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Where the cloud rises next

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A few years ago organizations around the world were discussing their migration to the cloud. Now that many of them have moved over what is next? ERIK ZANDBOER, Advisory Specialist EMEA at Dell EMC, shares his thoughts on where the cloud market is headed.

Go back a few years and cloud was very different. It mainly existed in name, hanging on the lips of vendors and the IT channel. Today that has flipped nearly 180 degrees…

“When we started talking about cloud, we spoke about the journey to the cloud. Everyone wanted to get there and nobody knew how. There were all kinds of definitions for cloud. Many people built things they called cloud, but it wasn’t cloud at all. Nowadays we see a shift. It’s the complete opposite. Customers are actually pulling for features. Now we hear ‘Why can’t you support X, because that’s simple.’ Initially we dragged customers, now they are dragging us!”

So says Erik Zandboer, Advisory Specialist EMEA at Dell EMC. While visiting South Africa, he shared his views on where the cloud market stands and is headed.

Cloud is quickly becoming the baseline for current and future technology investment and the reason is simple: cloud represents the rapid commoditization of IT infrastructure. The combination of distributed computing and high-speed connectivity is drastically reducing the cost of raw bit-crunching power, diminishing barriers of entry to such a degree that participating on a cloud platform is the equivalent of a personal (and affordable) supercomputer. Cloud is to industrial-scale computing what the smartphone is to the desktop computer. As a result anyone who wishes to remain relevant are building their applications and solutions in the cloud.

Fortunately the business is not ignorant and many large companies are already exploring the next stages of cloud adoption:

“They are looking at this cloud native stuff. It looks very promising and interesting. It’s way easier to deploy anywhere. You can deploy services to multiple clouds and just connect them together. As long as the microservices can find each other over the network, the application will work. That’s a whole other mode of operation and a lot of companies are willing to go in that direction. There are a lot of questions around Openstack, cloud native, devops and such things.”

Companies are starting to take ownership of this new methodology, jumping between their own exclusive private clouds and robust public clouds as project requirements change:

“We see companies that do development in their private data centres, and when they need to scale it out, they go to a public provider. We also see other companies do the exact opposite: developing in Amazon or similar, because it is so easy and flexible, then running their production on private cloud because most of the time it’s cheaper.”

Eventually workloads – the live versions of apps and data – will dynamically shuttle between various clouds, finding the best and most cost-effective platform for the job. Zandboer says this is already happening with VMware solutions:

“We see that with vCloud Air. You move your workload with very limited downtime from on-premise to off-premise and the other way around. There are complications: you need a low latency, high bandwidth network. The moment you move your workload, it needs to work. So there are a lot of implications. But VMWare is making great strides there.”

Zandboer is confident that in a few years this type of automation will be widespread. Companies will finally get rid of the headache of IT infrastructure they don’t need: “That would be very cool: to have a cloud marketplace and your workloads bound to SLAs, and a system looking at the SLA and the app, assigning the cloud that matches and is cheapest. That’s the ultimate dream for many.”

We aren’t there yet, which is why companies such as VMware and Dell EMC focus on creating seamless hardware and software environments. But that is the future of cloud: a world where infrastructure is irrelevant and the performance of business applications are all that matter.

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Security gets an upgrade – with a few glitches

Video doorbells are all the rage in the USA. Can they work in South Africa? SEAN BACHER tries out the Ring Video DoorBell 2 and Floodlight Cam.

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IP cameras have become synonymous with both business and home security. They are readily available, fairly inexpensive and, in many cases, easy to install.

Many are wireless, allowing one to place the camera anywhere within Wi-Fi range. As a result, they are a solution that can be customised to suit any type of security situation.

A world leader in doorbell security, Amazon subsidiary Ring, has recently extended its range of security devices, which now includes doorbells, floodlights, and Wi-Fi extenders, all designed to enhance and complement existing security beams and electric fences.

First up is the Ring Video DoorBell 2

It doesn’t look much like your normal intercom system, except for the miniature eye that keeps track of mischief that may be happening.  

Setting up is fairly easy. All one needs to do is connect it to the network by pushing the connect button, create an account on the downloaded smartphone app and get started with customisation and certification. Features like sensitivity, alerts, and numbers where these alerts need to be sent can all be preprogrammed. It is then just a matter of positioning the doorbell to get the best video coverage.

Getting the correct position may take some time, though, as cars and pedestrians may set it off. 

Next up is the Floodlight Cam

This works much the same as the doorbell. However, it needs to be mounted to a wall. Ring has you covered there: in the box you will find drill bits, screws and even a screwdriver to help you secure the camera. 

You will have to set alerts, phone numbers, and sensitivity. The spotlight allows you to change what time it should light up and shut down, and the package also includes an alarm, should its beams be broken.

Although this all sounds good, there are a few drawbacks to the Ring solutions. Firstly, unlike the United States, where doorbells are stuck in the vicinity of a front door, allowing them to connect to a network easily, many houses in South Africa have gates that need to be opened before one can reach the front door. This means that the bells are on or near the gate, and they are unable to connect to a home or business network.

Now, however, Ring has launched a Wi-Fi extender, but this requires an additional set-up process – and a fairly expensive one, considering the camera cost.

