[Column] Andrew Cruise: DR and security strategies could save your network in 2019

Andrew Cruise, Managing Director, Routed, South Africa’s only vendor neutral cloud infrastructure provider, says that disaster recovery (DR) and back-up solutions remain key to business strategies for 2019

Andrew Cruise, Managing Director, Routed, South Africa’s only vendor neutral cloud infrastructure provider, says that disaster recovery (DR) and back-up solutions remain key to business strategies for 2019. Cruise says that protecting on-premise and cloud-based data is critical if businesses are wanting the ability to recover all areas and avoid disasters, something he says did not fully resonate with businesses in 2018.

“Despite growing interest, majority of local businesses are yet to fully understand the importance of DR and back-up. Time needs to be spent reviewing what is in place, how and where it can expand and if using new technology will assist in ensuring better delivery in 2019,” says Cruise.

He says that a new trend is to form closer ties between DR and security. While DR traditionally concerns itself with loss of data, applications, systems and locations, the rise of malware and external attacks across networks has placed increased focus on the recovery of these environments and in a secure state: “Solid DR strategies will meet compliance requirements, while also ensuring the recovery of data, specific endpoints and applications,” says Cruise.

With more moves into the cloud, businesses need to make a concerted effort to embrace DR and backup. Cruise says the reality of ownership of the data is key: “This remains the organisation’s responsibility. The onus is on them to find ways in which to protect cloud-based data, this includes using third-party vendors.”

As threats are on the increase, a cloud approach could further protect a network from attack, even act as another layer of defense: “Recovery could potentially be much quicker if the entire system is simply rebooted, as opposed to trying to resume services on the network which experienced the attack,” explains Cruise.

This practice of cloud-based DR provides a much more efficient approach to resuming business functions. Cruise says that Routed hopes businesses will continue to explore DR and back-up solutions, giving serious consideration to cloud-based solutions and services.

Andrew Cruise, is the Managing Director, Cloud provider Routed, South Africa

[Column] Anton Jacobsz: Moving to cloud? Take note of common security needs

The claim that cloud computing is radically transforming the way organisations (both big and small) do business, for better, agile and faster results, has become fact

The claim that cloud computing is radically transforming the way organisations (both big and small) do business, for better, agile and faster results, has become fact. However, there are still numerous scares denting the confidence of decision makers to shift workloads to the cloud, and security in the cloud continues to have an impact on the “shall we stay on premise or go hybrid or settle in the cloud” conundrum.

“Since the dawn of cloud computing, securing workloads in the cloud has been top of mind for business and technology developers. Data – no matter where it is stored – needs to be guarded for obvious reasons. At the present moment though, I believe that it’s more of a risk not moving into the cloud as, quite simply, the cloud is an integral part of digitisation. The move can no longer be an ‘if’ choice for organisations, but rather a boardroom conversation that starts with ‘when’,” says Anton Jacobsz, managing director at value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited Africa.

He explains that Networks Unlimited Africa anticipated the rapid rise of cloud when it made the decision to offer its customers throughout Africa solutions from RSA, a global cybersecurity leader who offers business-driven security solutions that uniquely link business context with security incidents.

“In a high risk world, organisations cannot afford to let their guard down,” continues Jacobsz,

“And, we are positive that making RSA solutions available to our customers on the continent will aid their transition not only to the cloud but also into the macro digital marketplace.”

RSA holds the accolade of being named a “Leader” in four Magic Quadrants by Gartner: 2017 Magic Quadrant for Business Continuity Management Program Solutions, Worldwide; 2017 Magic Quadrant for IT Vendor Risk Management; 2017 Magic Quadrant for IT Risk Management Solutions; and 2016 Magic Quadrant for Operational Risk Management Solutions.  The company also protects millions of users around the world, and helps 90 percent of the Fortune 500 companies thrive in an uncertain, high-risk world.

Jacobsz adds: “At Networks Unlimited Africa, we are especially pleased RSA enables customers’ cloud adoption plans through its strategy to ensure that its security technology operates is built to scale in the cloud environments that customers deem important.”

The realities surrounding security in the cloud have been documented in the white paper titled, ‘RSA & The Cloud: Opportunities, capabilities & challenges when considering security and the cloud’.

