Big Data is affecting companies of all sizes. However, many of them do not know how to properly mine important information it. Microsoft hopes to change this through an art exhibition that demonstrates how Big Data tools can be used to make sense of seemingly meaningless information.
Microsoft South Africa believes that the current South African business environment represents an important growth opportunity for the mining of data for firms seeking a competitive edge.
“Many people are talking about data becoming the new business currency,” says Kelly Husband, Microsoft South Africa’s Data Platform Product Marketing Manager. “Trending terms like Big Data, Internet of Things and Predictive Analytics are all buzz words in the market but the essence of what we are seeing is really the importance of data – existing data, new data, new insights from data, faster insights from data, and predictive analysis from data.”
Microsoft SA, through familiar technology tools such as Excel and SQL, is able to offer an unparalleled experience to businesses unlocking actionable insights with the ingestion and analysis of data.
Companies such as Tracker, a leading vehicle tracking company in South Africa, has been leveraging the data collected through the nodes in their customer database of vehicles to provide insights to organisations such as Navigation companies, Insurance companies, and Emergency Services.
“With the use of already installed vehicle tracking devices, we are able to track the live movements of vehicles around the country, segmenting the data down to the side-streets of the city we can predict traffic issues, map traffic incidents and even help define the state of the roads. The possibilities are endless to help organisations like to improve the quality of our roads or reroute emergency services to help improve emergency response time,” says Wayne De Nobrega CEO of Tracker South Africa.
“The impact that the analysis and understanding of the data on hand can have on business is already redefining the way businesses are operating in the country. Through the analysis and visualisation of the data, we have been able to effect change and impact the way we offer services to our customers and our partners.”
In order to showcase the evolving role of data in business Microsoft South Africa launched an art exhibition last night at the Mr Price Court in Sandton City, which showcases the work of six young artists. Artists were commissioned to create pieces of artwork that illustrated what Big Data means to them as well as the potential it possesses to boost a business’s performance and bottom line.
Through the use of the art exhibition, Microsoft South Africa hopes to educate businesses and consumers about the possibilities that could be unleashed with Big Data, how the information available through analysis has the potential to empower business and the consumer.
The art exhibition, on display at the Mr Price Court in Sandton City, will be open to the public for a two week period as of 19 June.
For the piece entitled Cloud, Kgosietsile Ramorola (20) used a mirror and light to illustrate how Big Data tools can be used to make sense of seemingly meaningless information. “My idea is to use light from the top to get the image that you are looking for. So the mirror works as a Microsoft tool, taking the image or information that’s at an awkward angle and displaying it on the wall in a clearer, bigger and easier to understand way.”
21 year old Njabulo Mziyane explains his train of thought when coming up with his artwork entitled Fly on the wall: “I thought of how much data is used every day and decided to amplify the amount of data, by taking something small and making it seem a lot bigger. With magnification as the tool, it demonstrates how a small amount of data can make a huge difference.”
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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.
The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.
On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.
Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.
While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.
Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.
Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager.
The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.
A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.
Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery
Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.
“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.
Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”
Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.
Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”
Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.
“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”
* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on email@example.com.