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Today’s biz needs tomorrow’s tech

A business is a bit like a car: for all the design and research that goes into the development of an automobile to make it look visually appealing, the test of its innovation and capabilities comes from its engine, says IAN JANSEN VAN RENSBURG, VMware Senior Systems Engineer Manager, and the engine of a business is its network.



What’s underneath the hood of the car delivers the levels of performance, reliability and efficiency that enables the user to go from A to B – at the required speed they need it to. For businesses, their network is their engine. But continuing with this analogy, is a 1971 Morris Minor’s engine going to power a 2018 Audi TT?  No, and today’s hardware-based networks are not going to power today’s digital business.

The engine of the business

To paraphrase Henry Ford, if we were to keep designing faster hardware, we would be stuck with a network that has reached its physical limitations – it’s time we looked at something that can revolutionise a business’s ability to deliver better customer experiences. The network that got you to today is not the one that’s going to bring you forward. Powerful new applications have become the lifeblood of companies across all industries. Already, some global manufacturers can generate up to four petabytes of data a month through their day-to-day operations; intelligent vehicles produce two gigabytes of data for every 100 kilometres. 

Imagine if you’re a manufacturer looking for ways to be more efficient, or a logistics company with 1500 lorries, each averaging 500 kilometres a day; if you used your existing hardware infrastructure, you would be overwhelmed by the amount of data your operations generate, unable to identify, analyse or secure it, and missing the opportunity to use that data to innovate and grow. The key here is that data has little value. What organisations need is contextual information, the understanding of data.

It’s a challenge many are facing – 90% of organisations feel they are disadvantaged by the complexities of their network, and 82% experience network downtime (disruption) caused by manual errors, according to a report from Dynamic Markets. 

The problem is, it’s only going to grow. With a burgeoning mobile culture compounded by the emergence of IoT and edge computing, applications and data now reside everywhere – in the data center, in the cloud, at the branch and even in a sensor at the edge of the network. Currently, around 10% of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. By 2022, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 50% . More than this, how much of that data will remain human-generated?

From data centers to ‘centers of data’

It is the need to turn data into information which will be the foundation on which differentiated customer experiences, brand reputation and new business models are built. As such, the key imperative for any network must then be to provide business users with information at the point of demand. It must be delivered fast, securely and irrespective of the cloud it might have crossed, or the type of application. Even more critical it must be seamless to the device the person chose to be using. Today’s business is about consumer simple and human choice. How do we create this “enterprise secure productivity.”

The move from data centers to ‘centers’ of information is putting masses of pressure on the traditional network – largely because typical security solutions, which aren’t built into the infrastructure itself. By design this legacy doesn’t allow free, secure movement of data or enable the interpretation of it.

Today, security has to be so inherent that when breaches occur— and they always will — they can be automatically detected and compartmentalised, so any potential impact can be minimised. Imagine if a car manufacturer didn’t secure the data its intelligent vehicles transmitted – if someone could hack the vehicle, they would be putting the lives of not only the passengers and drivers, but those in vehicles around them, in grave danger, in real-time.

Yet the answer is not ’do not connect that car’, it is ‘connect that car in the appropriate way’.  Which immediately becomes a security question. However, leveraging a virtual cloud network where the scale of security, compute and storage is infinite means we can now enable the secure handling of data in real-time, with near-zero failure.

Simplifying, improving and strengthening

This new approach, the virtual cloud network, focuses on creating end-to-end connectivity and security to deliver business technology to the hands of the user, over any cloud, for any application type, any service and any transport; whether that’s a smart vehicle, a remote worker, a sensor in a wind farm in the North Sea – the applications are infinite. 

It essentially overlays cyber-hygiene over the traditional hardware layer by moving the intelligence that traditionally lived in hardware into software. This provides infinite scale and storage potential. At the same time, it allows organisations to quickly aggregate, automate and draw insight from their applications and data – so businesses can mine the most value out of their existing processes while maximising future business opportunities. 

That means a global manufacturer might automate the way it processes its data to identify ways to make its processes more efficient, or a logistics company can identify how its vehicles are performing, for example scheduling maintenance when it’s required, as opposed to by a calendar-based approach. 

This may seem like another vision of what technology might be able to do, but it’s more than that. Technology can do it today. The virtual cloud network is not just a vision but the platform for the future of networks. The only way businesses can operate in a digital world is by being able to respond to market conditions faster than the competition, provide employees with the tools for maximum productivity, all while maintaining the integrity of their operations – and ultimately brand.  A software-based approach provides this, offering application safety, an antidote to companies afraid to innovate, and the most impressive sand box for developers. Hardware cannot deliver that anymore – software can. 

An engine for innovation

Disruption due to brittle infrastructures and bolted-on security like those we have seen over the past decade cannot continue anymore, and businesses will need to embrace change to survive the “information economy”. By embracing the network for the future, and by taking what we do in the data center to the branch and the edge with intrinsic security built-in, businesses have the digital infrastructure needed to innovate, choose their next move, at speed, and focus on what they do best. 

The answer is always software. What was the question?



