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TECHNOLOGY

The Metaverse and Web 3.0 & Why It Matters

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The Metaverse and Web 3.0 & Why It Matters

With so much buzz the last couple of months surrounding the metaverse and what it entails moving forward I thought it would be prudent to give our readers a breakdown of just exactly what it is and why it matters now.

With corporations rushings to adapt a metaverse strategy and with the advent of web 3.0, now more than ever brands should be looking to adopt their technology to fit the mould for the future. To give some context as to how we got to where we are today I think it’s best to take a few steps back to see how the internet has progressed over the years.

Web 1.0, 2.0 & 3.0

The early days of the internet and Web 1.0 we’ll call it started around the early ’90s and carried through to around 2005. This decentralized early internet was all about open protocols that were community governed and had a builder/user focus building out the foundation blocks of the world wide web.

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Credit: Geeks for Geeks

This transitioned into Web 2.0 where we started to see a lot more centralized services that were run by corporations. This was the Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook early days and for the most part, was very siloed.  We started to see a lot more web applications and as the mobile phone increased in functionality we started to see the rise of the responsive web.

We are now in the bare infancy of Web 3.0 which is moving the control of the internet into the builders and users, all of which is orchestrated with tokens on the blockchain. It is all about decentralization and I believe will take back some of the power of the corporations and give them to the little guy.  We are ushering in a new era for creators, developers and businesses alike. For a more elaborate breakdown of what each of these phases represents check out this comprehensive article.

Centralized platforms follow a predictable life cycle.  At first, they do everything they can to recruit users in order to strengthen their network effect. This impact tends to follow an S-curve which enables their users and growth trajectory. They then will grow to a point where growth becomes less attractive and user data starts to take over. Over time the best entrepreneurs, developers and investors have learned to ignore the centralized platforms and build on their own, which is what drives innovation.

Relationship_Users.png

This is what Web 3.0 is all about — ownership and control are decentralized.  Users, developers, and builders alike can now own pieces of the internet via tokens, both non-fungible (NFTs) and fungible. This gives users property rights: owning a piece of the internet in essence. NFTs, give the end-user the ability to own digital objects that can be an array of things.

Owning these digital assets (art, photos, code, music, game objects, 3D models, credentials, access passes etc.) that exist on top of blockchains like Ethereum gives the users a layer of control of their assets (Ethereum is a decentralized global currency that is owned and operated by its users). Ethereum is powered by a fungible token, ETH, which is then used to incentivize the physical computers that keep the system in place.  ETH is also a native currency for transactions, like the NFT transactions that seem to be in the news every other day.

Overall this fixes the core problem of the old web and centralized networks, where value is accumulated by one company.  Before Web 3.0 users and builders had to choose between the limited functionality of Web 1.0 or the centralized model of Web 2.0.  This new Web 3.0 will offer a new way to combine the best aspects of the previous eras in a decentralized manner.

The Metaverse

So what about the metaverse, probably the biggest buzzword of 2021, what does this entail and why does it matter now?

The Metaverse as it stands ‘today’ is a variety of web 3.0 applications of various levels of interactivity and adoption.  It is in its complete infancy currently where its estimated around 50,000 people are currently engaged at the time of this writing in digital worlds that have massive growth potential.  While we aren’t fully red-pilled living in a ‘Ready Player One’ world yet, that isn’t to say that it won’t happen one day.

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Credit: Jon Radoff – Building The Metaverse

One of the earliest Metaverse worlds was Decentraland — a collective and virtual space created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space.  In this virtual space, users can acquire digital assets, goods and services, and even real estate.  Another growing metaverse world is The Sandbox (full breakdown of the Sandbox here) — an expansive virtual world built for users to virtually play, build, own, and monetize their virtual experiences.  Creators can now earn for their innovation, and the community aspect of it is what is driving adoption.

The challenge with these “metaverses” is that they lack the interoperability needed for a truly decentralized community world.  Anyone can connect to any number of these virtual worlds — but they are not all connected and therein lies the fallacy of the metaverse as a whole.  For a truly interconnected metaverse, there needs to be a base layer similar to the early days of www and HTML. The development layer needs to be open-sourced allowing for any builder or creator to continually add layers of functionality.  It should allow for full accessibility — meaning that it doesn’t need to be a virtual reality simulation per se, the metaverse should be device agnostic to allow for maximum usability. As such begins the precipice of the digital ownership era, and corporations are rushing to figure out a metaverse strategy that is compelling enough to gain user adoption in order to be the first to market.

