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Cisco’s AppDynamics aims to create Central Nervous System for IT starting with a Cognition Engine

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Cisco’s AppDynamics outlined a vision to create what it calls a Central Nervous System of IT. It’s designed to automate applications, infrastructure, and network as well as integrate artificial intelligence with “AIOps.” The first volley of this multi-year effort is AppDynamics’ Cognition Engine. 

The vision of a Central Nervous System of IT will take years, according to AppDynamics CEO David Wadhwani. “It’s not a product but a vision we’re working toward,” he said. The primary pillar for this nervous system theme is AppDynamics Cognition Engine. “The Cognition Engine is part of AppDynamics to take us from visibility to visibility and the ability to remediate,” he said.

The Cognition Engine can trigger automated remediation such as opening tickets and sending messages to spurring third-party systems into action.  

ZDNet Special Features: Art of the hybrid cloud | A guide to data center automation (PDF) | How ‘cloud-native’ applications are transforming IT, and why it took so long | What is cloud computing? Everything you need to know about the cloud, explained

In a nutshell, the Cognition Engine is the next phase of AppDynamics led by machine learning. The Cognition Engine combines AppDynamics business transaction data model with application performance diagnostics as well as root cause analysis.  The Cognition Engine is the combination of AppDynamics Business Transaction platform and the technology from Perspica, which was acquired by Cisco in 2017.  

Here are a few screenshots of the Cognition Engine via AppDynamics.

appdynamics-cognition-engine-2.png
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AppDynamics was acquired by Cisco two years ago for $3.7 billion. The purchase gave Cisco’s software efforts a boost as well as a way to capture analytics spending. AppDynamics melded analytics and monitoring since its software could monitor metrics flowing through applications.  The next phase of AppDynamics has to revolve around automation and machine learning because enterprises have so many moving parts. 

Wadhwani said:

AppDynamics is now 10 years old. We started on application performance monitoring and the depth of the visibility we provide. In the 2 years since the acquisition, we’ve added support for Kubernetes, Couchbase, Pivotal, network visibility and IoT. While we were focused a lot of our enterprise customers continued to remind us that they have a legacy investment and infrastructure to support. 

The Central Nervous System for IT is a vision that reflects the integration of multiple clouds, the Internet of Things, services, APIs, and agile development. Toss in the AIOps nomenclature and the vision reflects how artificial intelligence and agile development (DevOps and increasingly DevSecOps) will meld, too.

The core pitch from Cisco and AppDynamics is that visibility and the central nervous system model can provide visibility, insights, and automation.

Cisco and AppDynamics plan to make the Central Nervous System for IT an open platform that will work with third-party systems to absorb data, analyze it, and continually optimize.

Wadhwani, also outlined a few more pillars for the Central Nervous System for IT:

Visibility across applications, infrastructure and network. This pillar is largely provided in various forms across Cisco and AppDynamics today. AppDynamics can already provide visibility into SAP and IBM environments as well as cloud and IoT.

AppDynamics is adding a serverless agent for AWS Lambda to add monitoring like any other application. AppDynamics will also integrate with Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure in a move that highlights collaboration between the application and networking teams.

Insights to save time on troubleshooting to focus on business metrics and better experiences. Think of the insights pillar as a giant data ingestion effort that uses machine learning for analysis. Parts of this pillar exist within Cisco and AppDynamics today.

Action and automation to automate problem solving and optimize via the Cognition Engine.


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Analysis

Of those new products by AppDynamics, the Cognition Engine may have the most impact.The return on investment pitch for the Cognition Engine is that it’ll evolve and evaluate data in real time via streaming data and then detect anomalies as well as automate root cause analysis.

The integration with AWS Lambda highlights the rise of serverless computing as well as the heft of AWS.  AppDynamics is giving AWS Lambda first-class citizen status with more conventional infrastructure and applications. AppDynamics Serverless Agent for AWS Lambda is available as a beta trial. What serverless architecture really means, and where servers enter the picture

And the effort to integrate with AppDynamics with Cisco’s ACI architecture is overdue. Yes integration takes time, but Cisco’s ACI is a big focus for the networking giant and I would have thought it would have happened sooner. 

