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Oracle ups its cloud game

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At Oracle OpenWorld 2017 in San Francisco this week, Oracle unveiled a revamped portfolio that added significant new capacity and capability to its Cloud Platform.

Thomas Kurian, Oracle president of product development, showcased new services and enhancements, with deep product knowledge, integration, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) built into every layer of the stack.

Kurian demonstrated several of these new services on stage, showing how customers can transform business with Oracle’s cloud services. Innovations spanning infrastructure, analytics, data management, and applications showcased in the session included:

  • Infrastructure as a Service: With built-in servers, storage, networking and supporting cloud services (such as load balancing and DNS), Oracle Cloud Infrastructure provides the foundation for customer innovation. As Kurian demonstrated in a number of scenarios, the platform was architected from the ground-up to provide the fastest compute, fastest GPUs, and fastest block storage to drive unmatched performance, predictability and lower costs for even the most intense enterprise workloads. Kurian also introduced new network capabilities including a Public Cloud Service offering 25 gigabit Ethernet to the host with a global scale elastic DNS Service.

Providing customers ultimate choice in how they deploy their architecture, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure enables customers to maintain visibility into their on-premises systems and extend them to the cloud. Kurian highlighted new developments in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure—including enhancements to Compute, Storage, Networking and edge capabilities—offering IT operations, developers and researchers infrastructure services optimized for production-ready enterprise applications.

  • Platform as a Service: Oracle’s PaaS offerings serve as the underlying foundation for developing, integrating, monitoring, securing and optimizing applications with newly built-in AI and machine learning powered tools. Kurian shared Oracle’s vision for the future of PaaS where software automatically learns, manages, tunes and scales to meet changing compute needs. Kurian also discussed the world’s first autonomous database cloud. Powered by the newly announced Oracle Database 18c, the next generation of its industry-leading database, Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud eliminates complexity, human error, and manual tuning, making it easy for customers to provision and operate databases with lower administration costs and freeing them up to focus on other critical business tasks. Also noted was the latest generation of Oracle Exadata (X7); new innovations in the Oracle Big Data Cloud Platform with new artificial Intelligence, data lake and data integration capabilities; and leading-edge new cyber security and systems management solutions.
  • Application Development Cloud Services: Oracle gives customers unparalleled choices when it comes to open source tools, programming languages, and data management platforms that meet desired price-performance needs. This enables customers to preserve existing investments and increase productivity, while eliminating costly learning curves and dramatically reducing integration costs. Kurian discussed major advancements to the Oracle Application Development Platform – highlighting how Oracle is making it even more open, modern and easy to use with container-native development and high scale, fully managed Docker and Kubernetes services; expanded polyglot support; and a new intelligent chatbot platform. He also showcased Oracle’s newly announced serverless computing offering. Based on open-source project Fn, the service helps customers reduce cloud infrastructure and management costs by only paying for the time their functions are running, and not for the entire time the cloud compute is on and sitting idle.
  • Software as a Service: Helping companies operate more intelligently and effectively—whether it’s closing the books, serving employees or engaging with customers—Oracle has built-in AI capabilities across its application suite. No matter what the business opportunity or issue, Oracle is the only vendor to offer customers a complete and connected application suite to run an entire business in the cloud. Offering intuitive UIs and embedded collaboration—amplified with new developments in machine learning, AI and Internet of Things (IoT) and chatbots connectivity—Oracle’s suite of cloud applications help customers better connect critical business functions and accelerate intelligent outcomes. Kurian highlighted new AI SaaS capabilities for finance, human resources, supply chain, marketing, commerce, sales and customer service professionals. He also demonstrated how companies can integrate core elements of the Oracle stack to transform business, such as building next-generation applications with built-in Blockchain capabilities.
  • Data as a Service: Powering Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Apps, Oracle Data Cloud enables them to learn, react and adapt in real time based on historical and dynamic customer data. This empowers marketers to quickly identify audiences, connecting their behaviors across devices and platforms—so they can deliver the right message, to the right customer—at the right time. Oracle Data Cloud, which is the largest data marketplace in the world, features a collection of more than 5 billion global consumer and business IDs and more than 7.5 trillion data points collected monthly.

Quotes from Thomas Kurian

  • “I am incredibly proud of the work our development organization has done these last 10 years to bring you the Oracle Cloud, and to introduce all these new innovations that we showed you today.”
  • “Over 10 years ago when we started building the Oracle Cloud, we had a very simple mission: we wanted any person anywhere in the world to be able to access and use our software. And all that they would need is an Internet browser or a phone.”
  • “Here at OpenWorld we’re going provide a glimpse of the future of Oracle and how we’re infusing new technology in autonomous computing, artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain and new forms of human interface into our cloud offerings.”
  • “We’re doing this to give you, our customers and developers, a canvas on which you can paint your vision and your ambitions and dreams, to use information technology in a new way, in a fundamentally new way, to transform your organization, your companies and the world.”
  • “We’re introducing amazing technology in the infrastructure layer. So you can get world-class infrastructure delivered to you through a browser.”
  • “The vision for platform-as-a-service was to eliminate the next barrier to technology adoption by our customers. And that was to eliminate all the mundane, manual labor that human beings needed to do in order to use Oracle technology.”
  • “Our vision for the human interface for applications is to become seamless for humans. No longer is it just web and mobile screens, but you could speak to the application. You can interact with it with messaging. You can take pictures and we can identify images, compare them with other things, and automate transactions.”

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Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon

On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

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Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.

“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.   In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.

A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.

David Noton advises:

  1. Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.  Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.

 

  1. Invest in a lens with optimal zoom  

On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.

  1. Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

  1. Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

  1. Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.  By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

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How Africa can embrace AI

Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.

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To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.

These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.

Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed

AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.

According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.

It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.

Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.

It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.

Combining STEM with the arts

Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.

As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.

For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.

“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.

Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.

Revisiting laws and regulation

For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.

Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.

Preparing for the future

With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.

To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.

It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.

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