US. Fortunately, this computer can be taken around the world if necessary. 

These computers will come in two variants of 10th Generation Intel processors, namely the i9-10980HK or i7-10875H. They support up to 2 M.2 NVMe PCIE 3 slots for SSDs. 

The new ROG gaming range from Asus will be available later this year. The price of the computer has not yet been confirmed

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Vodacom, Discovery launch free virtual COVID-19 tests

Vodacom and Discovery have teamed up to launch free virtual COVID-19 testing for all South Africans – not only for their customers.

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Vodacom and Discovery have partnered to deliver a powerful online healthcare platform for the benefit of all South Africans during the COVID-19 pandemic. This platform provides easy access to a COVID-19 risk tool for all South Africans, to help understand your personal risk for COVID-19. Where needed, it assists immediately to schedule virtual healthcare professional consultations and get advice.

Globally, telemedicine has proved to be vital in the management of this disease, with many governments and healthcare systems advocating for digital healthcare tools and virtual consults to be the first step and primary means of healthcare support during the COVID-19 outbreak. The risk assessment and virtual healthcare tools can help to identify people who need health professional engagement and a potential referral for testing or to a hospital.

The online healthcare platform therefore makes it possible for South Africans to access a healthcare professional without them having to travel to a healthcare facility.

This reduces overcrowding at clinics and doctors’ rooms where there is greater risk of the virus spreading. It also protects healthcare professionals from potential repeated exposure to COVID-19.

It is free to use and available on any web browser or mobile phone to facilitate a full consultation with a doctor, either through video calls, voice calls, or by text. The service can be accessed by visiting either the Discovery or Vodacom websites. Vodacom customers can get additional information and do a self-assessment via USSD by dialling *111#.

Through a partnership with Vodacom, Discovery’s existing DrConnect platform, which was previously available only to Discovery clients, is now accessible to all South Africans. Vodacom and Discovery have also jointly created a fund to pay doctors for approximately 100,000 consultations, making them free to any South African.

There are seven easy steps to use an online doctor consultation:

  1. Start the process by visiting Discovery’s COVID-19 information hub or Vodacom’s website. Members of Discovery Health Medical Scheme can access the service through the Discovery app. Vodacom customers can get additional information and do a self-assessment via USSD by dialling *111#.
  2. Utilise the COVID-19 self-screening risk assessment tool, by answering a few easy questions.
  3. If you are confirmed as high risk of having COVID-19, a short registration and consent process on the DrConnect app will follow.
  4. Book a virtual consultation with a doctor who is available to assess the need for COVID-19 testing.
  5. If the doctor recommends testing, a photo of the completed pathology form will be sent to you by SMS, WhatsApp or email. The same process will apply to scripts for medicine.
  6. Testing and collecting of medicine will be facilitated by the relevant essential healthcare service providers that you must visit.
  7. Doctors will receive test results electronically and can then advise if you should schedule follow-up appointments to discuss results and next steps.

The Vodacom COVID-19 information hub contains other up-to-date information for consumers about COVID-19.

With virtual consultations, the location of the doctor or the location of the patient will not restrict access to fast and effective healthcare. All doctors can register to help.

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