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vCloud Air targets disasters

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VMware has announced enhanced disaster recovery and advanced networking services for VMware vCloud Air.

VMware also announced the general availability of vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand, which provides customers a quick online sign-up to pay for only those resources that are used. As part of the general availability of vCloud Air OnDemand, VMware introduced a new program to make it easier for customers to have the predictable billing of a subscription, but only pay for cloud resources consumed with a new Subscription Purchasing Program.

“Public cloud is a part of every VMware client’s view of the future because it helps them move faster and get far greater value for money from their IT Infrastructure,” said Bill Fathers, executive vice president and general manager, Cloud Services Business Unit, VMware. “VMware vCloud Air provides our clients with these benefits for both new and existing applications. The service enhancements announced today reflect strong client interest in a public cloud platform compatible with existing vSphere environments.”

Simple, affordable cloud disaster recovery
One of the most compelling use cases for hybrid cloud is a simpler model for disaster recovery and business continuity. IT has become the lifeblood of most businesses, and any disruption to IT systems can lead to lost revenue, missed opportunity, and competitive disadvantage. VMware vCloud Air Disaster Recovery delivers cost-effective, flexible and simple disaster recovery for business continuity planning.

VMware vCloud Air Disaster Recovery can be implemented in less than an hour and replicates virtual machines and data to vCloud Air, providing a warm-standby virtual data centre in the event of a disaster. Customers choose vCloud Air for disaster recovery because it requires zero changes to the existing virtualised environment, and because vCloud Air supports all the operating systems and applications they run today – without conversions. The new capabilities include:

·         Native failback support – Customers will now have an easier way to resume normal data centre operations in their primary data centre following a failover to vCloud Air. Customers will be able to replicate workloads back from vCloud Air to the primary customer environment over the network to resume normal operations.

·         Multiple recovery points – Customers will have the option to roll back to multiple earlier snapshots of their data centre environment. This is vital to recover from outages caused by data corruption, viruses or hacking attacks that compromise the most recent recovery point.

·         Self-service automation – Customers will be able to define and deploy recovery playbooks to streamline failover operations using a new vRealize Orchestrator DR plug-in, open source DR Command Line Interface (CLI) and an expanded REST API.

New VMware vCloud advanced networking services
VMware vCloud Air advanced networking services, powered by the VMware NSX network virtualisation platform, will enable customers to achieve unprecedented security and isolation in a public cloud. VMware will deliver the following benefits to customers:

·         Fine-grained network security groups and isolation – Customers can define security groups that provide stateful network traffic isolation without requiring multiple virtual networks. Unique to the public cloud market, this enables a “zero trust” security model designed to prevent insiders and intruders from gaining full network access if an application or virtual machine is compromised. It also dramatically simplifies network configuration and is implemented as a distributed firewall, so there is no network traffic bottleneck.

·         Dynamic Routing – VMware vCloud Air will support both Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) based routing to simplify network integration between on-premises and cloud-based environments, allowing for redundancy and continuity in cloud-hosted application deployment. It drives down networking and administration costs.

·         Additional vCloud Advanced Networking Services – Expanded network scalability up to 200 endpoints, enhanced VPN support for point to site connectivity and enhanced load balancing with support for HTTPS.

Instant access to vCloud Air
VMware vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand allows customers to sign up online for immediate access, and pay-as-you-go with a credit card or purchase agreement. Individuals get $300 of free service when they sign up, making tests, proof-of-concepts and application deployments risk free. There is no upfront resource commitment and no upfront cost. Charges will be incurred as the resources are consumed (metered by the minute) and billed on a monthly basis.

“VMware vCloud Air OnDemand allows us a cost effective way of ramping up our development efforts outside of our vCloud Air production environment,” says Jeff Wilson, Director IT at Nevro.

Subscription purchasing program
The VMware Subscription Purchasing Program (SPP) will combine regular, predictable billing for cloud service with the complete flexibility for customers to use any cloud service and only pay for what they use. Customers will be able to create an SPP fund with either a single pre-payment today, or regular monthly installments starting in the second half of 2015. Customers gain a volume discount based on the amount committed. They then spend their fund by consuming cloud services, just paying for what they need and topping up the fund as necessary. Initially, SPP supports all vCloud Air services, including vCloud Air OnDemand, as well as Horizon Air.

Pricing and availability
·         VMware vCloud Virtual Private Cloud Air OnDemand is available immediately. Pricing starts at $0.17/hour for a VM with 8 GB of RAM and 2 vCPU.

·         The new capabilities for VMware vCloud Air Disaster Recovery are expected to be available in Q1 2015.

·         Advanced networking services will be available in vCloud Air in the first half of 2015.

 

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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