The paper highlights the three common requirements of businesses moving into the cloud and states: “As enterprises move applications and data to the cloud, every CISO (chief information security officer) is concerned about how their workloads will be secured, the same as if they operated on-premises. They know they don’t get a free pass from hackers just because the data is in the cloud. Threat actors view this as another potential attack vector to be exploited in this new, expanding and highly porous attack surface area of the modern enterprise. The bottom line is that enterprises have the same needs to provide (1) threat detection and response, (2) identity and access management, and (3) enterprise risk management for their assets in the cloud.”

The RSA paper expands on these issues and explains:

“Detecting threats in the cloud: When it comes to security monitoring, customers can’t ignore the cloud as a potential threat attack vector. While it certainly differs from on-premises deployment of security capabilities, the assets still need to be secured. Therefore, enterprises need to have endpoint-to-cloud visibility of all enterprise threats.

“Ensuring people are who they claim to be in the cloud: With so much critical data moving to IaaS and SaaS applications, the CISO needs to have a high degree of assurance that users are who they claim to be when accessing cloud resources.

“Providing insight into ‘who has access to what’ in the cloud: With so many applications, the enterprise needs to ensure that users have the right entitlements to both cloud and on-premises apps, based upon their role. Why is too much access a problem? As identity is such a consequential attack vector, limiting what data and apps a threat actor can gain access to using stolen credentials reduces an organisation’s risk and exposure.

“Understanding risk and compliance of the cloud: A major challenge to any organisation’s cloud strategy comes with tracking how the business is utilising cloud services and its relationships with external providers.”

Concludes Jacobsz: “The paper makes for a thought-provoking read. What stands out, in particular, is the sentence: ‘Security software that can’t operate from the cloud will be left behind’. And being left behind in the digital marketplace…well, that just spells disaster.”

Anton Jacobsz is the MD of African value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited.

[South Africa] Airlink embraces cloud software solution to boost operations

Airlink recently completed its implementation of the TRAX eMRO cloud software solution. eMRO caters to every aspect of aircraft maintenance management.

South Africa based Airlink has been on a modernization strategy. It recently completed its implementation of the TRAX eMRO cloud software solution. eMRO caters to every aspect of aircraft maintenance management.

 It is deployed via any web browser and allows users to stay connected from any work location. With true offline capability, eMRO automatically synchronizes when connected.

Airlink is a feeder network airline aimed at linking the smaller towns, regional centers and hubs throughout the country. It is in a strategic alliance with South African Airways and South African Express Airways and serves 38 destinations in 9 countries on the African continent.

The fleet of 59 aircraft includes Embraer ERJs, Avro RJ85s, and Cessnas. Recently, Airlink became the first South African airline to acquire Embraer E-Jets (E-170s and E-190s).

Airlink will next move into Phase 2 of its modernization plans and employ the TRAX eMobility web-based and iOS apps. The combination of eMRO and eMobility software products will allow the Airlink team to be truly mobile in its maintenance operation. TRAX congratulates Airlink team on their accomplishment.

www.flyairlink.com

[Column] Anton Jacobsz: Cloud computing evolves, becomes enterprise cloud-as-a-service

Over the past two decades or so, the concept of cloud computing has evolved dramatically, as new data centre and networking technologies came to the fore, and new types of ‘cloud’ emerged.

Over the past two decades or so, the concept of cloud computing has evolved dramatically, as new data centre and networking technologies came to the fore, and new types of ‘cloud’ emerged.

While the cloud’s roots may be traced back to computing from decades past, the tipping point is often considered to be the introduction of SalesForce.com in 1999 – pioneering the concept of hosting enterprise applications online, and making them accessible via a website.

A few years later, we started building large centres to host data and processing capabilities for a multitude of enterprise applications (via platforms such as Amazon Web Services). Then, about 10 years ago, cloud entered the ‘everyman’ lexicon, hosting the new wave of smartphone applications, and powering new online business services (such as Google’s suite of enterprise services).

The data centres got bigger – often housed in desolate expanses in places like Utah and Nevada in the US. To cater for all business needs, public clouds, private clouds, and then hybrid clouds evolved. They became richer and more powerful in their capabilities, and in more recent years started integrating advanced artificial intelligence (AI) features to make sense of all the data and help guide business decisions.

The cloud advanced from simply a ‘place to host software’, to the nerve-centre of the enterprise that fuelled new insights, new understanding, and breakthrough innovations that truly changed the world.

