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AWS opens Route 53 in SA

Amazon has recently launched its Route 53 in South Africa, offering a DNS web service to developers and businesses needing a reliable and cost effective way to route end users to Internet applications, writes MICHAEL NEEDHAM, Senior Manager, Solutions Architecture, AWS.

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Following the recent launch of CloudFront, our global content delivery network (CDN) service, in South Africa, is the launch of Amazon Route 53 in both edge locations, further improving availability and performance for customers and end users in the region. Route 53 is a highly available and scalable cloud Domain Name System (DNS) web service, designed to give developers and businesses an extremely reliable and cost effective way to route end users to Internet applications. The two new edge locations will help customers see improvements of as much as 75% in DNS query latency.

For over nine years global companies of all sizes, from Hulu, Intuit, Allergan, Slack and Spotify, to small businesses running WordPress, have benefitted from an easy, secure, and cost effective way to distribute content, and accelerate applications, websites, and APIs, using Amazon CloudFront. Now, our customers in South Africa can leverage Amazon CloudFront to securely deliver data, videos, and applications to users, enjoying performance improvements of as much as 75% from reductions in latency. The two new edge locations, which now include Amazon Route 53, are located in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Combined with the launch of Direct Connect in Dec 2017, AWS is now offering a full range of networking and caching solutions to businesses in South Africa.

Better together: using Amazon Route 53 with Amazon CloudFront

Amazon Route 53 is designed to give developers and businesses an extremely reliable and cost effective way to route end users to Internet applications by translating names like www.example.com into the numeric IP addresses like 192.0.2.1 that computers use to connect to each other. Our customers’ websites, content, and applications delivered via Amazon CloudFront can use, in addition, the Amazon Route 53 service to create an Alias record for their domain, which points to the CloudFront distribution. Route 53 is designed to automatically answer queries from the optimal location depending on network conditions. As a result, the service offers low query latency for end users.

Let’s look at what this means for some CloudFront use cases:

‘As seen on TV!’ – CloudFront for Media Applications

For leading African story teller M-Net, the launch of AWS CloudFront services in South Africa presents significant cost savings and high availability of systems during peak demand for live shows while attracting significant interactive engagement for dozens of M-Net produced DStv channels across the continent.  Audiences are managed via a customised platform, architected, developed and supported by digital solutions agency SwipeiX, strategically directed and managed by M-Net’s interactive content producer, Don’t Look Down.

SwipeiX Founder, Leo Redelinghuys, commented “We are ecstatic to hear of this service launch in South Africa. SwipeiX has already seen huge cost benefit from building local high scale media applications for companies like WeChat, DSTV, EWN, Soccer Laduma and Discovery Networks on AWS.

Supporting high profile TV formats, the platform developed for M-Net scales to support millions of impressions. There can be very few work experiences more demanding than achieving M-Net’s live voting compliance requirements for global hit formats like as ‘Idols’, ‘The Voice’ or ‘Big Brother’. Your systems (and your nerves) are tested under the bright glare of millions of passionate fans who are each deeply invested in the results. Fans need to trust that their vote has been counted and that the process was free and fair. With AWS as a foundation, we have built that trust through 100% uptime, processing more than hundreds of millions of votes through these shows. Now, we will benefit from even better economics and performance with a local CloudFront, along with new architectural possibilities of compute at the edge with Lambda@Edge”, Redelinghuys concluded.

For a variety of media applications, Amazon CloudFront allows customers to stream audio and video to viewers across the globe using multiple protocols. The Route 53 addition makes it even easier for our customers to manage traffic globally through a variety of routing types, including Latency Based Routing, Geo DNS, Geoproximity, and Weighted Round Robin. All of these routing types can be combined with DNS Failover in order to enable a variety of low-latency, fault-tolerant architectures, which are important benefits for broadcasters and media organisations. Augment that with AWS Elemental, a family of fully managed media services, and you build out reliable, broadcast-quality video workflows in the Cloud. The latter solution is behind Seven Network’s streaming of the Australian Tennis Open to millions of viewers globally.