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Tesla Q2 2021: Deliveries break 200,000, Bitcoin bites and Semi pushed to 2022

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Tesla delivered over 200,000 vehicles in Q2 2021, with the electric car company announcing a 98-percent rise in revenue year on year. It’s not all good news, though, with the Tesla Semi having been pushed back to 2022, and a Bitcoin-related impairment hitting the balance sheet.

For the three month period, Tesla saw revenue of $11.958 billion, and earnings of $1.45 per share (non-GAAP). Operating margin was 11-percent.

Tesla produced 2,340 Model S and Model X, and delivered 1,890 of the EVs. The bulk, though, was over with the more affordable Model 3 and Model Y. There, Tesla built 204,080 and delivered 199,360.

That increase in Model 3 and Model Y shipments did, however, have an impact on vehicle average selling price. That declined by 2-percent, year on year, as Model S and Model X deliveries were lower for the latest quarter. “Production ramp of Model S progressed over the course of Q2,” Tesla says, “and we expect it will continue to increase throughout the rest of the year.”

85 megawatts of solar were deployed, and 1,274 MWh of power storage.

As for the downs of the quarter, one notable hit was a $23 million “Bitcoin-related impairment” recorded. Tesla had announced back in February 2021 that it was buying $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency; the following month, it revealed it would allow EV shoppers to pay for their new car with Bitcoin. Come May, however, Elon Musk ended that, amid concerns at the ecological impact of cryptocurrency mining.

The other disappointment is news on the Tesla Semi. Production of the electric haulage has been pushed back, Tesla confirmed today, as the automaker focuses on building its first Model Y at the Berlin and Austin factories later this year.

“To better focus on these factories, and due to the limited availability of battery cells and global supply chain challenges, we have shifted the launch of the Semi truck program to 2022,” Tesla said.

For the Tesla Cybertruck, meanwhile, there’s really just a single mention of the upcoming electric pickup. “We are all making progress on the industrialization of Cybertruck,” the automaker says, “which is currently planned for Austin production subsequent to Model Y.”

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Lucid Motors goes public, grabs $4.4 billion and loses its last excuse

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Lucid Motors has gone public, listing as $LCID on the NASDAQ and raising $4.4 billion as it heads into the final countdown for producing and selling its Air all-electric luxury sedan. It’s been a tumultuous journey for the automaker from its founding in 2007 to here, and the clock is ticking for Lucid to prove it really can disrupt the EV status-quo as it has long claimed it will.

We first saw the Lucid Air back in late 2016, and since then the automaker’s claims haven’t exactly been coy. Certain configurations will offer 500+ miles of EPA range on a charge, Lucid has said, with performance as rapid as 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds.

Still, like many would-be auto industry disruptors, Lucid has had to battle to make the whole thing make sense financially. Production of the Air was pushed back, though now the company says it should begin that in the second half of 2021. It’ll use the new merger with SPAC Churchill Capital Corp IV – and the funds it raises – to help pay for that.

There are, Lucid says, currently over 11,000 reservations for the various configurations of Air it plans to build. All of its Air Dream Edition models – which will be manufactured first – have been reserved; subsequent trims, including the Grand Touring, Touring, and most affordable Pure, will follow, though it won’t be until 2022 at the earliest before the cheapest Air arrives.

Part of Lucid’s challenge, of course, is raising its profile amid the increasingly crowded electric luxury segment. With Tesla dominating mindshare, and established brands like Mercedes-Benz preparing to weigh in with all-electric heavyweights such as the new EQS, speed and range aren’t going to be sufficient in themselves to distinguish models like the Lucid Air.