Those companies that saw the potential of the cloud in their industry – the likes of Netflix (broadcasting), Tesla (automotive), Amazon (retail) and AirBNB (hospitality) – were able to entirely re-shape their markets and net incredible returns.

The next era

So, what is the next chapter in the story? How can the next evolution of the cloud be defined?

Anton Jacobsz, MD of African value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited, notes that his team has selected HyperGrid as one of its key vendor partnerships, due to HyperGrid’s strong vision for the next era of cloud computing.

“HyperGrid is passionate about the concept of enterprise cloud-as-a-service – which we feel reflects the growing maturity of the cloud, incorporating all the lessons from the past 20 years, and all the advances in the technology and the enabling ecosystems,” he says.

“Enterprise cloud-as-a-service – or ECAAS – is the culmination of years of effort. It truly addresses all business needs, nullifies all potential concerns, and allows the organisation to imagine a world without limits.”

Pulling it all together

“HyperGrid’s main focus today is to simplify IT by providing a highly secure public cloud experience everywhere, for any application on any cloud or any infrastructure.” explains Doug Rich, VP of EMEA at HyperGrid. “ And through ECAAS, we can provide all the benefits of a public cloud, but on premises.

“ECAAS can essentially be summed up by saying that CIOs get all the control of a private cloud environment, but with the efficiency, limitless scalability, and rapid ecosystem development of the public cloud,” he adds.

Rich refers to a recent blog written by Jennifer Gill, VP, Content Marketing at HyperGrid, which highlights the following key characteristics of ECAAS:

  • Full control: Compute, networking, storage, applications and other services are all located within your own data centre – alleviating any concerns about data privacy, governance or sovereignty.
  • Automated management: Though all intelligence is held within your own data centre, the in-house IT team is able to hand-over full responsibility to their partners (freeing the CIO’s team to focus on strategic partnerships with business stakeholders, new innovations, and new revenue-generating opportunities).
  • True consumption-based pricing: Unlike leasing or subscription pricing, with ECAAS you’re billed only for the resources and applications that you use.
  • Orchestration across multiple clouds: Whether you have data and services located in one environment, or spread across 10 different cloud platforms, everything is effectively managed and reported on in a consolidated fashion.
  • On-demand resources delivered with simplicity: As your needs evolve, you can instantly add and remove new services, applications or computing resources as needed. With simplified end-user interfaces, gaining access to new infrastructure is as simple as clicking a few buttons.

The cloud has certainly matured. Along the way, we’ve made a few mis-steps and taken some wrong turns… and for many large enterprises, their cloud landscape has become complex, fractured and expensive (Gartner research shows that large organisations are managing on average 4.6 different cloud platforms).

But, Jacobsz explains that with ECAAS, this complexity can be abstracted: “The cloud can finally start delivering on its grand promises. We have come a long way in the past two decades, and with ECAAS, we’ll position ourselves to take the next step.


Anton Jacobsz is the MD of African value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited.

[Column] Corine Mbiaketcha Nana: Five essential steps to close the cloud skills gap in Kenya

The ability to find and retain cloud-savvy, IT staff continues to be considered as one of the key barriers to cloud adoption according to Oracle’s latest ‘You & IaaS’ survey.

The ability to find and retain cloud-savvy, IT staff continues to be considered as one of the key barriers to cloud adoption according to Oracle’s latest ‘You & IaaS’ survey.

As Infrastructure-as-a-Service adoption grows and the technology matures, the availability of staff with specialist skills is being surpassed by demand. The survey found that more than one-fifth (28 percent) of companies say that IT skills shortages have been one of their top issues in rolling out IaaS.

Closer to home, a research study by RANITP (Research Academic Network on IT Policy), Research ICT Africa and the University of Nairobi on the state of cloud service usage in Kenya, found that businesses highlighted DevOps, software development, system administration and networking skills as crucial for cloud delivery. In addition, they pointed out that information security, as well as contract and project management skills, are essential for migrating, maintaining and supporting cloud services.

No wonder, moving to the cloud is still deemed to be risky by some CIOs; but should it be?

The reality is that the bigger risk is not moving to the cloud, which is rapidly proving itself as easier to manage, maintain and secure than traditional IT environments. In particular, cloud services are vastly more secure than many on-premise alternatives, since leading cloud vendors such as Oracle invest in creating a highly robust security infrastructure that is continually patched and kept up-to-date. This level of investment in security can never be matched in an on-premise environment.

