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Apps demand more cloud

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F5 Networks’ Future of the Apps report, released at its recent EMEA conference in Barcelona revealed that the growing intelligence built into apps would make ever-greater demands on the cloud, writes SEAN BACHER.

“Nobody understands the cloud, it’s a f***ing mystery.” This quote from the Sex Tape movie staring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel may be true for some, but more and more more companies are beginning to understand the cloud and the benefits it offers.

This was made clear at F5 Network’s recent annual EMEA conference, where it presented its Future of the Apps report. The report revealed that apps are becoming more intelligent – thus requiring more resources and putting more of a strain on local networks, meaning that moving to the cloud is a logical step.

“As an app’s workload increases, or as it evolves and more people begin to use it, it can become unstable, often crashing and costing a company a fortune in downtime,” said Sangeeta Anand, senior vice president for product management and product marketing at F5 Networks

Moreover, many companies don’t have the resources to secure their apps properly and are leaving themselves open to vulnerabilities like ransomware, DDoS attacks and general hacking, which is continually evolving.

These are just a few reasons why moving to a public cloud environment or using a hybrid local/public cloud is beneficial.

“More than a fifth of the companies surveyed plan on running their applications and services in a cloud environment, with around 80 percent already using some sort of local/public hybrid cloud infrastructure,” said Anand.

New cloud services 

At the event, F5 Networks announced a range of new services to help companies make the cloud migration.

Until last week, said Anand, F5’s cloud services were limited to Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

“Many of our clients wanted more of a choice, so we have extended our service offerings to include Google Cloud, giving customers a good choice when deploying their apps to the public cloud.”

In addition to its Google Cloud integration, F5’s range of new cloud services make managing apps both locally and in a public cloud easy and secure.

Its Application Connector, for example, allows a company to deploy a locally hosted application to Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. It then allows one to load balance the app between the local app and the one in the cloud.

“Should a business’ local infrastructure start battling under the load, F5’s Application Connector creates a secure connection to the hosted version, balancing out the load and ensuring that the app continues to run, no matter how resource intensive it is,” said Anand.

The hybrid setup also ensures redundancy, and with the Application Connector in place, should changes to an app need to be made, they only need to be made in one place.

“Security is top of our checklist when helping clients deploy to the cloud, and we have noticed many businesses have disparate security systems protecting various parts of their network, making it difficult to stay on top of security.”

F5’s services offer a holistic overview on their apps – both locally and in the public, she said. “For instance, when the WannaCry campaign was discovered, it was imperative to find the vulnerability, patch it and stop it from spreading any further. Our services allowed clients to do this quickly and rest assured that the virus had not spread to any other services or products.”

Security is just one driver of cloud adoption

“We have noticed that many companies are not happy with a single cloud deployment any more,” she said. “They want to offer their services and application across multiple clouds which makes deployment very difficult as each public cloud provider runs a different framework.”

F5 Networks has launched cloud solution templates for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. The templates simplify and automate most of the deployment, ensuring that all security measures are met and that the application remains stable, regardless of which cloud hosts it.

“With these services and product offerings, we aim to take the mystery out of the cloud and make it easy and cost effective for companies of all sizes to make the move.”

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TikTok looks for SA talent

The fast-rising short-video platform has launched a #PickMe campaign to discover local stars.

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TikTok, which claims to be the world’s leading destination for short-form videos, launches its first PickMe campaign, an effort to discover creative talents and provide a stage to express themselves in South Africa. Starting March 1, TikTok kicked off a month-long search through participants’ 15-second videos under hashtag #PickMe.

TikTok says it is committed to investing in South Africa and discovering the local talents. The PickMe campaign is supported by its local partners like Huawei, MTV Base and Digify Africa.

Local stars, including comedian and singer Lasizwe and singer Nadia Jaftha, have joined the campaign and called for users to show their talents on TikTok.

There are 5 categories of video shooting in the campaign, namely dance, acting, comedy, singing and cosmetics. Participants need to shoot a 15-second video using TikTok using #PickMe and tag @tiktok_africa to participate in the challenge. The finalists will be selected based on their video performance. The most popular and talented participants will have the chance to win prizes like Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphones, a day at MTV Base, and a once-off-presenter opportunity and attendance at an intensive video production workshop delivered by Digify Africa.