The automaker’s strategy there is to put the Air where people can’t miss it. Three new “Lucid Dream Ahead” boxes have been placed around well-trafficked spots in New York City, for example; they’ll be uncovered to reveal an Air sedan in each. Unable to count on Tesla’s “we don’t pay for advertising” model, Lucid is putting ads on CNBC, in newspapers, and on the Times Square digital billboards.

The reality is that, at $131,500 for an Air Grand Touring, the Air will go head to head with some strong competition. Mercedes hasn’t confirmed pricing for the 2022 EQS arriving in the near year, but says to expect it to be roughly on a par with the S-Class. Meanwhile, a more powerful Tesla Model S Plaid is $129,990.

Despite that, the automaker is looking ahead to how it can best spend its new windfall. “Lucid will add 2.7 million square feet of additional space at our greenfield factory in Arizona,” CEO Peter Rawlinson said today. “This will allow us to add a separate line for our Project Gravity electric SUV even as we accelerate its development.”

The short-term question, as customer car production nears, is just how many of the reservation holders convert their refundable deposit into an actual order. We’ll find that out later in the year, when Lucid opens the order books officially.

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2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Review

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It’s probably fair to say that Toyota put hybrids on the map. The Prius defined the category, came to resemble every stereotype of a “green” car (and, for that matter, of your next Uber or Lyft), and for many has been a first taste of electrification. What’s odd, then, is that it’s taken until now – and the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime – for the automaker to get around to making a compelling plug-in hybrid.

The nomenclature can be tricky, so first a quick recap. The original Prius – and indeed most models of Prius since – have been a hybrid in that they pair a gas engine with an electric motor, and a small battery. As you slow down, instead of wasting all that energy heating up and wearing away the brake pads, the hybrid drivetrain converts it into electricity; hit the accelerator, and it uses it to give you a little extra jolt of speed.

It’s a great way to nudge up your miles-per-gallon numbers, without demanding owners do anything as unusual as plug their car into a charger. The downside is that the electric-only range is tiny: maybe about a mile, if you have a light right foot. For more than that, you’ll need at least a plug-in hybrid, or PHEV.

That way you get not only a bigger battery – meaning more electric-only range, before the gas engine kicks in – but the ability to charge it externally. For most people that means while they’re at home or at work, but you can also plug PHEVs into public chargers. They’re a reassuring stepping-stone to full electric because, even if you don’t have time or access to a charger, you can simply fill up the gas tank for more range.

Toyota has flirted with PHEVs, but it’s only with the 2021 RAV4 Prime where it feels like it truly took the category seriously. Maybe that’s because the RAV4 is such an important model in the automaker’s line-up: the best-seller of out of its whole range, in fact, in the first half of 2021. If you’re going to wear the RAV4 nameplate, then, you need to live up to the billing.

Here, Toyota pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with two electric motors, and an 18.1 kWh battery pack under the trunk floor. Now EVs with batteries capable of anything close to a decent range tend to be on the heavy side, and the RAV4 Prime is no different at around 4,300 pounds, but it still manages to be Toyota’s second most potent model on sale right now.

Sure, a Supra will best it, but 302 horsepower is plenty for a compact SUV. The two-door coupe can’t drive 42 miles on electric power alone, either, or accommodate a family of five and their luggage. Toyota claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds, which is positively perky.

Exactly how much of that perkiness you get depends on which drive mode you’re in. Auto mode blends the gas and electric powers as the RAV4 Prime sees fit; you’ll know when the fossil fuels are being burned, because the four-cylinder grunts a little noisily into life. EV mode avoids that happening until the battery is depleted, though sacrifices performance in the process. If you want maximum power, you’ll need to be in Auto.

Finally, there’s a mode where the gas engine stays active more, so as to charge up the battery while you’re driving. It’s definitely not the most efficient way to do that, mind. Instead, you’re going to want to plug the crossover in.