What I see from talking to CIOs across Africa is that the skills gap issue relates less to having cloud-specific skills; it is instead a mindset challenge.

In his Africa blog post, Frank Rizzo, partner, Technology Sector Leader for Africa at KPMG says cloud computing is not driven solely by technical experts any longer, but by business leaders looking to leverage it from an overall business perspective.

So what are the gaps and how can companies overcome them?

1. Hiring for the cloud era

Creating a team for the future will inevitably affect the hiring process. Rather than look for new employees from traditional, external sources – most likely direct competitors – CIOs should aim to recruit from cloud-native companies. These staff are used to handling data in the cloud and with the cloud skills required.

Once onboard, there are two main options for how to make the most of this talent. Use the new hires to fill the gaps and educate the rest of the team, or build a completely new team that’s cloud-first by design. This approach can motivate the business and act as a catalyst for innovation.

2. Internal talent

Don’t forget you already might have internal talent that has the potential to shine in a cloud world.  Holding or attending ‘hackathons’ or offering existing staff the opportunity to volunteer to take part in new cloud projects could give you the opportunity to spot skills you didn’t know the team possessed.

This is an approach that the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is taking. To support its strategic drive to enhance service delivery to taxpayers, KRA deployed a new Customer Relationship Management Solution (CRMS) that provides it with a single platform to better understand customer needs and respond to their demands more quickly and efficiently.

KRA has been undertaking extensive staff training programmes to guarantee superior customer interaction management with taxpayers. Its CRM training is divided into four areas based on the role various groups play, including end-user, back office staff, and administrator training as well as the training of trainers. Change management initiatives and staff sensitization workshops are also carried out to create system awareness.

Another thing to consider is that some of the team’s existing expertise can be transferred to the cloud.  In some cases, new cloud services, in fact, mirror their on-premises counterparts, making the transfer of skills more achievable.

Re-training existing members of staff is also critical. There are a range of options to help organizations upskill their IT teams through training; from government programmes through to vendor academies, such as the Oracle Academy. The latter are useful for providing both the technical skill set required and the necessary security and compliance training.

3. Think big

Infrastructure cloud services enable businesses to operate elastically, at a vastly increased scale. This gives the company an amazing opportunity to change the dynamics of how they operate. Instead of just migrating individual databases, think bigger, consolidating the various data sets you have around the business into a unified dataset. There are multiple benefits of this. At a base level, you can have more applications per server and manage them all as one, and with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning becoming more widespread you can be prepared to take maximum use of these exciting emerging technologies by creating a single data asset.

4. Data orchestration

Businesses are increasingly seeking to become data-driven. IT teams need to stop looking at data and processes as systems issues and instead regard them as profit opportunities. This means thinking about how business information can be turned into actionable insights that lead to customer engagement and profitable growth.

5. Advanced data management

Data is the new oil for businesses: a huge source of potential wealth if mined, refined and distributed well. A core skill for enterprise IT teams is, therefore, how to store, manage and transport data. This means extending skills beyond technology to include data governance and compliance capabilities.

Any enterprise that’s serious about leveraging the cloud to innovate and grow needs to have these skills entrenched in their IT teams. It is therefore vital that organizations go about building cloud-ready teams in the right way.

If enterprise IT teams can close the cloud skills gap, the rewards will be well worth the effort. The renewed, high-performing team will quickly demonstrate value to the C-suite and other key corporate stakeholders while enabling a core competitive differentiator for the business.


Corine Mbiaketcha Nana, Managing Director Kenya Hub covering East, Central and West Africa at Oracle.

[South Africa] Routed Signs Expansion Agreement for Ubersmith Subscription Business Software

Routed, a vendor-neutral cloud infrastructure provider in South Africa has signed an expansion agreement to take further advantage of subscription business management software from Ubersmith, an INAP (NASDAQ: INAP) company, to further enable its fast-paced growth.

The company is a model of efficiency using the Ubersmith software suite to automate pay-per-use billing to reduce the chance of mistakes in a manual process, as well as centralize customer information including client contracts. It bills clients on a pay-per-use model and sells its solutions through partners, such as internet service providers (ISPs) and managed service providers (MSPs).

Ubersmith provides the flexibility for Routed to efficiently bill large enterprises as well as smaller MSPs. In addition, all of Routed’s customers use the Ubersmith software Client Portal for easy access to information on the services they’re using.

