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AI gives birth to next generation of data centres

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By Ian Jansen van Rensburg, VMware EMEA Senior Systems Engineer

The Rise of AI

Artificial intelligence has rapidly become a leading driver of innovation, creating competitive advantages and new business opportunities. The proliferation of data is enabling breakthroughs across disparate industries, from transportation and healthcare to energy and communications. However, one of the most profound AI-mediated transformations will occur within the world of enterprise technology.

Based on our extensive experience within the enterprise tech stack, we see three core factors that have created the perfect storm fueling today’s AI innovation:

1.    Compute (The Need for Speed): From CPUs and GPUs through FPGAs and ASICs, computing resources have made incredible progress in the past few years, allowing us to process data more quickly, more broadly, and more deeply than ever before. In addition, new deployment channels (such as public cloud GPUs/ASICs) allow customers to balance Capex versus Opex in their AI initiatives.

2.    Algorithms (The Modern Day Equation): Algorithms are the theoretical foundation underlying machine learning and AI, from simple neural networks to more complicated recurrent and convolutional architectures. Many of these algorithms trace back decades — yet have only recently led to applied breakthroughs. This is partially due to the advances in Compute, but even more so, because of…

3.    Data (Data Is the New Oil): Machine learning techniques are famously data-inefficient, compared to humans. Many of the headline advances in AI performance, such as AlphaGo, are trained on enormous data sets that no human could see in an entire lifetime. Without sufficient training volume, machine learning techniques fail to reach acceptable performance levels. And as recently as a decade ago, the quantity of enterprise data available for machine learning was a tiny fraction of what is available today, from logs and metrics to traces and configuration events.

The AI Opportunity: Self-Optimizing Data Centers

This explosion of operational data is both a blessing and curse. In the current world of data center and cloud operations, companies are desperately trying to keep up with the flood of raw information, and falling further behind each year. The volume of data has outpaced currently available tools and platforms, placing an increasing burden on human operators – even feature developers – to keep up.

In fact, a recent report by EMA cites that an average of 30-40% of developer time is spent on production deployment, configuration, testing, debugging, and support challenges rather than feature development (Source: EMA blog – 3 Key Lessons from DockerCon 2018: Strategic Analysis of the Container Market Place). This operational ‘tax’ is unacceptable for firms in competitive industries where feature velocity is a key driver.

AI will allow companies to transform this operational burden into a strategic advantage. It will enable firms to move to a global operations model where they can leverage the deep value of their data, resulting in real-time insights that drive business value. AI will fill the void between operational complexity and operational capability. Some common uses where companies can leverage AI to improve their data centers include improved operational efficiencies, real-time cost-performance balancing, security, and even business metric optimization.

Don’t fight the data deluge – embrace it.

The increase in operational complexity won’t be slowing down anytime soon. The gap between human scale and machine scale continues to grow. Organizations that are not able to augment their data center, cloud, and edge computing strategies by adopting AI technologies will risk falling further behind. Conversely, organizations that are able to effectively leverage machine learning will build a significant competitive edge.

We envision a hybrid data center, cloud, and edge that is self-healing and self-optimizing, greatly reducing administrative overload and allowing firms to focus on strategic innovation and customer experience. We also believe that an AI-enabled infrastructure will deliver degrees of self-regulation well beyond today’s policy-based capabilities.

What Next?

Preparing your data center for the modern world is not a trivial task. Start by future-proofing your data center as groundwork for the AI-driven approaches that are coming around the corner. For example, on the control surface, that means adopting infrastructure-as-code (IAC) patterns, as well as intermediating legacy manual processes with APIs where possible. As for the data, consider implementing edge computing, which enables data gathering and analytics to occur near the source of the data. Companies should also invest in software-defined infrastructure as a key enabler of this process. Last, but certainly not least, explore a multi-cloud strategy to offer the most agility and flexibility to your IT infrastructure as you prepare for the high-velocity, machine-learning-driven future.

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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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