As standard, the RAV4 Prime comes with a 3.3 kW onboard charger. Plug the PHEV into a regular, 120V outlet – such as with the Level 1 charger Toyota supplies – and you’re looking at 12 hours for a full charge. With a Level 2 240V charger, that dips to 4.5 hours. Optional on the fancier 2021 RAV4 Prime XSE trim is a 6.6 kW onboard charger, as part of the Premium package. That trims the 240V Level 2 charge time to 2.5 hours.

42 miles of EV-only range may not sound like a lot, but it’s more than the average American drives in a day. With a full tank of gas to play with, the EPA says you could do a whopping 600 miles before needing to stop: the SUV is rated for 94 MPGe, or 38 mpg on gasoline only.

Sadly, you don’t get DC fast charging support, so don’t expect faster top-ups at higher powered public chargers. That’s not an unusual sacrifice for PHEVs, mind, where the ability to fill up a gas tank generally offsets the absence of fast charging.

On the road, the RAV4 Prime falls victim to the same shortcoming many plug-in hybrids suffer. In a straight line it’s definitely speedy, the dual-motor all-wheel drive setup launching you forward with all the instantaneous torque that we’ve come to love electric vehicles for. The eagerness with which it surges away from stop signs and lights makes it a pleasing tool for urban jaunts.

Cornering, though, is not the Toyota’s forte. Not that, quite frankly, anybody looked to the RAV4 for its handling prowess. The suspension is clearly tuned in an attempt to offset the battery heft, and the result is body roll in the corners and some dive when you brake on the harder side. The steering is precise but not quick. Fine for cruising, then, but this doesn’t really put the “Sport” in SUV.

The “Utility,” however, is another matter. Toyota’s cunning packaging not only hides the battery, but cuts only a little into cargo space in the process. With the rear bench up, you’re looking at 33.5 cu-ft; drop it down, that expands to almost 70 cu-ft. Both the entry RAV4 Prime SE at $38,250, and the nicer XSE at $41,575, get a power liftgate.

As for the rest of the cabin, Toyota’s current curse of “sensibly dour” continues. It’s not that the RAV4 Prime’s dashboard feels cheap, or even that it’s lacking in features, it just seems a little too sober for its own good. Everything is laid out cleanly and sensibly, and there are some nice, soft-touch materials, I just wish it wasn’t so dark in there.

Dual-zone climate control is standard, along with heated front seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and an 8-inch infotainment systems with 6-speaker audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and five USB ports spread around the cabin. Sadly Toyota’s new UI isn’t included, meaning the infotainment is serviceable but hardly aesthetically-delightful. The XSE gets a slightly bigger, 9-inch touchscreen, wireless phone charging, a foot-operated tailgate, along with SofTex seats rather than just fabric. Options include ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a 120V/1500W outlet in the trunk, navigation, and front and rear parking assistance.

Standard either way is Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which bundles together adaptive cruise control, Lane Departure Alerts and Lane Tracing Assist, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, and auto high-beams. Blind spot alerts are included too, as is trailer sway control for when you’re taking advantage of the 2,500 pounds of towing capacity.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Verdict

The RAV4 Prime’s wildcard is the US federal tax incentive. Though the PHEV is almost $10k more than the regular RAV4 Hybrid – which has much less electric-only range and no ability to plug it in to charge – it’s eligible for the full, $7,500 tax credit. Take advantage of other incentives at the state and local level, and you can quickly pare down that difference.

At that point, quite honestly, the 2021 RAV4 Prime becomes a no-brainer for the average crossover shopper. Would I love a little extra electric range? Sure, but Toyota’s 42 miles is readily achievable on the road, and its overall package of electrification without demanding too much in the way of cabin and cargo compromise is solid. A bigger battery would take up more space, add weight, and make the whole thing more expensive.

It’s hard to argue with the idea that the automotive world is headed toward full-electric. Not everyone, though, is quite ready for the transition, and I think there’s still absolutely a place for plug-in hybrids that acknowledge that fact. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is easy to live with and practical, and the fact that you can drive it on electric power alone only adds to the experience, rather than complicating it.

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