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War on storage waste begins in Las Vegas

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It’s one of the great ironies of technology that, as computer storage becomes cheaper, companies spend more on it. That’s about to change, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK writes from Las Vegas.

Everything is bigger in Las Vegas, so there is a double irony in the news that the world’s leading computer storage company, EMC Corporation, chose its annual conference in this ostentatious city to declare war on what we may call storage ostentation.

At the opening of the EMC World conference yesterday, the company unveiled EMC Enterprise Copy Data Management (eCDM), which it describes as “new software that enables organisations to regain control of the spiraling costs of storing and managing multiple copies of the same data”.

That may sound technical, but it relates to a wasteful habit practised by almost anyone who ever saves a file on a computer. Because the cost of storage has plummeted in recent years, and no one thinks twice about saving space when saving files, the total cost of storage in organisations keeps going up.

EMC uses the term “snaps” to describe these lightweight and apparently zero-cost multiple copies of the same data. And it warns that the implications may not be felt in storage capacity in data centres, but will have a major impact on needless complexity and inefficiency. And that, in turn, carries a massive cost.

“Just as the ‘cc’ function in email can make it too easy to create data sprawl in the email inbox, unmonitored snaps can cause the same problem in the data center,” the company explained in a statement yesterday.

It quoted estimates by global analyst firm IDC that, by 2018, global businesses will waste $51-billion storing data on the wrong tier of storage, or storing data they no longer need. Because employees have to keep creating copies for anything from data protection to analytics, 82% of businesses now have at least 10 copies of any single instance of data.

As a direct response to the problem, eCDM was launched yesterday to streamline enterprises’ processes for monitoring, managing and analyzing such data.

“To modernise business processes, customers need a complete vision of all the data across the organization – no gaps, no silos, no misinformation,” said Beth Phalen, senior vice president of data protection and availability solutions in the Core Technologies division of EMC, yesterday.

“eCDM links together a complete picture of the copy data across a business from primary to protection storage, ensuring customers have the right copies of the right data in the right place. eCDM is the first product to bridge the gap between data protection and data management, addressing the pressing challenge of ensuring the right levels of protection while also addressing copy data sprawl; helping organisations dramatically reduce cost while increasing confidence that their data is protected consistently and completely.”

Then solution still allows “self-service” copy creation, but now brings governance to this generally overlooked corner of a company’s information management.

One of EMC’s clients presenting at the conference, First National Technology Solutions, which implements and manages large systems for major corporations, is one of the early users of the tool.

“We can now provide our customers with more insight into their data, empowering them to make informed decisions about what they’re storing and for how long,” says the company’s chief technology officer James O’Neil. “We expect this to help our customers to avoid data sprawl as well as monitoring protection compliance.”

And, of course, to control costs, and thus provide more competitive pricing.

The new software is one of a wide range of new products EMC is launching in Las Vegas, as it sets about reinventing not only storage, but also data centres that collectively host the cloud.

“The IT industry is in a state of massive transformation, resulting in both disruption and great opportunity,” said David Goulden, CEO of EMC’s Information Infrastructure division. “Every business leader, across every industry, is facing the dilemma of how to support and grow traditional IT infrastructure while modernising the data center in order to support the development of new applications and advance their digital agendas. Some are doing all of this simultaneously. The products and services announced today will help advance the customer’s journey to build a modern data center in order to thrive as a digital business.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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CES: Most useless gadgets

The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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