Playing. Shopping. Watching – faster and personalized user experience 

The new CloudFront Edge locations will enable South Africans to enjoy a much faster experience of both local and international applications, reducing the need to fetch content at its origin in data centers outside of the African continent. South Africans will notice many common platforms and applications speeding up as they take advantage of the new African presence. Using Amazon Route 53 can improve the performance and availability of our customers’ applications for end users by running multiple endpoints around the world, using Amazon Route 53 Traffic Flow to connect users to the best endpoint based on latency, geography, and endpoint health.

Mobile games developer SuperCell, the makers of Clash of Clans, serves 8.5 million daily players through CloudFront, which includes markets like South Africa. SuperCell can execute functionality closer to their users with Lambda@Edge without provisioning or managing servers.

Lambda@Edge functions offer a variety of possibilities, like functions for adjusting images by device type, personalizing content per country, A/B testing of websites, and much more. Consider the example of a personalized shopping experience powered by Lambda@Edge. A retail website that sells clothing, and uses cookies to indicate which color the shopper chose as a preferred match to their style. When the user considers buying a jacket on the website; using a Lambda function they can be presented with an image of the jacket in their personalised color of choice, using CloudFront.

Security and high performance 

With security at the heart of AWS services, CloudFront is no different. The integration between CloudFront and AWS Certificate Manager allows you to create free custom SSL certificates or bring your own and deploy them in minutes. With multiple online properties, SSL certificate costs add up for South African customers, making the free certificates from AWS’s certificate authority compelling. In addition, CloudFront is PCI compliant, and offers Web Application Firewall (WAF), and AWS Shield, a managed service that provides protection against DDoS attacks for web applications running on AWS.

Implementing security measures to applications is specifically relevant with the growing popularity of mobile banking, and cryptocurrency platforms in Africa, as well as the need to stay informed and have access to local news services ‘on the go’. Companies using CloudFront with AWS Shield and WAF can benefit from a mature portfolio of security features and benefits. AWS Shield is integrated into AWS, so once an attack occurs, it can be mitigated at the point of ingress into the AWS network. In addition, AWS Shield offers Always-On detection and mitigation, so that as soon as an attack is identified, it is mitigated. WAF allows customers to create own rules or use Managed rules created by security experts or AWS Marketplace Sellers, to filter inbound traffic to a web application. With WAF, customers can block traffic based on parameters such as IP addresses, or known attack patterns, as well as block malicious requests from accessing the application.

Developers also benefit from tight integration between CloudFront and other AWS services. The solution is simple to use with Amazon Route53, to help speed up DNS resolution of applications delivered by CloudFront, and with Amazon S3 for storage and retrieval of data for their applications. Amazon EC2 or even servers in on-premises data centers can be used as origin servers for content for CloudFront. This gives developers a powerful combination of durable storage and high performance delivery.

For users uploading content to the cloud via S3, which is common in archival and big data strategies of large Enterprises, can now benefit from Accelerated Upload via CloudFront. The content is uploaded locally at high speed and low cost at the edge within South Africa and then carried to S3 on the Amazon backbone network, at no further cost.

With CloudFront and Route 53 now available in South Africa, existing and new customers will be able to take advantage of the features and benefits of AWS infrastructure in South Africa.

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Queues and cash-only frustrate SA’s commuters

A new study by Visa reveals the success factors for improving travel and creating smarter cities

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The use of cash-only payments was a frustration for 38% of Johannesburg commuters and 37% of Cape Town-based commuters, according to a new global study by Visa. Another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters.

Visa, in collaboration with Stanford University, came up with these findings in one of the largest global studies examining the growing demand for public and private transportation, and the important role digital commerce plays in driving sustainable growth.

According to the UN[i], by 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban centres – and the number of “megacities” with populations greater than 10 million people will rise from 43 today to 51 within that same period. South Africa is no different, with the majority of the country relying heavily on the public transport system. In fact, according to the General Household Survey (GHS) for 2018, a total of 54 209 000 minibus/taxi trips take place in South African per month. 

Building on Visa’s experience working with transit operators, automotive companies and technology start-ups, Visa commissioned a global study, “The Future of Transportation: Mobility in the Age of the Megacity” to better understand the challenges commuters face today and in the future. The key findings were combined with a view of existing and near horizon innovations provided by experts at Stanford University, to better understand the technology gaps in addressing their pain points.