Based in Cape Town with data centres there as well as in Johannesburg, Routed’s vendor-neutral cloud hosting platform is built using VMware technology — specifically vCloud Director stack. The company takes advantage of Ubersmith’s built-in integration with vCloud Director, as well as QuickBooks so that clients’ usage data is pulled into the billing system.

“The Ubersmith software is ideal for the kind of subscription billing we do and the business model we have while integrating well with other applications and infrastructure, and remaining open for the future as needed,” said Andrew Cruise, managing director of Routed. “It makes our lives easier, helping our people in billing, customer service and sales work efficiently to handle the growth today and prepare for the scalability needs of our business tomorrow.”

Future plans at Routed include expansion of the Ubersmith software to include the Sales Manager and Order Manager, which provide workflow tools and automation from the initial quote to account setup, provisioning, billing and more.

“We are pleased to partner more deeply with Routed to help enable its cloud business and its ability to launch and support high-quality services with great efficiency,” said Kurt Daniel, CEO of Ubersmith. “We’re pleased to play a role in Routed’s success in South Africa and beyond as they take further advantage of the full range of turnkey usage-based billing, infrastructure and operations capabilities we offer to their organization and their customers.”

www.routed.co.za

www.ubersmith.com

[Column] Karl Reed: The customer’s journey to the cloud

Migrating to the cloud is no longer the complex process it once was. Thanks to the evolution of technology, moving from an on-premises environment can be done much more efficiently than before.

Migrating to the cloud is no longer the complex process it once was. Thanks to the evolution of technology, moving from an on-premises environment can be done much more efficiently than before. Even attitudes towards this strategic shift have changed, says Karl Reed, Chief Solutions Officer at Elingo.

Going the cloud route does not require a big bang approach. Instead, organisations can phase it in over several months (or years even) as their budget and business processes allow.

In the past few years, accessibility to the cloud from an Internet and capability perspective, as well as the speed to deployment, has changed for the better. In fact, Elingo’s recent experience shows customers are approaching the company wanting to migrate instead of needing the hard sell.

Mindset shift

Contributing to this enabling environment is the upcoming arrival of several multinational data centres in the country. Granted, it might only account for approximately 20% of the reason businesses are considering migrating. But, combined with more user-friendly technology, the market is ripe to start benefiting from this natural technology progression.

Perhaps, most importantly, the business mindset is changing. A year ago, decision-makers were still apprehensive about the cloud. Fast forward to the present and they are less resistant about moving. Now, they are much more open towards cloud discussions reflecting trends elsewhere in the world.

The country is basically there; we are fast approaching a time where every organisation will be connected to cloud in some form or another. Just consider how all your personal information is already stored in the cloud. It is only natural that this will start extending to business data as well.

Regulatory needs

Furthermore, the regulatory environment is also playing its part in getting companies to migrate. The likes of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) create complex environments. Fortunately, the cloud fully supports it and provides local businesses with a significantly more secure environment than if they had to build it themselves.

Given how the compliance requirements for cloud service providers are significantly more complicated than for ‘standard’ businesses, they do everything in their power to ensure the safety, reliability, availability, and accessibility of cloud-based offerings, systems and data.

Unique approach

With every customer environment and requirement unique when it comes to the cloud, service providers must be able to adapt their processes to accommodate. For example, expectations from an insurance company will be different to that from a courier business in terms of cloud migration and offerings. So, even though there is still complexity involved in making the transition, it is not insurmountable.

One of the most appealing things for any business when it comes to the cloud is the return on investment that is on offer. For one, the cloud enables the company to manage spend on a monthly basis instead of a massive upfront payment.

Secondly, there are the savings that companies do not even realise they are getting. Just like every computer in the business needs power, software licences, access to the Internet, and so on, so too do on-premises servers. Furthermore, these servers need to be maintained and upgraded every few years. Even the air-conditioning units in the server room need power, maintenance, and so on, continually adding to the cost of on-premises solutions. With the cloud, there is none of that.

Given the ease of use and speed of deployment, the cloud will soon become the default approach for many local organisations. The cloud is already everywhere. Now is the time to capitalise on it.

Karl Reed is the Chief Solutions Officer at Elingo.