Queues and cash-only frustrate SA’s commuters

A new study by Visa reveals the success factors for improving travel and creating smarter cities



The use of cash-only payments was a frustration for 38% of Johannesburg commuters and 37% of Cape Town-based commuters, according to a new global study by Visa. Another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters.

Visa, in collaboration with Stanford University, came up with these findings in one of the largest global studies examining the growing demand for public and private transportation, and the important role digital commerce plays in driving sustainable growth.

According to the UN[i], by 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban centres – and the number of “megacities” with populations greater than 10 million people will rise from 43 today to 51 within that same period. South Africa is no different, with the majority of the country relying heavily on the public transport system. In fact, according to the General Household Survey (GHS) for 2018, a total of 54 209 000 minibus/taxi trips take place in South African per month. 

Building on Visa’s experience working with transit operators, automotive companies and technology start-ups, Visa commissioned a global study, “The Future of Transportation: Mobility in the Age of the Megacity” to better understand the challenges commuters face today and in the future. The key findings were combined with a view of existing and near horizon innovations provided by experts at Stanford University, to better understand the technology gaps in addressing their pain points.

The South African Perspective

Payments lie at the heart of every form of travel, and will continue to become more integral as more cities move to contactless public transportation, digital payments for parking and rental services such as bikes or scooters.  Malijeng Ngqaleni, Deputy Director-General of the South African Inter-governmental Relations, states that a high as 60% of South African households spend on average of 20% of their monthly income on transport, while in rural areas this number can be as high as 31%.

Aside from cash-only payments, another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters. Over the last few years, a number of mobile-driven taxi-hailing apps have been launched in the South African market to counteract these concerns and commuters are open to the possibilities presented by mobile apps. The Visa study echoed this by showing that 77% of Johannesburg commuters and 76% of Cape Town commuters would be willing to try a consolidated app to make payments for public transport.

 Mike Lemberger, SVP, Product Solutions Europe, Visa says: “The future success of our cities is intertwined with – and reliant on – the future of transportation and mobility. Visa and our partners have an important role to play, both in streamlining the payment experience for millions of commuters around the globe, and supporting public transportation authorities in their quest to build sustainable and convenient transportation solutions that improve the lives of the people who use it.”

Herman Donner, PhD and Postdoctoral Researcher from Stanford University co-authored the report and summarised: “When looking across the technology landscape, there already exist many products that could easily address people’s daily frustrations with travel.  However, none of these solutions should be developed in isolation. A major challenge therefore lies in first identifying relevant technologies that provide suitable products for the market then managing implementation in conjunction with  a broad set of stakeholder including  mobility providers, technology companies, infrastructure owners and public transport agencies.  From our research, we think that many of these small, incremental changes have the potential to make a significant difference in people’s daily travel,  whether it’s to help find parking, get the best price to refuel their car or plan their journey on public transportation.”

Click here for the detailed global findings.

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Women take to tech, but more needed



By HAIDI NOSSAIR, Marketing Director META, Dell Technologies

$12 trillion – that is the value in additional global GDP that remains locked behind the gender gap. This is according to the latest Women Matter report from McKinsey, which also reveals startling disparities in the workplace. Even though women make up more than half of the human population, only 37% contribute to GDP on average – and in some countries that proportion is significantly lower.

The reasons for this can be put in three areas. Fewer women – 650 million fewer than men – participate in the global labour force. Women are also more likely to be in part-time employment and thus work fewer hours. Finally, female employees are more common in lower-productivity sectors than in higher-productivity areas.  Are women not being offered the opportunity or are they holding themselves back?

Among STEM careers this ratio is particularly dismal: only 24% of engineering professionals are women, and as few as 19% of careers in ICT are filled by women.

What is the cause of this? Studies have found that women pursuing STEM careers are higher in countries with more oppressive policies towards women, because those careers hold the promise for financial freedom and more social autonomy. In contrast, countries with progressive attitudes towards women tend to produce fewer female STEM graduates. Then how can we encourage women from early ages to take the path of STEM education?  And how can organizations ensure women have equal opportunity at the hiring stages.

Certainly addressing gender inequality is crucial and must not stop.. Where women are increasingly more part of the workforce, there are often still barriers preventing them from assuming higher management roles. Female entrepreneurs often struggle more to gain investment capital. Corporate cultures are rarely aligned with the pressures of balancing work and family obligations. Decision makers may simply lack exposure to the potential of female candidates. Female pioneers have also argued that women are too risk-averse when compared to men. 

Whether these assertions are true is a matter for debate – and that’s exactly why every professional man and woman should be talking about them and identify action to change the status-quo. This is not just about female rights, but about social upliftment: companies with a mixture of male and female leaders perform better across the board and companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.

The digital economy we live in today represent a golden opportunity for increased women contribution to the workforce as technology breaks the boundaries of location and time for the workplace and where labor intensive jobs may today be performed by data scientists. 

For two days in March, top professionals will gather to talk and exchange ideas around creating more roles for women, larger appreciation for female professionals, as well as counter the attitudes among women holding them back from greater career success and autonomy.

If you want to be part of this conversation, join the Women in Tech Africa summit today at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town – learn more at and use the code DELL20 for a 20% discount.

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