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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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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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