Public cloud services will enable organisations to accelerate digital transformation in South Africa

The increased utilisation of public cloud services and the additional investments into private and hybrid cloud solutions will enable organisations in South Africa to focus on innovation and accelerate the pace of digital business transformation. This is according to the IDC report, Economic Impact of IT & Microsoft in South Africa. In turn, the report says this will help businesses generate close to R81 billion in net revenue over the next four years.

The Intelligent Cloud is the enabler of true digital transformation, enabling businesses to transform their existing business models into digital business models, thereby improving operational efficiency, empowering employees, enabling richer customer engagements, and transforming and innovative products and services.

According to Ashleigh Fenwick, Head of Communications at Microsoft, the IT the IT sector in South Africa is expected to grow at a five-year compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.25% to reach R175 billion by 2022.

‘’This growth is fuelled by public cloud growth – the cloud market is expected to reach R11.53 billion by 2022, representing a CAGR of a whopping 21.9%. This could potentially lead to 119k nett new job opportunities,”  he said.

Fenwick was speaking when he announced that Microsoft had pushed the launch of its two data centres in South Africa to 2019. Located in Johannesburg and Cape Town, said it is targeting cloud services growth on the continent. These data centres are expected to deliver the Microsoft Cloud, including Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics 365 to Africa. They had initially been set to be launched in 2018.

While the software market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 2.9% over the next 5 years, the cloud market in South Africa is expected to grow at 21.9% to reach R11.53 billion. The increased adoption of cloud services in the country will create 112,000 net new job opportunities in the economy by 2022, driven by the benefits of cloud computing, such as lower capex, efficiency, scale, and flexibility.

Cloud computing has taken off dramatically across Africa’s major markets. Its benefits are however being experienced very differently in each region – as are its budget allocations.

www.microsoft.com

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Xalam Analytics: Can Data Localization Laws Boost African Cloud and Colocation Markets?

On the surface, requiring companies to host data locally would seem an attractive option to foster local industry and data sovereignty. The question is whether it ultimately does more harm than good.

Last August, an Indian expert panel committee released its initial recommendations for the country’s upcoming privacy law, including a requirement for companies to store Indian user data in servers physically located in the country. The committee’s recommendations have touched off a fierce debate on the future of India’s digital ecosystem. As more African countries push to adapt their legal frameworks to the Internet age, the same debates are intensifying here.

Kenya’s proposed Data Protection Bill, for example, would require companies to store user data in servers physically located in Kenya, and hire local IT professionals to monitor how the data is managed. In South Africa, the POPI Act (which becomes effective next year) includes some data localization requirements. In Cote-d’Ivoire, the launch of Orange’s Personal Cloud service ignited a public debate on data privacy and the need for localization requirements.

Data localization requirements have far-reaching ramifications, mixing issues around end-user privacy, security, data sovereignty, cloud network architecture and infrastructure, and market player behavior.

Consistent with the Xalam research focus, this Market Brief is primarily concerned with the potential economic impact of such measures, specifically on African cloud and data center colocation markets.

Can data localization boost African cloud service adoption?

There is no clear precedent for the impact data localization laws might have in African markets. To this point, the main markets to have implemented, or strongly considered pervasive data localization requirements have been relatively large economies: China, Russia, India. As a block, African markets would undoubtedly carry similar weight. But Africa is not a block, and the relatively small size of most markets makes the consequences (intended, and unintended) of data localization obligations difficult to read.

Building on data and insights from our data center research and ongoing analysis of African public cloud markets, we ran some impact simulations for several markets and attempted some educated speculation on the potential impact of localization requirements. A summary of our initial conclusions follows.

www.xalamanalytics.com

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[South Africa] SAP unveils the first sports-specific cloud solution, SAP Sports One

SAP has launched SAP Sports One, the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by SAP’s celebrated HANA platform. The solution which was launched Johannesburg provides teams and administrators with a single unified platform for the efficient management of teams and players and delivers powerful analytical insights for performance optimisation.

The solution was born out of a partnership between SAP and the German football team. Following the team’s victory at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, SAP was heralded as the team’s “12th Man” by the Wall Street Journal and credited with a significant contribution to the famous win.

The launch was attended by delegates from many of South Africa’s top sports bodies, including the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), Federation International of Football Association (FIFA), Gauteng Sports Confederation and other key members of the sporting industry.

