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Intel goes partly cloudy

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Intel has announced a range of new technologies, investments and industry collaborations aimed at making it easier to deploy scalable clouds so businesses can deliver new services faster and drive revenue growth.

Businesses want flexibility and choice in cloud deployment models to support innovation while maintaining control of their most strategic assets. Despite a willingness to invest in modern software-defined infrastructure (SDI), businesses find the prospect of doing so themselves to be complex and time-consuming.

Intel is easing the path with new processors, solid state drives and a range of industry collaborations to help businesses deliver new services at the scale and speed previously found only in the most advanced public clouds.

“Enterprises want to benefit from the efficiency and agility of cloud architecture and on their own terms – using the public cloud offerings, deploying their own private cloud, or both,” said Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Centre Group. “The result is pent-up demand for software-defined infrastructure. Intel is investing to mature SDI solutions and provide a faster path for businesses of all sizes to reap the benefits of the cloud.”

Key Ingredients for the Modern Cloud

SDI is the foundation for the most advanced clouds in the world. It makes the delivery of cloud services faster and more efficient by dynamically allocating the required compute, storage and network resources through intelligent software, carefully orchestrating the delivery of applications and services on-demand and across many users.

The Intel Xeon® processor E5-2600 v4 product family, built on 14nm process technology, provides the key ingredients for SDI including Intel Resource Director Technology, which enables customers to move to fully automated SDI-based clouds with greater visibility and control over critical shared resources like processor caches and main memory. The result is intelligent orchestration and improved utilisation and service levels.

The new product family delivers improved performance for cloud tasks with more than 20 percent more cores and cache than the prior generation, supports faster memory, and includes other integrated technologies for accelerating a wide range of server, network and storage workloads. Security enhancements like workload isolation, security policy enforcement and faster cryptography have been added to help protect data more effectively.

For fast and reliable data access to the cloud, Intel unveiled new solid state drives (SSDs) optimised for the Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v4 family, enterprise storage and cloud deployments. The Intel SSD DC P3320 and P3520 Series are the first Intel SSDs to use the industry’s highest density 3D NAND technology to provide users with a highly efficient, dense storage solution. The DC P3320 offers up to a 5-times performance boost compared to SATA-based SSDs.

The new Intel SSD DC D3700 and D3600 Series are Intel’s first dual-port PCI Express SSDs using the Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) protocol. The dual-port design provides critical redundancy and failover, safeguarding against data loss in mission-critical storage deployments. Customer systems using the D3700 can see up to a 6-times increase in performance over today’s dual-port SAS solutions.

Unleashing Tens of Thousands of New Clouds

As part of the Intel Cloud for All initiative, Intel is investing in others in the industry to accelerate SDI-enabled clouds, optimising key technologies, and aligning the industry to drive the development of standards and easy-to-deploy cloud solutions.

·         Intel is collaborating with CoreOS and Mirantis to bring together two of the most popular open source technologies to orchestrate container and virtual machine-based applications. The merging of these two technologies into a single solution will simplify choices for cloud operators to accelerate the adoption of cloud solutions.

·         Intel and VMware announced a network of Centres of Excellence aimed at accelerating cloud deployments. The centres will drive custom optimisations, facilitate proof-of-concept testing and integrate cybersecurity best practices in collaboration with The National Institute of Standards and Technology.

·         Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and Intel announced the world’s largest cloud application testing cluster for applications “born in the cloud.” The cluster will include more than 1,000 Intel Xeon processor-based server nodes designed to provide developers with the opportunity to test applications at larger scales and deliver the efficiency and portability of cloud native applications to businesses.

·         Intel is expanding its Cloud Builders programme to include SDI use cases and accelerate ecosystem optimisation efforts that allow customers to take full advantage of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) orchestration and automation. The new Storage Builders programme also aims to accelerate the industry’s use of cloud-ready, next-generation storage solutions by fostering greater innovation by matchmaking between in the cloud ecosystem. Intel currently has more than 300 member companies across its cloud, storage and network “builders” programmes.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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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.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

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.

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