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Short shift to cloud

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Migrating to the cloud doesn’t have to be a complex task anymore. KABELO MAKWANE, MD of Accenture South Africa’s Cloud First business, explains the ‘Lift and shift approach’.

‘Lift-and-shift’ – the classic approach to cloud migration – means this: take all your existing IT structures, procedures and applications and transfer them to the cloud.

On paper, such an approach seems sensible. Yet, while cloud migration may mean the benefit of eliminating physical hardware infrastructure on the IaaS layer, transferring needless complexity elsewhere can in fact cause a business’s total cost of ownership on the cloud to escalate. More broadly, the speed and effectiveness of any cloud migration is highly ecosystem-dependent; the application landscape forms only one part.

The reason is the amplifying effect of the cloud. Poorly designed or inefficient IT operating models have their flaws emphasised by the as-a-service paradigm. On one hand, this means that if businesses haven’t designed an efficient service management model or built their application sets with an eye on leanness, they may end up spending more to maintain those functions in the cloud. Other ecosystem areas – including governance and management – also require an expert guiding hand when it comes to cloud pivots.

All businesses are likely to witness a degree of change in their IT operating models when undertaking a migration. For one, cloud changes the way people operate within an IT environment. Because of the high degree of automation within the cloud, for example, people are both freed up and required to work at a higher order, both in terms of IT ops and administration.

Given this consideration and others, enterprises need to assess how fast and to what extent they want to rotate to the cloud. Will it be full-on ERP in the cloud? Full CRM in the cloud with mobility? Partial? The growing impetus for enterprises to forward integrate using cloud services is a related consideration. Indeed, the trend is coming to demand increasing attention.

Consider the near-ubiquity of self-service banking apps. Today, we’d say that a financial services provider without one belongs in the stone age. And yet banking apps have been a relatively recent development. Healthcare is seeing similar developments with the rise of wearable tech. The industry is likely to witness the same level of forward integration, requiring consumers to take some degree of responsibility in terms of managing their own health and wellness.

When it comes to the application-level changes cloud-minded businesses undergo during migration, natively cloud apps will be those requiring the least remediation. Others will likely require more rationalisation and consolidation. Hearkening back to the concept of leanness, enterprises often have a large real estate of custom applications spun out by IT over time. Performing analysis and due diligence on the application landscape before a migration is key. Migrations present a good opportunity to do a little spring cleaning.

Integration layers – what we used to call ‘middleware’ – are key here, yet the area has also witnessed something of an overhaul. There are still middleware players – they haven’t gone away; they have just reinvented themselves. When it comes to modernising applications, containerisation allows for application migration without full reengineering. From a DevOps perspective, tools such as Kitkat and Cucumber can help with rewriting applications so that they become cloud ready.

Another key aspect of the migration ecosystem is governance. The sphere may be easy to overlook, yet business need to ask themselves key questions: ‘Do we have a governance model for operating in the cloud? Does it extend to security, risk and identity management?’ In this line, a concept known as shared responsibility is gaining traction. The approach means that enterprises cannot negate their responsibility to secure their applications and data, even if the cloud is more secure than their existing on-premise environment. It’s about a joint effort.

A final ecosystem component is that of cloud service brokerage. Businesses’ habits of consuming federated IT infrastructures and application environments haven’t gone away. Interest in engaging multiple providers is still driven, in some cases, by organisations shying away from vendor lock-in. Alternatively, enterprises may buy different applications for different purposes, informed by their strategy.

When it comes to consuming federated or disparate environments, businesses often require some level of service brokerage. So there is an emerged discipline – within hyperscale cloud particularly – wherein specific boutique outfits are now building brokerage capabilities. The result is that organisations can consume from multiple cloud types on their own terms.

At the broadest level, to be able to fully realise the promise of cloud in terms of speed, efficiency, cost effectiveness, scale and optimisation, capable oversight is required. The result is that cloud management platforms have emerged – many hyperscale cloud providers are now building management capabilities onto their offerings.

AWS’s EC2 platform for example has seen ongoing investment to natively embed functions around identity management and application integration in the cloud and Microsoft Azure Cloud also sees heavy investment in this area as well in order to build native capability. By embedding such tools, it becomes far easier for businesses to deploy cloud applications as extensive knowledge of middleware and integration tools are no longer required.

In sum, effective, cost-effective cloud migration depends on thoughtful deployment on a host of levels – applications, governance, management and brokerage among them. In short, it’s all about leveraging the ecosystem.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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