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    Alibaba Cloud to build own servers with new in-house chip

    Alibaba Cloud says it has built its own server chip, touting it to be compatible with the latest Armv9 architecture. The Chinese tech giant also plans to develop its own servers that will be designed for “general purpose” and “specialised AI computing”.Custom-built by its chip development unit T-Head, the new 5nm server chip is powered by 128 Arm cores with 3.2GHz top-clock speed, according to Alibaba. Called Yitian 710, each processor has 60 billion integrated transistors and encompasses eight DDR5 channels and 96-lane PCIe 5.0, the Chinese tech vendor said in a statement Tuesday. It added that the new chip was the first server processor to be compatible with Arm’s v9 architecture.  It also would be deployed within Alibaba’s data centres. 

    Alibaba Cloud’s president and head of Alibaba DAMO Academy, Jeff Zhang, said: “Customising our own server chips is consistent with our ongoing efforts towards boosting our computing capabilities with better performance and improved energy efficiency. We plan to use the chips to support current and future businesses across the Alibaba Group ecosystem.”Zhang noted that Yitian-powered servers would be tapped to support cloud services delivered to its customers in “the near future”.Alibaba said it would develop a range of proprietary servers, called Panjiu, based on the new chip, with these systems to be designed for “optimised performance and energy efficiency”. The servers would be built for general purpose, artificial intelligence (AI) computing, and storage services. The Chinese vendor further noted that its servers would be deployed in modules for large-scale data centres and architected to handle cloud-native workloads, including containerised applications.

    When asked, Alibaba declined to specify a timeline on when the chip or systems would be operationally available. According to Zhang, the company would continue to use various systems from its global partner network, including Intel, Nvidia, AMD, and ARM. Alibaba said Yitian 710 clocked a score of 440 on SPECint2017, which was used to measure CPU integer processing power. The figure outpaced Arm’s current server processor by 20% in terms of performance and 50% in energy efficiency, Alibaba said. Chip core to be made open sourceApart from its chip development plans, Alibaba further unveiled it had made open source its XuanTie CPU core, which chips were based on RISC-V architecture. The chip was launched in 2019.Source codes of the XuanTie chip core currently are available on Github and Open Chip Community, offering developers the option to build their own chips based on the Alibaba CPU core. The Chinese vendor said the CPU architecture could be customised for Internet of Things (IoT) applications including gateway and edge servers. Software stacks based on XuanTie, including support for various operating systems such as Linux, Android, and Alibaba’s AliOS, also would be made open source, Alibaba said. It added that further services and development tools and SDKs (software development kits) would be made available in future. Zhang said: “By opening up the IP cores of our in-house IoT processors as well as related software stacks and development tools, we aim to assist global developers to build their own RISC-V-based chips in a much more cost-effective way. We hope this move can encourage more innovation amongst the thriving RISC-V software community and, as a result, help people enjoy the benefits of a connected world in the digital era.”Alibaba in 2019 released its first AI chip, Hanguang 800, which since had been rolled out in its cloud data centres to support various services such as search, recommendation, and live streaming. While asked, the vendor declined to provide figures on how many unit of the AI processor had been deployed.Alibaba last year said it would invest 200 billion yuan ($31.07 billion) in its cloud business over three years, focusing on infrastructure development including servers, chips, network, and operating system. It then also announced plans to deploy proprietary technologies in its data centres “in the coming years”.RELATED COVERAGE More

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    Brazilian capital surpasses Rio and São Paulo in mobile broadband speed

