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How cloud speeds innovation

WILLIAM GIARD, CTO, IT Transformation, Data Center Group, Intel, explains how hybrid clouds provide a platform for application innovation.

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Cloud computing is one of those innovations that opened a door through which has flooded even more innovation. Originally, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings built on server and storage virtualization enabled rapid deployment of virtual servers. As IaaS has matured, though, it’s become clear that infrastructure virtualization—via public or private clouds—is simply step one in a longer journey that brings even greater benefits.

For a couple of months, I’ve been blogging about hybrid clouds—enterprise computing environments that seamlessly link a private cloud running in your own data centers to one or more public clouds. Today, I’d like to explain how hybrid clouds provide a platform for application innovation that promises to bring a new generation of apps that can deploy quickly, scale without bounds, and achieve resiliency that would take enterprises months and millions of dollars to create using traditional IT infrastructure approaches.

While IaaS provides self-service for IT infrastructure teams who can instantly respond to requests for new servers, progress immediately slows to a crawl as app teams provision the new server with the software infrastructure required by the applications—data base, Web server, application server, etc.—and then deploy the app itself. And because it is a different deployment platform, putting the app into production requires modifications to test and deployment processes and continuous integration and DevOps programs.

The corner that has been turned is that hybrid cloud-based infrastructure is bringing the benefits of cloud computing to application development teams by allowing them to develop apps without needing to provide for—or even know—the eventual deployment platform. Once developed, applications can be deployed into public clouds or into on-premises private clouds that share the same architecture, governance policies, development and deployment tools, and management and automation frameworks. And they can be redeployed as economics or business needs change.

That was the experience of Intel’s own IT organization when they implemented a private cloud within our data centers. They began by offering internal IaaS services and quickly fattened the platform by adding platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and database-as-a-service (DBaaS) to create a more standard app environment. They soon found, however, that they needed to completely change the way they thought about their computing environment. Rather than build the environment from the infrastructure up, they adopted an application–down approach that completely abstracted the infrastructure to enable an application stack that could deploy anywhere. The objective is every app running in the right place, where the right place is driven by the needs of the business.

Intel IT achieved infrastructure independence for its development teams using open source PaaS software designed to work across the entire app development lifecycle. It lets developers focus where they provide the most value—application functionality—rather than having to deal with the underlying infrastructure. To date, Intel IT has hosted more than 350 applications and 3,500 app instances on the new platform. By empowering developers, they improved time to market, reduced costs by 60 percent compared to IaaS services, and are operating at half the cost of public cloud services. They’re currently in the process of rationalizing a portfolio of 2,000 applications to determine which should remain in place, be re-hosted or redeveloped, replaced with SaaS solutions, or retired.

Application platforms built on cloud-native technology can bring benefits a traditional IT approach might take years to develop: Unlimited scalability, fault resilience, and dramatically reduced time to market. They let you achieve better architectural compliance for better governance and security and lower total cost of ownership.

The next wave of applications will be built on emerging cloud-native technology, but even now, solutions are available to let any enterprise take advantage of cloud-native application technology—often without even needing to redevelop the application. Solutions like Cloud Foundry, Stratoscale, VMware Cloud Foundation, and Red Hat OpenShift use container technology to allow apps to span your private cloud and an array of public clouds. And Microsoft Azure Stack* extends its cloud right onto your premises using the same cloud application platform used in its public offering.

What is clear is that the rate of innovation in the cloud is quickening, and it continues to evolve and transform. It’s becoming a platform for analytics, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and network transformation.

The majority of today’s modern cloud data centers—public and private—are powered by Intel Xeon processors, and our latest offering, the Intel Xeon Scalable Processor family, builds on that legacy and delivers new features for the cloud—helping you deliver secure and agile digital services. It enables a common processor architecture spanning low-power, 8-core systems for edge computing up to an 8-socket system comprising 224 cores and supporting 12 TB of memory—all optimized for compute, storage, or networking workloads. It’s one of the ways we’re working to help you on your journey to the transformed computing environment that will enable you to bring your own innovations to the market faster and cheaper.

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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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