“TikTok has definitely evolved into something that everyone loves and uses. It’s given creators a space to create more unique content and also help the creator gain a whole new kind of fan base, ” says Preven Reddy, Imbewu The Seed TV-star and Megazone radio host who is also a TikTok user.

Says TikTok video creator Mihlali Nxanga: “As a young South African working towards being in the entertainment industry, TikTok has given me the platform to grow my following tremendously. Within 6 months, my fan base has grown by a whopping 90 000, and not only from South Africa, but the whole world. For me, TikTok is not just a content platform, it is a global community.”

The campaign will wrap up on March 31. The list of the finalist will be announced in the app and on official Instagram @tiktok_southafrica. For more information, please visit the TikTok app.

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Rugby fan experience transformed by digital platform

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The South African Rugby Federation has embraced digitalisation as a key enabler of its strategic aspirations. It has worked with Accenture to transform fan engagement for Springbok supporters with the launch of a digital fan platform.

“Digital technology and social media have transformed how modern fans watch, support and engage with their favourite teams,” says SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “To maintain our relevance amid this new market dynamic, and grow our fan base, we’ve acknowledged the vital need to digitally transform our organisation.”

Wayne Hull, managing director for Accenture Digital in Africa, says: “SA Rugby’s ambition to pivot to a more fan-centric strategy requires digital design, content, platforms and insights because modern consumers, including loyal Springbok supporters, engage predominantly via mobile digital channels and expect hyper-personalised experiences.”

Accenture Digital’s development process started with quantitative and qualitative research, which informed the user experience (UX) design guidelines and content strategy for the digital fan engagement platform.

“To know what fans want, we needed to understand the fans themselves,” says Hull. “The Accenture Digital team mined the research data and identified multiple fan ‘personas’, which all have different content consumption, platform functionality and engagement preferences.”

The platform development team focused on three critical elements to meet these requirements – the customer experience (CX), the engagement engine and cloud-based deployment.

“To deliver a memorable and engaging CX, Accenture Digital leveraged leading digital experience software,” says Hull. “The result is a fully integrated and responsive platform that creates seamless, personalised digital fan experiences across SA Rugby’s content, commerce and digital marketing initiatives in a manner that makes fans feel recognised and connected to the players and the game.”

The new platform will serve as the first point of call for any rugby fan who wants to get their data fix with exclusive statistics, analytics and insights. The platform’s content style will include more visual elements – videos and images – with more concise articles that are easier to digest, in accordance with evolving content consumption preferences on mobile screens. This will complement long-form thought leadership and insight pieces. 

In addition, fans will enjoy exclusive access to player-related content, such as behind-the-scenes footage and game and training performance stats. SA Rugby will also benefit from the ability to track comments and mentions via the Sitecore analytics platform Accenture Digital implemented, to respond and engage in the conversations Springbok fans are having on social media about the game, the teams or the players.

To do this, SA Rugby required a consolidated view of the customer. However, data resided in disparate sites across ticketing providers and SA Rugby’s e-commerce and online magazine databases. This information will be consolidated into the CRM system, with multiple integration points available to leverage this data.

The CRM system’s functionality will help to reveal insights such as fan communication preferences and their likes and dislikes, which will place hyper-relevance at the core of SA Rugby’s fan experience and engagement strategy.

 The final element in the platform development was cloud deployment, which allows fans to access the platform from any device that has an internet connection. The platform is hosted within the Microsoft Azure environment, which is stable, secure and fully redundant. It gives SA Rugby the flexibility to manage the platform themselves, with the option to integrate or scale additional functionality down the line.

Based on the outcome, Hull believes that Accenture Digital has successfully reimagined, built and delivered a world-class, modern and mobile-friendly digital fan platform that creates a fun, immersive and engaging experience for fans.

“It’s a major step towards helping SA Rugby realise its ambition to become a fan-centric, forward-looking and nimble organisation, and we look forward to building and developing the platform further with the team as their digital fan engagement requirements evolve,” says Hull

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