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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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IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines

Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.

“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”

Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.

“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”

Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.


“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”

The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.

“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”

The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.

“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”

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Oracle leads in clash of
e-commerce titans

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Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews. 
The three vendors received the following citations:

  • Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search. 
  • Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
  • IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.

The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.

“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group. 

“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”

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