The South African Perspective

Payments lie at the heart of every form of travel, and will continue to become more integral as more cities move to contactless public transportation, digital payments for parking and rental services such as bikes or scooters.  Malijeng Ngqaleni, Deputy Director-General of the South African Inter-governmental Relations, states that a high as 60% of South African households spend on average of 20% of their monthly income on transport, while in rural areas this number can be as high as 31%.

Aside from cash-only payments, another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters. Over the last few years, a number of mobile-driven taxi-hailing apps have been launched in the South African market to counteract these concerns and commuters are open to the possibilities presented by mobile apps. The Visa study echoed this by showing that 77% of Johannesburg commuters and 76% of Cape Town commuters would be willing to try a consolidated app to make payments for public transport.

 Mike Lemberger, SVP, Product Solutions Europe, Visa says: “The future success of our cities is intertwined with – and reliant on – the future of transportation and mobility. Visa and our partners have an important role to play, both in streamlining the payment experience for millions of commuters around the globe, and supporting public transportation authorities in their quest to build sustainable and convenient transportation solutions that improve the lives of the people who use it.”

Herman Donner, PhD and Postdoctoral Researcher from Stanford University co-authored the report and summarised: “When looking across the technology landscape, there already exist many products that could easily address people’s daily frustrations with travel.  However, none of these solutions should be developed in isolation. A major challenge therefore lies in first identifying relevant technologies that provide suitable products for the market then managing implementation in conjunction with  a broad set of stakeholder including  mobility providers, technology companies, infrastructure owners and public transport agencies.  From our research, we think that many of these small, incremental changes have the potential to make a significant difference in people’s daily travel,  whether it’s to help find parking, get the best price to refuel their car or plan their journey on public transportation.”

Click here for the detailed global findings.

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Women take to tech, but more needed

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By HAIDI NOSSAIR, Marketing Director META, Dell Technologies

$12 trillion – that is the value in additional global GDP that remains locked behind the gender gap. This is according to the latest Women Matter report from McKinsey, which also reveals startling disparities in the workplace. Even though women make up more than half of the human population, only 37% contribute to GDP on average – and in some countries that proportion is significantly lower.

The reasons for this can be put in three areas. Fewer women – 650 million fewer than men – participate in the global labour force. Women are also more likely to be in part-time employment and thus work fewer hours. Finally, female employees are more common in lower-productivity sectors than in higher-productivity areas.  Are women not being offered the opportunity or are they holding themselves back?

Among STEM careers this ratio is particularly dismal: only 24% of engineering professionals are women, and as few as 19% of careers in ICT are filled by women.

What is the cause of this? Studies have found that women pursuing STEM careers are higher in countries with more oppressive policies towards women, because those careers hold the promise for financial freedom and more social autonomy. In contrast, countries with progressive attitudes towards women tend to produce fewer female STEM graduates. Then how can we encourage women from early ages to take the path of STEM education?  And how can organizations ensure women have equal opportunity at the hiring stages.

Certainly addressing gender inequality is crucial and must not stop.. Where women are increasingly more part of the workforce, there are often still barriers preventing them from assuming higher management roles. Female entrepreneurs often struggle more to gain investment capital. Corporate cultures are rarely aligned with the pressures of balancing work and family obligations. Decision makers may simply lack exposure to the potential of female candidates. Female pioneers have also argued that women are too risk-averse when compared to men. 

Whether these assertions are true is a matter for debate – and that’s exactly why every professional man and woman should be talking about them and identify action to change the status-quo. This is not just about female rights, but about social upliftment: companies with a mixture of male and female leaders perform better across the board and companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.

The digital economy we live in today represent a golden opportunity for increased women contribution to the workforce as technology breaks the boundaries of location and time for the workplace and where labor intensive jobs may today be performed by data scientists. 

For two days in March, top professionals will gather to talk and exchange ideas around creating more roles for women, larger appreciation for female professionals, as well as counter the attitudes among women holding them back from greater career success and autonomy.

If you want to be part of this conversation, join the Women in Tech Africa summit today at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town – learn more at https://www.women-in-tech-africa-summit.com/ and use the code DELL20 for a 20% discount.

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