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Western Digital drives storage with SanDisk Professional and WD Black brands

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Western Digital drives storage with SanDisk Professional and WD Black brands

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Western Digital is driving forward with both its new SanDisk Professional storage brand and its WD Black brand for gamers. And the big storage company is also plowing ahead with both flash memory (in the form of solid state drives, or SSDs) and hard disk drives as it seeks to lead in the storage business.

The growth of the flash chip market continues at a breakneck pace, but hard drives are growing at a fast pace as well, said Rob Soderbery, executive vice president at Western Digital, in an interview with GamesBeat.

“Both of these markets are growing fast. And we’ve ended up with two good businesses inside the company,” he said. “You’re going to see two big swim lanes here. I’m fired up and excited about flash because everything innovative is powered by flash.”

At a virtual Flash Perspective event today, Soderbery talked about the company’s efforts to expand its manufacturing and sales to stay ahead of the worldwide semiconductor shortage brought about by the pandemic and years of underinvesting. And he also unveiled the SanDisk Professional brand as well as new WD Black SSDs for gamers.

“More than 40% of the world’s information is stored on Western Digital products,” Soderbery said. “That’s just a staggering statistic. With nearly 500 exabytes in capacity, we’ll cross that number this year.”

Flash memory’s gains

Soderbery also unveiled an alliance with Percona integration of Zoned Name Space (ZNS) storage to support MySQL Server, and a new Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 3.1 platform —  as it prepares for the next generation coming in its flash portfolio.

From mobile devices to connected vehicles to gaming to data centers, every market is growing in ways that demand more than just faster and greater capacities of flash memory. But key to capturing the opportunity is focusing on custom solutions for each market, Soderbery said. Formerly at Cisco, Soderbery was recruited eight months ago by David Goeckeler, another former Cisco executive who became CEO of Western Digital in March 2020.

Soderbery said that flash isn’t all the same, as the needs for a smartphone are very different from a modern vehicle, which is very different from what’s needed in the public cloud. Speed, capacity, endurance, form factor, power requirements, and environmental stability are all variables that change depending on the market in which these devices are used. Gamers in particular have come to relish the speed of SSDs over hard disk drives, as we saw in the launch of the new consoles, the Xbox Series X/S and the PlayStation 5.

He noted high demand for hard disk and SSDs among cryptocurrency fans thanks to storage-specific cryptocurrencies such as Chia, which uses proof of storage schemes instead of proof of work as Bitcoin uses.

Western Digital spent $18 billion on factories in the past decade and it’s on its 10th generation of flash memory. Every flash manufacturer licenses tech from Western Digital.

“We keep growing capacity and driving down cost,” Soderbery said. “We supply essentially every every major technology company in the world, and you can’t build you cannot build a public cloud without WD.”

SanDisk Professional

Above: The SanDisk Professional brand.

Image Credit: Western Digital

The new SanDisk Professional brand offers flash products engineered specifically for professional creators. For creative professionals like photographers and cinematographers, storage is
the backbone of the creative workflow. SanDisk’s professional-grade products — which includes a new CFexpress card, an enterprise-grade RAID storage device, an ultra-fast reader series, and a new four-bay reader docking station — provide a lot of flexibility for these professional creators. The brand focuses on scalable, high-performance, and reliable storage, Soderbery said.

The new SanDisk Professional line features 16 modular workflow solutions with professional-grade performance and enterprise-class reliability that will include products like Pro-Cinema CFexpress VPG400, which can provide uninterrupted storage with video recording at 400 megabytes per second (MB/s). It also has four new Pro-Reader devices with USB-C interfaces to support SuperSpeed USB 10Gbs. It has a four-bay reader dubbed Pro-Dock 4, and a new four terabyte G-Drive SSD with enterprise features.

SanDisk Professional replaces brands like the G-Technology brand, which evolved from the company’s Apple products.

“We’re retargeting the whole thing at the professional users,” he said. “We’re moving up from prosumer to a square business target. In the datacenter, we’re announcing the relationships with Percona.”

WD Black

wd black

Above: WD Black’s new SSDs for gamers.

Image Credit: Western Digital

Western Digital also unveiled three new SSDs for its WD Black, the brand aimed at gamers on PCs and next-generation consoles. The products represent fast and reliable storage that enhances gameplay, Soderbery said.

“Gaming is definitely a super hot, growing market,” he said. “A big part of what we want to do is be in the business of partnering with all of the innovators in the markets. That’s what we’ve tried to do in gaming.”