Of course, Facebook (now Meta) was one of the earliest adopters of this virtual world — as it aligns very nicely with their hardware stack and the Oculus Quest devices. They’ve created multiple platforms for interconnectivity within their own centralized metaverse. Horizons Worlds allows for users to connect in a virtual world and interact with one another in a social dynamic, anywhere in the world.  Creators can make their own games and build their own virtual world, and even though it is still in its early beta it shows a lot of promise for the creator community.

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Credit: Meta Horizon Worlds

We are undergoing a phase shift in ownership from the real world to the digital world and the metaverse is a term used to describe the digital worlds that will encompass that ownership. Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the metaverse is a virtual reality world where people can live, work, network and play as if they were in the real world but from the comfort of their virtual reality headset.  This concept is nothing new but with NFT’s and the blockchain playing a role we are going to see a lot of builders and creators building out varying parts of this digital world which will basically be a Matrix-like simulation.

While this may be a few decades away from fruition, that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen. We are on the ground floor today in what may one day be filled with billions of users interacting, and it’s an exciting time to be developing solutions that fit into that mould. Think about the next generation of Tik Tokker’s that are glued to their smartphones, over 50% of kids in the US are playing the “game” already.  Games like Roblox and Fortnite already have tens of millions of daily active users (if not more) and it’s only a matter of time before those games merge the real world with the virtual world into an interoperable existence we will call the Metaverse.

As the future unfolds these multiverses will become more and more decentralized and will be built with open standards like OpenXR whereas traditional app stores like Google Play & Apple will become walled gardens due to their centralization (great write-up on this topic from Evan Helda). It will be hard to predict as there are so many moving parts, but I believe the future revolves around interoperability, connected multiverses, and the ability to own your own data/content (NFT’s).  What do you think the metaverse is, leave your thoughts in the comments below, I’d like to hear varied perspectives from those in space.  The bottom line is that we are in the very early days of the metaverse and only time will tell how it will unfold over the course of the next decade.


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TECHNOLOGY

Next-gen chips, Amazon Q, and speedy S3

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AWS re:Invent, which has been taking place from November 27 and runs to December 1, has had its usual plethora of announcements: a total of 21 at time of print.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the huge potential impact of generative AI – ChatGPT officially turns one year old today – a lot of focus has been on the AI side for AWS’ announcements, including a major partnership inked with NVIDIA across infrastructure, software, and services.

Yet there has been plenty more announced at the Las Vegas jamboree besides. Here, CloudTech rounds up the best of the rest:

Next-generation chips

This was the other major AI-focused announcement at re:Invent: the launch of two new chips, AWS Graviton4 and AWS Trainium2, for training and running AI and machine learning (ML) models, among other customer workloads. Graviton4 shapes up against its predecessor with 30% better compute performance, 50% more cores and 75% more memory bandwidth, while Trainium2 delivers up to four times faster training than before and will be able to be deployed in EC2 UltraClusters of up to 100,000 chips.

The EC2 UltraClusters are designed to ‘deliver the highest performance, most energy efficient AI model training infrastructure in the cloud’, as AWS puts it. With it, customers will be able to train large language models in ‘a fraction of the time’, as well as double energy efficiency.

As ever, AWS offers customers who are already utilising these tools. Databricks, Epic and SAP are among the companies cited as using the new AWS-designed chips.

Zero-ETL integrations

AWS announced new Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Relational Database Services (Amazon RDS) for MySQL integrations with Amazon Redshift, AWS’ cloud data warehouse. The zero-ETL integrations – eliminating the need to build ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines – make it easier to connect and analyse transactional data across various relational and non-relational databases in Amazon Redshift.

A simple example of how zero-ETL functions can be seen is in a hypothetical company which stores transactional data – time of transaction, items bought, where the transaction occurred – in a relational database, but use another analytics tool to analyse data in a non-relational database. To connect it all up, companies would previously have to construct ETL data pipelines which are a time and money sink.

The latest integrations “build on AWS’s zero-ETL foundation… so customers can quickly and easily connect all of their data, no matter where it lives,” the company said.

Amazon S3 Express One Zone

AWS announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Express One Zone, a new storage class purpose-built for customers’ most frequently-accessed data. Data access speed is up to 10 times faster and request costs up to 50% lower than standard S3. Companies can also opt to collocate their Amazon S3 Express One Zone data in the same availability zone as their compute resources.  

Companies and partners who are using Amazon S3 Express One Zone include ChaosSearch, Cloudera, and Pinterest.

Amazon Q

A new product, and an interesting pivot, again with generative AI at its core. Amazon Q was announced as a ‘new type of generative AI-powered assistant’ which can be tailored to a customer’s business. “Customers can get fast, relevant answers to pressing questions, generate content, and take actions – all informed by a customer’s information repositories, code, and enterprise systems,” AWS added. The service also can assist companies building on AWS, as well as companies using AWS applications for business intelligence, contact centres, and supply chain management.