Commenting on the launch, Bernhard Escherich, Global Head of New Markets & Strategic Customers: Sport & Entertainment at SAP, said this experience prompted SAP to expand the scope and functionality of Sports One and release it as a single product for sports teams. “SAP Sports One provides team management, training planning, player fitness, performance insights, scouting and penalty insights functionality to some of the world’s leading high-performance sports teams. While it was initially designed to support football teams, today Sports One has been adopted by a range of other sports disciplines, including rugby, basketball, skiing and ice hockey.”

Deployed in the cloud, SAP Sports One helps clubs and organisations digitalise sports performance management by coordinating all administrative, training and team management, scouting and medical processes. “The solution is built on SAP HANA, so data analysis and processing take place in real time to equip coaching, medical and administrative staff with in-the-moment insight into various performance areas relating to the team or organisation,” said Escherich. “Most sports already generate a wealth of data from video feeds and equipment sensors, and we have partnered with a number of sports companies to generate player data via their wearable devices: our platform integrates all the data sources and enables real-time management of teams.”

Escherich added that many of the company’s innovations in other industries have been incorporated in the Sports One platform. “We have embedded powerful tools to understand the relationships between data sets, apply geospatial analysis of data, and present the findings in new and interesting ways that are relevant to the person consuming the data. For example, the coach will have a very different interface when using Sports One than what the physiotherapist will experience. This ensures each user gets the information most important to them and their job functions.”

According to Simon Carpenter, Chief Technology Advisor at SAP Africa, the company’s rich history in developing ERP solutions for large, complex industries has opened the door to developing solutions for the media, sports and entertainment industries. “Modern sports teams are huge, multi-billion-dollar businesses with millions of fans, extensive facilities, thousands of employees, and of course the sports stars themselves. As the sports industry is increasingly professionalised, administrators face many of the same challenges other industries encounter: procurement, talent management and retention, performance management, marketing, and CRM. Attempting to manage all these disparate elements manually while still ensuring peak team performance is nigh-impossible. That’s where Sports One comes in.”

Carpenter says there is a global war for talent, and this is even more closely fought in the sports industries. “Social listening integrated into Sports One can pick up fan conversations about which players are perceived to be performing well, pointing talent scouts to potential future superstars. The ability to identify talent at an earlier stage further enables better talent development, helping grow and develop promising players. Through the deep analytics embedded in the platform, team managers can also start identifying patterns that point to exhaustion or excessive workload, which may be precursors to injury. With this insight at hand, sports teams can make more informed decisions over how players are managed for optimal performance.”

Sport’s mass appeal and global reach make the fan experience essential to the growth and success of sports disciplines and teams. Large sports events can draw billions of viewers – the FIFA World Cup attracts on average 3.5 billion viewers, with 1 billion watching the 2014 final alone – and technology has emerged as a vital component to improving the viewing experience for fans. “The explosion in data use in sports has created compelling new opportunities to provide fans with deeper levels of insight and engagement,” says Carpenter. “In a long-standing project with Sailing Team Germany, we applied our data analytics and planning expertise to reduce the complexity of sailing and make what is happening on the water more compelling for crews and sailing fans. The solutions focused on the team and the events, with event solutions using live streams, real-time and post-race analyses, and data analytics of wind and water conditions to make the races more comprehensible and hands-on for spectators and fans. In another example, our work with Formula 1 teams has given viewers unprecedented access to data relating to trackside conditions, including the temperature of the tyres, the G-force experienced by drivers at different stages of the race, and more, to give fans exciting new data points to interact and engage with.”

Carpenter said he  believes the sports industry is moving away from ‘gut feel’ to a more science-based approach built on accurate data. “The world is evolving to the point where we can generate deep, accurate insights about anything happening in the physical world. This was evident in a recent project with the Volvo Ocean Race, where we used our SAP Leonardo IoT Edge technology to track sailors’ fitness levels and exhaustion during the race, so that the crew can optimise their performance based on the data collected. Physical and mental exhaustion are the biggest threats to crews during the eight-month race – considered to be one of the toughest of any sports event in the world – and by using technology we take the guesswork out of the crew’s fatigue, reaction to weather conditions, stress levels and other biometric measurement data.”

He adds that the pace of change is simply too fast for so-called ‘shooting from the hip’. “Successful sports teams will increasingly use technology and data to understand how to improve performance. European and US sports teams already make great use of data; with the introduction of SAP Sports One here on our continent, African teams have access to a powerful platform that can improve and optimise every aspect of their operations, training and performance.”

www.sap.com

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