Flash in the form of SSDs has enabled games to seamlessly load scenes or cinematics for games, so you don’t suffer long delays when waiting for a scene to switch or for the game to transition from a cinematic video to a gameplay session.

The new WD Black products include the WD Black SN750 SE NVMe SSD, which targets enthusiast gamers on the desktop PC or laptops. It has PCIe Gen4 technology and storage for more games with read speeds of up to 3,600MB/s.

It also uses 30% less power than its predecessor so laptop gamers can expect longer playtimes between charges. The included WD Black Dashboard monitors the drive’s health while optimizing peak performance in gaming mode even during streaming. The drive comes in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB capacities starting at $55 in the United States. It is now available for pre-order from the Western Digital Store and will be available at select Western Digital retailers, e-tailers, resellers and system integrators in the summer.

It’s also launching WD Black D30 Game Drive SSD for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 console gamers looking to minimize game load times and get into the game fast with a compact high-performance SSD comes with read speeds up to 900 MB/s. It has storage for up to 50 games with the capacities up to 2TB. The drive has a detachable stand for placement next to a console. It comes in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities starting at $90 in the U.S. It is now available for purchase at select Western Digital retailers, e-tailers, resellers, system integrators, and the Western Digital Store. The PS5 games archived on a drive must be transferred to the console before playing.

A version for the Xbox can store Xbox One games as well as Xbox Series X games. It starts at $100. That one will be available in June. Included with purchase is a one-month membership of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate with access to 100-plus games on consoles and PC, plus online console multiplayer.

“We’ve worked with the console makers to really optimize the performance,” Soderbery said.

Universal Flash Storage 3.1

sandisk 2

Above: SanDisk Professional is for creative professionals.

Image Credit: Western Digital

Western Digital also announced its new embedded flash platform for Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 3.1 to enable new applications in mobile, automotive, IoT, AR/VR, drones, and other emerging segments. It is based on the JEDEC-compliant UFS 3.1 specification, and it provides the speed, reliability, and feature versatility that customers count on to build small, thin and lightweight solutions.

The new platform is expected to deliver up to 90% improvement in sequential write performance, compared to its previous generation. This improvement will help realize 5G and Wi-Fi 6 download speed potential, delivering a better experience when consuming rich media files such as 8K video, as well as improved performance for applications such as burst mode photography.

Western Digital has developed products based on this platform, starting with its new family for mobile and consumer applications, and is working with its hardware ecosystem partners to enable it on their upcoming solutions. The company expects to deliver products to market in the second half of 2021.

The shortage of chips hasn’t affected the gaming products, Soderbery said. But in the embedded storage market, it is a constraint, he said.

Soderbery said the company is unique compared to rivals by having hard disk drives and flash memory chips together in one company. Western Digital bought SanDisk in 2016.

“We’re 100% committed to the storage market,” he said.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

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Lucidworks: Chatbots and recommendations boost online brand loyalty

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Who is loyal

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.


Pandemic-related shutdowns led consumers to divert the bulk of their shopping to online — and many of those shoppers are now hesitant about returning to stores as businesses begin to open back up. A recent survey of 800 consumers conducted by cloud company Lucidworks found that 59% of shoppers plan to either avoid in-person shopping as much as possible,  or visit in-person stores less often than before the pandemic.

Above: Shoppers across the U.S. and U.K. agree that high-quality products, personalized recommendations, and excellent customer service are the top three reasons they’re brand-loyal.

Image Credit: Lucidworks

As the world stabilizes, shoppers want brands to provide a multi-faceted shopping experience — expanded chatbot capabilities, diverse recommendations, and personalized experiences that take into account personal preferences and history, Lucidworks found in its study. More than half of shoppers in the survey, 55%, said they use a site’s chatbot on every visit. American shoppers use chatbots more than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, at 70%.

The majority of shoppers, 70%, use chatbots for customer service, and 53% said they want a chatbot to help them find specific products or check product compatibility. A little less than half, or 48%, said they use chatbots to find more information about a product, and 42% use chatbots to find policies such as shipping information and how to get refunds.

A quarter of shoppers will leave the website to seek information elsewhere if the chatbot doesn’t give them the answer. Brands that deploy chatbots capable of going beyond basic FAQs and can perform product and content discovery will provide the well-rounded chatbot experience shoppers expect, Lucidworks said.

Respondents also pointed to the importance of content recommendations. The survey found that almost a third of shoppers said they find recommendations for “suggested content” useful, and 61% of shoppers like to do research via reviews on the brand’s website where they’ll be purchasing from. A little over a third — 37% — of shoppers use marketplaces such as Amazon, Google Shopping, and eBay for their research.