Customers cited as early adopters include Accenture, BMW and Wunderkind.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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TECHNOLOGY

HCLTech and Cisco create collaborative hybrid workplaces

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Digital comms specialist Cisco and global tech firm HCLTech have teamed up to launch Meeting-Rooms-as-a-Service (MRaaS).

Available on a subscription model, this solution modernises legacy meeting rooms and enables users to join meetings from any meeting solution provider using Webex devices.

The MRaaS solution helps enterprises simplify the design, implementation and maintenance of integrated meeting rooms, enabling seamless collaboration for their globally distributed hybrid workforces.

Rakshit Ghura, senior VP and Global head of digital workplace services, HCLTech, said: “MRaaS combines our consulting and managed services expertise with Cisco’s proficiency in Webex devices to change the way employees conceptualise, organise and interact in a collaborative environment for a modern hybrid work model.

“The common vision of our partnership is to elevate the collaboration experience at work and drive productivity through modern meeting rooms.”

Alexandra Zagury, VP of partner managed and as-a-Service Sales at Cisco, said: “Our partnership with HCLTech helps our clients transform their offices through cost-effective managed services that support the ongoing evolution of workspaces.

“As we reimagine the modern office, we are making it easier to support collaboration and productivity among workers, whether they are in the office or elsewhere.”

Cisco’s Webex collaboration devices harness the power of artificial intelligence to offer intuitive, seamless collaboration experiences, enabling meeting rooms with smart features such as meeting zones, intelligent people framing, optimised attendee audio and background noise removal, among others.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: Cisco, collaboration, HCLTech, Hybrid, meetings

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TECHNOLOGY

Canonical releases low-touch private cloud MicroCloud

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Canonical has announced the general availability of MicroCloud, a low-touch, open source cloud solution. MicroCloud is part of Canonical’s growing cloud infrastructure portfolio.

It is purpose-built for scalable clusters and edge deployments for all types of enterprises. It is designed with simplicity, security and automation in mind, minimising the time and effort to both deploy and maintain it. Conveniently, enterprise support for MicroCloud is offered as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro subscription, with several support tiers available, and priced per node.

MicroClouds are optimised for repeatable and reliable remote deployments. A single command initiates the orchestration and clustering of various components with minimal involvement by the user, resulting in a fully functional cloud within minutes. This simplified deployment process significantly reduces the barrier to entry, putting a production-grade cloud at everyone’s fingertips.

Juan Manuel Ventura, head of architectures & technologies at Spindox, said: “Cloud computing is not only about technology, it’s the beating heart of any modern industrial transformation, driving agility and innovation. Our mission is to provide our customers with the most effective ways to innovate and bring value; having a complexity-free cloud infrastructure is one important piece of that puzzle. With MicroCloud, the focus shifts away from struggling with cloud operations to solving real business challenges” says

In addition to seamless deployment, MicroCloud prioritises security and ease of maintenance. All MicroCloud components are built with strict confinement for increased security, with over-the-air transactional updates that preserve data and roll back on errors automatically. Upgrades to newer versions are handled automatically and without downtime, with the mechanisms to hold or schedule them as needed.

With this approach, MicroCloud caters to both on-premise clouds but also edge deployments at remote locations, allowing organisations to use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.

Cedric Gegout, VP of product at Canonical, said: “As data becomes more distributed, the infrastructure has to follow. Cloud computing is now distributed, spanning across data centres, far and near edge computing appliances. MicroCloud is our answer to that.

“By packaging known infrastructure primitives in a portable and unattended way, we are delivering a simpler, more prescriptive cloud experience that makes zero-ops a reality for many Industries.“

MicroCloud’s lightweight architecture makes it usable on both commodity and high-end hardware, with several ways to further reduce its footprint depending on your workload needs. In addition to the standard Ubuntu Server or Desktop, MicroClouds can be run on Ubuntu Core – a lightweight OS optimised for the edge. With Ubuntu Core, MicroClouds are a perfect solution for far-edge locations with limited computing capabilities. Users can choose to run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers. System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.

Coupled with Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro + Support subscription, MicroCloud users can benefit from an enterprise-grade open source cloud solution that is fully supported and with better economics. An Ubuntu Pro subscription offers security maintenance for the broadest collection of open-source software available from a single vendor today. It covers over 30k packages with a consistent security maintenance commitment, and additional features such as kernel livepatch, systems management at scale, certified compliance and hardening profiles enabling easy adoption for enterprises. With per-node pricing and no hidden fees, customers can rest assured that their environment is secure and supported without the expensive price tag typically associated with cloud solutions.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: automation, Canonical, MicroCloud, private cloud

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