    Brazil’s capital Brasília surpassed major urban centers of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in mobile broadband speed, according to a new report. According to the research on mobile performance by mobile and broadband network intelligence firm Ookla based on data from Internet access performance metrics tool Speedtest, Brasília’s median mobile download speed reached 31.44 Mbps, the fastest among the country’s most populous cities during the third quarter of 2021.After Brasília, Curitiba had the second fastest mobile download speed at an average of 29.35 Mbps, followed by Rio de Janeiro at 25.14 Mbps and São Paulo with 25.08 Mbps. The slowest median speeds were found in Recife, in the northeast of the country, at 18.65 Mbps and Manaus, at the bottom of the list with 18.37 Mbps. Regarding the consistency of each operator’s performance in the country, the report has found that Claro was the fastest mobile operator among top providers in Brazil in Q3 2021; in terms of consistency, 88.2% of results showed at least a 5 Mbps minimum download speed for Claro, and a 1 Mbps minimum upload speed. According to the Ookla report, there was no statistically fastest provider for median 5G download speed, though Claro showed 65.92 Mbps, Vivo 64.61 Mbps and TIM 58.14 Mbps.In terms of the median latency for top mobile providers in Brazil during the third quarter of the year, TIM had the lowest latency at 26 ms, according to the report. When it comes to device information, Ookla’s analysis on some of the fastest phones in Brazil found the iPhone 12 5G delivered the fastest median download speed during in the with 53.28 Mbps. A separate study, published by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee in August has found that Brazil’s connected population relies mostly on smartphones to access the Internet as PC penetration remains low within financially vulnerable citizens. According to the research, 58% of Brazilians only access the web through their phones. More

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    Seven smaller Australian telcos have half of all complaints referred to TIO: ACMA

    Image: Getty Images
    Telco complaints are down 17% across Australia per 10,000 services to a total of just under 1.1 million, but the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found the time taken for complaints to be resolved is spiking. Since the 2018-19 fiscal year, the weighted average days to resolve a complaint has moved from 8.2 days to 12.2 in 2020-21. Across 32 telcos measured in its report, ACMA found the median interval was 4.1 days, and the average was 5.4 days — numbers that were essentially steady compared to last year. The rate of complaints needing to be referred to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judy Jones, who will be leaving the post in March next year, has increased by 1.4 percentage points to 10.7% in the past year. “This suggests that some telcos are not handling complaints at all well, and other smaller telcos are in fact not recording complaints at all,” ACMA authority member Fiona Cameron said. “Seven smaller telcos have absurdly high escalation rates, just above 50%, which indicates that some complaints are not being recorded in the first place and only being logged when escalated to the TIO.” The seven telcos were not named in ACMA’s report, with the regulator saying it would be following up with the seven outfits. Overall, the number of complaints about NBN broadband dropped 36% to 84 per 10,000 services, with the most complained about technology being fibre to the basement (FttB) with 147 per 10,000 services, fibre to the curb (FttC) with 119, HFC with 93, and fibre to the node (FttN) with 77 complaints per 10,000 services.

    However, the change in complaints was down across all NBN technologies, FttB was down 22%, FttC dropped 43%, HFC fell 53%, and FttN was down 28%. The least complained about NBN connectivity, satellite, had 27 complaints per 10,000 services and saw a fall in complaints of 59%. By category, of the 263,000 complaints related to the NBN, 92,700 were classed as other, 86,500 were related to faults, 68,400 were classed as connection complaints, and only 15,600 were related to speed. On Monday, the company responsible for the National Broadband Network revealed the allocation of its portable assets for what it termed as Australia’s “disaster season”. The company said it gained 58 new pieces of temporary infrastructure, at a value of AU$6 million. The pieces include multi-tech trailers that have a generator, battery, optional solar for power, and can connect to fibre to the node network, as well as have fixed wireless and HFC as a “bolt on”; wireless mast trailers that can replicate an 18-metre wireless network tower; hybrid power cubes that have generator, battery, and solar to keep fixed wireless towers operational when grid power is lost; and network on wheels trailers that operate as a small exchange to support all NBN technologies other than satellite. Victoria walked away with a pair of multi-tech trailers, a wireless mast trailer, and 10 hybrid power cubes; NSW received the same, minus the wireless mast trailer; Western Australia also received the same trailers as Victoria, but only four cubes; Queensland was allocated one network on wheels trailer, a pair of multi-tech trailers, and eight cubes; South Australia is much the same as Queensland but has five cubes; Tasmania gets three cubes, one network trailer, and one multi-tech trailer, and the Northern Territory gets one network trailer and one multi-tech trailer. NBN added it would be rolling out up to 2,000 disaster satellite service sites at emergency management sites and evacuation centres to offer satellite connectivity during an emergency. At the start of the month, NBN announced it was starting what it called a Remote Community COVID Emergency Wireless Trial that was looking at temporary connectivity for regional and remote locations with a majority Indigenous population. “At the request of the Central Darling Council and the local community, NBN Co and our partners are installing a temporary community Wi-Fi solution to areas of Wilcannia to support the community during the COVID-19 health emergency. It will support local people’s access online education and social services and is currently planned to be in place for approximately 90 days,” an NBN spokesperson told ZDNet. “We have worked closely with community elders and leaders, the local council and the NSW Department of Education on the solution and where it will be located. Nominated households will be supplied by the participating RSP the equipment they need to connect. NBN Co will not charge the RSP for the Wi-Fi solution to be provided.” Households needed to be nominated by council to receive a self-installed Wi-Fi kit. Related Coverage More