The Ring devices come with Protection Plans that automatically upload any triggered recordings to the cloud, allowing you to view them at a later stage. This trial period only lasts for 30 days, after which the plans can be extended from R450 for a three month period, up to R1 500 for a twelve-month period.

In practice

The attention to detail in the packaging and the addition of the tools really does put the Ring in a class of its own. No short cuts were taken in its design, and you can immediately see that it’s no rip-off. However, the Protection Plans need to be looked at carefully in terms of their costs.

Aside from this challenge, I found the devices very handy inside my house. For instance, a few times my external alarm or fence would sound, at which stage I would get a notification from my armed response – while I was away. But I easily logged in to Ring from my phone to check if anything strange was happening – all in a matter of seconds and while I was sitting all the way in Berlin.

The devices are rather expensive, though, with the Video Door Bell starting at R3 500 and going up to R7 990, and the Floodlight Cam going for R5 000. It all adds up quickly.

The cost means these solutions may not be quite ready for the South African consumer looking for a complete external perimeter security system.

Despite the Protection Plans, I did find them very handy inside my house. For instance, a few times my external alarm or fence would sound, at which stage I would get a notification from my armed response.

But, I easily logged in to Ring from my phone to check if anything strange was happening – all in a matter of seconds and while I was sitting all the way in Berlin.

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It’s not a ‘techlash’ – it’s a ‘tech clash’

By RORY MOORE, Innovation Lead, Accenture South Africa

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People’s love for technology has let businesses weave it, and themselves, into our lives, transforming how we work live and interact in this new world which we at Accenture are referring to – in our Tech Vision 2020 – as the “post-digital era.” But now we are being held back.

At a time when people see the potential of embracing technology more deeply into their lives, systems and services built for a old era are not supporting where people want to go. The next five years will see radical transformation as technology is realigned to better reflect people’s needs and values.

We look at the latest emerging trends that will transform how we live in work in this fundamentally different post-digital world.
Tech trend 1: “The I in experience” – helping people choose their own adventure

The next generation of technology-driven experiences will be those that make the user an active participant in creating the experience. Businesses are increasingly looking to personalise and individualise experiences to a greater degree than ever before, but are faced with stricter data regulations and users that are wary of services being too invasive. To address this, leading businesses are changing the paradigm and making choice and agency a central component of what they deliver.

Tech trend 2: “Artificial intelligence (AI) and me” – reimagining business through human and AI collaboration

Businesses will have to tap the full potential of AI by making it an additive contributor to work, rather than a backstop for automating boring or repetitive tasks. Until now, enterprises have been using AI to automate parts of their workflows, but as AI capabilities grow, following the old path will limit the full benefit of AI investments, potentially marginalise people, and cap businesses’ ability for growth. Businesses must rethink the work they do to make AI a generative part of the process. To do so, they will have to build new capabilities that improve the contextual comprehension between people and machines.

Tech trend 3: “The dilemma of smart things” – overcoming the “beta burden”

As enterprises convert their products into platforms for digital experiences, new challenges arise that, if left unaddressed, will alienate customers and erode their trust. Now that the true value of a product is being driven by the experience, a facet of the product that enterprises have traditionally retained strict control over, businesses must re-evaluate central questions: how involved they are with the product lifecycle, how to maintain transparency and continuity over product features, when is a product truly “finished”, and even who owns it?

Tech trend 4: “Robots in the wild” – growing businesses’ reach and responsibility

Robotics are no longer contained to the warehouse or factory floor. Autonomous vehicles, delivery drones, and other robot-driven machines are fast entering the world around us, allowing businesses to extend this intelligence back into the physical world. As 5G is poised to accelerate this trend, every enterprise must begin to re-think their business through the lens of robotics. Where will they find the most value, and what partners do they need to unlock it? What challenges will they face as they undergo this transformation, and what new responsibilities do they have towards their customers and society at large?

Tech trend 5: “Innovation DNA” – creating an engine for continuous innovation

Businesses should assemble their unique innovation DNA to define how their enterprises grow in the future. Maturing digital technology is making it easier than ever before to transform parts of the business, or find new value in share tools with others. The three key building blocks of innovation DNA are:
Continue on the digital transformation journey
Accelerate research and development (R&D) of scientific advancements and utilise elements such as material sciences and genomic editing to ensure practical applications are leaving these labs quicker than ever before
Leverage the power of DARQ (distributed ledger technology, AI, extended reality and quantum computing) to transform and optimise the business
Differentiation in the post-digital era will be driven by the powerful combinations of innovation and these building blocks will enable exactly that.

It’s not a “techlash”, it’s a “tech-clash”

Essentially, this new digital world is more intimate and personal than ever imaginable, but the models for data, ownership, and experience that define that world have remained the same.

Tech-clash is a clash between old models that are incongruous with people’s expectations. The time to start transformation is now. To this end, businesses need to defuse the tech-clash, build human-centered models and foster deeply trusting relationships.

For more information on how Accenture can help enterprises adopt the latest tech trends to future-proof their businesses in the post-digital era, go to: https://www.accenture.com/za-en.

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