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.
Money talks and electronic gaming evolves
Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.
The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.
The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games.
It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.
MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.
“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”
New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.
“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”
Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.
Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.
This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.
A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.
Each block stores:
– A number of valid records or transactions.
– Information referring to that block.
– A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.
Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.
As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.
How is blockchain so secure?
Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.
Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.
In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.
What else can blockchain be used for?
Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.
Use of blockchain in healthcare
Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.
Use of blockchain for documents
Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.
Other blockchain uses
This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.
Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.
Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.