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    Generative AI, autonomic systems, hyperautomation and more top Gartner list of top tech trends in 2022

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    AI and the Future of Business

    Machine learning, task automation and robotics are already widely used in business. These and other AI technologies are about to multiply, and we look at how organizations can best take advantage of them.

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    AI engineering, cloud-native platforms and autonomic systems were just a few of the trends that topped Gartner’s list of the strategic technology trends that organizations need to explore in 2022.Released on Monday at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas, the list covers the tools and technology that will drive innovation in the next year. David Groombridge, research vice president at Gartner, said CEOs and boards are striving to find growth through direct digital connections with customers. CIOs’ priorities need to reflect the same business imperatives. “CIOs must find the IT force multipliers to enable growth and innovation, and create scalable, resilient technical foundations whose scalability will free cash for digital investments,” Groombridge said. “These imperatives form the three themes of this year’s trends: engineering trust, sculpting change and accelerating growth.”First on the list was generative AI, which Gartner described as machine learning methods that learn about content or objects from their data and use it to generate brand-new, completely original, realistic artefacts.Tasks like software code creation, drug development facilitation and targeted marketing can be augmented using generative AI. Gartner noted that there is also the possibility that generative AI is used for scams, fraud, forgery and political disinformation. Still, by 2025 the research institute expects it to account for 10% of all data produced, up from less than 1% today.Gartner said cloud-native platforms will also play a major role in delivering capabilities anywhere and everywhere next year as enterprises move away from “lift and shift” migrations. Gartner predicted that cloud-native platforms will serve as the foundation for more than 95% of new digital initiatives by 2025 — up from less than 40% in 2021 — because they use the core capabilities of cloud computing to provide scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities “as a service” to technology creators using internet technologies.

    Autonomic systems were also featured on the list, with Groombridge noting that autonomic behavior has “already made itself known through recent deployments in complex security environments, but in the longer term, will become common in physical systems such as robots, drones, manufacturing machines and smart spaces.”Gartner described autonomic systems as “self-managing physical or software systems that learn from their environments.” “Unlike automated or even autonomous systems, autonomic systems can dynamically modify their own algorithms without an external software update, enabling them to rapidly adapt to new conditions in the field, much like humans can,” Gartner explained.Gartner also predicted that as the number of data and application silos continues to surge, there will be a need for data fabrics, which allow for “a flexible, resilient integration of data across platforms and business users.”With millions of people around the world still working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gartner explained that the distributed enterprise will most likely replace the traditional office-centric organizations of past years. By 2023, Gartner is expecting 75% of organizations that benefit from distributed enterprises to see revenue growth 25% faster than competitors.”This requires CIOs to make major technical and service changes to deliver frictionless work experiences, but there is another side to this coin: the impact on business models,” said Groombridge. “For every organization, from retail to education, their delivery model has to be reconfigured to embrace distributed services. The world didn’t think they’d be trying on clothes in a digital dressing room two years ago.” Decision intelligence, composable applications, hyperautomation, privacy-enhancing computation, cybersecurity mesh, AI engineering and “total experience” rounded out the list of tech trends coming in the next year. 

