Enterprise stores on average 50 per cent of their data in branch offices, to which they dedicate half of their total IT budget. In practice, this means half of the IT organisations are using outdated methods of operation, writes ELKHAYAT, REGIONAL of Riverbed Technology.
Today’s enterprises store on average 50 per cent of their corporate data in branch offices, to which they dedicate half of their total IT budget. In practice, this means half of today’s IT organisations are using outdated methods of operation which, in addition to being costly and complex to manage, limit IT’s ability to proactively respond to businesses’ ever-changing needs, prevent security breaches, and recover from unplanned outages.
As a result, some organisations are taking a new approach to branch IT, in order to improve system performance and resiliency, ensure reliable data backups, and greatly reduce operating expenses. While equipping edge locations has traditionally been all about infrastructure — the hardware, routers and switches, backup systems, and software that are there to make employees as productive as possible — enterprises are asking themselves what it takes to manage their remote locations efficiently. What are the operational costs associated with their infrastructure? How is employee productivity affected by their decisions?
To answer these questions, organisations should review the following checklist, which includes items relating to:
· Infrastructure: What are the key traits of a modern edge infrastructure?
· Operations: What are the costs associated with managing edge infrastructure?
· Business needs: How can organisations maximise their return on investment?
To ensure secure and efficient IT in remote offices and branch offices (ROBO), organisations should ensure the following when planning their infrastructure:
1. Ensure compute is separate from data: Modern infrastructure separates compute, which should remain at the edge, from data storage, which should be centralised. This approach yields a stateless edge and eliminates many operational challenges and costs.
2. Centralise data storage: Organisations should store 100 per cent of their company data in the datacentre where it can be managed and protected. From there, it can be projected to the edge on an as-needed basis. This removes sensitive information from vulnerable remote locations, and gives IT teams far more control over the data.
3. Centralise backup: Edge-based backup can be expensive and error-prone. Instead, data backups should be centralised in the datacentre, and be automated and continuous. This will ensure backups are reliable and efficient, while significantly reducing costs.
4. Optimise the WAN: Wide area network (WAN) optimisation helps further streamline branch infrastructure by accelerating branch user applications and data traffic across the optimal networks at the lowest cost. As WANs are notoriously unreliable and do not offer protection against the creation of localised pockets of systems and information stores, organisations should implement the use of specialised tools that enable the convergence of IT systems and applications with WAN optimisation technologies. In this way, they will achieve maximum performance across distance.
5. Encrypt all data: To help protect against cyber threats, all company data should automatically be encrypted at both when it’s at rest (both in branch offices as well as in datacentres) and when it is being transported back and forth.
IT teams need to be able to quickly provision and manage edge infrastructure in a timely and cost-effective way. They can achieve this by ensuring the following:
6. Carry out fast provisioning: The IT team should be able to update edge locations with new applications and features, and provision a new edge location from the organisation’s central datacentre in minutes — without costly and time-consuming onsite visits.
7. Ensure fast ROBO recovery: When an unplanned outage occurs, rapid recovery is a must to keep business operations up and running. So that operations resume in minutes or hours and with minimal loss of working data, IT needs to be able to initiate the recovery process from the datacentre.
8. Protect data: From an operational point of view, data encryption should be available at rest and in motion, and backups should be affordable, automatic, centralised, and continuous.
9. Manage storage in the cloud: So as to avoid excessive storage costs and operational overhead, organisations should eliminate storage in edge locations, making them stateless edges. A good way to achieve this is by taking advantage of cloud storage’s low costs.
In order to satisfy infrastructure related business needs, organisations need to ask themselves several questions: Does their infrastructure help them stay competitive and act quickly in the face of changing markets? Can the business satisfy customers’ needs around the clock? How can the organisation get products to market faster? How does your infrastructure investment drive business ROI?
10. Keep employees productive: IT can contribute to increasing employees’ productivity by enabling them to access applications, updated data and information, any time, any place.
11. Achieve business continuity: If a disaster strikes, IT should be able to quickly recover data and applications. The team should also have the tools needed to shift operations to a different region without much loss of time or data.
12. Make the business agile: The organisation’s infrastructure should let the business respond to changing market conditions by quickly provisioning users with new applications and features. It should also provide the ability to quickly open new locations in order to take advantage of new opportunities.
With remote offices and branch offices playing a crucial role in modern business, today’s enterprises have entered a new era with new technologies and new thinking about edge IT investments. In order to achieve operational cost savings, rapid service deployment, and instant recovery — all while providing unmatched data protection — IT needs to understand what’s happening across the business and act accordingly. By ensuring that the right tools and processes are in place, organisations can ensure the security, resilience and flexibility they need to meet today’s business needs.
Smart home arrives in SA
The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.
The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.
The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.
The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.
The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.
My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.
Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.
Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?
These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.
Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.
Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.
Matrics must prepare for AI
By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.
Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.
With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.
Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.
Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist.
So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?
For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.
In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.
This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.
In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.
As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.
This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.
The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.