Brands should try to offer something for every step in the shopping journey, from research to purchase to support, to keep shoppers on their sites longer. How online shopping will look in coming years is being defined at this very moment as the world reopens. Brands that are able to understand a shopper’s goal in the moment and deliver a connected experience that understands who shoppers are and what they like are well-positioned for the future, Lucidworks said.

Lucidworks used a self-serve survey tool, Pollfish, in late May 2021 to survey 800 consumers over the age of 18—400 in the U.K. and 400 in the U.S.—to understand how shoppers interact with chatbots, product and content recommendations, where they prefer to do research, and plans for future in-store shopping.

Read the full U.S./U.K. Consumer Survey Report from Lucidworks.

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Breakroom teams up with High Fidelity to bring 3D audio to online meetings

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Breakroom teams up with High Fidelity to bring 3D audio to online meetings

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.


Social meeting space Breakroom has integrated High Fidelity‘s 3D audio into its 3D virtual world for social and business events.

The deal is a convergence of some virtual world pioneers who have made their mark on the development of virtual life. Philip Rosedale is the CEO of High Fidelity, and he also launched Second Life in 2003. And Sine Wave Entertainment, the creator of Breakroom, got its start as a content brand in Second Life before it spun out to create its own virtual meeting spaces for real world events.

Adam Frisby, chief product officer and cofounder of Sine Wave, said in our interview conducted inside Breakroom that the High Fidelity spatial audio will help Breakroom create a triple-A quality experience in a virtual world.

“The real benefit of having 3D audio in a virtual world like this is you can have lots of conversations going on simultaneously,” said Frisby. “3D audio is the only way to replicate the real-world experience in an online environment. You can have a 150-person conference and end up with 10 groups of people talking at the same time. That has helped us with engagement.”

Above: Breakroom lets an event have dozens of simultaneous conversations where people don’t talk over each other, thanks to High Fidelity.

Image Credit: Sine Wave

Most online events get engagement times of 20 or 30 minutes. But Breakroom’s average events, ranging from 600 to 1,000 attendees, have engagement times of an hour and 40 minutes, Frisby said.

Sine Wave’s Breakroom draws heavily on lessons learned in Second Life to create a frictionless, mass market, user-friendly virtual world.

“You can hear everything better with High Fidelity,” said Rosedale, in our interview in Breakroom. “Breakroom combines low-latency server-side video and spatial audio in a way that lets you hold an event like it’s in the real world.”

High Fidelity is a real-time communications company. Its mission is to build technologies that power more human experiences in today’s digital world. The company’s patented spatial audio technology, originally developed for its VR software platform, adds immersive, high-quality voice chat to any application — for groups of any size. You can really tell how close you are to someone in a High Fidelity space when they talk to you, as voices become fainter the farther away they are.

“We are super excited about this general direction and we wound up building the audio subsystem and extracting that first,” Rosedale said. “It works well where there is no possibility of face-to-face meetings.”

breakroom 3

Above: I could hear Philip Rosedale’s voice clearly in this conversation in Breakroom.

Image Credit: Sine Wave

Spatial audio in a 3D virtual world helps encourage spontaneous conversations into a fun, productive setting, in a way that flatscreen video calls and webinars simply can’t match, Frisby said. It’s easy to tell in Breakroom who is speaking to you, and from what direction.

It took me a little while to figure out how to unmute my voice. Rosedale was jumping up and down while we were talking.

“It’s all remote rendered. And that means that we can bring people in on a variety of platforms,” Frisby said. “No matter what your target hardware is, you can actually get in here and still get good high fidelity. It’s a good quality 3D rendering experience here regardless of what device you’re on.”

I asked Rosedale if he could hear me chewing lettuce, which sounded very loud on my headsets. But he said no. It definitely helps if you have good headsets with 3D audio.

Breakroom is being used by organizations like Stanford University, the United Nations, and The Economist. Breakroom runs on any device with a Chrome browser, offering good 3D graphics and audio quality, with no installation required.

Frisby said that Breakroom is also a way for companies to enable remote workers to gather and meet each other in more relaxed environments as if it were an intermediate space between online-only environments and going back to work in offices.

breakroom 4

Above: Breakroom and High Fidelity are enabling conferences with spatial audio.

Image Credit: Sine Wave

Its full suite of communication tools includes voice chat, instant messenger, and in-world email. It has video conferencing, media sharing, and desktop sharing tools. It has a diverse range of fully customizable avatars and scenes. You can get around just by pointing and clicking on the environment.