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    Netgear Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System (RBKE963): Fast but expensive wireless mesh networking

    Netgear was one of the first manufacturers to introduce a router supporting the new Wi-Fi 6E standard, with its Nighthawk RAXE500. The company has now brought the latest 2.4/5/6GHz wi-fi technology to its Orbi range of mesh networking systems.  The new system — the Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System (RBKE963), to give its full name — is primarily aimed at home users but, like the business-oriented Orbi Pro, it does have the ability to create multiple networks for different tasks or different groups of users. And, with its support for both high-speed Wi-Fi 6E and multi-gig Ethernet, the Orbi RBKE963 provides performance that will be ideal for working from home, as well as many offices or public venues that need a wide-ranging mesh network.  Netgear’s Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System comprises a primary router (middle, above) with a 10Gbps internet port, a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port and three Gigabit Ethernet ports, plus satellites (above right) with 1x 2.5Gbps and 3x 1Gbps ports. Wi-Fi 6E support delivers a 6GHz band on top of two 5GHz bands and one 2.4GHz band for total wireless throughput of 10.8Gbps.
    Images: Netgear
    Orbi RBKE693: now also available in black.
    Image: Netgear
    One obvious difference between the new Orbi and its predecessors is that it’s now available in both black and white, as Netgear says that many users have requested the additional black option to match their home decor. It’s slightly larger than its predecessors too, as the slimline upright units now house no less than 12 separate antennae in order to increase the network range and make the most of the greater speeds supported by Wi-Fi 6E.  Those speeds are pretty impressive too, as the quad-band Orbi uses Wi-Fi 6E technology to add a fourth wi-fi band on the 6GHz frequency, along with the existing two 5GHz bands and single 2.4GHz band already supported by Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5. That 6GHz band alone supports speeds of up to 4.8Gbps, with an additional 2.4Gbps on each of the 5GHz bands, and 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz, to provide a total maximum speed of 10.8Gbps.  Netgear has also updated the Orbi’s wired connectivity, to keep pace with the improved wi-fi performance. As always, the Orbi systems consist of a primary router and a number of additional ‘satellites’, which link together to form the mesh network. The main router now provides a 10Gbps Ethernet WAN port for high-speed internet connections, and both the main router satellites also include one 2.5Gbps Ethernet port and three Gigabit ports for wired connections.Like the Orbi Pro models that are specifically designed for business users, this new Orbi model has the ability to create multiple networks (SSIDs). There is one network on the 6GHz band that can be devoted to new devices, such as smartphones and computers — or even Samsung’s new 8K OLED TVs — that support Wi-Fi 6E. One of the 5GHz bands provides the main, general-purpose network, with the second 5GHz band acting as a dedicated ‘backhaul’ that connects the router and satellites. Finally, the 2.4GHz band acts as an IoT network for devices such as smart lights and security cameras. 

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    That high-end performance comes at a price, though. Due to ship at the end of October, the Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System (RBKE963) currently costs a hefty £1,499.99 (inc. VAT), or $1499.99. That price is for a three-piece kit with one router and two satellites, which can cover areas up to 9,000 square feet.A three-piece Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System (£/$1,499.99) can cover an area up to 9,000sq ft.
    Image: Netgear
    Netgear has told us that there’s a 2-piece kit with one router and one satellite planned for future release. It’s also worth noting that regulatory approval for use of the 6GHz band differs in the UK and US, so UK users may find that quoted speeds and coverage areas may differ when the Orbi RBKE963 goes on sale in the UK. RECENT AND RELATED CONTENT Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6E Router, hands on: High-performance, high-capacity  Netgear Nighthawk Wi-Fi routers go mesh  Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 AX4200, hands-on: Affordable WiFi 6 coverage for homes and businesses  Netgear Orbi Pro WiFi 6 (SXK80), hands-on: Premium mesh networking for small businesses and home workers  Best mesh Wi-Fi system 2021: Top routers compared  Read more reviews More

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    How Avaya is retooling itself around 'experiences'

    One of the world’s largest technology shows, GITEX, kicks off in Dubai this week. At the event, cloud communications provider Avaya introduced its Experience Builders program, which aligns its services, partners, and developers around creating customer and employee experiences. The new initiative is built on Avaya’s OneCloud, designed to be a composable back end to enable Avaya and its ecosystem to deliver new experiences. Composable software is a system design principle that deals with the inter-relationships of components. A highly composable system provides components that can be selected and assembled in various combinations to satisfy specific user requirements.The role of unified communications (UC) and contact center (CC) has changed over the past couple of years, driven by the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, these applications were important but arguably not business-critical. Today, the world has changed, and more than half of all employees are working remotely for at least the time being, and customer interactions have shifted to being digital-first. A good way to think about the impact is that prior to the pandemic, communications tools were used by a subset of employees and customers; today, they’re used by almost all of them. Off the shelf UC and CC applications serve the needs of many individuals, but not all of them. Others require more customized experiences, which is why the communications industry has pivoted from selling products to platforms. One might look at Avaya OneCloud and consider it one of many cloud UC and CC solutions because it offers that functionality. In reality, OneCloud is a CPaaS (communications platform as a service) solution that lets Avaya and its partners build unique experiences. The companies Spaces meetings product is a great example. While it is a full-featured meeting solution, the product was “composed” using Avaya’s developer tools. In reality, Avaya has had a number of programs for different parts of its ecosystem to build on its platform. For example, DevConnect is its developer program for third-party ISVs, while technology partners might integrate using APIs. Multiple programs for different audiences are the norm in the industry right now, but Avaya is taking a different approach. Experience Builders creates a single program for its entire ecosystem, which unifies the knowledge base. Customers think about experiences one way, while partners might look at them differently. An ISV might have yet another view, as would technology vendors. With Experience Builders, anyone in that ecosystem can now harness the knowledge of this collective group. This streamlines development and, by sharing ideas across the ecosystem, Avaya can stimulate the creation of new experiences, which benefits everyone. What’s in the Experience Builders packageAvaya OneCloud is the foundation of Experience Builders, but the package also includes the following components: Artificial intelligence is a core component of Avaya’s products, and the program will expose its ecosystem to its AI partners such as NVIDIA, Google, Nuance, and AWS. Integration tools and services. The program includes more than 40 APIs to connect existing Avaya systems with new cloud applications that meet the demands of hybrid working. The Avaya customer base is the largest in the communications industry, and this integration enables the Experience Builders audience to build on that base. Knowledge and insights. The program will include an Avaya Experience Builders Research Library that contains information on AI, hybrid work, cloud, and other topical trends. As the industry changes, Avaya will add to this knowledge base. 

    Because the program brings together the existing ecosystem, Experience Builders currently includes more than 250 technology partners, 32,000 DevConnect companies, and 154,000 registered developers — with 24,000 of these using OneCloud CPaaS and 7,200 channel partners and agents. Typically, when vendors build an ecosystem program, the first few years bear little fruit because the membership needs to be built from zero. In Avaya’s case, the company can get off to a running start because of the programs it had in place. In addition to stimulating more modernized thinking, Experience Builders solves some fundamental challenges facing organizations today — one of which is lack of developer talent, particularly with small and medium-sized businesses. The Avaya program provides extensive support to businesses of all sizes, including pre-built apps that can be quickly tailored to create a unique experience. Also, Experience Builders should enable its ecosystem to realize a much faster time to value through pre-built integrations, app connectors, and workflows. Lastly, the program helps with one of the biggest but underappreciated challenges facing companies today, and that’s tying on-premises systems to the cloud. The cloud is all the rage today, but most established organizations just can’t move everything to the public cloud overnight. Experience Builders contains a library of hybrid cloud services that solve many application and security issues. At GITEX, Avaya has several composable experiences on display from all different regions of the globe. While the formal program is new, Avaya has been working this way for some time. An education vendor, U.S.-based Toolwire, has integrated Avaya’s UC product, Spaces, into its learning product to bring asynchronous and synchronous education together. Dubai-based EMAAR built a digital real estate product that leverages Spaces video inside-contact center application. Nuuday, Denmark’s largest provider of broadband, communications, and entertainment services, launched an AI-based voice bot, Josefine, using Avaya OneCloud CCaaS and Google Cloud Contact Center AI to optimize customer experience based on customer interactions. These are only a few of the experiences that were quickly built through the program. Communications and collaboration tools are core to digital transformation, but realizing the value of UC and CC requires a different type of thinking. Instead of focusing on products, developers, and partners, customers must think about how to deliver the experience people want when they want it. Avaya Experience Builders enables the company’s large ecosystem to make this pivot in a programmatic way that enables them to capitalize on the current experience economy. For Avaya, this initiative is critical in repositioning the company. It’s the industry’s oldest and most established communications company, but that’s a double-edged sword. While this gives it a degree of gravitas that few vendors can match, it often gets pigeonholed as a legacy compared to its much younger peers. Experience Builders changes the positioning of Avaya and aligns it with current trends, such as customer and employee experience. During the past several years, it has revamped its product line into a composable application framework, and now it has the right program in place.