It also has event management tools to facilitate conversation and agenda flow, branded interactive exhibition stands, and private meeting rooms, available for rent by sponsors. It has environments including dance clubs, beach and mountain retreats, casual games, quiz shows, and live music/comedy shows. It has an integrated shop where brands can upload and sell their content to customers for real cash.

It gives you the ability to seamlessly license and import any item from the Unity Asset Store (Sine Wave is a verified partner of Unity). The iOS and Android version of Breakroom is in closed beta and Breakroom for consoles and the Oculus Quest 2 coming soon. It has LinkedIn and Eventbrite integration, including ticket sales. It also has a self-serve portal for customers to quickly customize and configure their organizations’ Breakroom, as well as sub-licensing agreements which enable Breakroom customers to host and monetize events and experiences to their own customer base.

Frisby said it has been a technical challenge so that people don’t get kicked out of the room, but his team has managed to refine the technology during the pandemic. He thinks conferences are great use cases for the technology because so many people come together simultaneously and push the tech to the limit.

As for High Fidelity, Rosedale believes that the education market will come around, and the whole world will eventually move to better spatial experiences.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
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Moderne helps companies automate their code migration and fixes

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR9EPALJKjI&feature=emb_title

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.


While every company may well be a software company these days, the software development sphere has evolved greatly over the past decade to get to this stage, with developer operations (DevOps), agile, and cloud-native considerations at the forefront.

Moreover, with APIs and open source software now serving as critical components of most modern software stacks, tracking code changes and vulnerabilities introduced by external developers can be a major challenge. This is something fledgling startup Moderne is setting out to solve with a platform that promises to automatically “fix, upgrade, and secure code” in minutes, including offering support for framework or API migrations and applying CVE (common vulnerabilities and exposures) patches.

The Seattle-based company, which will remain in private beta for the foreseeable future, today announced a $4.7 million seed round of funding to bring its SaaS product to market. The investment was led by True Ventures, with participation from a slew of angel and VC backers, including GitHub CTO Jason Warner; Datadog cofounder and CEO Olivier Pomel; Coverity cofounder Andy Chou; Mango Capital; and Overtime.vc.

Version control

If a third-party API provider or open source framework is updated, with the older version no longer actively supported, companies need to ensure their software remains secure and compliant. “It requires revving dependencies [updating version numbers in configuration files] and changing all the call sites for the APIs that have changed — it’s tedious, repetitive, but hasn’t been automated,” Moderne CEO and cofounder Jonathan Schneider told VentureBeat.

Moderne is built on top of OpenRewrite, an open source automated code refactoring tool for Java that Schneider developed at Netflix several years ago. While developers can already use the built-in refactoring and semantic search features included in integrated development environments (IDEs), if they need to perform a migration or apply a CVE patch, they have to follow multiple manual steps. Moreover, they can only work on a single repository at a time.

“So if an organization has hundreds of microservices — which is not uncommon for even very small organizations, and larger ones have thousands — each repository needs to be loaded into [the] IDE and operated one by one,” Schneider said. “A developer can spend weeks or months doing this across the codebase.”

OpenRewrite, on the other hand, provides “building blocks” — individual search and refactoring operations — that can be composed into an automated sequence called recipes anyone can use. Moderne’s offering complements OpenRewrite and allows companies to apply these recipes in bulk to their codebases.

Above: Moderne screenshot

Enterprises, specifically, can accumulate vast amounts of code. One of Moderne’s early product design partners is a “large financial institution” that incorporates some 250 million lines of Java code — or “one-eighth of all GitHub Java code,” Schneider noted, adding that this is actually on the “low to medium” side for what a typical enterprise might have.

“Some of this code is obsolete (e.g. accrued through historical acquisitions), some is under rapid development (e.g. mobile apps) — but the majority represents super valuable business assets, such as ATM software and branch management software,” Schneider said.

And let’s say a company decides to redeploy developers internally to work on rapid development projects — it still needs to consider the core software components that underpin the business and need to be maintained. Moderne automates the code migration and CVE patching process, freeing developers to work on other mission-critical projects.

When Moderne eventually goes to market, it will adopt an open core business model, with a free plan for the open source community and individual users, while the premium SaaS plan will support larger codebases and teams with additional features for collaboration.

The company said it will use its fresh cash injection to grow a “vibrant open source community for OpenRewrite,” expand its internal engineering team, and bolster its SaaS product ahead of launch.

VentureBeat

VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact.

Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more

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