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    NSW firefighters to be equipped with AU$57 million worth of new bushfire equipment

    Image: Fire and Rescue NSW
    The deployment of new drones, cells on wheels, and vehicles with built-in Wi-Fi will form part of the New South Wales government’s AU$57.4 million investment into arming firefights with new equipment.Under what the state government is calling the connected firefighter package, firefighters will have access to drones that can provide images and data from incidents in real-time that can be used to assist in incident planning, and for chemical and gas detection; cells on wheels equipped with communication technology to provide power, especially in remote parts of the state without coverage; vehicles with built-in Wi-Fi that can provide mobile 4G network in remote locations where satellite connection is limited.Fire and Rescue NSW mobile command centres will also receive upgrades to ensure there is communication between incident management teams and firefighters during incidents. “What is apparent is that our emergency services are entering a tech boom, one which rightly puts NSW ahead of the pack this bushfire season,” Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliot said in a statement on Friday. “These assets will ensure our first responders are safe as they enter dangerous and volatile fire grounds to protect their communities.”The investment is part of the state government’s overall AU$480 million response to the independent NSW bushfire inquiry following the 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires. The inquiry underscored a need to equip firefighters with more advanced technology, such as drones, remote sensors, data science, and artificial intelligence, to help them better understand, model, and predict bushfire behaviour, and respond more quickly.A total of 76 recommendations were made and the state government have accepted them all.

    Last October, the NSW government had already allocated AU$192 million to arm firefighters with new equipment and upgrades to the existing aerial fleet, emergency infrastructure, and Fires Near Me app.The state government also announced as part of the 2021-22 Budget that it would direct a total of AU$28 million over four years into research and development of new technologies and industries to help New South Wales tackle future bushfires.Specifically, this included establishing a bushfire technology network for researchers, investors, and industry, as well as work with local small businesses to develop and commercialise bushfire technologies through an early-stage Bushfire Technology Fund and ensure the new technologies are tested by NSW’s frontline bushfire services.Related Coverage More

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    Superloop parts with Hong Kong business and Singapore assets for AU$140 million

    Image: Getty Images
    Superloop announced on Monday morning it would be divesting its Hong Kong business and parts of its Singapore business for AU$140 million to Columbia Capital and DigitalBridge. As part of the deal, Superloop has retained 15-year right of use on the existing and potentially expanded Singapore and Hong Kong networks. The company said this would allow it to continue to offer end-to-end services on the Indigo submarine cable between Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore. The duo making the purchase will have a preferential deal on Indigo access, while Superloop will operate and support the Singapore network for at least three years at a cost of AU$1.5 million to the buyers. The deal is expected to be completed early next calendar year. “I recognised when I joined Superloop that one of our great opportunities was to look at the invested capital of the business and where appropriate, recycle it and re-invest in areas that will drive greater shareholder returns,” Superloop CEO and managing director Paul Tyler said. “This sale of our Hong Kong business and select Singapore assets, at a premium to their carrying values, allows the company to release significant shareholder funds and redeploy them into more strategically aligned assets, higher growth opportunities and markets.” The company is claiming a 30% premium on the sale from its AU$108 million carrying value.

    Elsewhere on Monday, Spirit Technology Solutions, the company formerly known as Spirit Telecom, has sold its consumer assets for AU$5.1 million to DGTek. The company said it would book AU$2.5 million in profit from the sale. “The consumer internet business is not critical to future operations and represents less than 2% of Spirit’s revenue,” Spirit told the ASX. For its part, DGTek said the purchase would take its footprint up to 35,000 premises. Spirit also said it was considering several non-binding proposals to sell its fixed wireless towers. Related Coverage More